Showing posts with label KCC Cooking Classes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label KCC Cooking Classes. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Things The Thing I Am Loving This Week

Tuesdays here at Kahakai Kitchen are usually reserved for the "Things I Am Loving This Week"--those (mostly) food related things I am enjoying and want to share. This week I am focusing on just one thing I love--but it's a biggie! There are so many reasons I am "lucky to live Hawaii" as we say here. One that I really enjoy is the offering of superb cooking classes at Kapiolani Community College that I take full advantage of, signing up for 5 or 6 each semester. The schedule and classes are thoughtfully and creatively planned out by Frank Gonzales, Continuing Education Coordinator for the Culinary Arts Department. There are times I am convinced Frank has my dream job, until I am reminded of how hard he works, juggling the schedule, chasing down ingredients and supporting the evening classes and often back to back classes on Saturdays too. The KCC culinary classes have a little something for everyone; knife skills, baking, Japanese, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Mexican, wine and tea to name just some of the options available. The students come from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels, from new cook to those who are more experienced and looking for new recipes and ideas.

Some of my favorites have been the healthy, vegetarian classes taught by personal chef, Alyssa Moreau. I always end up learning new things from Alyssa--whether using cashew milk in curries for a tasty non-dairy option, to the best tofu and other products to buy, and of course I always end up loving her healthy, full of flavor vegetarian and vegan dishes. I have to list this past Saturday's class "Low Fat Chinese New Year" as one of my all time favorites; with some unfamiliar (to me anyway!) ingredients to work with, lots of fun and absolutely delicious food that I enjoyed all weekend.

We made three dishes: Stuffed Lotus Leaves, Taro Dumplings and Stuffed Tofu as well as had two demo/tastings, one for Chow Fun Stir-Fry and the other for Almond Cookies. It was a fabulous morning, spent with my cooking partner and new friend Julie. Julie, a new cook (and a blogger too: Advice2Love and Lux Travel & Everyday Discovery), was enthusiastic and there to learn and we had a great time cooking, talking and laughing together. These are not my best pictures ever--I get too caught up in the cooking, and my camera ended up with bits of mochi rice stuck to it--but it was all good fun.

OK, how cool are these giant lotus leaves?! For our Stuffed Lotus Leaves, they were soaked over night to make them pliable, cut into fourths and then filled with a mixture of mochi rice (sweet, short-grain sticky rice), carrots, mushrooms, bamboo shoots and diced soy chicken cutlet, and seasoned with ginger, shoyu and sesame oil. Then they are folded into little packets, tied with string and steamed in a bamboo basket. (Guess what is going to replace my metal steaming basket very soon?). When the packets are opened to enjoy, the rice mixture is tender, sticky and infused with delicious flavor. So good and so easy, I will seek out the leaves in Chinatown to make more. The rice-veggie mixture can also be changed up with different ingredients--maybe some brown rice for me next time.

If I had to pick a favorite dish, it would be these little steamed Taro Dumplings. I have always avoided taro--usually because it seems to end up as sticky, bland poi here and I am not a fan. Too bad because Taro is packed with good for you nutrients including vitamins E and B6, potassium and manganese and it is high in fiber and low in saturated fat, and cholesterol. For these dumplings the cooked taro is combined with diced water chestnuts, rehydrated fungus, ginger, green onion and cilantro, and seasoned with shoyu, a little sugar and some sesame oil. Spoonfuls are placed in round won ton wrappers and formed into little flower like dumplings which are steamed on cabbage leaves so they don't stick to the steamer basket. Finally they are served with a shoyu-rice vinegar dipping sauce spiked with ginger, chili paste and sesame oil. Being a somewhat lazy cook, I have stayed away from making dim sum or steamed dumplings but these were very easy to make. I am envisioning experimenting with all kinds of different fillings.

For some reason I didn't end up with any prep pictures of our Stuffed Tofu (just one in the pan at the end of the collage below and a couple on the plate at home), but it was another delicious dish. Super-firm tofu is cut into squares, one corner of each square is slit and then the filling is stuffed into it. The filling is a combination of tempeh and seitan (pressed, fermented soy beans and wheat gluten respectively, and if you aren't familiar, they both taste better than they sound!), along with water chestnuts, green onions, ginger, arrowroot or cornstarch and shoyu. The tofu is then pan-fried until lightly browned on both sides and then simmered in a sauce of fermented black bean, water, cornstarch, shoyu and a little sugar. Towards the end of cooking, green beans are added to the sauce and the finished dish is garnished with cilantro.

Also in the photo collage above is the wonderful Alyssa in the flowered apron, the almond cookies she demonstrated, and one of me and cooking partner Julie that Alyssa took. (BTW: Not sure what is up with my eye and the hairstyle is called "Deb got up extra early to be parked and at the Farmer's Market before class and didn't bother to wash and style her hair" ;-) Also why I kept the picture size small!)

The Almond Cookies were delicious and much better than the sometimes too hard and oddly yellowish almond cookies you can buy in Chinatown or get at Chinese restaurants. The ground almonds and whole wheat pastry flour give them a nice texture. I will leave you with that recipe as I think it is most accessible if you don't have access to some of the different ingredients in the dishes above. If you want to attempt any of the other recipes, give me a shout out.

Almond Cookies
By Alyssa Moreau
(Makes 20-24 Cookies)

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (1/2 cup can be rice flour)
1 cup almonds (ground to 1 1/2 cups almond meal)
1/2 cup cane sugar (could also use maple or date sugar)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3-1/2 cup light oil (start with 1/3 cup and add more if dough feels too dry)
1/2 cup apple juice or water
2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup almonds for blanching*

*To blanch almonds, place in boiling water for about 5 minutes, then drain. Slip off skins and cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour(s), almond meal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine oil, juice and extracts. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well until it forms a cohesive ball.

Form dough into balls and flatten slightly. Place a blanched almond in the center of each cookie and push it into place. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on rack.

As you can see, I ate very well the rest of the weekend--in fact only half of my demo cookie made it home and on a plate--the other half was consumed in the car on the way. Wonderful class, wonderful culinary program! I am looking forward to the Saturday after next since I was crazy enough to sign up for back to back classes and will be cooking Middle Eastern delicacies and then Japanese "Okazuya" (which means side dish or little comfort food dishes). Fun!

So what are you loving this week?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Things I Am Loving This Week

After skipping a week due to not really finding anything to love last Tuesday, I am back today with the "Things I Am Loving This Week"--those (mostly) food related things that I am enjoying and want to share.

First up, on Saturday I had another great cooking class from Kapiolani Community College--I am a lucky girl to have such a great variety of cooking classes to take. This class was Flavors of the Middle East II with Chef Magdy Elzoheiry--a fun and excellent instructor. I took Flavors of the Middle East I last month and loved it and part 2 was just as good. We made three dishes, Fish and Shrimp with Rice and Onion, Grated Cucumber and Mint Salad and this Bulgur and Chicken Pea dish. Similar to a tabbouleh, I loved the clean taste, hearty texture, how healthy and delicious it was and how easy to make. This one is going on the keeper list.

Bulgur and Chick Pea Salad
Chef Magdy Elzoheiry
(Makes about 2 cups)

1/2 cup fine or medium ground bulgur
1 garlic clove crushed
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
salt and black pepper
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chick peas
2 cups parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup mint, finely chopped

Soak the bulgur in plenty of cold water for 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. In a bowl, mix the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper (to taste) and olive oil. Soak the drained chick peas in this for 10 minutes and then stir in the bulgur. Mix in the chopped herbs when ready to serve.

Besides being a food geek, I am also a nutrition geek and of course a book junkie too, so I recently used a discount coupon to buy "The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth" by Johnny Bowden. It appeals to my geeky side by listing all the super foods and best things to eat in 14 categories such as fish, nuts, fruits, veggies, specialty foods, herbs and spices, etc. Colorful and filled with interesting history, nutritional information and facts worth knowing, it is a great reference to have in my library and I am loving reading through it and using the great info for my blog posts.

I bought some Dagoba Organic Cacao Nibs for a recipe and although I haven't made that particular recipe yet, I have been loving them in my new favorite snack. Cacao nibs, if you are not familiar are crushed cacao beans which is the seed that is used to make chocolate. Since they are just the lightly roasted bean with nothing added, they have a slightly toasty, just ever so slightly bitter taste that reminds me of coffee beans.

They are a nice balance with something slightly sweet and in my snack, I cut a small apple banana from my CSA box into four pieces, spread a light layer of almond butter on it and sprinkle a few of the cacao nibs on top. The combination is delicious and filling and tastes like a treat. A bonus all three ingredients--almond butter, banana and the dark chocolate / cacao are in my "150 Healthiest Foods on Earth Book". ;-)

So these are the "Things I Am Loving This Week".

What are you enjoying?