Food and Wines of Spain with Jessica Lasky and Shelley Lingdren
at Tante Marie's Cooking School
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to spend the weekend at a private cooking school, talking about food, socializing, understanding the flavours of a particular country, honing kitchen skills, working with others to pull together dishes with bold lively personalities, tasting and learning about the wines from that region and how they pair with the dishes and most importantly eating, drinking and more eating. Hopefully this set of mouthwatering pictures will give you an inkling...
My absolute favourite dish from the whole weekend: Cumin Fried Chicken with Watercress and Orange Alioli. Except I think maybe we used arugula instead of watercress. [Alioli not pictured.] The recipe was adapted from one in the César Cookbook.
This gorgeous bowl of pinkness also known as Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Dressing was perfectly presented by none other than my friend Ms Food Musings. It was adapted from a recipe in El Faro by James Campbell Caruso. Class teacher, Jessica Lasky, told us that this book puts an interesting modern twist on traditional recipes. Sounds interesting. Anyone tried it? The pictures in this post are only from the second day of class. Catherine made my favourite recipe the previous day, a wonderful Orange Cornmeal Almond Cake that I assure you I will be making as soon as I can think of an excuse to. Also from the El Faro Cookbook.
Guess who hand cooked these Potato Chips with Gallega Spice? No, no, it wasn't me. Knock me down with a feather, I managed to persuade Fred to join me for a day at cooking school and these are his handiwork. The recipe was also adapted from one in the César Cookbook.
Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Tuna Confit and Salsa Verde is so pretty and bright. This would be a great dish for a pot luck or a cocktail party. In this case, preserved tuna was used, but I would like to try it using home-poached tuna, slowly cooked in olive oil until barely opaque. Other stuffing ingredients include olives, capers, parsley and lemon zest.
Considering my recent adventures with a skewer (I still have limited use of the injured finger), I somewhat nobly and rather bravely, I think, volunteered to make the Pork Skewered with Figs and Prunes because nobody else wanted to do it. Prunes - you see - who on earth wants to eat them out of choice rather than necessity? As it happens, once the whole shebang has been marinated in apple juice, ground cinnamon, cloves and then thread onto skewers before being cooked in the juice, the dried prunes become succulent, soft and surprisingly delicious. The meat was a bit tough for my tastes and since it was from the shoulder would have benefited from a longer, slower braising time. Alternatively, using loin meat as suggested in the recipe from Tapas by Ann and Larry Walker might have solved the problem.
The Savoury Empanadillas were a hugely popular choice with the class and no fewer than three different fillings were made - a vegetarian one, a pork and dried fruit variety and another containing chorizo. Regular Becks & Posh readers will know I have long been a fan of this easy-to-make Empanada pastry which I first learnt to make in the very first Tante Marie Class I took back in 2005, also with Jessica. It's so versatile a dough - check out my Philly Cheesesteak Turnovers that used a similar pastry recipe.
Spanish Chickpeas and Spinach with Chorizo Sausage. Simple but healthy and delicious. Perhaps I might be considered somewhat greedy, but personally I might have increased the chorizo to chickpea ratio. This recipe was adapted from Nancy Harmon Jenkins' The Essential Mediterranean.
No, this isn't the finished dish. Move on...
...Stuffed Mussels with Roasted Garlic Mayonnaise. I loved, loved, loved this, especially as I wasn't the one who had to make it. This recipe was challenging, not because of diffculty levels, but because there were so many different steps and organisation was key. This recipe was adapted from Tapas to Meze by Joanne Weir.
Simple but striking: Grilled Swordfish Steaks with Lemon Parsley Dressing. Instead of buying steaks, ask your fishmonger for an un-steaked hunk of fish and slice your own thin 1/4" slices for results as pictured. Get the grill pan really hot before you start cooking. This recipe was inspired by My Kitchen in Spain by Janet Mendel.
When all the cooking is finished, we share, we sit down, we eat and we sip wine.
There are beautiful flowers at the Tante Marie tables...
...And wine. This is the first course I have taken at Tante Marie's that has had wine tastings included. I have to confess that one of the major draws of this particular class was the opportunity to learn about wine from Shelley Lingdren who has always impressed me at A16 where she is the Wine Director, with both her kindness and her knowledge. I can't even begin to tell you how totally amazing I think Shelley is. Not only did she galiantly turn up to teach the class at 39-and-a-half-weeks pregnant for two days in a row, she also dashed off to cover the mothers day crowds at A16 straight after juicing us lot up. She enthuses such passion about wine on a level I can totally relate to. Their is no snobbishness about her approach. She is all about helping normal people learning to enjoy and understand wine. I think she is wonderful. I am sure, considering her imminent state, she won't be reading this post, but I am going to publicly wish her all the best of luck with the birth anyway. I'll be thinking of her savouring that first celebratory drink, something I know she can't wait to do. She deserves it. She also gave me the scoop on A16's upcoming project in Dogpatch, a couple of blocks from where I live. It will be a long time coming, but I'm prepared to wait it out. Good luck Shelley!
PS. Star spotting: Tante Marie owner Mary Risley even popped by with Molly O'Neill at one point. She was wearing green wellies. Reminded me of home. No one in CA wears wellies, although I understand wellies of all colours and patterns are popular in NYC.