Thursday, August 9, 2012

Williams-Sonoma Cookbook Club

Random thoughts about quilting and cooking:  My theory is that next to quilting, for most of us our favorite pasttime is eating.  By association, that must mean that a lot of us really like to cook and I have to say, after attending numerous potlucks with contributions from quilters loading down the tables, we cook often. And well.

One of the things I love to do is take cooking classes.  The Williams-Sonoma in Valencia CA is about an hour's drive for me and they offer classes almost every Wednesday and demonstrations and such on Sundays.  It's a long enough drive that I don't go down often, but on the second Wednesday of each month, they have a Cookbook Club that I always try to go to if I'm in town.  The cost includes the cookbook, the demonstration and dinner!  This is a national event in the Williams-Sonoma stores that are equipped with kitchens, so if this appeals to you, you might check into it and see if your local store does this.

Each of us gets our own little table with a place setting and the featured cookbook.  This particular one isn't even available until September 10th, but I guess W-S might have a little pull with the publisher?  The glass contains a little treat that Lindsay made for us; it's a blackberry/rosemary spritzer.  She mushed the blackberries together with a bit of rosemary and probably some sugar and then added soda water to make it the right consistency, more a drink than a slushy.

This is Lindsay -- she's a CIA-trained chef who teaches these classes as well as some other classes in the Valencia store.  She is really what makes these classes so special for me.  Almost anybody can open a cookbook and follow a recipe -- Lindsay tastes and adds a little of this and a little of that and takes a dish from good to outstanding.  I have learned a lot from her about what works and what doesn't and she has really broadened my ability to make dishes different and yummier!

In the picture above, she is using an immersion blender (you know, the one Emeril calls a "boat motor") to puree Roasted Corn Soup.

Lindsay added chipotle seasoning to the soup and then garnished it with avocado slices and additional roasted corn.  She also said that a ring of cotija cheese would be pretty and good.  She just throws out these great ideas and I just nod my head and write them down.....

After we ate soup and watched her prepare dinner (actually, we get to do more than watch; we take turns playing with food...this month, I got to make dessert!), Lindsay set out several jars of seasonings for us to taste and compare.  The jar on the far left is a Serrano chili powder -- hot, hot, hot!!!!  The other four are various types of paprika.  Along with her suggestions, tasting the various seasonings gives us an idea of how we can use them in our cooking.

When it's a small class, we just sort of cluster around the cooktop, but for larger classes that stay seated except for those of us helping, the rest of us can look up into the mirror and see what's going on in the kitchen.  You can see where Lindsay's arm is; she's arranging potato and sweet potato planks on an olive oil coated baking sheet for oven roasting. Above that is the roasted corn she used for the garnish on the soup, to the right of the baking sheet is the big pot of corn soup and then roasted summer squash.  In the far upper right are the cereal cupcakes that I got to put together.  By this time in class, they're all baked and cooling on a cold part of the stove.

Patty's using the mini-Cuisinart to make arugula pesto for the meatball sandwiches; the original recipe called for walnuts, but Patty's allergic to those, so Lindsay went with a more traditional pinenut approach. 

So here's the finished plate, perfect for a casual supper:  Thin-Cut Fries for One (official recipe names), Grilled Meatball Sandwich and Grilled Summer Squash.  The meatballs were to die for -- mixture of ground beef, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, eggs, bread crumbs, garlic, etc.  Lindsay spread the pesto on the toasted bread, then a bit of marinara sauce (not called for in the recipe) and then the meatballs.  I'm not much of a bread person -- unless I bake it myself -- so I just ate all the goodies inside.

I also skipped dessert -- it just seemed way too sugary and buttery for me.  If I'm going to do that, I want something like creme brulee!

Next week is an Evening in Barcelona dinner -- signed up and can't wait!

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