Cooking Classes: Mashing Up More Than the Potatoes in Leslie’s Sunny Kitchen

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Steam rising from the potatoes being riced for the mashed potatoes. Butternut squash soup is in the pot in the foreground. (photo by Gerard Lum)

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GREAT FOOD FOR THE HOLIDAYS

As much as I enjoy sharing recipes with people far and wide on this blog, there’s nothing like getting together up close in a kitchen, cooking and eating together, not digitally, but in real life. That’s what happened a couple of weeks ago, when a dozen or so folks joined me for a cooking class in Leslie’s sunny kitchen in Menlo Park. We concentrated on foods one might want to cook during the holidays (see the complete menu after the jump). Although they’re a lot of work, I enjoy these classes because an interesting cast of characters always shows up, people with a lot of heart and a depth of information to share. We all learn from each other. Thankfully, people pitch in with the various tasks, and with the clean-up afterwards (for that I’m really thankful!). And in the end, we share a relaxed meal. In the couple of weeks since, several of you have told me you’ve successfully cooked recipes we did in the class, something I’m always gratified to hear. As of now, I haven’t scheduled another class, but when I do, readers of this blog will be the first to know. Recipes, links to recipes and more photos after the jump–a special thanks to Gerard Lum for photographing the class and to Rodney Wong for helping out with additional photographs.

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At the end of the class, it's time for lunch: Maki, Connie and Rodney. (photo by Gerard Lum)

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Menu:

Gingered Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Corn & Sage (Recipe below)

Wild Rice Croquettes w/ Mushrooms, Seitan and Mushroom Gravy (recipe here)

Heavenly Vegan Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes (Recipe below)

Cranberry Compote (Recipe here)

Brussels Sprouts w/Lemon Zest, Golden Raisins and Hazelnut Dressing (recipe here)

Mixed Baby Greens w/ a Special Holiday Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Pecan Tart (Sweetened with Dates and Maple Syrup) with Rich Vanilla Tofu Creme (recipe to be posted later)

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Leslie, the host, passes out name tags. (photo by Rodney Wong)

That's me pontificating, the brussels sprouts ready to roast. (photo by Gerard Lum)

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Brush the wild rice croquettes very lightly with oil before baking or sauteing. (photo by Rodney Wong)

Seasoning the creamy mushroom sauce. Gerard Lum, left, photographs, Al Lampell looks on. (photo by Rodney Wong)

Maki grates lemon zest onto the roasted brussels sprouts. (photo by Gerard Lum)

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Everyone eats lunch together in the dining room. (photo by Gerard Lum)

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GINGERED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH ROASTED CORN AND SAGE

(6-8 servings)

1 tablespoon canola or other light vegetable oil

1 medium butternut squash (about 3 pounds),

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped

2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

4-5 cups vegetable stock stock

1 cup rice milk

2 -3 tablespoons white miso or to taste

umeboshi vinegar, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnish: kernels from one ear of corn, cut from the cob, tossed with olive oil, slivered fresh sage leaves, umeboshi vinegar, salt and pepper and roasted in a 400º F oven for 20-25 minutes.

1. Cut the squash in half, scoop out seeds and pith. Place , cut side up in a baking pan with 1/3” water, sprinkle with salt, cover tightly with foil and bake in a 400º F oven about 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10-15 minutes more or until it feels tender to the touch.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large, thick-bottomed soup pot, add the oil and when it is hot, add  onions, sweet potato, ginger, cumin and a tiny pinch of salt. Sauté, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.

3. Add the stock, turn heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are very tender.

4. Remove squash from the oven, scoop the squash meat out of the skin, and mix into the other ingredients simmering in the pot. After five minutes, purée in the pot with an immersion blender (preferably) or in small batches in a standard blender.  Caution, hot soup can burn! Use a towel to cover the top of the blender–if using a standard blender.

4. Return soup to the pot, add the rice milk and 2 or 3 tablespoons of white miso. Stir, and taste.  Add a little splash of umeboshi vinegar, additional miso, salt, black pepper or whatever is needed for well-balanced flavor.

5. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the roasted corn and sage.

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HEAVENLY VEGAN YUKON GOLD MASHED POTATOES
(serves 5-6)
2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, washed and cut into 2-inch chunks
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 cup plain soy milk
2 tablespoons Earth Balance and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Put potatoes into a large pot, cover with salted water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes more.
2. Meanwhile, put soy milk and Earth Balance into a small pot and heat over medium heat until completely warmed through.
3. Drain potatoes very well and return to pot.
4. To the potatoes add: soymilk mixture, olive oil, salt and pepper and  mash with a potato masher until creamy/chunky. Check seasoning a final time, and keep warm until serving time
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MIXED BABY GREENS WITH POMEGRANATE VINAIGRETTE
Per serving:
1 large handful of mixed baby greens, washed and dried
Toss greens with the following dressing–2 teaspoons per serving:
1/2 cup pomegranate or cranberry juice
1-2 cloves garlic
salt to taste
pinch of black pepper or to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice or to taste
1 t. dried Italian herbs
1/2 cup mild olive oil
Combine all the ingredients except the olive oil in a blender, blend briefly.  Keeping the lid on, open the “trap door” of blender, turn it back on and add the olive oil gradually until you have a creamy emulsion. Taste, and adjust the seasonings.  Store dressing in a screw-top jar in your fridge.  Shake jar before each use. Keeps ten days or more. Yield: About 1 1/4 cups.

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