Team building, cooking events, catering, parties, and classes in the San Francisco Bay Area

August in the Kitchen

August 3, 2016

Cook! Programs News

From Tracy:

"We had an amazing summer, filled with action, great food, and laughter. Our talented students impressed us constantly with their passion for cooking (and eating!). And by the end of the final class we were not only happily exhausted, but very, VERY full. 



And so, on that note, I thought it would be fitting to share some of our favorite recipes of the year. Of course, there are too many to put them all down, but there were a number of repeats this year, and a few made only once, but loved enough to make it to the top of the list. 

By far the most frequently made recipe this year was our focaccia. It's a wonderful, yeasted flatbread that doesn't require too much rise time, and can hold any of your favorite toppings. It's moist, chewy, and utterly delicious. 

We also made pita bread (last month’s Recipe of the Month) in almost every class. It's the hot, hot oven creating steam in the flat dough that makes pita puff up. In other words, it's magic. 



Another favorite this summer was sausage/meatball making. The joy of making meatballs is in the seasoning. You can do (almost) anything you want to season your ground meat, and use whatever combination of meats you prefer. Below you’ll find one of Chef Celeste's meatball recipes, written down by our student, Otto. 

Salad is always a gamble with kids, but NEVER if you put homemade ranch dressing on it. 9 out of 10 kids will eat anything that is coated in our dressing. Try it!

This last savory dish can be a side dish or a meal all it's own. It can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner; so versatile and so tasty. I'm talking about shakshuka, a Middle Eastern dish comprised of peppers, tomatoes, and spices. Finish the dish by poaching eggs right in the sauce, in the oven, and add some crumbled feta to the top. Eat with one of the homemade breads above. The recipe we used was from Smitten Kitchen, her adaptation of a Saveur recipe

Lastly, a dessert. This is an impossible task, as almost every student came to us with a desire to make a dessert every day. So, I will choose the most versatile of items to share with the hopes that your kids will work to master this simple, yet tricky-to-make component: Creme Anglaise. Creme Anglaise is good for a number of reasons. 1. It tastes good enough to drink with a straw. 2. It can be used as a sauce with almost anything (think addition to strawberry shortcake, topping for galette, pour into a soufflé, eat with fresh fruit, OR turn it into ice cream by adding your favorite flavoring, or keeping it plain). Making this dish takes a little finesse, as too much heat will cause your eggs to curdle. But don't despair! If your eggs do curdle, simply put the sauce in the blender and puree for 20 seconds and you'll be back in action. You’ll also find our Strawberry Soufflé recipe below, the addition of cornstarch gives it just enough structure that you won't have to run your (absolutely amazingly delicious) soufflé to the table before it falls. Make a hole in the center with your spoon, pour in your creme anglaise, and prepare yourself for perfection. 

Enjoy the rest of your summer! "


Now is the time to plan for autumn and holiday events in the kitchen. Last year, we sold out almost all of December (the exception, of course, being the week between Christmas and New Years). This year there are four Fridays before the Christmas break, as that holiday falls on a Sunday. We schedule two events a day at holiday time — starting right after Thanksgiving, daytime (lunch) events must end by 2 PM, and evening (dinner) events can start at 4 PM or later, so we can clean between groups.  I am working on holiday menus, and as always we will accommodate dietary needs and design to suit. If you're interested, do fill out the Schedule an Event form, and I'll send you all the details. 

Classes in August

Eric E. Weiss, our intrepid knife sharpening teacher, will hold his 41st quarterly class on Monday, the 15th.  A master sharpener, Eric has helped a lot of people learn to hone their own knives to perfection. You get one-on-one instruction in a small class setting, and a stone and oil to take home, too. Bring your knives, and learn a skill that will help you in the kitchen every single time you cook!

Rosetta Costantino has one more August class, The Queen of Vegetables: Eggplant from Appetizer to Dessert,  before she departs for Italy, where she will be leading a group trip in September. Always amazing, especially her layered eggplant, ricotta and chocolate dessert! And, this is a vegetarian class, including the eggplant ‘meatballs.’

In the Market

Wow, time has flown by. It’s high summer, meaning we have the best of the best produce. I just spent some time in Arizona, and visited a ‘farmers market.’ I put that in quotes because it was comparatively spare, in terms of actual farm goods. One vendor had a few tiny peaches and plums. Another had some tomatoes. There was lots of kale — apparently, that crop grows anywhere — and a bit of lettuce, some bedraggled looking broccoli, some zucchini, and lots of prepared foods. Yes, there were eggs and meat. In Arizona, according to one seller I spoke with, ranchers have to freeze meat to sell at the market. In California, that is not so. It just has to be kept below 41°F., which of course is refrigerator temperature.

In comparison, our markets are stocked with every variety of fruit and vegetable you could imagine right now. Grapes and apples are crowding in with the peaches and plums and berries. Okra is displayed next to the tomatoes and cucumbers. Green leafy vegetables of all sorts are plentiful, from lettuce to kale to collards. There are gorgeous beets, with vibrant green tops. Summer squash of all sorts, herbs and both shelling and eating beans, snap peas (and in Montclair on Sunday,  there have been some darn good English shelling peas), you name it, we have it. There is no doubt we’re luckier than people just about anywhere, when it comes to fresh, locally grown food. Do support the farmers, and go to your local market. You'll be happy you did! 

Recipe of the Month

This summer’s strawberries are unbelievably sweet and wonderful. Pick up some organic berries at the farmers market, and make this super-easy soufflé as a show-stopping treat for your family or some dinner guests.  Make some crème Anglaise (sign up for Quick Bites, and you will get them 'hot off the press' in your in-box) to pour into the hot soufflés, just break them open with your spoon and pour. Our team development guests have gone wild for this dish all summer, and were amazed at how easy it is to make!