Iron Chef – Natural Epicurean Style

Today we got a double dose of labs – normally each day of class consists of a half-day of lecture/demonstration and a half-day of cooking lab. Wednesday we got two lab sessions – woo!

Lab 1: Tomatoes and Peppers

Tomatoes and/or peppers are elemental foods in multiple cultures: Italian, Mexican, Thai, Korean, etc. Filled with fiber, several vitamins and minerals (notably, vitamin C, vitamin A, and beta-carotene), and antioxidants, peppers and tomatoes are nutritious and delicious. Their color and heat are clues to some of their nutritive properties – antioxidants are often most prevalent in brightly colored vegetables and fruits.

Below: A wide array of shapes and colors were presented in our selection of peppers. At the bottom, habanero peppers and just to the right of that, ghost chiles – the hottest chiles I am aware of. 

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Below: I colored the Blue station measuring spoons using a blue paint marker for quick identification. Here they are drying out. Very exciting!

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During our tomato and pepper lab, Chef Alex challenged us with a mystery box, kind of like the TV show Chopped. Our box, shown below, was filled with collard greens, oyster mushrooms, papaya, and rutabaga. Our challenge was to create a dish from those items using tomatoes or peppers. Whatever would we do?

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Below: One team roasted peppers for their lab work.

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Below: My team created quinoa-mushroom “sushi” rolls from our “mystery box.” Chef Alex pointed out that our rolls needed some acidity to round out their flavor, which was helpful feedback. It was a fun challenge and I’m looking forward to the next one! 

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Below: Some excellent stuffed mushrooms created from another team’s mystery box. A blueberry tomato salsa topped them off.

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Below: A tomato tart, prepared from one of our pre-assigned recipes.

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Below: Chef Alex talks about cooking under pressure while I show the food prepared during the lab.

Lab 2: Salads and Dressings

Some people only think “salad” when they think about vegetarian food. However, it’s been six weeks since classes started and this is our first class on salads. We’ve cooked other salads, but this was a dedicated class and possibly one of the most delicious so far!

Below: Our demo kitchen was set up for lab.

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Below: Some cabbage I was chopping for a no-mayo cole slaw recipe. A bit of sliced fennel rests to the left side of the cutting board.

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Below: The salads we made Wednesday, which were delicious and lovely to look at. If you have trouble eating your greens, then this class was a great way to learn how to love them!

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