Pipian Rojo

Pipian Rojo is a red chile based sauce from Mexican cuisine with nuts and seeds added for body and flavor. I made some as part of recipe testing for a cooking competition taking place September 5.

I need to kick up the heat and toast the almonds, sesames, and pepitas a bit more next time.

Here’s how it looked:










Vegetables: Class Four

For 98% of my life, I have hated greens. Bitter, overcooked, wilted – greens had no appeal. Occasionally greens with large amounts of animal fat would be acceptable. It was only recently that I began to appreciate greens more. I discovered alternative sauces and dressings. I learned of the potent nutritive power of greens. Cooking greens well is critical, so I was looking forward to our class.

Below: Preparation of greens is critical, especially thorough washing. Notice the aphids on the leaf below.


Below: Chef Shahnaz instructs us on proper preparation and enjoyment of leafy greens.


Below: Preparing a pressed salad. This stage of the process involved tossing thinly-sliced carrots, parsnips and celery in sea salt. Then you place a weight over the vegetables to squeeze out some of the liquids.


Below: My team’s blanched greens between our braised cabbage (top) and our improvised sauce (bottom). The sauce was a blend of sesame oil, cilantro, and a number of other ingredients.


Below: More blanched greens.


Below: Two versions of cumin cabbage. The one on the left was cooked a bit more than the one on the right and was more tender. I think I preferred the slight crunch of the one on the right. Plus it had more of a cumin flavor, which is surprising because the spice isn’t as visible.


Getting Saucy in Week Two

Week two has started and we have begun to cook!

So far this week we’ve cooked some stocks and sauces. Stocks are essentially water simmered with vegetables and aromatic herbs and spices. For those so inclined, stocks may also include animal bones and other parts. The water is imparted with flavor and the resulting stock is used to make soups, sauces, or in other cooking applications.

Below: Chef Rosa shows us three completed stocks of varying colors, which come from the ways the stocks were prepared and/or the ingredients used.


Below: Chef Rosa demonstrates assembling a sachet of herbs for a stock. This image is from the demo portion of our day. Each day is divided into two parts, a demonstration (“demo”) half and a lab half. The lab half is where we cook and the demo half is mostly observing.


Below: I decided to try making a stock at home to complement a potato soup I made, so I simmered 2 quarts of water with leeks, onion, and garlic. Here’s the stock cooling in an ice bath.


Below: Chef Alex doing a quick demo before our lab on sauces. After the introduction to a lab session, the instructor turns us loose on our recipe(s) for that lab session, walking around and providing guidance as needed.


Below: Mmm…some minced onion sauteing nicely.


Below: Team dashi slicing mushrooms.


Below: The mushroom jus was one of my favorites from the sauces lab day (Tuesday) – rich with tender and earthy mushrooms. The foundation of this was the good mushroom stock made the day prior.


Below: A terrific salsa verde (parsley and walnut, in this case) and roasted red pepper coulis. Both had colorful and enticing presentations.


Below: Dishes pile up in the kitchen. We take turns doing the dishes, but everyone in the kitchen is responsible for various aspects of cleanup after a lab session.


Below: A tasting after the demonstration on sauces. Chef Rosa prepared several sauces including bechamel and hollandaise for tasting. Sauces were a bit of a bummer for me because they typically contain either butter (dairy) or wheat (gluten), both of which seem to give me trouble. Nevertheless, Chef Rosa showed us versions without dairy and I’m optimistic about learning more about gluten-free sauce options. 


Below: Just for fun, a lovely and delicious chocolate made by my classmate Kim Gallogly.