Monday, November 1, 2010

Why I Recommend Taking A Cooking Class

Last Wednesday some friends and I went to a local Italian restaurant for a cooking class. This wasn't hands-on but more of a demonstration where participants were served portions of the prepared dishes. The theme was "Polenta and Mushrooms". The restaurant sponsoring the class was "Trattoria Romana" on Staten Island and if you've ever had the opportunity to dine there you'd know that fried polenta cubes are routinely placed on the table, along with homemade bruschetta when you arrive for lunch or dinner. Polenta, for the uninitiated, is ground cornmeal that makes a kind of porridge when combined with water, (think grits) refrigerated and molded into a shape that can be cubed or sliced, then baked or fried for a delicious side dish. Mushrooms of course need no explanation!

I've noticed recently that this blog has gotten more 'food-ish' and I make no apology since I've really gotten into cooking in the last two years or so. I'm going to veer to other activities as I proceed but want to share some of the recipes and tips we learned in our four hour eat-fest.

Stirring the polenta

Cooking Class: Appetizer
Crostina Polenta

1 pounds Quaker corn meal
2 and one quarter quarts of salted water, boiling
olive oil
large red tomato
fresh mozzarella
dried oregano
salt, pepper
balsamic vinegar


  • When salted water is boiling, whisk center of water to create a funnel and add 1 pound of corn meal slowly while mixing.
  • Pour into quart glass or metal pan and refrigerate until set.
  • When cool, slice into 1/2 inch slices and fry (no oil) in pan turning once. Set aside.
  • In fry pan, add sliced tomato, topped with chopped garlic, salt, pepper and dash of dried oregano.
  • Saute sliced shitake mushroom in olive oil for about 2 minutes.
  • Place handful of arugula on flat salad plate dressed with olive oil, salt, pepper.
  • Place polenta slice on top, then fresh mozzarella, fried tomato and sauteed mushrooms
  • Drizzle balsamic reduction on top.
WOW...what an appetizer! We didn't think we could eat anything else after the Crostina but of course we did. This is the first of a couple of dishes that were prepared that evening...more in coming days.

But I heartily recommend a cooking class. Check local restaurants, the YMCA, adult education classes or community colleges in your area. Ask if it's hands-on or demonstration. a one-off or a series of classes, the price and length of class. It's a creative way to spend an evening with friends, relatives or as a treat just for yourself. Our class had a singer/musician who belted out favorite Italian songs during course transition times. Great fun, great food and an inspirational evening...give it a try!

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