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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Why I didn't Post Last Month Pt2

So as I was writing in the last blog entry, I taught some cooking classes. So the second one was greek food.

Class 2 - Greek Festival Food

So this one was a bit north. I got there a little later than I would have liked, and I was not familiar with the recipes. The weird thing is, I'm not very good with recipes. I have to read them over and over, and I forget stuff.

So I organized all my groceries into 3 piles, for each of the three recipes. So there was a cookie, a spanakopita and a moussaka recipe. So the cookie dough is supposed to rest for an hour, so I thought I would start it first, then do the spanakopita, then the moussaka, then finish up with the cookie for dessert. So I chopped my veggies and all that. I wilted the spinach for the spanakopita and I fried the eggplant for the moussaka.

I think I was doing okay, but I'm not used to this concept of talking to strangers, so of course I was nervous. But it's this adrenaline rush/starbucks frappacino in the bottle kind of rush. I like that kind of rush. It's like, I feel like I'm going to go over the edge - I don't think I have yet...

So about 45 minutes before the class started, this one family came in. A mom and her two kids. The woman was in a wheelchair, and she had a speech disability like a stroke victim or whatever. So I was trying to prep and organize my thoughts and understand her and hold a conversation with her all at the same time. Now, I'm not a very coordinated person. I can't pat my head and rub my tummy at the same time, I can't drive and carry on a conversation, and I can do kitchen prep and talk - but I have had very bad cuts doing that. So I tried to act calm and hold a conversation.

So other women started coming in, and they were like, oh, I thought someone else was teaching class tonight, all disappointed. Now if I were not married to the FP and I was another actual real employee of the company, I'd be hurt and offended. I can't imagine how the other chefs feel when they hear that shit. So I waited until most of the people were there, then I spilled the beans. I'm the Food Pimp's wife. Okay, I didn't say food pimp, I used his real name. But anyway, they all went, oooh! You're his wife. He talks alot about you - all good. Then I go, yeah, that's nice. Then I introduce myself and say, he's the funny one, so I won't be cracking jokes like him, but maybe you'll learn something tonight.

So it went okay. I should have done more preprep. The thing with these gigs, is, you gotta know the equipment. If you're not familar with the equipment, you probably aren't going to be able to use it to your maximum advantage. Like, it was an electric range, so it took a while to brown my ground beef. And because I didn't prebrown it, it was very oily. And then, the FP had packed the bread crumbs for the moussaka in with his stuff, so there were no bread crumbs to sop up all that excess oil. I mean, I think it tasted okay, but it just didn't look too pretty. Especially because it was all women except for the one boy.

And then the other reason it took so long is because I used a lot of audience participation. I don't know if you've ever worked with phyllo before, but it's not the easiest thing. So I just had some people roll the spanakopita so that they could learn. Of course that is way more time consuming than if I had just knocked them all out. Back in the day I was a champion phyllo roller. We would do catering and have to make them, so you get good when you have all that practice.

Anyway, the cookies - which I was nervous about because the FP said to not to keep the oven hot when baking them - were the best thing. They are, like wedding cookies. I love those. Funny, we should have had those at our wedding because we both love them. So this class ended up taking about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Quite opposite of the night before, and about half the people were there.

So when I was cleaning up, a security guard walked in when I had my back turned, and he scared the shit out of me. He asked me if I was the cleaning lady. I said, no, there was a cooking class and I was just finishing up. So he asked if I had the keys, and I told him that they told me just to go out the side and the door would lock behind me. So I was grabbing my plastic bin and my mixer. He whips out a notebook and asks me for my name. And he asks what company I was with. Then he said, don't worry, I'm just writing it in my log. So then he left and then I left. I felt like I must have looked suspicious. Dirty little filipina girl taking a mixer that couldn't possibly be hers. I told the FP about it later, and he thought it was weird. The thing is, that he was black, and the dark chocolate likes my milk chocolate self....what the hey?

Anyway, the recipes to follow. These are not my recipes - they are the FP's recipes. Which is funny, because there are discrepancies which people noticed. But I was able to confesss that the FP wrote them and that I did not have time to proofread them. Then when I said they were his, everyone understood.


BIG CITY CHEFS


MOUSSAKA

3 large eggplants
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lemon, sliced in thin circles
1 handful oregano leaves, chopped
2 handfuls fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 pounds ground beef

8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup fresh bread crumbs

To prepare the eggplants: Cut off the stems, remove the skin with a vegetable peeler, and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Season all the pieces of eggplant with salt and pepper on both sides. Coat a large skillet with oil and heat over medium flame. Fry the eggplant in a single layer, turning once, until brown on both sides- you will need to do this in batches, adding more oil, as necessary. Drain the eggplant as they cook on a paper towel-lined platter.
Add a little more oil to the pan and toss in the onion, garlic, lemon slices, oregano, and parsley. Cook and stir until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the ground lamb, stirring to break up the meat; season with salt and pepper, and toss in the cinnamon stick. Stir in diced tomatoes. Simmer until the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish with 1/3 of the eggplant slices; they should completely cover the bottom with no gaps. Spread 1/2 of the meat sauce over the eggplant, evening it out with a spatula. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the feta and Parmesan. Repeat the layers again, ending with a final layer of eggplant. Cover the top with a nice even layer of bread crumbs. Bake the moussaka for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top is golden. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.



BIG CITY CHEFS
SPANOKOPITA
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped green onions, white and green parts
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds fresh baby spinach, trimmed, washed and roughly chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
12 ounces crumbled feta
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted
1 pound phyllo pastry sheets
1/4 cup finely chopped oregano

1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Heat olive oil in a large skillet and place over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic for 3 minutes until soft. Add the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and continue to saute until the spinach is limp, about 2 minutes. Add lemon juice, remove from heat and place in a colander, and squeeze out excess liquid. Set aside to cool. The filling needs to be cool and dry to prevent the phyllo from becoming soggy. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with feta, coriander, and nutmeg. Season, then fold in the cooled spinach mixture until well blended.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, brush 2 baking sheets with some melted butter. Unroll the phyllo dough and lay a sheet flat on a work surface. Take care to keep the phyllo covered with a damp, not wet, towel as you work to prevent drying out and becoming brittle. Brush the sheet with melted butter, then sprinkle evenly with some oregano. . Repeat with 2 more sheets of phyllo, stacking on top of each other. With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the sheets lengthwise into thirds to form 2 1/2-inch strips. Do this with all the sheets of dough.
Place a heaping teaspoon of filling near 1 corner of the layered phyllo strip. Fold the end at an angle over the filling to form a triangle. Continue to fold the triangle along the strip until you reach the end, like folding up a flag. Brush the top with butter and dust with Parmesan, place on prepared baking sheet, and cover while preparing the remaining pastries. Repeat until all the filling and phyllo strips are used up. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the triangles are crisp and golden. Serve hot, warm or cold


BIG CITY CHEFS



KOURABIEDES

3/4 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
juice and zest of 1 orange
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Toast the walnuts until golden brown and fragrant, about 6 minutes. Let cool, then chop about half of the nuts (you should have about 1/2 cup chopped). Pulse the remaining nuts in the food processor until finely ground (about 1/4 cup ground).
Stir the flour, baking powder, salt and nuts together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
In another medium bowl, beat the butter, sugar, egg yolk, juice and zest of the orange, and vanilla extract together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until the mixture gets light and fluffy, about 10 minutes.
At low speed, stir in the nut mixture to make a crumbly dough. Cover the bowl and set dough aside at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or coat with nonstick spray.
With a tablespoon, scoop out 1-inch pieces of dough and roll into balls between the palms of your hands. Pinch the ends of the balls to make a football shape. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies set and start to brown, about 18 minutes.
Put the confectioners' sugar in a bag, and add 5 to 6 of the warm cookies to it. Very gently toss the cookies to coat with sugar. Remove them from the bag and cool cookies on a rack. Repeat with remaining cookies. Serve.

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