Cooking 101: Back to Basics

Cooking 101: Back to Basics

“When people cook their own food, they make better choices,” writes New York Times columnist Mark Bittman.  Unfortunately many people lack the skills and confidence to whip up healthy meal for themselves and their families.

Are you a new cook, or maybe someone who is ready to progress beyond the basics but finds a lot of recipes intimidating and filled with unfamiliar terms?  Let us help you to get over your fears and become more comfortable in the kitchen by taking you step by step through the basic techniques of cooking.

Each month students will approach a different skill set, and we will build upon our knowledge from month to month, reinforcing prior techniques in each subsequent class.  We will start with the basics – knife skills, simple sautes, roasting, etc. – and along the way learn about various seasonings and flavors, selection and care of equipment and tools, menu planning and nutritional balance, and planning and organization.

This series is sequential, but “a la carte” participation is also welcome, so feel free to sign up for any class that interests you.  Please see the monthly calendar for class dates, times, and subjects.  $75 per person for group classes, $225 for private sessions for up to 2 people; discount available for series purchase.  Can’t make a session on the scheduled date?  Want to zip through the list at a faster pace? Contact us for other options.

Session 1 – Knife Skills  Learn how to safely and effectively use the most important tool in any kitchen – a chef’s knife.  We will discuss knife selection, care, and safety, and practice the most commonly used chopping and slicing techniques, helping to make your food preparation tasks faster and easier. 

Session 2 – Saute Skills  Sauteing is the quick cooking of food over medium high heat with little fat.  Incorporating our knife kills from the last class, we will learn how to properly saute vegetables and meats, including testing for doneness and creating simple pan sauces.  We will decode some common recipe terms so that students understand what they are looking for in sauteing foods.

Session 3 – Moist Cooking Methods  Students will learn a variety of different moist cooking techniques for preparing vegetables and meats, including steaming and poaching, blanching, and cooking fish en papillote (in paper).  Recipes will build on the knife and saute techniques from prior classes.

Session 4- Roasting and Grilling  Roasting does not require hours of time, and is not limited to meats, but is a great way to get a lot of flavor out of food.  Students will learn basic roasting techniques for meats, fish, and vegetables, including pan searing, seasonings and marinades, and temperature guidelines for doneness.  

Session 5- Soups  A good soup can be a light lunch, an elegant appetizer, or a hearty dinner.  There are even dessert soups!  Learn how to make a variety of common soups from scratch, such as chicken, tomato, broccoli, and minnestrone.  Students will also learn how to build their own broth based and pureed soups from ingredients on hand.

Session 6- Stir Frying  The key to a great stir fry is good advance preparation.  Learn how to get your ingredients ready, using both store bought and home prepared items, and to build a basic stir fry dish using the knife and saute skills from earlier classes.  We’ll use a variety of vegetables, meats, tofu, noodles and grains, as well as our own simple, flavorful sauces, to prepare terrific one-pan meals faster than you can order takeout!

Session 7- Egg Cooking  Although they sometimes get a bad rap from the cholesterol police, eggs, when eaten in moderation, provide a great and inexpensive source of protein.  They are incredibly versatile and can make for a delicious, easy to prepare meal at any time of the day.  Learn to make a classic omelette, to properly boil eggs, and to make a number of delicious and healthy  dishes featuring eggs and vegetables, such as Seasonal Vegetable Frittata, Shakshouka, and Huevos Rancheros.

Session 8- Basic Baking  Baking is an art and a science, and even the best cooks sometimes have a hard time producing great baked goods.  In this class we will take some of the mystery out of baking and learn basic techniques for making muffins, biscuits, and quick breads.  We will prepare some traditional recipes, such as Blueberry Muffins and Lemon Poppy Cake, along side some lower fat and higher fiber recipes.  Students will learn to make some healthy recipe substitutions and to feel good about incorporating a few sweet treats into a balanced diet.

Session 9- Salads and Dressings  Toss out the iceberg and lose the bottled dressing.  Students will learn how to properly clean greens and to make their own custom vinaigrettes.  Then we’ll move beyond the greens and make a few other salads featuring seasonal vegetables, fruit, and grains.

Session 10- Fruit Desserts Satisfy sweet cravings and get in that serving of fruit you often forget by learning to turn fresh seasonal fruits into simple and delicious desserts.  We’ll make fruit compotes, fresh berry sauces, and grill, roast, and saute a variety of seasonal fruits to create myriad dessert (and breakfast) options.

Session 11- Seafood  Although shellfish often seems like a “special occasion” food, many types are locally accessible, relatively easy to prepare, and often less expensive to make at home than to order in a restaurant.  Learn how to select, clean, and prepare clams, shrimp, scallops and mussels in a number of light, flavorful, surprisingly easy and impressive dishes.

Session 12- Braises and Stews  Braising — the slow cooking of tougher cuts of meat or firmer vegetables in seasoned liquid — can produce some wonderfully flavorful dishes.  Learn how to make some favorite braised meat dishes such as brisket and osso buco and braised vegetables, as well as both vegetarian and meat based stews.

Session 13- Pasta Perfection  Learn the tricks to making a perfect pot of pasta that won’t stick together or sit in a pool of watery sauce.  We’ll work with white, whole wheat, and fresh pastas, create a variety of simple sauces, and even learn how to make pasta without a big pot of boiling water!

Session 14- Fabulous Fish  We know that fish is good for us and that we shoud eat it at least twice a week, but many of us are still afraid to cook fish at home.  We will take the mystery out of the selection, seasoning and preparation of commonly available species and whip up some fast and delicious fish meals together.

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