Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day Three Hundred and Twelve

And there goes Item #12, take a cooking class!

I signed up for the "Summer Dinner" class at Carl's Cuisine in downtown Salem, OR. Sorry, no website - Carl has opted not to have an internet presence, and since his classes fill up quite literally within minutes (due in part to lines of people waiting outside the door before the store opens) on the day registration opens, his business seems to be doing just fine without a website! After taking this class, I can see why everyone flocks to his classes, and why some of the attendees have been coming to them for decades. (Although I must say that makes it a bit tricky for us new kids to get into the classes, if the spots are taken up by people who've been coming to them for thirty years. You'd think they'd know how to cook by now, wouldn't you?!)

I get a little tangled sometimes about where my captions and pictures go, so in this post, all captions will be below the relevant picture.

The man himself, and the Amazing Wonderful Kitchen of Paradise. I seriously covet this kitchen. Lovely huge counter space, state-of-the-art stove and oven, more nifty little gadgets than you could possibly stuff in ten years' worth of Christmas stockings, copper-bottomed pots and pans hanging from the ceiling (happy sigh), marvelous cutting board which I NEEEED, sharp slicy cutty whackety knives, and I think I fell in love with the Cuisinart.

Isn't this a cute little bowl? I loved the way all the ingredients were set out ahead of time in bowls ... and I realized an hour or so into the class that that's how he can get a whole meal cooked in 2.5 hours that would take me, um, DAYS. A great deal of the prep is done ahead of time, and that makes all the difference. That, and a staff who comes and washes dishes on demand. If I had a staff on call while I cook, I'd probably weigh three hundred pounds. (But my kitchen would look AWESOME.)

Oh, also - yummy delicious basmati rice. Guess where? The bulk food section at Lifesource Natural Foods. I shop there all the time! I never knew this was there! Silly me!

This alone made it worth the price of admission. I've always wanted to learn how to roast peppers properly, but after an Unfortunate Incident regarding a green pepper and my oven which we will not discuss here, I've been afraid to try it. These jalapeños, along with some red bell peppers, hotter ancho chilies, and pepitas (toasted pumpkin seeds, also from Lifesource), went into the rice dish. I tried roasting some when I got home, and while I learned an important lesson about how LONG to roast the peppers, it did work exactly like he demonstrated. Hurrah! I can torment my children with peppers in yet another way!

Oh, and I bought one of the cutting boards. Just a little one, but I can already tell you it is QUITE wonderful. It's made, of all things, of paper. Zillions of layers of paper. And it's non-absorbent, so you don't have to boil it to death every time you make chicken, and it doesn't make your sliced strawberries taste like yesterday's onions. So that's nice.

Here, he's chopping fresh rosemary to go in the dip for the appetizer. I have GOT to get one of these knives, even if I have to cover my eyes when I sign the credit card receipt. I don't know how much they are. I don't want to know. I just want one of these knives.

The appetizer: Rosemary Green Bean Spread with Rosemary Flatbread. Really! Green beans! I never would have guessed if I hadn't seen them go into it. They're fresh, overcooked just enough to be a little bendy, then tossed into the magical Cuisinart (swoon) and alchemized into a gently flavored dip involving ricotta, rosemary, and olive oil. The end result tastes what I can only call green. It tastes green - not really like beans, or like ricotta, or like rosemary exactly, just this smooth, creamy, vegetableness. (Yes, thank you Spellcheck, I know vegetableness isn't a word any more than green is a taste. But if you tried this dip, you'd put it in the dictionary.)

Interestingly enough, the rosemary flatbread came from the Cascade Baking Company, which I gave a somewhat-less-than-favorable review here, based on their soft-palate-piercing grilled cheese sandwiches. Looks like I need to give them another try.

See how they look all slimy and gross? They taste WAY better than that.

Yeah, they still look slimy and gross. They sure smell good though...

... and holy cow do they TASTE good. Here's the finished rice dish, along with shrimp (basil jalapeño tequila(!) quick marinade) and a Parmesan basil aïoli that was so good I had to restrain myself from actually licking the plate. I had to content myself with just scraping up the last drops with my fork when nobody was looking.

Incidentally, I asked Carl at this juncture if he had ever considered a class focused on vegetarian cuisine - this seemed reasonable enough, given the health-conscious and vegetarian-friendly part of the country we live in, and the fact that this rice dish (which would have been vegetarian with a golden broth instead of chicken broth) would have been a perfectly lovely dinner all by itself. He said that he doesn't really DO vegetarian. He tried a class with a meatless meal once, but he doesn't anticipate doing it again because he just didn't enjoy it much. I confess I was a little disappointed since I'm always on the lookout for good dinners that aren't centered on meat, but when it comes right down to it, it's his kitchen - and if he can do things like that to shrimp, I can get my veggie fare elsewhere!

Here goes a little armada of almond cornmeal cakes! I know, it sounded odd to me too. Almond? Cornmeal? But oh MY. The flavors blend amazingly, and the whipped cream and fresh berries were completely perfect.

Oops ... I was going to photograph this, but I accidentally ate almost the whole thing before I remembered. Well, you get the idea.

My only real regret is that I didn't require myself to take twenty cooking classes for this item to be crossed off my list!


  1. Looks wonderful! Any chance there's a "How to Cook By Carl" book available?

  2. Does Carl cook for any restaurants in Salem or close by? I know, questions questions but they're from a hardcore foodie.