Invite me to a cooking class? I am in!
I love them all: demos, hands on, famous chefs, home-style cooks … I am eager to be inspired by some unfamiliar flavor or technique.
But with the steep cost of these classes, I need to choose carefully.
For me that means honing in on classes that focus on using health conscious, vegetarian or kosher ingredients.
While perusing the online schedule for the JCC in Manhattan
, I ran into a class being taught by Jennifer Abadi
called Delicious Heart-Healthy Foods
When I saw the menu, I knew I needed to attend.
The instructions are clear and succinct. The recipes are supported by cultural and holiday references along with pairings and serving suggestions.
It is timeless.
There is a highly personal introduction, filled with bits of culinary color and Abadi’s rich family history.
Her Grandma Fritzie came to America from Aleppo, Syria in 1923.
Abadi tells the story in loving detail through anecdotes that help the reader to know her family:
“For both my Aunt Essie’s and my mother’s weddings, Grandma Fritzie did almost all of the cooking by herself, preparing months in advance and freezing whatever she could ahead of time. For the first wedding, Grandma miscalculated and there was not enough food for all of the guests. So, for my mother’s wedding, my grandmother made even more. There were 250 people crammed into their Upper West Side apartment.” Fritzie continued, “I stood and prepared so much for so long for your wedding,” she told Abadi’s mother, “that I ruined my feet and they have never been the same.
”Did someone ask for the definition of Jewish Guilt?
A convivial group of five students met in the strictly kosher, state of the art culinary studio at the JCC on the upper west side for Abadi’s class last week.
Recipes and ingredients were laid out in neatly organized piles along the stretch of work counter. We jumped in and selected a recipe to prepare. Abadi and two capable assistants guided and demonstrated throughout the two hours, after Abadi gave a brief intro to the menu.
An Egyptian spice dip called DO’A involved dry roasting sesame, coriander and cumin seeds along with hazelnuts, cashews, chickpeas and peppercorns. These ingredients were crushed in a food processor and then served alongside olive oil and pita.
This was totally unfamiliar and the group loved it.
I made the Red Lentil Soup with Garlic, Coriander and Lemon. It was delicious, simple to make and tangy with chunks of lemon wedge in the bowl, a familiar Syrian way of serving, we learned.
Fresh Salmon Burgers with Scallions, Fresh Ginger and Garlicky Dressing was another favorite.
Our group enjoyed eating our efforts after we completed the recipes. Abadi went through them all, one last time, to highlight any specific techniques or sources for difficult to find ingredients.
If hands on cooking classes are your thing, I suggest you take a look at the fantastic offerings at the JCC in Manhattan’s Patti Gelman Culinary Arts Center and consider finding a class that entices you.
Fresh Salmon Burgers with scallion, ginger and garlicky mayo dressing
- For Burgers:
- 1 lb. salmon filet, skin removed, finely chopped
- 6 Tb. plain breadcrumbs
- 3/8 tsp salt
- 1/2 c finely chopped scallions or chives or a mixture of both
- 1/3 c coarsely chopped parsley or cilantro leaves or a mixture of both
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 1/2 Tb. soy sauce
- 2-3 Tb. extra virgin olive oil for brushing the burgers before cooking
- For Garlicky Mayo Sauce:
- 1/4 c. lite mayo
- 1/4 tsp. finely grated ginger
- 1 tsp. rice or white vinegar
- 2 tsp. finely chopped garlic, mashed with 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
- In a medium bowl, combine all burger ingredients (except olive oil), mixing with a spoon until well combined. The salmon may be very soft, so you may need to use your hands to squeeze the mixture until smooth.
- Heat a large, non-stick skillet over high heat for 1-2 mins..
- Scoop about 1/3 c. of the mixture into a patty about 1 inch thick and 4 inches in diameter.
- Do not flatten too much
- Brush one side with olive oil and place oiled side down onto the hot skillet.
- If burger doesn't sizzle immediately, wait a few more seconds before putty the next patty into the pan.
- Brush the top side of the patty with olive oil and cook 2-3 minutes or until bottom is medium brown in color.
- Gently flip the burger and cook second side for an additional minute or until browned.
- Place burgers on plate lined with paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
- Continue cooking all burgers in the same manner
- Serve with garlicky mayo on whole wheat buns. Top burgerswith sliced avocado, cucumber, and tomatoes. Eat while warm and serve alongside a green salad with a dollop of the garlic mayo on the side.
Note: The Heart Healthy class was cleverly offered in February, Heart Awareness Month.
The schedule of classes at the JCC, Manhattan range from one time events to culinary boot camps for varying levels. The seasons and holidays offer a rhythm for the themes so take a look at the schedule if you want to prepare for something in particular.
Jennfer Abadi’s next class is “Mouthwatering Make Ahead Seder” presented on March 19 at 7 PM. She will share recipes for Seder items that can be prepared in advance and stored in the refridge or freezer. Items like Moroccan charoset “truffles” with dates, raisins and walnuts, Syrian Meatballs with tomato and cumin sauce and Italian ground almond and pignoli nut macaroons will be be taught.
Let me know if you want to attend and I’ll try to meet you there!