Sunday, April 20, 2014

You have to give it away to keep it!?

I really love teaching. As far as the things that get me out of bed in the morning is concerned, it's third only to cooking and eating. I'm not sure where this love came from originally. Maybe it's just that I feel sharing how our food is made is really important. Maybe it's that I believe showing someone how easy it is to create something delicious from great ingredients is our right as humans. Or, perhaps, how nourishing ourselves though food WE CREATE shouldn't be a chore, but something we should look forward to.  Or, maybe, I just like being the center of attention, who knows. Whatever it is or wherever it stems from, I was always told that, when it comes to gifts we've been blessed with, we have to give it away to keep it. 

Throughout the almost thirty years I've been in the culinary industry, I've noticed a scary trend; we seem to be becoming a generation of simple, fast, salty, sweet, and soulless food. Greasy bags of mass-production and plastic wrappers. It concerns me that we are getting away from dinners together as a family, people-watching at the coffee shop and grilling burgers with our folks in the summer. When I teach someone how to cook, it's important that I remember to focus on, not only, the ingredients and where they come from, but WHY we make this instead of buy it from the dusty box stores. Once you've had, for instance, fresh hand-made pasta with marinara sauce made with local heirloom tomatoes, you will always create a new higher standard that everything else will be held against. Can you really tell me that dried linguine and jarred sauce can beat it? If you claim, "Yes", then you hadn't tried it yet or, sadly, you've been eating crap for so long that your pallet just doesn't know any better. 

We chefs have tons of passion. Passion for eating, cooking and sharing this passion with others. For some reason kids ,specifically, love to see how their favorite foods are made. For example, during a recent summer program at an area private day school, I was asked to offer a cooking class for some 3rd graders. It was a five day class and the theme was to create our kid-friendly favorites from scratch.

Don't get me wrong, most of the adults I've taught get a kick out of learning how to cook their favorite foods too! There just needs to be wine and baby-sitters involved first. Adults have filters that kids don't have. Their grandmother is the only one that knows how to make pie crust, for instance. Most of them are convinced that the red-sauce they buy with a picture of some retired famous actors face on it is the best thing you could ever pour over spaghetti! Kids, you see, have no such filter and they are amazed by everything. Fortunately, they hadn't been jaded by years of trial and error yet and their minds are open. 

Check out these pictures below. The photographer took some amazing candid shots.

We are discussing kneading and how awesome my trusty stand-mixer has been over the years. I was amazed that most of these kids parents have one of these but they've never seen it used! I guess this just proves my point; why make it when you can buy it, right? WRONG! It takes the average person about 10 minutes and two ingredients to make scratch made pasta with that mixer, give it a try! (Thanks Mario for your awesome recipe! I use it all the time!)

Cutting the dough into manageable shapes.

The pasta attachment on a table-top stand mixer is worth its weight in gold!

The face!!!

One of the other days, we discussed yeast and made scratch-made pizza dough and my favorite recipe for it. Each student made their own and we ate like kings. Pepperoni and cheese, oddly enough, was most popular. :-) 

Cupcakes with this butter cream icing recipe from Gale Gand (nice woman, I met her at a a food festival), local butter, sugar and vanilla, that's it. Yum indeed. 

Pretzels; (ode to Alton Brown, perfect recipe!!!) boiled and baked with kosher salt, little mustard and that's all you need! 

There are jokers in every bunch!