June 25, 2012 at 11:08 pm
by Irina Gonzalez
Despite growing up as a very picky eater who barely ate any vegetables, I attribute a lot of my diet success to my ability to adapt and learn to like new foods—in particular fruits and vegetables. Although I enjoy a lot of veggies these days, I haven’t really experimented with different ways to cook them to make them more delicious. This is why I signed up for a 4-week class titled “Essential Techniques of Vegetarian Cooking” at the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York City. After my last class today, I’ve realized I learned a LOT about cooking . Here are some of my favorite lessons, I hope it helps you become a diet success too.
1. Change Something Up: Considering how obsessed I am with soup, it should be no wonder that my absolute favorite part of this class was learning to make three different soups. All the soups were topped with something (Russian borscht with cashew sour cream, white bean soup with pesto, carrot soup with dill). But the biggest lesson I learned is that sometimes all you need to make a dish healthier is to change up the grain. We made three different types of tabouleh (one with bulgur, one with couscous, and one with quinoa). Using quinoa, which is full of protein and all the essential amino acids, actually filled me up and gave me ideas to substitute this whole grain (well, actually, it’s a seed) in other dishes as well.
2. The Magic of Dessert: There was a lot to love about the second class, in particular the three vegan spreads that we made in the food processor. We made an edamame spread, fava bean spread, and a walnut and lentil spread. The best part of the dish, though, was learning how to prepare a healthy dessert with pear that was absolutely to die for. We poached the pear in some pomegranate juice until it was soft, then topped it with sliced oranges, pomegranate seeds, toasted pistachio nuts and some blue cheese (which was optional). I have to say, as a big chocolate lover, I have never enjoyed a dessert more than this one. And to think, it’s so simple and good for you, too!
3. There IS a Way: This class was ALL about grilling and roasting. I loved grilling pineapple, portobello mushroom caps and zucchini, as well as roasting red peppers (to make a spread) and eggplant (to make baba ganoush). The thing that blew me away was that I finally found a way to love red onions. I’ve never liked red onions. Whenever I had them in any dish, they always tasted too bitter and sharp to me. In the third class though, we cooked sliced red onions in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and agave syrup until they became completely soft. It made the most delicious relish that I am STILL dreaming of, plus it proved to me that you simply need to figure out how to prepare fruits and vegetables to love them.
4. Heaven with Stir-Fry: I loved the simple green slaw and the lemon tart (with a pistachio crust) that we made. By far, my favorite lesson was how to properly make stir-fry. Our teacher taught us that with the heat being so heavily concentrated on the bottom of the wok, it’s imperative to cook in batches. We combined any vegetables that we liked, cooking it in four different batches, before combining it all again in the end. In the end, everything was cooked pretty well. Another thing I learned is that olive oil isn’t good for making a stir-fry. Plus, if you don’t have a wok you can use a good saute pan and it will work just as well.
Have you ever taken a cooking class? How do you make healthy fruits and vegetables at home? Share with us in the comments below!