Want to spice things up? Try this
My 2014 list of culinary adventures includes visiting area chefs and cooking classes. I did both at the Level One Cooking Class taught by Marcelo Marino, executive chef at the Wine Country Inn in Palisade.
Marino and his six students — they were Bill and Diane McClelland, Cynthia Priddy, Linda Arnos, Pattie Dravis and Anne Mueller — were each armed with a chop board, a large and sharp culinary knife and a huge unpeeled carrot. They were perfecting their knife skills as part of the two and a half days of learning basic cooking techniques, food history and hints/ideas while creating appealing, healthy and delicious meals.
The friendly and informative nature of the class made me feel like I was with old friends, who on this day were creating a Shrimp Salad with Aioli Dressing for lunch.
Who knew those carrots would end up first in a rectangular block that morphed into Batonnet, Brunoise, Allumette, Julienne and Sizzle cuts as Marino explained how to hold and use a knife safely and skillfully without the clunky noise of a knife hitting a chop board? Marino said knife skills enhance the beauty, texture and taste of a dish and saves fingers.
Next, time to surf garlic, cilantro and tomatoes on the chop board. Before surfing, tomato halves were deseeded with a twist of the wrist — seriously, no thumbs or spoon. Skin removed, tomato flesh was surfed by holding the knife at an angle while pressing and working down over the flesh until reaching a smooth almost paste like texture. Garlic was smashed and chopped before being surfed, cilantro was chopped and surfed. Celery was chopped (not surfed). I am now a surfer! Who knew?
Onion prep included a slit down the side to easily remove the skin, cutting it in half, and then sliced on the slant to be caramelized in a wine glazed skillet.
Half of the large luscious shrimp were quickly cooked in scalding stock, then chopped; whole shrimp sautéed in little olive/canola oil blend with a squeeze of lime juice and wine, then quickly hydrated in stock (homemade stock, a must).
The aioli dressing was made from commercial olive oil based mayonnaise mixed with surfed garlic, tomato and cilantro and then tossed with beautiful greens, chopped shrimp, celery, carrots and caramelized onions. Two large, plump shrimp topped each serving. Hydrated carrots were garnish and wine was served. Aside from the natural sodium in the ingredients, not an extra grain of salt added.
We savored the flavors as we ate our lunch and this is one a dish I’ll not soon forget and will try to replicate.
You can find information about Marino’s cooking classes at coloradowinecountryinn.com/Dining/cooking-classes.html.
■ Save scraps from vegetables to make stock. Veggie/meat stocks add so much flavor, use in place of water. Heating seasonings intensifies their flavors.
■ Fresh foods/herbs and good techniques help create dishes that need little or no added salt and not much fat, according to Marino.
■ Fresh is best and local is the best of the best.
■ Enjoy food and preparation, make it fun.
HOW THEY ENDED UP IN CLASS
Diana and Bill McClelland: Diana’s employers held a managers meeting at the inn last fall. Making bruschetta with Marino was their “team-building” session. It was the tastiest team-building exercise ever, so Diana gave husband and family cook Bill a spot in one of Marino’s classes as Christmas gift. Somehow, Diana was there too.
Cynthia Priddy: The class was a Valentine’s Day gift from her husband. Her mother and Marino taught her that the success of any dish starts with a good foundation, technique and passion. The diner will try to discern what it is in the dish that makes it memorable.
Pattie Dravis: The class was a birthday present from her husband. She is the owner of Pattie’s Tiny Cakes and a former contestant on the Food Network’s “Cup Cake Wars.” I wondered, why Dravis was taking the class. “I’m a cupcake baker, not a cook,” Dravis said.
Linda Arnos: She loved a chef’s comment when lunching at the inn: “I can give you thousands of recipes, what good is that ... if you don’t know how to cook?” Arnos was hooked and made holiday shopping easy for her husband: cooking class, please.
Anne Mueller: She asked for a cooking class for Christmas. Her husband discovered Marino’s class and surprised her. Surfing garlic and herbs and making stock from leftover vegetables were her favorite parts of the class.
Dixie: After the class, I made a sautéed kale dish with surfed garlic and used Sprigs and Sprouts’ Asian Toasted Sesame Olive Oil. My husband now likes kale! Surfing is my new sport.