Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

It must be what winning the lottery feels like. Or finding a hundred-dollar bill laying on the sidewalk. So when a small amount of unexpected cash fell into my lap recently, I decided to treat myself to what, to me, is a luxury.

Mango lassi sprinkled with ground cardamom.

No, not a spa day or a shopping trip at Nordstrom. I'd been pining to take a cooking class, and I knew that Sasha Kaplan of And She Cooks had invited her friend Sophie Rahman to teach a two-part class on Indian cooking. It's a cuisine I'd dabbled in but didn't know well, and its complexity and richness had always been a draw, so I signed up.

Sophie Rahman, instructor extraordinaire.

I arrived on Sasha's doorstep in the Hollywood district and was ushered into her kitchen, where Sophie was busy toasting pappadums in the broiler. I was handed a mango lassi sprinkled with fresh-ground garam masala as the evening's other students trickled in, then we gathered around the table as she took us on a tour of the regions and spices of India and its neighbor, Pakistan.

Spices for garam masala ready to grind.

From there it was on to the hands-on portion of the evening where we watched and helped to measure, toast and stir the spices that would be going into the meal of lentils with spinach and ginger and a classic aromatic yellow rice. Sophie bustled around the kitchen, offering a technique tip here, a hand with stirring there. As we sat around the table together with the food we'd made, she added stories from her childhood and more insight into the dishes we'd prepared.

The aromatic basmati rice, ready to cook.

The second class was focused on the history of Indian cooking and was more technique-oriented, with a discussion various spice combinations and how to sweat the onions properly so they would not only sweeten but thicken the main dish of Badaami Murgh, chicken smothered in aromatic herbs and almonds.

The Baadami Murgh (too bad you can't smell it!).

We also stir-fried a cauliflower dish called Gobhi Kari, which used fresh kari leaves and small split gram beans as well as scallions for flavor and color. Also shared were local sources where we could find the various ingredients along with a little bag of packaged spices to take home to try with probably the most valuable takeaway of all, the recipes for the spice mixes and dishes we'd prepared.

So adding it up, with two classes, two dinners and many good recipes, even though it felt like an indulgence in the beginning, this was going to pay off big-time for making some impressive dinners in the future. And I hear that there might be a class on samosas coming up soon. Hmmmm...

Details: And She Cooks Cooking Classes with Sasha Kaplan. E-mail or phone 503-288-8196 for information or to inquire about upcoming classes.


chez aurora said...

Hi, really enjoyed your post. The class sounds interesting, especially to delve more into the background details. I've recently begun dabbling in cooking Indian food at home myself and would have loved something like this. Love your blog too :)


kab said...

Welcome, chez aurora! If you like root vegetables, you might want to search GSNW for "Boutard" and get my friend Anthony's recipes using the vegetables he grows on his farm. And thanks for reading!

SEH said...

Very cool! What a neat idea...running cooking classes out of house and home. Wish my kitchen was a little more 'gourmet' to do so. :-)

kab said...

I think part of the charm is that it doesn't have that "gourmet" ambiance. Makes the food seem more do-able if it's a real home kitchen.

SEH said...

Are drawers that don't close right, a crappy electric range and old 50's formica considered charming? ;-)

kab said...

I think it's called "real" for most of us!