Sur la Table: Cooking with 5 ingredients cooking class

I left the Sur la Table Cooking with 5 ingredients class with the last thing I was looking for but the first thing I needed.

Confidence.

Let me tell you all about it. (And I’ve included my favorite recipe from the class: A super delicious and super easy vegetarian recipe).

Sur la Table Cooking with 5 ingredients

There were 16 students; three men and 13 woman. With few exceptions, all were in couples: married, dating, friends, and even one mother and daughter. Most, as I soon learned, knew little about food or cooking.
Woman across the table: “Hey, anyone know what frisee is?”

Me: “It is a type of lettuce.”

Woman to my right: “It’s a weed.”

Me: “Yeah. But it’s good in salad. You’ll see.”

Most were there for a lark, as opposed to any burning desire to cook. And loosely half had never taken a class before.
“You ever take a Sur la Table cooking class before?”

“No. You?”

“No.”

That brought the conversation to a dead halt. So everyone started flipping through the recipes of the dishes we would be making.
Woman on my left, waving her stack of recipes: “Hey, these are a lot more than five ingredients.”

I start counting ingredients. And it is true. The shortest recipe in my Cooking with 5 ingredients class is 7 ingredients. The longest is more than 10. Ah well. I don’t care if the chef can’t count, as long as she can cook. And it turns out she can.

Beer, anyone?
The $75 cooking class starts with the Sur la Table coordinator giving us a sales pitch for the Krups Beertender. See, if she sells two, then her husband would get one for free. She tells us her husband wants one very badly.

They gave us coupons which were good for a week, so after class many students went shopping. But, alas, I didn’t see anyone buy a Beertender.

The coordinator went on to give us a sales pitch on all the new items Sur la Table had. She also told us about all the new Sur la Table locations. Then she turned the class over to Chef Alexandra Lopez.

Get cooking
This is the way the class worked. First, the chef would demonstrate how to do something necessary for one of the recipes, such as chiffonade mint. Then she would pass the knife to whomever wanted to complete the task.

I chiffonaded mint and minced shallots, segmented oranges, shelled peas, chopped wild mushrooms, sliced strawberries, buttered phyllo dough, seasoned a vinaigrette, assembled a berry Napoleon.

Until I wrote it down, I didn’t realize I had done so much.

Now, with 15 other students all standing cheek to jowl, the only reason I got to do so much was because I was eager to learn. While most of the students were shy, I volunteered for everything. It is what I was there for, after all.

But, as much as I did, there were still a ton of things I did not get an opportunity to do. Like slice an onion. And get feedback on how to properly use a knife. And hull strawberries. But Sur la Table has tons of classes, so this will not be my first post on the topic.

After the ingredients were prepared, we started to cook. There were four pots on the stove. The chef took care of one, one student took care of another, and a second student took care of the remaining two. The rest of us just watched.

Lunch is on
The most interesting part of the lunch was the dessert: Berry Napoleons we got to assemble ourselves.

First, the chef demonstrated. Then, it was our turn.
Woman behind me: “How do you do all that?”

Me: “See, you put some of the cream on a plate to it. Then you put a phyllo square on the cream. Then you put more cream on the phyllo. Then you put berries on that and another phyllo on top. Then you . . ."

Woman: “Gee, wouldn’t it be easier to just buy them?”

I laughed so hard I nearly sprayed powdered sugar on three people.

As we were eating, we got another sales pitch from the coordinator, this time on items used, or even just mentioned, during the class.

The entire class took just over an hour and a half. And I left with the urge to cook more, five recipes to satisfy that urge, and, as I mentioned, the confidence to make them all.

Pretty good, indeed.
Gorgeous and incredibly easy vegetarian recipe for Minted Pea Soup with Yogurt
Courtesy Chef Alexandra Lopez

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 cups vegetable broth
4 cups fresh shelled peas
3/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves + 2 tablespoons chiffonade mint leaves
salt to taste
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt divided into 2 equal portions.

Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Add the peas and 3/4 mint to soup and carefully blend using an immersion blender. Add 1/2 cup yogurt and blend again. Season to taste with salt. Serve soup with a dollop of yogurt on top and chiffonade mint as garnish. Soup can be served hot or cold.

Things Cook Love
One of the items the coordinator told us about is the new Sur la Table book Things Cooks Love: Implements, Ingredients, Recipes by Sur La Table and Marie Simmons (Andrews McMeel Publishing).

I wanted to tell you about this because I can see this rapidly becoming one of those handy resources you reach for the way a writer reaches for a dictionary.

Now, while the 300+ page book starts with an introduction to kitchen items, from the very basic to the more sophisticated, the bulk of the book focuses on kitchen tools, such as the cast iron pan. It talks about each item, and provides tons of recipes (not, alas, necessarily vegetarian, however) from all sorts of cuisines for using the tools. And, of course, the book is positively littered with gorgeous color photographs, which make it as delightful to browse is it is educational to read.

If this sounds up your alley, you can get an autographed copy from the Sur la Table Website for $24.95. But if you don't care about the signature, then head over to Amazon where it is only $18.59.