Cooking with Love
This was my first cooking class, ever. What intrigued me, was the connection to Tyler Florence. Love his solo cooking show, where I learned how to prepare his Brussels sprout, pancetta, sweet potato, shallot dish. This rich ensemble is served each Thanksgiving in my home.
For this cooking class, Chef Florence’s custom-blended organic extra-virgin olive oil was to be showcased in three of the chef’s recipes. As television has succeeded into making cooking a spectator sport, I somehow wasn’t aware that we would be able to actually taste these dishes, so I grabbed a coconut cupcake and coffee next door at Kara’s. Stuffing it in my mouth as the Williams-Sonoma doors opened at 10am, the class of usually twelve people, was only two on this day. We wouldn’t quite know the advantage of this until later.
Our cooking instructor was a young and very knowledgeable in-house chef named Matt. Our experience started the moment he opened the oven to check on the Olive Oil cake that he had pre-prepared for us. Warm notes of strawberries and Grand Marnier filled the air. It was to be the grand finale of the day, so in the meantime, we were served bread cubes for dipping and a shot of the oil to taste, as olive oil was the star of the show. It had an organic grassy flavor, rich and buttery.
Avocado Toast was our first tasting. Here we learned how to remove the seed from the avocado by piercing it with a knife corner, and how to spoon it out entirely whole. Mashed avocado was spread on a 1.5” thick toasted artisan Cibatta bread, then sprinkled with salt, pepper and a drizzle of the oil. Since there were only two of us in class, we were served two huge slices each. Now we realized the advantage of a smaller class – more food for us!
As Chef Matt shared with us his San Francisco background, his pastry chef wife and a photo of his young son, he demonstrated the correct way to toast pine nuts, which would be used in the salad recipe. In a blender he placed shallots, Dijon Mustard, olive oil, seasonings and red wine vinegar, explaining that the vinegar helps curb the sharpness of the shallots as it marinates. This was pulsed with an immersion blender, then drizzled over Bibb lettuce. The finishing touch was a sprinkling of blue cheese crumbles and toasted pine nuts. The softness of the lettuce leaves contrasting with the pungent blue cheese and the nutty toasted pine nuts, made for the most delicious salad. I didn’t even use a fork. Instead, lifting each leaf, slightly curling it inward, and consuming it like a lettuce wrap.
It was now time for the Strawberry Olive Oil Cake to come out of the oven. It was truly worth waiting for. As we finished our salad and avocado toast, Chef Matt mixed up the icing and poured it over the cake. He then made whipped cream from scratch, adding a touch of his own, with a teaspoon of honey. As a finishing garnish to the cake, he layered 3-4 basil leaves, and, with the largest on the bottom, graduating to the smallest on top, he then rolled them all into a small cylinder, and gave it a fine chiffonade.
We were served this warm cake topped with whipped cream, garnished with thin strips of basil, and sliced strawberries on the side. So amazing. This was more than worth the price of the class, which was $29.95 , as we were given a bottle of Tyler Florence’s Organic Olive Oil, sold exclusively at Williams-Sonoma, which retails for $30, recipes for all 3 dishes, and made a great friend in Chef Matt.
I highly recommend joining a cooking class at Williams-Sonoma. They offer kids cooking classes for $10, a very special 2-hour cooking experience combined with Folktale Winery for $50, complimentary classes on how to prepare tacos and other fun preparations, and also offer private group classes.
I am planning this private group event for my sister and niece when they stay in Carmel this fall. It was recommended to select a cookbook and request dishes from that book to be prepared by Chef Matt, then ending the evening by giving that particular cookbook as a gift to each of my guests.
It’s such an original way to spend time with family or friends. The gift of learning, watching, tasting and receiving , in a foodie fashion, whets the appetite and creates lasting memories of cooking with love.