Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts – Week 2 In Review

Good evening!

This week of school at the Natural Epicurean was fast-paced, high-energy and tons of fun, albeit tons of work.  This is when we really delved into cooking and concocting fundamentals like stocks, sauces, and basic cooking methods (wet and dry).

I didn’t take any pictures of the stocks, because I’m sure you can imagine them.  But it was fun creating a variety of depths (light, medium and dark) and flavor profiles (like herb and roasted garlic, or dashi).  I did picture some of the other goodies, though.

For our sauce class we made a rich tomato sauce (front and center), a salsa verde with tarragon and toasted walnuts (right), a roasted red pepper coulis (left), and some nifty things you can’t see in the back – a mushroom jus, and demi-glace.  I was super excited to create the demi-glace, which is a savory brown reduction sauce that’s almost exclusively made from meat, and it tasted great done veggie-style.  Sauces are fun but challenging, since there are so many things to consider – flavor, color, texture, what you’re serving it with, and etc.

Next up, we had a lab on wet cooking methods, which is something I really don’t focus on much here on the blog (unless we’re talking soups and stews – I could eat those forever).  But things like braising and poaching, and even steaming?  These are all things I do far too seldomly.  Why have I never braised before? Pictured in the very center is braised fennel, cabbage and leeks – the cabbage was scorched on each side prior to braising to give it a nice rich flavor, and holy hell was it good.  More where that came from in my future.

And to contrast the wet cooking methods, we did a day of dry cooking, which involves pretty much everything with oil – think sauteing, stir frying, frying, grilling, and so on.  Clockwise from the top left are sweet potato fries (tossed with applewood smoked salt, OMG), cauliflower-beet fritters, sauteed apples (with coconut milk ice cream), and grilled asparagus and eggplant.  Somehow the roasted mushrooms missed the cut, which is a shame because he was plated as a mustached mushroom man.  For real.  The mustache was made of parsley.

We also had a couple of other non-cooking segments – one that was sort of an introduction to conscious cooking, getting us to consider the energetics of food and all that nifty hippie stuff, and another class that was math-based – yay conversions!  Next week, we’ll begin to get more in-depth with certain food categories, like tofu, tempeh and grains.  I’m pretty stoked!

And I even made a new friend in my neighborhood.  This dude was totally chillin’ with me outside, he was way too cool.

Have a good weekend, folks, and I’ll catch up with you on Sunday for some mad brunch action!

  • Nikki

    Holy yum. Your education looks delicious. You must be having a great time. I'll take a plate of fries and fritters, please. And you've reminded me that I need to pick up some fancy salts to play with.

    Looking forward to brunch 🙂

  • foodfeud

    Smoked applewood salt sounds like it would make just about anything incredible. How fun to get to play around. I never braise either but my mom makes a couple braised dishes around the holidays that are great.
    Haha, wish I'd seen the mushroom man…

  • xvavaveganx

    Oh man everything looks so amazing! Looks like you guys just dove right in, love that! I love seeing what you've been up to at school 🙂 Cute kitty!

  • coconutandberries

    It sounds like such an interesting week- so much more to sauces then you could think! And you've reminded me how much I adore braise vegetables- both braised cabbage and fennel are fantastic.

  • Amey

    wow! it's all so exciting! The pictures look totally amazing, and I love reading about what you're learning. I always just make basic vegetable broth with my kitchen scraps ~ and more or less hope for the best. You will make such marvelous creations!!

  • Hannah

    Ooh, I love roasted cabbage and grew up with my mum braising and roasting fennel, so that dish sounds so lovely!

  • Allysia

    I know right? Where have fancy salts been all my life?

  • Allysia

    And braising is so super easy, too! But it was always foreign to me so I avoided it.

  • Allysia

    Yeah, he's my little bf, ha ha. 🙂

  • Allysia

    It's probably one of my favorite ways to eat cabbage now – and I love the stuff already!

  • Allysia

    Super exciting! And I'm the same way with veggie broth, if I even bother to make it (which, let's face it, is virtually never). But I'm inspired to change that!

  • Allysia

    Oooh, definitely two things I never grew up with, but that I'm glad I discovered as an adult!

  • Joey

    Sweet! That looks like a proper feast. No, really – give me a couple of beers and a knife and fork, and I'd be a happy Joey. Tell me more of this crazy braised fennel of which you speak – what do you braise it in? And what's coming up next week?

  • Allysia

    I was a happy Allysia sans beer, so that's really saying something! The cabbage and fennel were braised in vegetable broth and a little tamari…nothing crazy fancy. But the veggie broth was homemade and really fresh tasting. 🙂

  • Maggie Muggins

    Now this is the kind of schooling I can get behind, what a spread! I’m pretty sure I’ve never in my life braised something, I always assumed it was more of a thing you do to meat and tucked the notion back into the depths of my brain. It seems I need to attempt it without burning the house down sometime.

  • Jolene – EverydayFoodie

    I've never braised before either … I don't think.

  • Allysia

    I know right? I always associated it with meaty things, I never thought to braise veggies.

  • Allysia

    Well there's a good project. 🙂