Folding Phyllo

I remember the second half of the 3rd quarter from last year.  The weather isn’t the only dampening thing in life, and you can sense struggle in many people’s lives.  But the students themselves stay resilient in a way too, looking for more to do.  A student quietly requested another silent class, his tone sounded like he wanted “to get things done.”   Another mentioned the bastilla we had made at the beginning of the quarter.  I love how the students really do seem to know what the next step should be.

We folded a variety of phyllo triangles:  a spanikopita filling (spinach & feta), a sweet potato samosa like filling & classic baklava “mini” triangles.  It was very satisfying to see the number of triangles that resulted.
The next day we baked them off and enjoyed our samplings, with more than enough to share.
Avglemeno Soup, Phyllo Triangles, Apple-Fennel-Radish Salad


I grew up here in San Francisco on those barbeque pork buns.  They had already become a grab and go option in Chinatown and on Clement Street, and most of my students are familiar with them too.  It turns out that making the dough is pretty easy, once you have experimented a little with yeasted breads.  The night before we planned to roll and fill the dumplings I suddenly realized we needed 3/4 inch rolling pins, having only one I had found for rolling small amounts of pasta. It was late in the evening, no way to get to an open hardware store.  So I looked in the storage closet and found a welcome volunteer:

The carpenter side of my husband was very proud.

The next day went well, as we rolled and steamed the buns (filled with a mushroom/tofu/ginger filling).  They rounded out our “Pacific Rim” meal:

Chicken Adobo over Rice, Sauteed Choy with Peppers, Steamed Vegetarian Bao, Individual Egg Custards

More soon, as we get into the fourth quarter there are several projects ahead beyond our classroom cooking that will be fun to share!

Week 2: Let’s get chopping.

What I love about our classes is that underneath the mellow exterior, high schoolers really are active people.  And many have chosen our class because they don’t want to sit at a desk, they want to come in and work (although tasting the results is certainly an excellent secondary incentive).
But what do you do with 40 students who want to learn how to chop? Yes, onions are the classic practice chopping item, just having roughly 20 students at a time chopping onions is, well, painful.  This time we used carrots and leeks to make a super simple carrot soup to go with our North African favorite: Chicken Bastilla — and I was reminded that 25 pounds of chopped carrots does indeed make at least 4 gallons of carrot soup.  Gulp!

Then came the next question, as we were plating:  What does “garnish” mean?  So we got into garnish.

Carrot soup with chermoula, cilantro and yoghurt cream, individual bastilla pies, strawberry mango lassi.

Our First Week of Hospitality In The New Year

It was the first time I really made a good meal like that.  Different. Something that I wouldn’t have tried, but glad I did b/c it was good.–2nd period student

I enjoyed it immensely.  It was really fun learning the steps and actually doing hands on work was good. — 3rd period student


Italian Frittata with Tomato Sauce, Salad with Oranges & Fennel, Italian Almond Cupcakes (Torta Di Mandorla)
Not a problem.  In the third quarter we seem to go from orientation into measuring into teamwork pretty quickly, even though most of the students are new to the class.  I love the pride and sense of accomplishment.  I will include a link to the rest of the student quotes, the above is an accurate representation of the class sensibility.
The students are raising the bar for me, not the other way around!  Pretty cool.

Quick End of Year Review

It went by too quickly, but here are some shots of our November & December 2010.  The students were amazing!

dark caramel flan
chicken mole, enchiladas, nopales
kuri squash, cauliflower & green bean curry over rice, tomato chutney, naan with zaatar
Visiting with NOPA’s Pastry Chef, Amy Brown
time for intersession…
intersession = 31 hungry & eager students.
intersession = delicious: chicken sausage meatloaf, salad, leek & potato soup, banana pudding with home-made vanilla wafers


gingerbread house extravaganza


"Silence is the Golden Key…"

…a quote from one of our students this week. We forget that life has become increasingly noisy and distractive. And we noticed noisy and distractive class habits developing already in this second week of the quarter. “What are we going to make today?”  and other questions were becoming conversational ice-breakers, and it was easier to stop and talk with friends, or ask where something was, rather than applying one’s self to the task on hand.   This is a default human tendency in general that I’ve seen in some of my most qualified new employees too.

In the workplace, conversation and communication can be two very different things and we were struggling with how to teach this in an active classroom (with sharp knives and hot surfaces).  Requesting students to read a prep list wasn’t the answer either.  Not only that, what if our students started asking questions non-stop while on a job shadow in a restaurant?  That would not work.

So one day this week, we had a silent class.  To make it more playful, we added music (thank you Greg, for the great playlist) and had a few instructional tent cards to provide lead in.  We kept the tasks simple and safe, rolling dumplings, and were amazed by the efficiency and togetherness that the students created.

Twenty minutes later, we had over 200 dumplings and a room full of focus.  I almost cried.  Here are some of the quotes from the students:
“I think working silently is fun and you have to pay attention a lot.  It teaches you too because of your surroundings.  Working silently is an effective way to get the job done because there isn’t as many distractions, we should do this more.”
“It let us focus on the task at hand and I enjoyed it.”
“I felt this is nice.  Everyone can learn more things in the class and nobody is talking.”
It was amazing to understand how many students really appreciated the experience.  It may require more planning, but we could tell there was a new sense of awareness in the room, one that they want to develop further as much as we do.
The next day?  It was a typical, crazy Friday, that we turned into a standing Asian Noodle Bar.  

Chicken Potstickers
Won Ton Soup with Vegetarian Wonton
Fresh Spring Rolls with Two Dipping Sauces
It got noisy, but we all started together more on the same page than ever before – and we cleaned and put away more than 80 dishes in 5 minutes – now that is focused work!


When you look at Japan on a globe, 2 things pop-up: lots of ocean surrounds the small, thin islands and their latitude is not that different from our own.  Now that we were discussing this, the ingredients in dashi, the Japanese soup stock base, suddenly made total sense sense to me.
Thank you to our student A. M. for his photographic talents!
Dashi is easy and fun to make, the students loved shaving the whole dried fish to make bonito flakes.  Then we added miso and poured the heated soup over our cooked soba, tofu & green onions.  The garnish salads added a cool crunch and smooth sweetness. Our desserts used up a part of a large zucchini donated to our cause (thank you JH), which allowed us to bring in some more unusual Japanese sweets, daifuku and a green tea jelly using agar-agar (again the ocean!).
What was intriguing about our meal, as we focused on teamwork and timing with the additional dishes and with needing to keep the soup hot, was that as we tasted, we started comparing how eating a bit of one item can affect the flavor of the next item–and this could actually be intentional.  Tea sweets are designed just for this kind of enjoyment – the pungency of the tea makes the sweet that follows even more enjoyable.  
This intentional playfulness of menu composition gets lost in our society’s rush, but it is a good way to slow down, and perhaps better appreciate a meal for its combination of flavors, textures & influences, instead of how fast it gets to the table and how big the plate is.  We could see the appreciation in our students as we “played” with our food in this way.
Miso Soup with Soba Noodles, Tofu & Onions
Gomaee (cold spinach salad with sweet sesame dressing)
Sunomono with Cucumber & Seaweed
Zucchini Spice Bread
Daifuku (mochi with sweet red bean paste)
Green Tea Jelly

You mean they’re alive? Right NOW???

“They better be,” was our answer.  The menu this week arose out of student voice and, actually, lack of voice too.  Those who had never had clams before kept quiet, which meant all we heard was “clam chowder!”

So we went for the classic which set the menu up for a Boston theme, and found a delicious recipe (thank you Hog Island).  In the interest of budget and waistlines, we cut the cream down to less than half for our class sampling.  Everyone loved it, and watching the clams from start to finish was completely intriguing… until the chocolate ganache came out for our dessert.  
Here is the complete meal:
Boston Clam Chowder
Chinese Chicken Salad
Cheese Biscuits
Mini Boston Cream Pies

It Is A New School Year…

… and it was only the second week(!) when we cooked this full meal, visiting the culinary world of Jamaica. 
Above: Jamaican Jerk Chicken (wet marinade), Jamaican Bean Stew over Rice with Cilantro Garlic Cream, Fried Plantain, Cabbage Salad with Pickled Onion Garnish
Jamaican Gingerbread & Coconut Bread with Whipped Cream & Mint

Great job team!