Culinary Bootcamp, Week 7: Love for Vegetables, Grains, and COLBERT!

Dear valued, fabulous, scandalous readers

I don’t know what the frick is going on, but for the past couple of weeks, WordPress has been having weird blips and content is missing from posts that I’ve published. Strange! So if you see anything like unfinished photo captions, you know that’s not my doing. I know how to string together a sentence. I make a habit of stringing too many together!

* * * * * * * * *

Before I start writing about school, I hope everyone who reads this at least received a giant hug or treated themselves to some chocolate/egg rolls on February 14th!

Kicking off at Changes. I wanted to hug that dog!

Valentine's Day can be a divisive subject, depending on whom you're talking to, so I decided to make things fun and inclusive for everybody. It was cute, watching people stop, read and smile throughout the day.

The day was all right for me. My brother (Tarek) and I cooked a belated birthday dinner and dessert (butter chicken, and choux puffs to dip in orange-flavored dark chocolate) for our mom, who brought us won tons and chow mein. I called my Grandma to wish her a happy Chinese New Year and she told me to come by and pick up bamboo leaf-wrapped sticky rice that was loaded with duck egg/peanut/chinese sausage/pork chunk/red beans. Did you know that being part Asian is totally sweet?

About Changes, a few classmates asked about my store, and wanted to know what it’s like. You can check out our site, or watch this video below! Rhonda, my store owner threw a party because the torch passed by the shop and she loves the Olympics so much. She is volunteering as an Athlete Marshall for the opening and closing ceremonies, which means that she gets to hang out with cool people and wear a puffy parka.

This past week at school was a little bit crazy because

1) I think my brain is exhausted!

2) My station partner and I struggled sometimes with a language barrier (and because my noggin is tired, I often paused and said a lot of errrrs and ummms, which was not helpful)

3) In addition to school and work, I went on two work observations (days where you go to an establishment and work for free, to gain experience).

4) I’ve been studying like crazy because midterms are coming up next week. My body keeps asking for 10 hours of sleep and then doesn’t even use them well. Frustrating!

Fortunately, this was a short week, and the classes were all about vegetarian cooking and grain prep, two things that I’m pretty keen on. I do a lot of veg food, and not with an intentional point of cooking without meat, but it’s definitely easy to make tasty and fulfilling dishes without an animal protein, which many people are unaware of.

Learning about vegetarian cooking was an eye-opener for a lot of people, because figuring out how to do it well often includes borrowing ideas from other cultures, substituting ingredients, understanding the need to respect and accommodate other mindsets, and if you’re used to having meat as the main event, knowing how to turn what you know on its head and become unusually innovative. I’m pretty wild and wacky in the kitchen as-is, so this bodes well for me.

My brothers used to be tofu-phobes who also wouldn’t touch whole grains or eat something if there wasn’t meat in it, and same for another friend of mine, until they tried food that surprised them (in a good way). It’s often our ideas and expectations of what something is, that keep us from actually experiencing them. Now Tarek cooks with tofu and brown rice often, which is nice. We just went to Memphis Blues for dinner and I need a nap, but it all balances out.

Curry-spiced, deep-fried chickpeas. I'm very familiar with chickpeas and was happy to play with them in a new way!

A mixed grain salad with about 100 things in it. I should have mixed the leaves in to make it fluffy and light, because my idea of molding it in a ramekin got a little messy. Whoops!

Butternut squash risotto with parmigiano reggiano. Three of my favorite things!

I will now interrupt my usual programming for a brief report on Wednesday’s filming of The Colbert Report!

Our teachers were all right with letting students out to see Olympic-related events. I considered this to be one, because he's the US speed skating team's assistant sports psychologist for the 2010 games, and is also supposed to be part of NBC's official Winter Sports Coverage Team. Even though I'm planning to move a few hours away from New York, where the show is normally filmed, it's impossible to find tickets because they get snapped up right away. Eeek!

Colbert's crew members and techies must have felt like playing that Space Invaders game where outsiders advance toward you. And yes, he did end up making a ball joke.

My friend Tristan and I got up ridiculously early to be there. Well, I did. He just didn't go to bed. There were still a lot of people ahead of us, and I don't even want to know how long they were waiting in line!

After a while, everyone just started running to the stage, through mud and grass, so we booked it along with them. I heard that Thursday was a lot more packed!

"It's 11:30 at night and the sun is shining. They wonder why there's no snow here! THIS is THE COLBERT REPORT!"

Every episode, he has to wait for the audience to hush up. This went on for a couple of minutes.

"What a great city. You're so easy to pander to!" He was right. The audience lapped up everything he said or did. Some members were a little bit too enthusiastic!

The crowd kept cheering, "Ride the moose! Ride the moose!"

I don't remember what was happening in this photo, but think that "Ralph Lauren designed this sweater, bitches! WHOOOO! USA! USA! USA!" would be a good caption.

Colbert and Michael Bublé singing O Canada to the tune of The Star-Spangled Banner.

He made his guest from NBC ride the moose.

Colbert makes friendly with another Canadian citizen.

We were also entertained by clips of Stephen Colbert’s Olympic Journey and the audio from his one-off Better Know A Riding sketch, where he interviewed/annoyed Ujjal Dosanjh, who remained patient and then turned a little feisty, which was hilarious. In between interviews and audio clips, Colbert was very business-like. He kept thanking us, promising to come right back in a minute when exiting the stage, and laughing when screwing up lines. It was a really fun time and is something I can cross off of my Wanted To Do That For Years! list, just like Rhonda wanting to be part of the Olympics and getting to cross that off of hers.

We made veggie terrines with mushroom duxelle. I put mint leaves at the bottom (which then became the top) for decoration.

I don't think anybody's terrine set very well. The grain stock we used contained an acid that didn't allow the gelatin to completely solidify. Some people opted to serve theirs in shot glasses. If we were to do a freestyle veggie terrine, I would use long, mandoline-cut slices of starchy vegetables that alternated with a smooth cheese and fresh herbs and then bake it or something because this was a fiasco.

Asparagus and carrots vichy with gravlax, hollandaise, and quenelles of potato and cauliflower puree. I guess this dish is for what I call "fishatarians", or people who say they're vegetarians but eat seafood. Fish are animals!

Zucchini "pasta" with pesto and arancini (deep-fried risotto ball) on red pepper romesco. Love this pasta idea and will make it again for sure!

Tomato stuffed with olive tapenade and mixed grains, on pesto. Squash gnochhi with a squash and cream sauce.

Tomato stuffed with olive tapenade and mixed grains on pesto alfredo, with squash gnocchi in a squash cream sauce. A lot of people didn't like the tapenade, and I think it's because you have to use that stuff with caution, and very sparingly because of how salty/briny it is. My partner didn't taste the grain mix before stuffing the tomatoes, so when they were in the oven, I tasted from the bowl that it was made in and spat it out immediately. Eugh!!!

My concept for a freestyle squash tian (layered mold) from the top down: Deep-fried beet threads, sautéed zucchini, purée of sautéed caramelized onions and spinach, mixed grains (quinoa, lentils, bulgur), roasted squash purée with nutmeg, oven-baked thyme panko, sitting on a bed of roughly chopped cauliflower and grated zucchini that were sautéed in butter and mashed roasted squash, with a smear of red pepper romesco sauce that was thinned out with lemon juice and olive oil for extra punch. The teachers had us sprinkle on popped amaranth.

If anything, this week was a test of endurance, creativity and patience. Our next project was vegetarian menu development for canapés and appetizers. I love menu development days because they let you play with ingredients and get creative, plus bounce ideas off of your partner(s) and have fun making things your way. Our teachers know that if you ask somebody like Bowes or myself to come up with 10 different appetizers (on our own) and plate them wildly, we will do it with gusto because we’re firecrackers, so of course they said that each person could only come up with one of the appetizers.

I was freaking out and basically about to lose my mind because my partner wasn’t coming up with any ideas, nor giving any feedback/criticism for my ideas. I was practically begging him to come up with something. The next day, when we were supposed to actually make the food, he kept disappearing or only working on his appetizer, which was due to be served last. I was all but left alone to complete the first two dishes and was really steamed about that. If a person is to work solo, they don’t have the hassle of thinking that someone will be there to rely on and then find out that they are not. This is why Batman Works alone! Sometimes!

In the end, he helped out with plating (because I kept asking) and in the end he thanked me for working hard to execute his dish. I would have liked to have aided him a lot more throughout the day, so we could have found a better balance, but he couldn’t delegate tasks to me, because his plan kept changing. I can at least be happy that while my work was constructively criticized, it wasn’t ill-received.

I wanted to do something funky and Mediterranean, but with a twist: Profiteroles and grilled baguette slices smeared with a roasted garlic/olive oil spread, topped with roasted apple/yam/red pepper/almond/sun dried tomato hummus. Zucchini julienne, crumbled blue cheese (we were out of feta), and capers as garnish. I was very careful with the cheese and capers to make sure that it wasn't too salty, and had a good contrast against the sugary, starchy, earthy ingredients. When food actually does get marked, we have 2 chefs taste, because everybody's opinion is subjective. One of the chefs said that the blue cheese was probably a bad idea because it would overpower the whole thing, but the chef who tried it said there was a very good balance of flavours (and that it made him wish he had a glass of wine) which made me very happy. I'm half-Arabic and a self-taught hummus-maker. I take this kind of seriously! If I make this on baguettes again, I would cut the bread smaller to make it easier to eat.

My appetizer was pretty abstract and elaborate: A quinoa, beet and cilantro salad in a lemon sesame vinaigrette, topped with slices of poached pear (so the chef did end up getting a taste of wine!) and a quenelle of goat cheese, cream cheese, and mint, that was stuffed with a walnut, then crusted with crushed pistachios and black pepper, and topped with deep fried beet threads. I tried to drizzle the dish with an orange syrup, but the zest kept getting stuck in the nozzle of the squeeze bottle and made cute dots everywhere. In my mind, the concept for this dish was supposed to be very elegant, but ended up reminding me of the heart candy cloud from that Love and Rocket episode of Futurama, which I am also more than satisfied with. The dish was too sweet in my opinion, and the chef's as well (although he really liked the idea), so I am working out an improved version on paper as homework.

About the work observations, I went on 2 before school started (not affiliated with NWCAV), have now been on 2 more, and am due to go on another one next week. I had a conversation with a classmate about how it can seem a little daunting in the beginning, but once you get a few done, it’s easier. You have to think about it like ripping off a Band-Aid. Just go!

It’s interesting how different environments make you react, though. At one location, I was rational, efficient and collected amongst organizational chaos and workplace hazards, and in the other place, which was safer, cleaner, and quieter, I kept dropping the ball, and eventually became frustrated with myself for being a scatterbrain (re:tired!). They were pretty patient and nice there, but the next day when the teacher asked how it went, I answered that I was less than impressed by my performance. Maybe the instructors will give me a chance to go back and do better one day.

Until then, I have loads of studying and knife-sharpening to do. Ouch!

Eat well!


This entry was posted in Appies & Sides, Asian, School, Vegetarian, Whole Wheat & Fibertastic and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Culinary Bootcamp, Week 7: Love for Vegetables, Grains, and COLBERT!

  1. Kari, your photos of the Colbert Report taping in Vancouver are awesome! I’m helping US Speedskating with social media, and I was wondering if I could link to your photos on our Facebook page? Shoot me an email and let me know. Thanks so much!


  2. Not much into the vegetarian cuisine. I do have to say that your presentation (pictures) … especially the quinoa, beet, and cilantro salad looks yummmmy.

  3. kchellouf says:

    Hi Paul!

    A lot of people are sort of “turned off by” or “not into” the idea of vegetarian cooking, but the best veg cuisine is the kind that you’ve seen here. Items that have amazing ingredients, fun ideas, gorgeous presentation, and makes your brain think

    “Ooooooh!!!! I want that! Oh, there’s no meat in it? Who cares!”

    To get the most out of it, I try to think of veggie/vegan food like dessert (my favorite course in a meal). There’s no meat in it, you can be funky, use a lot of fresh things, and make it look wild. Who doesn’t like dessert?

    Thanks for your compliments on the quinoa salad dish. Whenever possible, I like for my food to have outrageous attitude that matches mine, so this was a good opportunity to get away with it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s