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Incredible Indian

Photography by Cathy Nelson Arkle

Trying to explain Indian cuisine is like describing quantum physics. I love both, but they are best left to an expert. India’s cuisine is anything but uniform for many reasons: its 5000-year-old history, numerous settlers with diverse belief systems and distinct geography differences.  But… there is a common thread.

Significant Spices

The French have their sauces, the Mexicans have their chilies, the Italians have their pastas, and the Indians have their spices.

India produces 70% of global spice market. They grow about 50 of the 80 varieties of spices harvested worldwide. Continue Reading →

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Asian Awakening

Gyoza (Japanese Potstickers) from New School of Cooking

Asian cuisine is probably my least favorite, so why has this Pro-Chef class turned out to be my favorite so far?

It isn’t the taste or texture of Asian food; it’s because the MSG gives me headaches. Therefore, I thought… Asian food = headache. But today we experienced some great recipes that really turned my uneducated opinion around. I can cook Asian cuisine and avoid MSG.

You can’t discuss Chinese and Japanese cuisine without talking about rice. It is the focal point of every meal, and the blank canvas on which all other foods are created.

Rice Rudiments:

  • Asia alone produces and consumes 90% of the world’s rice.
  • Rice has fed more people over a longer period of time than any other crop.
  • For millions of people, rice is 3/4 their total diet.
  • There are more than 40,000 varieties of rice that grow on every continent except Antarctica.
  • In several Asian languages the words for ‘food’ and ‘rice’ are identical.

Asian ingredients for class at New School of CookingChinese Soy sauces for class at New School of Cooking

The other main staple in Asian cooking is soybeans. Some of the products made from these beans are; soy sauce, miso, tofu, bean curd and tempeh. Continue Reading →

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Mexican Mania

Mexican Shrimp Cocktail from New School of Cooking

Mexican cuisine is considered one of the most diverse in the world, and traditionally passed down through the generations in an unwritten form.  This cuisine relies more on intuitive cooking skills, so today’s class was more of a “watch and learn, then do” lesson.

Techniques for Mexican cooking are basically the same across the country of Mexico, but it’s the ingredients that differ by region.  Contributing factors are Mexico’s vast size, diverse climates, geography, and different levels of influence by the Mayas, Aztecs and Spaniards

Indigenous Ingredients

Typical herbs and spices used in Mexican cuisine are chili powder, oregano, cilantro, coriander, cumin, epazote, cinnamon, and cocoa.

The grain staples are corn and rice. Other popular items are pinto beans in Northern Mexico and black beans towards the south.

Peppers and other ingredients in Mexican cuisinedried Peppers for Mexican cuisine

The one ingredient that seems to make its way into more Mexican recipes is chilies. They are grown in every state, there are over 150 varieties, and each one has its own distinct flavor. Continue Reading →

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Mediterranean Magic

Photo by Cathy Nelson Arkle

Mediterranean cuisine is not the result of a specific culture or ethnic group.  It is more the culinary collaboration of a diverse range of people that live in the Mediterranean Sea region.

The term Mediterranean means “in the middle of earth” or “between lands” as it is between the continents of Africa and Europe. Twenty one countries have a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. Quite a bit of diversity to explore in one cuisine!

map of mediterranean sea

Our class concentrated on the eastern side of the Mediterranean.

Chef Carol Cotner Thompson began this week’s culinary class by demystifying the term “Mezze” which means, “to eat with pleasure.”  It is the pleasure of savoring little bites of food, accompanied by feelings of peace and serenity.

The Oxnard Companion of Food traces the roots of “Mezze” to Persia, where wine was the center of an emotional and esthetic experience that also included other forms of entertainment, such as food and music. No matter how you define it, mezze is a fabulous idea for enjoying food with friends and family.

Most European food begins on a subtle note, builds with each course, then crescendos to a finale. Not so with Mediterranean food! It starts with a bang.. like if you played the Hallelujah Chorus in reverse. Continue Reading →

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Fantabulous French

Roquefort, Walnut & Belgian Endive Salad

The French have contributed much to the eating pleasures we enjoy today, even if it is considered one the “unfriendly cuisines,” meaning complicated and hard to master.  However, today’s impressive salad recipe couldn’t be easier.

Regions-of-France-map

This week, our culinary class took us to the regions of France, where we studied how the geography, climate and neighboring countries have shaped French cuisine. Below are a few that I found to have culinary significance.

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