Cooking The World By Molly Pollaty
I love to cook, but I have never gotten the hang of how to cook just for me. In fact, my neighbors have grown to love my ability to make generous servings of favorite dishes! Knowing this, my friend, Sarah Petschonek, offered me a fun yet daunting opportunity. She asked me to teach a cooking class to a group of folks at the Neighborhood Christian Center in Orange Mound. I’ve never taught a cooking class before, much less to women on a very limited budget. It was a challenge that excited me – sharing my love of food and cooking with people who perhaps were tasting some of these things for the first time. My picky-eater nieces will tell you I am constantly trying to expand their palates.
Immediately I started thinking about what dish I could share. It shouldn’t be too fancy or exotic as I wanted everyone attending, despite their level of cooking ability, to enjoy it so much that they would want to recreate the dish at home and not be intimidated by the ingredients or cost. After considering several ideas and rejecting them for a variety of reasons – time, cost and complexity, I settled on stir fry. It was just interesting enough without being too weird, and the recipe can be broken into three basic components– whatever protein you have or want, whatever vegetables you have or want and whatever sauce/seasonings you have or want. It can be served with rice, noodles or just by itself.
On the day of the cooking class. I did most of my prep ahead of time since I knew I had only an hour to cook and serve the group. I started with marinated pork, my cheater veggie – broccoli slaw mix, mushrooms, fresh baby kale (because it was on manager markdown), onions, peppers, fresh cilantro and frozen edamame (salted and steamable). I also brought an example of a store brand frozen stir fry veggie blend to show that fresh isn’t required. Some of the attendees hadn’t heard of edamame and didn’t realize it was a great source of protein- in fact, we discussed a lot about sources of protein. I let them taste a plain bean and some fresh cilantro- and loved them! We sniffed toasted sesame oil and Chinese five spice. They were a little unsure of both until they tasted the finished product.
We talked about substitutions and cooking vehicles, Asian markets and Kroger manager markdowns. We chatted about the smoke point of various cooking oils and the benefits of one over another- I used peanut oil because of the high smoke point. Using my well-loved wok, we worked through my (embarrassingly) large collection of Asian condiments for them to taste and try. The hits out of the lot were the Sriracha and the Thai sweet chili sauce.
At the end of our time together, the smell had enticed additional visitors and employees who got to enjoy a plate since we made a LOT of stir fry. I gave away all the leftovers and promised to share the Asian flavors list I had put together. We had a great time exploring a new dish, breaking down the ingredients and flavors, and enjoying the product of our success together. I hope they ask me back. I’ve already decided that next time I would cook something Latin. I make a mean fish tostada.