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Spicing Things Up

May 14, 2009


Don and I started a cooking class today.  It’s a 6 week course that’s taught by Chef Michael Sigler.  He has a book out and is working on another one as well as the President of the American Association of Culinary Professionals.  Since today was the first class I thought we’d just be sitting listening to him tell us what to expect.  Wrong, we had to get up and actually participate.

Today he went over kitchen organization which we’ve already done pretty much what he suggested such as:

  • Get rid of things we don’t use or is broken
  • Put items used daily within easy reach
  • Items used once a year or very rarely go on top shelves
  • Store items in the area you plan to use them

The rest of the class was spices.  No, not my mom’s favorite of salt a pepper but spices like Chervil, Tarragon, Sage, Rosemary and Chinese Five Spice.  There were also other more common spices such as Chili Powder, Nutmeg and Garlic.

After he divided us into teams to try to identify 11 different spices by sight, feel and taste he had us try our hand at using them.  They divided us into 2 teams of about 8 people each and gave us 3 spices for each team to try.  The counter had grilled chicken breasts, browned ground hamburger, mushrooms, rice, pasta, diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes and green peppers, shredded lettuce, spinach, a couple different beans and some mixed vegetables.  Our job was to use whatever we wanted off the counter and fix a 1 plate lunch using our 3 spices.  We could use them all in 1 food or separately with different foods. Our team made a stir fry. We diced the chicken, green pepper, mushroom, the mixed vegetables and tomato and added our three spices which were Sage, Chervil and Rosemary.  Then we made a salad and added a little oil and Chervil for garnish.  We served the stir fry over the pasta.  It was actually good.  That just proves too many cooks don’t spoil the broth.

The other team had the Chinese Five Spice and added it to the ground beef.  Even though they didn’t heat their meat it was good.

Chef Sigler told us his wife uses an entire sprig of Rosemary and tosses it in the crock pot when she makes a roast.

One bit of advice from Chef Sigler, most powdered spices from the store only have a shelf life of 6-12 months.  He said they loose their flavor and a good way to tell if they’re still good is to smell them.  If the aroma is gone the flavor is probably gone too.  Someone asked about refrigerating the spices and he said it was a good idea, his wife even suggested freezing for a longer life.

I’m seriously thinking of making myself an herb garden so I can have fresh herbs on hand when I want to add pizzazz and spice up my dishes.

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