It’s Friday – time for Friday favorites! And today I’m remember a couple of the many amazing cooking classes I’ve taken over the years I’ve been with The International Kitchen. I’ve always like to cook, which is how I found myself abandoning academia and looking for work that was somehow related to food. That was 13 years ago and I’ve done a lot of cooking since then.
My favorite thing about a cooking class is that it’s all about the person doing it – not only their personality, but how they cook, how they learned to cook, where they are from, and where they have lived and traveled. It gives you a connection to them and an insight into their life. When I cooked with Carmen on the Amalfi Coast, it was all about the recipes she grew up eating, things she learned from her mom. When I cooked with Rui in Portugal, it was all about the fish – even the fish he would go out in the morning to catch!
Two of my favorite cooking lessons are two of the most recent, in Portugal. They were both amazing, and very different. The first, from our Delectable Portugal cooking vacation based in the amazing UNESCO world heritage site of Evora, was in the home of the chef. We met her husband, we cooking in her teaching kitchen and sat and ate together. We made starters while we talked and enjoyed them standing up, all in a very casual and fun way. We cooked Portuguese home cooking, things you could make for your family or whip up if friends stopped by. We had a lovely baked cheese dish with olive oil and honey, a couple of simple salads (one carrot, one chickpea and tuna).
The main dish was a mix of marinated pork, sauted clams, and fried potatoes that are cooked separately and mixed together. And for dessert a wonderful type of Portuguese cheese cake (in the sense of a cake made with cheese, but nothing like American cheese case).
My second cooking class was altogether different. It was in the chic, bustling city of Porto, in a fabulously eccentric space that is all about Portugal! The front is a store dedicated to selling local Portuguese products. The back is a teaching kitchen where they hold classes on Portuguese cuisine. At first the chef was all business, prepping his knives, putting on his chef’s coat. The we started cooking and it was a whirlwind. In a few minutes he had everyone at work preparing the first dish – a wonderful type of scrambled egg with onion and a local sausage, served on toast points. Yum.
From there we did a fabulous oil-poached salt cod with potatoes and a type of Portuguese cabbage. I’ve never had salt cod taste like this – so tender like it was fresh from the sea. We finished with my favorite – pasteis de nata, Portugal’s national pastry and my new obsession.
I have to say, even though I love to cook and do it all the time, my husband and two children were with me. And while my kids do like to cook, my husband’s culinary endeavors are strictly limited to breakfast. But even he loved the classes, participated fully, and enjoyed the results. My 6-year old even said they were his favorite part of the trip!
By Peg Kern
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