Ready To Roll: My First Sushi Class

24 October 2011

Tonight I learned how to make, roll, and cut sushi.

My friend Shannon (the one with a knack for finding great places, as noted in A Day Trip to Branson) discovered that a high-end local grocery store was holding cooking classes, and that the next class was on making sushi. I pretty much have to be forced or tricked into trying new things, but I make an exception for anything cooking-related. We signed up.

When we arrived in the kitchen classroom, each place was set with a bowl of rice, a bamboo sushi mat covered with plastic wrap, a plate of nori (seaweed paper), a cup of water, a small cup of sesame seeds, and three different sushi sauces: sushi pink sauce, soy sauce, and ponzu sauce.

Sushi Roll #1: Vegetarian Roll

The chef, Terri Smith, immediately put us at ease with her friendly manner. A couple of kitchen helpers brought tea and water to our tables throughout the lesson and added a special touch of hospitality. Terri and her sous-chef never talked down to us, but always explained things in very simple terms  — which I really appreciated because it can be a little intimidating to learn a new craft, especially if you’re a perfectionist.

Most everything had been prepped in advance as far as the sushi filling went, so most of the time was spent learning how to put the rice on the nori in the right way, where to put the filling, and how to properly roll it. We used the bamboo mat to roll the sushi. We learned how to make sushi rolls with the rice both on the inside and on the outside.

Sushi Roll #3: Swordfish Sushi


Sushi Roll #2: Spicy Shrimp Roll









I especially enjoyed the fact that they let us sample our sushi as we went along, and even gave us boxes to take home the leftovers! We learned a ton about sushi, got lots and lots of tips, and I can’t wait to sign up for the next class.


A Tuscan Holiday

17 November 2011

Cooking Class

The theme for tonight’s cooking class was “Tuscan Holiday,” inspired by Chef James Clary’s travels. Whereas the previous cooking class (where we made sushi) was very hands-on and interactive, this was more like watching a cooking show where you can actually sample the fare or like a “chef’s table” where the chef makes the food in front of you and then it’s served to your table.


Tuscan Pizza

Creamy Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with Risotto

Zabaglione with fresh strawberries

Tuscan Pizza



1 package dry yeast

1 cup warm water

1 TBS sugar

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup olive oil

3 cups bread (or all-purpose) flour

For toppings

3 lbs fresh or canned tomatoes

4 medium-sized fresh balls of mozzarella


ground pepper

12 leaves of fresh basil

extra virgin olive oil

To prepare dough

Mix the water with the sugar and yeast. Let stand 5 minutes until dissolved and the yeast starts to bubble. Add the salt, olive oil and 1 cup flour and mix well. Add 2 more cups flour. Dough should still be a little sticky but should be able to form a ball. Turn out onto floured surface and start to knead, adding a little bit of flour as needed, until your dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Form a ball, place into an oiled bowl and cover with a cloth napkin. Let dough rise for 45 minutes. Punch down and divide in half.

To prepare pizza

Lightly oil your baking pizza pan. With your hands, press on the dough to spread it out over the size of your pan, to about 1/2 cm high (very thin). If using canned tomatoes, make sure they are well drained and distribute over dough. If using fresh tomatoes, cut into slices and spread them out on dough. Cut the mozzarella into thin slices and spread over the top, then salt and pepper to taste, adding washed basil leaves last. Let the pizza rest for another 10 to 15 minutes. In the meantime, heat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the pizza before placing into the oven and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until the mozzarella has melted and the crust is golden.

Polenta and Mushroom Ragout


For the polenta, first step

2 cups chicken stock or bouillon

2 TBS organic olive oil

2 TBS minced garlic

1 1/2 cup polenta

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Bring stock to a boil in medium saucepan. Add olive oil and garlic. Slowly add polenta, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper. Polenta is done when it begins to come off sides of pan. Pour polenta onto a cookie sheet rubbed with olive oil and refrigerate until you are ready for step two.

For the polenta, second step

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup chicken broth

1 cookie sheet polenta from above

1/2 cup chopped fresh thyme

1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

8 oz cream cheese

Place cream and broth on stovetop in a heavy saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat. Break up polenta into pieces and fill a food processor 2/3 full of polenta. Add some of the cream mixture to the polenta and process until smooth. Add some of the thyme, Parmesan, and cream cheese and process until smooth, but thick. Remove from processor and repeat process until all of the polenta, the herbs, and the cheeses are used. Mix all batches together in a large bowl and serve.

For the mushrooms

3 lb. mushrooms

1 cup minced white onion

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup white wine

1 cup Marsala

3/4 tsp salt

4 oz Gorgonzola cheese

In a very hot saute pan, cook mushrooms and onions in oil until nicely browned. Add wine and Marsala, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until liquids are almost gone. Add salt and Gorgonzola. Place about 1 cup of polenta in bowl. Top with mushrooms and garnish with Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Risotto with Squash Medley


2 TBS butter

2 TBS olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups chicken stock

2 cups dry white wine

1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice

Lightly oil a large sheet tray with some vegetable oil and set aside. Melt butter with oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic, cover pan, and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally. The onions should be completely soft. Uncover pan, add rice and stir until opaque, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium. Add 1/2 cup of stock and 1/2 cup of wine and cook until almost completely absorbed, stirring constantly. Continue adding stock and wine, 1/2 cup at a time, until when tasted there is no “crunch” left in the rice, about 30 minutes. Rice should still be firm, but not crunchy at all.

As soon as rice is done, scrape from pan with a rubber spatula onto reserved sheet tray. Let rice cool completely.

Pork with wine reduction


2 TBS fennel seeds

1 tsp chili flakes

1 TBS oregano

1 TBS salt

1/2 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 3-4 lb boneless pork shoulder

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove pork from package and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub spices and olive oil all over meat. Heat a large skillet on high for at least 4 minutes. Add vegetable oil and sear meat on all sides. Remove from pan and place on a roasting pan. Pour broth into pan. Cover with foil and bake for 4 to 5 hours until pork is fork tender. Serve with Risotto.

Strawberries and Cream


8 egg yolks

3/4 cup sweet Marsala wine

1/3 cup sugar

Mix ingredients together in top of double boiler and cook rapidly over boiling water, whisking constantly until mixture doubles in bulk and thickens. Remove from heat and whisk for another minute. Pour mixture warm over fresh berries, serve it in a tall glass by itself, or chill it and serve as a sauce for berries.

Buon Appetito!