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Middle Eastern 30-minute vegan cooking class

Posted Oct 15 2012 3:30pm
Moroccan-style Eggplant, Olive and Bean Tagine; Spicy Carrot and Cashew Biryani
We periodically take a cooking class or two at PCC, our local food co-op, especially if one of our favorite instructors is teaching. When we noticed that Sureyya Gokeri was teaching a 30-minute vegan Middle Eastern food class, we signed up. Sureyya is from Turkey close to the Syrian border on the coast, and a superb cook of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food.  The classes may seem a little pricey, but include a wonderful meal — and dinner plus cooking techniques plus entertaining stories add up to a fair deal.

Almond and Onion Soup with Fresh Mint and Garlic Sauce
First item on the menu was Almond and Onion Soup with Fresh Mint and Garlic Sauce. The soup was thick, rich and deeply flavored. The garlic sauce was raw, and stirred in just before serving. Sureyya made her own stock from vegetable scraps and peels.

Root Vegetable and Herb Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Coriander
The second dish, Root Vegetable and Herb Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Coriander had me a little nervous because it contained my nemesis, fennel, AND beets. Bleh. I considered claiming a fennel allergy and eating the beets, which I don't hate, but decided to take my chances with the whole lot since the veggies were to be roasted. Roasting makes everything better. The salad, which had butternut squash, parsnip, peppers, celery root and garlic in addition to the fennel and beets, was delicious. Even the fennel was good. Yes, even the fennel, because roasting is magic.

The Spicy Carrot and Cashew Biryani on a bed of Seasonal Herbs was wonderful, and looked great after being packed into a custard dish and unmolded onto the plate. The biryani was fragrant with cardamom, cumin, coriander and bay leaves and stuffed with carrots and cashews. And, I suppose, arsenic.

The biryani was plated with a Moroccan-style Eggplant, Olive and Bean Tagine. In addition to eggplant, green olives and lima beans, the tagine contained zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes and potatoes. Sureyya warned us that when buying eggplant, don't buy soft ones. Choose very firm eggplants for the best quality.

Everything was extremely delicious, and my only complaint would be that the recipes used too much fat for my taste. I would definitely use less oil when making the dishes, tweaking them to my personal preferences while maintaining the vibrant flavors, textures and colors.
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