I recently discovered that Sur La Table offers full preparation cooking classes - from Basic Knife Skills to the Mastering the Art of French Pastry! I’ve been dreaming of culinary school, but that is not in the cards right now, so I was excited to see there was a more tangible source for learning some new skills in the meantime.
While browsing the class schedule, something unexpected caught my eye. Wedged between “Artisan Breads at Home” & “Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Basics,” was a “Contemporary Vegan Dinner.” My Mom & I signed up on the spot & took our class last Monday.
The classes are meant to be fun, highly interactive & hands-on. Students take part in practicing techniques & preparing the menu items, then given a tasting size protion of all the dishes prepared during the class & are also provided with recipes for all the menu items.
Our class menu:
“Contemporary Vegan Dinner”
- Spicy Sweet Potato Soup with Chile Crema
- Portobello Mushroom Carpaccio with Arugula-Shaved Fennel Salad & Truffle-Lemon Vinaigrette
- Gingered Soba Noodles
- Tacos with Quinoa & Spiced Walnut “Meat”
- Chocolate-Avocado Pudding
The kitchen was fully outfitted with professional-quality tools & equipment - including a Vitamix Pro 500 - beloved by vegans & raw foodists alike!
Our instructor, Chef Leslie Myers, was energetic & upbeat, & while not vegan herself, had an appreciation for vegan cuisine & said this was her favorite class to teach.
“The Sur La Table Culinary Test Kitchen”
Our class was full, with 12 participants & a nice mix of men & women of all ages & backgrounds. We were split up in groups of three, & given a component of a recipe to prepare. Each station was equipped with measured ingredients & the required tools & utensils…
“Gingered Soba Noodles Prep Station”
Mom & I were “stationed” here & responsible for prepping the broccoli & dressing for the noodles. I jumped ahead & peeled the ginger before the instructor had a chance to show us her trick of peeling ginger with a spoon. Oops! She swears that it is easier than using a standard vegetable peeler or knife. We will just have to take her word for it & give it a try!
“Avocado-Chocolate Pudding Prep Station”
“Quinoa & Walnut "Meat” Prep Station"
“Spicy Sweet Potato Soup Prep Station”
Each group was given our instructions & then we all got to work. While we worked on our dishes, Chef Leslie & her helpers simultaneously prepped the remaining menu items, every-once & awhile stopping to address the group to share & demonstrate a tip, trick, or technique. As part of the demo, she showed us how easy it is to whip up a totally smooth & dreamy cashew cream - no sieve required! After our prep was complete, we were set loose in the store with growling tummies, a 10% off merchandise coupon, & a hankering for our very own shiny Vitamix!
After a half-hour of browsing around the store, we anxiously returned to the kitchen to find our first course waiting for us!
“Spicy Sweet Potato Soup garnished with Chile Crema & Green Onions”
This silky soup was so delicious, with a hint of smokiness from the chipotles & a mild sweetness from the coconut milk & sweet potatoes. It was finished with the smoothest dollop of chile-spiced cashew cream, which provided a richness that complimented the flavor & enhanced the richness of the soup. We both had seconds, we couldn’t say no!
“Gingered Soba Noodles, Portobello & Arugula Salad, & Quinoa & Spiced Walnut Taco”
The rest of the food was served buffet style. After devouring the soup, we eagarly lined up to taste the rest of the wonderful dishes we helped create. My favorite, by far, was the taco! The quinoa & spiced walnut “meat” was so flavorful & perfect texture. It was better than any ground mock taco meat I’ve ever had, & I’ve probably tried them all. To build our tacos we could choose from such toppings as cabbage, diced red onion, mango salsa, cashew cream, & shredded Daiya vegan cheese! Taco parties are a birthday tradition in my family & we will definitely be cooking these up for my birthday party this March!
I also really loved the Gingered Soba Noodles. This is a quick & easy dish that I’m sure will make over & over! The tender noodles were dressed with a mild mixture of fresh ‘grated ginger, garlic, olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, agave & Siracha,’ then topped with steamed broccoli florets, & garnished with green onions, fresh mint & cilantro.
The Portobello Carpaccio & Arugula Salad was also lovely. The thinly sliced portobello mushrooms were well balanced with the lightness of the greens. The arugula & shaved fennel was tossed with a lovely Meyer lemon & truffle infused viniagrette that was bright & fresh, but not too acidic.
Wow! What an awesome meal! Hard to believe there was any room for dessert, but I am so glad I saved some because this was one of the best vegan desserts I’ve ever had!!!!
Now, everyone I’ve tried to explain this dish to has made a face! You know the kind of face I’m speaking of…that 'furrowed brow, crinkled-nose face’ that is asking if I really just said “Chocolate-AVOCADO-Pudding?” Yes. Chocolate-Avocado Pudding. Trust me here - first of all no one would ever know this was vegan, let alone made with 2 avocados. It was truly decadent, delicious, & all together amazing. I could eat tubs of this… seriously!
Well…with that, we rolled out of the store with full bellies, smiling faces & visions of Choco-Avo pudding dancing in our heads. We all requested more vegan cooking workshops, so I hope to see more on their schedule! The class was thorough, informative & so much fun!
I will conclude by leaving you with the recipe for raw, vegan “Chocolate-Avocado Pudding” so you can try it for yourself!
- 2 Large Ripe Avocados
- ¼ cup Organic Cocoa Powder (Raw if possible)
- 2/3 cup Raw Organic Agave Nectar
- 1/8 tsp. of Sea Salt
- ¼ Vanilla Bean or 1 tsp. Organic Vanilla Extract
- ¼ Cup Raw Virgin Coconut Oil
- Halve avocados & remove pits. Scoop flesh into food processor or blender.
- Add remaining ingredients.
- Blend until smooth.
***I’ll be sharing the other yummy recipes with you as I recreate them at home!