Last night’s Taste Maker class at the Tech Valley Center of Gravity was filled up. This was the third class in its inaugural series, and featured Ric Orlando demonstrating a few seasonal side dishes for the holiday table.
This year, like most years, I won’t be cooking the holiday meal. We’ll be guests instead of hosts. But I love brussels sprouts, and it’s always great to watch a professional chef cook. There are always a few tips and tricks you can learn by paying close attention.
Since this class was constrained to just a couple dozen people, I thought I might take a moment to share some of the gleanings I took away from the event.
For starters, there’s a new oil in town.
It’s Hudson Valley Cold Pressed Sunflower Oil. Oh man, this smelled amazing. And you can fry in it. Plus it’s made locally, with locally grown sunflower seeds, and no solvents. All I have to say is, wow.
Then there’s the thing about canned tomatoes.
Apparently Tuttorosso has found a way to can tomatoes without relying on a lining that contains BPA. That’s fantastic news. This is something that I do indeed care about, but admittedly, I’ve been paying less attention to the matter recently. I’m thrilled by this news, and maybe this means more tomato sauces in our future.
Not all stems are created equal.
Chef Ric chops up flat leaf parsley stems into his dishes, citing their flavor and nutrition. That will save me so much time in the kitchen, it’s not even funny. I’ve been fastidiously destemming all of my parsley for years. It’s a pain in the ass. However, he’s careful to remove the stems from dried thyme because they add tannic bitterness to the food.
Buy eggplant at the end of August and don’t bother peeling it.
Having watched Ric make his locally famous eggplant balls, I’m totally going to give them a try. What makes it so much easier than I expected is that the eggplant simply get quartered lengthwise and boiled in salted water. No peeling. No salting and draining. No long roasting. Just boiled, cooled, and scraped. The soft flesh seems to just separate from the skin. Although it’s also possible he makes it look much easier than it really is. We’ll see.
Ric says you can get the best price on these locally at the height of the season at the end of August. And if you boil and scrape them, they cooked pulp freezes beautifully. I actually made a Google calendar entry to remind me of this fact next year. That was a great tip.
One ingredient changes the sauce.
I make a quick pomodoro sauce, very similar to the one Ric whipped up for the eggplant balls. What I didn’t know was that by adding some arugula in it, that it becomes Puglia sauce.
Overall, last night was a great experience. I learned some stuff, got to eat some delicious food, and met some interesting people. The next class is coming up in December, and will feature holiday baking. And for the sake of full disclosure, Yelp is a sponsor of this series, so I do have some tangential connection to these classes. It also means I’m at the classes, so maybe I’ll see you at the next one.
Anyhow, all of Ric’s recipes are online, so I do not have to post them here. Thank you Internet. And thank you Google. But if you are having trouble finding them, let me know, and I’ll link to them in the comments.