Well, in this case, it is the cat days…as I am taking a holiday from cookery school for the summer. It’s not a matter of not wanting to work on it but rather too much on my plate during the summer holiday. I want to be able to concentrate on my cooking and not be distracted with the garden, the family, or the weather. I will be back in September!
Well, not exactly, but when roasting your veg there is a fine line between perfectly cooked and black. For me, it is rarely too-far-gone, but to each his own. In my experience, I have not found a vegetable that does not taste amazing roasted. I would compare it to smoked meats, smoked cheese, or really anything smoked. Most things just taste good smoked and most veg just tastes good roasted.
In the roasting section of Unit Five, I learned the finer details of roasting, such as correct temp to roast at, why placement of veg on the sheet pan can be important, and many yummie practice recipes which were lovely to eat. The graded activity involved roasting either butternut squash or Brussels sprouts; BS happen to be one of my favorites so I chose that recipe. My only issue was that it was not exactly the correct season for fresh sprouts here. But the activity was pretty straight forward. To start, you guessed it, gather my mise en place.From there it was simply a matter of preparing the Brussels sprouts using the simple recipe; taking care to arrange the halved sprouts by size on the baking sheet—with the largest near the edges. I roasted them in a 400-degree oven turning 2/3 of the way through.
Once roasted, I tossed with fine herbs and minced garlic. The result was perfectly browned sprouts that were enhanced by the sweetness the roasting provided without taking away the distinct flavor I enjoy in them.
Unit Five wrapped up learning about puréed vegetables and their applications such as in soup, sauces, dips, etc. I learned about what type of purée different types of veg will provide, the best way to keep them warm, and how to ensure you get the consistency you are looking for.
The unit wrapped up too quickly and it made me consider taking the plant-based program after I complete this cooking course.
Unit Four wrapped up nicely with a few practice salads and dressing. I have a new-found friend in vinaigrette; while I still do not like vinegar, my horizons have been broadened by the concept that acid can be found in more than one form. And with that knowledge in my back pocket, I have embarked on Unit Five: Vegetables. Who knows, maybe I will get to marinade some veg with some of my dressing. I love vegetables and this unit can only enhance my repertoire and understanding of this food group.
After spending time learning about how best to preserve pigment color, we delve into blanching and par-boiling. The best thing I learned in this exercise was that I can speed up nightly meals by par-boiling veg in advance and then they are primed and ready during the week for whatever I throw them into. The practice assignments were all good, but the creamed spinach was stellar.
My favorite exercise in this unit has to be the Potato Experiment. It was really quite easy; I highly recommend trying. Simply bring two pots of water to the simmer. In one pot, simmer a few potatoes in plain, unsalted water. In a second pot, simmer a few potatoes in water but season the water with salt and 2–3 bay leaves. Be sure to add enough salt so that the water tastes a bit salty. Once done, taste the potatoes. There’s a huge difference in taste between potato boiled in water versus one boiled in water, salt, and bay leaves. The potatoes that were cooked in the seasoned water were actually good all on their own without any added fat. I can only imagine that with a small pat of butter, they would be perfection!
Next in this unit is a section on steaming veggies. I thought that I had mastered steaming veg already, but it turns out that I learned a thing or two including how to steam potatoes if you want a fluffier end result. I personally prefer dense, creamy mashed potatoes, but I am sure there is a case where that is the texture I will want and now I know how. The best thing I learned though was that you can steam sweet potatoes/yams which is great in my opinion as I love them mashed and boiling yields water-logged fibers and I don’t always have the time to bake. The steaming option actually results in the best mashed sweet potatoes/yams I have made, and so easy. Simply peel, cut, and steam the yams, rice or mash, add some butter, salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg. Stir and enjoy~
Up next is roasting!