culinary school- week 4- (141 lbs.)

Holy cow! This week we cooked and ate 4 beef dishes in 2 days. That is as much beef as I would normally consume in about 2-3 months. My weight is up 1 pound from week 3. If I keep up this carnivorous bender, I’ll be up to a porky 152 by the end of week 15 if I’m not careful. Being a carnivore can be a tricky thing. Though I’ve never been a big meat eater, I am, by no means, a vegetarian (at least not yet). Learning the realities of how animals are raised and harvested to be our food is a sobering experience, one that frequently makes me feel like a hypocrite; knowing what I know, I should really be refraining from eating animals at all….it’s just that they taste so darn good! If I do decide to continue eating meat in the future, it will be in small quantities supplied by ethical farms specializing in med-free, organically fed, and free range sources.

I especially enjoyed the full day we spent this week cooking grains. Grains are nutritious, flavourful, affordable, pleasing in texture and simple to prepare. From an environmental perspective, compared to the amount of land and energy required to raise animals for our food, growing grains can feed a lot of people (without producing levels of livestock methane emissions). It is both exciting and inspiring for me to see how diverse such food can taste when interpreted by different cultures…. Rice, quinoa, millet, bulgar wheat, barley, flax, rye, oats, spelt, buckwheat, kamut, amarynth….Grains have a complex and fascinating global history; one that is integrated with technology, science, agriculture, health, economics and human evolution- plus, they are really tasty. Here is one of the recipes from Tuesday’s class:

Warm Quinoa Salad w. Pecans, Greens & Pumpkin Seeds

3 tbsp olive oil
¼ cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and lightly toasted (in a fry pan)
2 cup water or stock
8 pecans, roughly chopped and toasted
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 large handfuls of washed salad greens


juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp honey
4 tbsp water
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp poppy seeds
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Put pot on stove at medium heat. Add oil, then onions and sweat. Next add garlic and ginger. Stir in toasted quinoa and then add water or stock. Bring to simmer and cover. Cook 10-15 minutes, until the grain appears translucent and the germ ring is visible. Place quinoa in a medium size bowl. Add nuts, seeds, greens and dressing. Toss and serve. (Serves 4)

Eclairs w. Creme Anglaise

Here is a short list of some of the items we prepared this week:

Beets (roasted & simmered), Asparagus, Carrots Vichy, Cauliflower-Potato Puree, Roasted Turned Potatoes
Orange Vinaigrette, Roasted Garlic Aioli, Hollandaise
Baguettes (with 25% whole wheat flour)

Steamed Jasmine Rice (w. coconut milk)
Bulgar Pilaf w. Raisins & Carrots
Warm Quinoa Salad w. Pecans, Greens & Pumpkin Seeds
Beet Risotto

Grilled Skirt Steak & Potato Dauphinois, Bordelaise Sauce
Ginger-Orange-Chili Beef Stir Fry w. Jasmine Rice

More Beef…
Daube Provincial
Roulade of Beef w. Fried Polenta-Cheese Cake

Pate Feuillette (Puff Pastry)
Choux Pastry
Cream Patisserie (Custard Cream)
Crème Anglais (Pastry Sauce)
Chocolate Ganache
Eclairs from above last 4 ingredients


culinary school- week 3- (140 lbs.)

Chicken Saltimboca

Well, the pace continued as we wrapped up our third week. If I never see another chicken, it will be too soon. After de-boning one and cooking (and eating) it 7 ways, plus the preparing and ingesting of assorted accompanying pig products, I’m really close to buying myself a one way ticket to Vegetarianville….or maybe it will pass. Time will tell. Add to this the butter, cream, pastry, and bread….one thing is for sure; these days, evenings are for homework and salads. I have decided to enter my weight with each week’s posting, just for the heck of it….This week I weigh 140 lbs. Hey! I’m 5’ 8” and big-boned.

Diane & Willie’s Cream of Lettuce Soup With Fennel Seeds

Every week we are assigned a new partner. For each Monday-to-Friday stretch, we work together as a team; planning, assisting and learning together as we go. The pace is fast, and good communication is key (as is maintaining a ready sense of humour). I have had 2 partners so far, and have enjoyed working with both of them immensely. This week I was paired up with Willie, a delightful, petite young woman from Malaysia. On Monday we were assigned a surprise soup test…..make a cream soup based on a mystery ingredient in 20 minutes, using no recipe. Our mystery ingredient? Lettuce. Oh joy. We opted for the addition of some fennel seeds to compliment the lettuce, et viola! Not only did we make ourselves a damn fine soup, but we completed it on time. I must say, we were pretty pleased with ourselves. I would definitely make this recipe again, especially if I had some extra lettuce kicking around in the fridge.

Diane & Willie’s Cream of Lettuce Soup With Fennel Seeds
(Serves 2)

1 tbsp (non GMO) canola oil
½ cup onions, diced
¼ cup celery, diced
¼ cup carrots, diced
¼ tsp toasted fennel seeds, crushed
1 clove off garlic, minced
½ head romaine lettuce, cleaned and chopped
1 ½ cups water
Bouquet Garni (1 bay leaf, 6 peppercorns, 1 sprig each of thyme and parsley, tied in a cheese cloth)
1/4 tsp salt
¼ cup heavy cream
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Sweat onions in a medium size pot. Add carrots, then celery. Next add the fennel seeds, allowing them to moisten and release their essential oils. Then add the garlic and the lettuce. Cook until the lettuce is starting to wilt. Add the water and the bouquet garni. Bring water to a boil, add the salt, and reduce heat to a simmer. Allow the soup to simmer for about 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are ‘fork tender’. Put the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. Press the soup through a strainer (back into the pot) and return to the stove. Render the cream into the soup slowly, using a ladle. Heat the soup fully, taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired. Serve.

Quiche Lorainne

Again, here is a list of some of the things we have prepared in the last 5 days:

Hollandaise Sauce & Poached Egg (Gastride & Sabayon)
Sauce Poivrade & Sauce Chasseur
Pan Seared Sole with Beurre Blanc

Surprise Soup Test (Cream of Lettuce With Fennel Seeds)

More Baguette
Flaky Pastry + Quiche Lorainne
Sweet Pastry + Lemon Tarts

Smoked Salmon & Goat Cheese Quiche
De-boned a whole chicken
Chicken Breast en Papillote (in parchment paper) with Lemon & Tarragon
Jambonneau de Volaille (chicken leg stuffed with forcemeat)
Braised Chicken Thighs (dry rubbed, pan fried, then simmered in an Asian sauce)
Chicken Stock

Epi Baguette (Scissor Bread)
Chicken & Vegetable Stir Fry With Rice
Southern Fried Chicken
Chicken Saltimboca

Epi (Scissor) Bread


culinary school- week 2

This is pretty much how I am feeling after my first full week at culinary school. Wow! Things are clipping along at an intense pace, and the learning curve is enormous. We have gone from zero to fancy in 8 days, and I’m pooped! Here is a short list of some of the things we have prepared in the last five days….

Cream of Broccoli soup
Caramelized Onion Soup
Veal Broth

Veal consommé with julienne vegetables
Minestrone Soup
Corn chowder

Caesar Dressing
2 Vinaigrettes
Spinach Salad
Wreck Beach Salad
Veal Stock

Canapes #1- Shrimp Waldorf
Canapes #2- Gravlax (Smoked Salmon) With Fried Capers & Beurre Maitre D’Hotel
Court Bullion
Salmon Cakes with Papaya Salsa, Slaw, Remoulade Sauce & Fried Ginger Threads

Filleted a whole flat fish (Sole)
Fish Stock (Fumet)
Court Bullion
Bechamel Sauce
Mac & Cheese (w. bacon, shallots, smoked paprika, jalapeno, and roasted red pepper)
Steamed Sole Paupiette With Saffron Veloute Sauce.
Hand Turned Potatoes

Now it's time to rest up for week 3.


leek, onion and rutabaga soup

Diane Thompson's Leek, Onion and Rutabaga Soup

Last weekend part of our homework assignment was to make a chicken stock, using the same method we had been taught the previous week. After doing so, I realized that this stock would need to somehow be used….We had worked with rutabaga on Thursday for our knife skills practice, so I decided to make something based on that ingredient. Obviously, I got a little side-tracked, incorporating a few extra bells and whistles. But, in the end, it did make for a tasty, velvety soup. Now, if I can just learn how to poach an egg so it looks a little prettier….

Leek, Onion and Rutabaga Soup
(with poached egg and balsamic reduction)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced medium (1/2”)
1 leek, cleaned and sliced in ¼” slices
½ rutabaga, diced small (1/4”)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
4 cups chicken stock
4 eggs, poached soft (in simmering water for 3 minutes)*

*do this step right before serving the soup

Balsamic Reduction:

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey

Put both ingredients in a small pan. Bring to a simmer and reduce by half. Cool to room temperature.


Place medium sized pot on medium heat. Add olive oil, then onions. Saute onions for about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt. Then add leeks and sauté for about another 5 minutes. Next add the diced rutabaga and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and stir for 2 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until all of the vegetables are soft. Puree the soup until smooth, using a hand held blender. Return the soup to the stove and keep at a low heat. Taste the soup and add pepper and more salt as needed. Poach the eggs and remove them from the simmering water with a slotted spoon. Place them on a paper towel to absorb excess water. Ladle the soup into 4 bowls, placing one poached egg in the centre of each serving. Drip or drizzle 1 tsp of the balsamic reduction around the outside of the poached egg. Serve immediately.


the art of food

Crab Apple Gown by Nicole Dextras
Here is an event you may want to check out....The Art of Food at Emily Carr Institute. This exhibit "features twenty artists who are Emily Carr Institute (ECI) Alumni, Masters or Undergraduate students, whose work deals with food in its imagery or as its medium. As varied in approach as they are in subject matter, the works reveal the intricate and diverse nature of the impact of food on our lives."

Opening night is Tuesday, January 8 (7-9 pm), and the event will continue on until Wednesday, January 16, with a public lecture by Herb Barbolet (founder of Farm Folk / City Folk). Check out the website to see what else this event has to offer.


week 1- first day of school

I announced back on December 22 that I would be beginning a fifteen week culinary program in the New Year. Well....I am here to report that we have all survived week 1 (a short week, as we started Wednesday, January 2). During our first 3 days at Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver 2 passionately committed instructors (Chef Christophe and Chef Tony) assisted 23 bright-eyed-bushy-tailed students in getting acquainted with the facility, our assigned uniforms, loads of new terminology and each other. We will be joined by a third instructor (Chef Ian) towards the end of January, as he is currently enjoying a much deserved vacation in Japan....more about him later. As for our uniforms....let's just say that our new black polyester pants (with oodles of stiff fabric gathered into a thick elastic waistband) transform all the females in the class into fat bottomed girls.

So, let’s get cooking. Not so fast. To start, it’s all about the knife skills. There are a lot of different cuts to learn, practice and master before we move forward. It was actually surprising how many cuts were taught and how quickly they (appeared to be) closely emulated by the class…. paysanne, batonnet, brunoise, julienne….chiffonade. During Thursday and Friday onions, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, celery, garlic, parsley, rutabaga, spinach, and lemons all fell victim to the practice of our chef’s knives and Japanese vegetable knives. It is also expected that we be constantly sharpening these knives with our honing steels, until it becomes our second nature.

Stock (French fond = foundation) – a clear, unthickened liquid flavoured by soluble substances extracted from meat, poultry, or fish and their bones as well as from a mirepoix, other vegetables and seasonings

There is a good deal science that occurs during the making of a soup stock. (click here and then here to learn all you ever wanted to know about stock) And it would seem that most chefs get really intense and opinionated on the subject: salt or no salt during the making of a stock?! carrots or no carrots in a white stock?! Food writer Michael Ruhlman claims that “canned broth makes me crazy” and advocates that “we should all be making stock as part of our weekly routine”. And he is not directing this opinion towards the restaurant industry but, rather, to (home) cooks.

On Friday we made brown stock by roasting veal bones in the oven and then adding them to a stock pot of cold water which was slowly brought to a simmer. As the 'scum' (impurities) rose to the surface, it was skimmed off, using a small ladle. Meanwhile, in a separate pan oiled with fat emitted from the roasted bones, we caramelized a mirepoix with salt, then garlic, then (Italian sundried) tomato paste. Next came deglazing the caramelized pan with water from the stock pot and, finally, we added the mirepoix mixture to the simmering bones. But the process was not yet complete. The mixture simmered for about 2 hours, but was then cooled to refrigerate until next Monday (as school was finished for the weekend), when it will be brought back up to a simmer, a bouquet garni will be added, and it will continue to simmer for a few more hours until the stock can be ‘SCLAR’ (Strain, Cool, Label And Refrigerated). It should be noted that this acronym was created by Chef Ian.

We also made a white (chicken) stock that same afternoon by placing a raw chicken carcass in a stock pot of cold water and, again, slowly bringing it to a simmer. This time we added the mirepoix raw, at the same time as the bouquet garni (and some salt). The stock was left to simmer for about 2 hours (and skimmed as with the brown stock) and then ‘SCLAR’.

I am looking forward to getting to know my fellow students better. They are an eclectic group, ranging in more than just age, ethnicity, work experience and education. I suspect that I will learn as much from them as I will from my instructors. Stay tuned....