My wonderful boyfriend apparently knows me very well and gave me a vegan cooking class for Christmas! The class was held last night at a store here in St. Louis called Kitchen Conservatory. They have a cooking class nearly every night of the week ranging from “Girls Night Out” and “Date Night For Couples” to “Kitchen Skills”. Check out the schedule here!
Last night’s class was held by Chef Clara Moore, the head chef at a Local Harvest Cafe. She is not a vegan, but her restaurant features locally sourced ingredients and there are many vegetarian and vegan items on the menu. No one in the 15 person class happened to be vegan either, although there were a few vegetarians.
I arrived to find a long table set up family style in front of a big kitchen with tons of cutlery, bowls, measure cups, and ingredients all ready to go. The class was a nice mix of young couples, older women, and girls out for a fun night. Everyone was extremely friendly and dove right into the cooking responsibilities. We were given a packet of recipes so that we knew what needed to be done to make our dinner. The menu for the night was:
Pasta e Fagoli
Curried Squash and Sweet Potato Soup
Roasted Vegetable with Walnuts and Quinoa
Chocolate Apple Upside-Down Cake
Sounds like my kind of heaven, right?
Everyone divided up the work and got started on chopping, sauteeing, and slicing. Chef Clara explained why we were doing certain things, her favorite ingredients to add to recipes (roasted garlic!), and her favorite vegan cookbooks (Veganomicon). She answered any questions we had and was extremely friendly and personable. One thing I found interesting is that she rarely uses stock when cooking because she believes water to let the flavors of whatever she’s cooking come through more. She also said she was lazy:)
Throughout the 2 hour class, my jobs included making the red quinoa, tossing the quinoa pasta, and using and immersion blender to smooth the soup!
As dishes became ready, we all sat down and enjoyed the meal family style. We were given a complimentary glass of Chardonnay as well!
The first dish was the Pasta E Fagioli, a dish made with quinoa pasta, navy beans (made from scratch!) , tomatoes, and roasted garlic. Chef Clara actually provided some Parmesan to grate on top, and since no one was vegan most of us put it on the dish.
I had never had quinoa pasta before, and I LOVED it. You would never know that it wasn’t regular wheat pasta, and it had a wonderful chewy texture. Combined with the slow cooked beans, the dish was just slightly creamy but still light. Such a simple dish but with such beautiful flavors!
The next dish was the Curried Butternut Soup. It was made by roasting squash and potatoes, adding it to a sauteed mix of onions, carrots, and curry paste, and blending it with the immersion blender. Roasted cauliflower was added at the end for texture.
I have never blended any of my soups at home because of the pain of moving it into my blender and because I feel like smooth soups are not as filling as a chunkier stew. But this was amazing! Just a slight curry flavor and a lightly sweet creaminess from added coconut milk. I had to stop myself from getting seconds because I knew there was more to come!
Next was my personal heaven: quinoa with roasted vegetables and walnuts. We simple prepared red quinoa with water and roasted garlic, roasted sweet potatoes, beets, squash, potatoes, and carrots, and then tossed it with olive oil and walnuts. There were a few different dressings we could choose from like habanero apple cidar vinegar (my favorite!), sundried tomatoes, and lime juice. I want to eat this dish forever.
And finally, what I’d been dying to try, the Chocolate Apple Upside-Down Cake! This recipe was not Chef Clara’s, but was instead by a woman named Molly Brady. The apple base was made with walnuts, brown sugar, and vegan margerine, and the brownie top was made with soy milk, sugar, canola oil, flour, cocoa, and other basic cake ingredients. IT WAS INCREDIBLE. You would have never known it was vegan and apples and chocolate are not two things I would think to combine! It was perfectly gooey and the thin layer of apples were soft and sweet. I can’t wait to make this for my family!
In between bites and “mmmms” there was endless conversation about favorite restaurants and other classes to try. I met some wonderful people and it’s always nice to be around others with similar interests (I did not feel strange taking pictures of my food at all!). I would highly recommend taking a class at Kitchen Conservatory and can’t wait until I can go back for another. THANK YOU ALEX! It was a unique, educational, and delicious experience and one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received:)
If anyone is interested in the full recipes, please let me know!