Tapas: A Pinch of Cooking

As we walk into the basement of The Church of St Paul St Andrew on 86th street of the upper west side of NYC, we were embraced by a group of strangers all meeting for the same reason, A COOKING CLASS.  We had no idea what we were about to get ourselves into but we did know we’ were about to make some Tapas.  Standing in a circle listening to Raquel, the founder of A Pinch of Salt, explain how she ended up teaching cooking classes, we quickly realized this would be so much more than a class.

Introductions were made, and we learned that everyone there that night was attending for a variety of reasons; some for fun, some to learn, while others just wanted to share the experience with their kids.  After the intro, we popped open our beer (everyone else brought wine), Brux, that Kevin picked up from Beer Table Pantry (more on beer here) on his way and began our culinary adventure.

The group learning

As a group, we made steamed mussels with tomato and fennel, spicy potato bites (pappas bravas), mini meatballs in tomato sauce, and brussel sprouts with bacon.  While preparing our meal, bread was sliced and grilled to create a crusty, plive oil brushed crostini that we then rubbed with fresh garlic and tomatoes.  Not sure about you but I’ve never rubbed fresh garlic or tomato on anything, especially not grilled bread.  This will and must become a staple in my kitchen from now on.

After asking Raquel how to make the perfect caramelized onions, I was given that as my task for the night.  Quickly, I learned the key is leaving the onions alone, limiting the amount times you move them.  We used these onions and a chili sauce to coat the fried potatoes and created a Spanish Pappas Bravas.

These meatballs were awesome, simple and tasty.  Not adding bread crumbs and just a tiny bit of white bread soaked in milk really made the difference and has opened my eyes to a new way of forming my meatballs.

Yummm, brussel sprouts.  Above is Rochell, Raquel’s assistant, mixing the bacon into the roasted brussel sprouts.  Did you know that to reach a desired crispness on the sprouts, you fan out the halfs?  We sure as hell didn’t know this fact but have started to do this and have noticed a difference.

Calling our experience a class would be wrong, yes we learned – more than I think I would have in a formal class but we also interacted and socialized, made friends.  We were taught why we were doing the things instead of just chopping away at onions or other veggies.  We walked away that night having a social, casual and fun learning experience that we would totally do again.