Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mushroom Cooking Class at Millennium

Before I start my post on another wonderful Millennium cooking class, I want to honor this very special day. Thank you, President Barak Obama. What a speech that was! I'm so glad I lived to see this day.

OK, back to the food!

I have really been looking forward to attending Executive Chef Eric Tucker's Mushroom class for a number of reasons. First, Eric is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about mushrooms (he's a member of the Bay Area Mycological Society and has a chanterelle tatooed on his arm) and I was excited about being educated beyond my portobello standard. Second, I got to attend the Saturday morning Farmers Market with the group (part of the class I rarely get to attend due to Saturday family obligations). Third, I missed last year's class because I didn't sign up in the first 24 hours of this super popular class (thanks to a friend's tip, I was first this year!) Fourth, on New Year's Day I made a snap decision to transition from vegetarian to a 90%+ vegan diet (a more planned approach might have been wiser, more on this later).

This was my 9th cooking class at Millennium (see the end of this post for links to previous classes), a gourmet dining experience that just happens to be vegan. I learned this class that the majority of the restaurants repeat business comes from non-vegetarians. I think that really says something about amazing food they serve!

Above, Chef Eric at the SF Ferry Building Farmers Market at the Far West Funghi store choosing and educating class participants about the mushroom selections on offer.

Below, chanterelles and abalone mushrooms (yes, I know, you can read!)

I loved the pure white abalone mushrooms! So here's a gratuitous close-up:

And, who could resist these stunning fractal romanesco:

The class brought together another wonderful group of students - vegans, vegetarians, and non-vegetarians all teamed together to get busy in the Millennium kitchen and make some really great food. The almost instant comradery that develops from being part of a class team that tackles half of the recipes or variants of recipes is a really cool thing. Sure, we get a package of typed recipes at the beginning of class, but they are really just guidelines. We adapt and improvise as we go along, which is why the classes are such a great learning experience.

Below, a killer tatsoi salad with mandoline thin carrots, lobak (green daikon), and marinated mushrooms with a lime dressing:

A totally unique-tasting Huitilacoche Soup with a roux base and rice milk:

(Huitilacoche is a black fungus that grows on corn, also known, less attractively, as "corn smut".)

Candy cap empanadas (dried candy cap mushrooms which are maple-like are ground to a fine powder and included in the dough), filled with mushrooms, nuts, olives and either sun-dried tomatoes or currants with sides of marinated red onions, pumpkin seed-grapefruit salsa and cilantro sauce:

So that was lunch! We then went on to make...
Abalone mushroom dengaku over silken tofu with a delicious porcini broth, topped with scallions and black and white sesame seeds:

From one o'clock: rich mushroom bolognese, bread with Oregon white truffle "butter", sweet potato risotto, romanesco and mushroom salad with tofu skin, nettle polenta and just darned good sauted mushrooms in the center:

This incredible salad, topped with a peanut sambal, was definitely worthy of a close-up!

And, although we always make dessert first, lastly candy cap blondies with truffle sorbet! I was dubious, but wow!

After we're out of the kitchen for round two, participants enjoy a leisurely dining experience of the second half of the class food in Millennium's wine room, with wine, beer, soda and water. It's a great opportunity to relax with your fellow classmates. Thanks to Eric, assistants Thomas, Jenn and Veronika, and owner Ann for another wonderful cooking experience.

I bounced off a few of my concerns two weeks in to my sudden adaption to a vegan diet. Although I was elated to loose 6 pounds in the first two weeks, I'm now experiencing split nails, hair loss and dry skin. I was thinking lack of protein, but the vegans told me, it's not a lack of protein, it's a lack of fat. I looked up the symptoms of inadequate fat in the diet and they were right! Alas, today I woke up with itchy dry skin and little red bumps on my face :-(. I plan to indulge in some high quality guacamole tomorrow and I know some may say that the redness is a sign of detoxing, but I'm vain and I want it to go away! I welcome any comments on similar experiences and solutions.

Here's links to previous 8 posts on Millennium cooking classes. Enjoy!:
  • Holiday Cooking Class

  • Fall Harvest 2008

  • Indian Summer

  • Southern Comfort Cooking Class

  • Spring Cooking Class

  • Fall Harvest Cooking Class

  • Chiles Class

  • Tomatoes Class

    Blogger Chris said...

    I was just thinking about making a mushroom dengaku for a party last weekend. All these dishes look great :) And on top of that, you got a thorough education on gourmet mushrooms - what a treat!

    6:11 AM  
    Blogger jennconspiracy said...

    I missed out on the mushroom dengaku and the peanut sambal. I was so beat by the end of the class - my neck was really killing me - that I didn't really try much of the afternoon dishes and headed home right to bed for a 90 minute nap. :)

    I was really glad that the class seemed to "click" in the afternoon. I think the class needs more of a breakfast in the morning because people get a bit frazzled when they are hungry.

    Please let me know HOW to lose weight on a vegan diet. Ever since I cut out food allergens (beans, dairy, eggs), I have done nothing but gain weight - I'm 20# over where my weight when you first met me at last January's cooking class!

    Maybe you should cook with more olive oil?

    9:11 AM  
    Blogger Jennywenny said...

    So jealous!

    Maybe you should also considering eating lots of nuts too.

    I learned in my nutrition class that things that vegans usually have to watch are the b vitamins and iron. Normally people get most things from their diets, but I would consider taking a supplement every other day if I was you.

    Also, stuff like marmite and fortified soy milk can help! Dont forget blackstrap molasses for the iron.

    10:00 AM  
    Blogger Vegan Knitting said...

    I do take a simple, single-pill multivitamin every few days, and I also take a Vit D almost every day up here in Portland. But you don't need to take a separate one in CA.

    As for B vitamins, I use nutritional yeast on a regular basis and I also like Marmite, so I'm set. B vitamins are stored in the body and you need to go without them for a long time to become deficient. I also get some in my multivitamin. You should try some nutritional yeast - I'll send you a few ideas. I think your son would really like the flavor. Especially on popcorn!

    For fat, we use a ton of olive oil. I put it in almost everything I cook. I add ground flaxseed to yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies, and other similiar foods. We also love nut butters. On sandwiches, we use Vegenaise, which has some good fats but is much healthier than mayonnaise (and no "egg taste" either!) You can buy several different types. We alternate between original (green label) and grapeseed (gold label).

    Depending on how much dairy butter you want to use, you might consider buying some Earth Balance and using it liberally where you might otherwise be skimpy with the butter due to cholesterol and saturated fat.

    We also love avocados and eat several a week. Sure, they can be expensive but when I think about what a lot of other people spend their money on that we don't, I don't worry about it.

    We used to use soy cheese with our Mexican food but now most of the time we just make guacamole (homemade is so much better than store bought - some ground sea salt, lemon or lime juice, and mash it up with a fork.) or chopped up avocado on top of the food.

    12:50 PM  
    Blogger Catherine said...

    Thanks for all the great ideas! VK - I forgot I had purchased Earth Balance! I just tried it on some pita and it's great. I am eating what feels like a lot of nuts. I think I'm just used to cooking as low fat as I can to offset the cheese, so I need to adjust.

    Jenn - I guess I was eating a lot of dairy! I also cut out bread for a week to see if I felt better eating gluten free, then it never really came back.

    3:10 PM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    These pictures are absolutely gorgeous! i appreciate the attention to mushrooms. I took a mushroom class/walk this summer in Telluride (they have an annual mushroom festival)and gained so much love for the fungi! On a nutritious level and an environmental one, since one of the classes was on the use of mushrooms in removing heavy metals and pollution from soil.


    8:50 AM  
    Blogger Amy Sherman said...

    Fantastic photos! If you ever get to Seattle during mushroom season, chanterelles can be as cheap as $5 a pound at the Pike Place Market.

    8:15 PM  
    Blogger aTxVegn said...

    I haven't been by in a while, and I'm so gladded I popped over tonight! First of all, I'm glad you're going to try veganism. I stay pretty low fat in my diet and have never experienced such symptoms. It's probably due to my love peanut butter! Nuts are a great way to get fat AND protein.

    I have attended a class with Eric Tucker, although it wasn't hands on. But the food was absolutely fantastic. You all definitely made some delicious looking food. Mushrooms and romanesco are my very favorite foods.

    6:20 PM  
    Anonymous joanne said...

    Maybe I missed it but you didn't post your favorite dish recipe. That would be awsome if you'd offer the recipe. Everything looks good and mushrooms are a great addition to any meal

    12:59 PM  
    Blogger Catherine said...

    Hi Joanne,

    I didn't post a recipe for a couple of reasons:
    1. I worked on bits of recipes, except for the Huitalacoche soup. I could post this but it's not an easy ingredient to find and I think it's fair to say that there isn't a substitute.
    2. The post was already quite long!

    I did the empanada dough, but not the filling.

    I also did the mushroom dengaku (but not the broth)

    I'll look at the recipes and see what I can do :-)

    Feel free to vote on any of the above!

    6:37 PM  
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