My Last Week of Culinary School and Some Recipes!

A few weeks ago I celebrated my completion of culinary school classes with my family and classmates at our graduation dinner! It was a bittersweet night to say the least. My classmates and I have developed such a special bond and although we were excited to celebrate our accomplishment, we were very sad to leave each other. The picture above is most ( a couple of people are missing from the picture) of my classmates and me on our graduation night.

My last few weeks of school were a whirlwind of studying, cooking, test taking and eating! The picture above is the improvisational entree that I prepared as my final cooking tech exam. 

The requirements were to make a vegan entree that included a grain, protein, green, sauce and garnish. I prepared a jerk style tempeh with coconut rice, ginger sauteed spinach, cilantro jalapeno sauce and lime wedge and cilantro garnish. I wish I could give all of you the recipes but I honestly do not remember how I made this dish. I created the recipes while taking the exam and did not have time to write down exactly how I prepared each element. I can say however that I got a very good grade on this exam!

Another final project that us students are required to complete in order to graduate is the creation, preparation and execution of a Friday Night Dinner served to the public at the Natural Gourmet. My group and I had to create a three course completely vegan meal, which we also decided to make gluten free. We named our dinner "Colorfall" because we used in season fall ingredients and it was probably one of the most colorful dinners ever to be served at NGI.

Our appetizer was a beetroot soup served with a kale and apple salad and a dehydrated seed cracker. It was a refreshing, crisp, seasonal and of course colorful appetizer that was a real crowd pleaser.

Our entree was roasted acorn squash over a creamy cauliflower sauce served with sauteed spinach, an amazing rice pilaf, tempeh sausage, cauliflower florets and a beet chip. It was extremely filling and satisfying and the diners were very impressed that the tempeh sausages were vegan!

Now onto our dessert! This dish was definitely my favorite part of the meal. We made a vegan vanilla bean ice cream (go to the bottom of this post for the recipe!), a vegan caramel sauce, chocolate bark with pistachios and cranberries and a pear and quince crumble. It was absolutely delicious and my parents (who came to the dinner) requested that I make the ice cream to serve with apple pie on Thanksgiving, which I did!

Our last week of classes at school consisted of ethnic cooking classes. Each day we would learn a different style of cooking from around the world. Day 1 was Mexican cuisine day! We learned about, prepared and feasted on multiple authentic Mexican dishes. Some dishes included tamales, avocado fritters, mole, grilled napoles, salsa verde (go to the bottom of the page for the recipe), roasted corn with chipotle mayo, chile relleno and horchata. Everything was absolutely delicious!

Day 2 of our ethnic cuisine cooking week was Indian cuisine day! The picture above is my plate that I loaded up with traditional Indian dishes. Some of the dishes we prepared included dosas, coconut chutney, spiced chickpeas, vegetable curry, chicken tikka, pear chutney with dates and almonds (go to the bottom of this page for the recipe), and ginger spice chai (recipe at the bottom of this page).

Our final day of cooking at school was Sicilian cuisine day. I can't think of a better way to end culinary school than by feasting on pasta and drinking wine! Some of the recipes we prepared included pasta alla norma (recipe at the end of this page), caponata, fava bean puree with crostini, homemade ricotta, cream puffs and biscotti. Yum!

I truly miss culinary school, my wonderful instructors and my amazing and talented classmates. I will cherish the memories I made while in school and the fabulous recipes that I required. I hope that some of the recipes I am providing you in this post will bring you as much happiness and satisfaction as they have brought me. Enjoy!

Vegan Vanilla Bean Ice Cream:

1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk
6 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons rice syrup
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
pinch sea salt

1.     Combine coconut milk, maple syrup, rice syrup, vanilla extract, vanilla bean, and salt in pot over high heat. When mixture boils, turn heat down and whisk for 1-2 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and place pot in ice bath to cool mixture. 
2.     Pour mixture into ice cream machine and churn until creamy and somewhat firm.

Salsa Verde:

6-8 tomatillos, rinsed, outer paper-like layer removed 
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 
2 cloves garlic, chopped 
¼ white onion, medium dice 
1 jalapeno, roasted, peeled, seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped 
2 avocados, cut into small dice 
Sea salt to taste 

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Combine tomatillos on parchment-lined sheet pan and roast until tender. Set 

2. In 8-inch sauté pan, heat oil on medium low heat, sweat onion just until it softens and is translucent
(not browned). Add garlic and sweat one minute more. 

3. In blender, puree onion, garlic, roasted tomatillos and jalapenos until smooth. Transfer to large 
bowl. Let cool. 

4. Add avocado and salt to taste. Salsa should be on thin side. 

Pear Chutney with Dates and Almonds:

1 teaspoon whole dried red chilies 
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced 
1 orange, finely zested 
½ teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds 
1-2 inch piece cinnamon 
2 teaspoons ghee 
4 oranges (about ½ cup), juiced 
¼ cup agave or rice syrup 
6 pears (Bosc OR Bartlett), peeled, cored, quartered, and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch slices 
½ cups pitted Medjool dates, cut into pieces 
½ cup almonds, toasted and roughly chopped 

1. In large saucepan, cook chilies, ginger, orange zest, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon in ghee 
until they release their fragrance. Add orange juice and agave syrup. Stir in pears and bring 
to boil, then simmer until everything is thick and syrupy. Stir often at end to prevent 

2. Add dates and almonds. Cool to room temperature and serve. 

Ginger Spice Chai:

3-inch piece ginger, crushed
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise
1 orange, zested in thick strips
5 cardamom pods
4 tablespoons loose tea
3-4 tablespoon agave
1 cup coconut milk

1. Combine ginger, cinnamon sticks, star anise, orange zest, and cardamom in 1 gallon pot.
Add eight cups water and bring to boil. Simmer for 12 minutes.

2. Add tea to spice mixture and steep for 12 minutes, covered.

3. Remove tea and add agave and coconut milk to taste, stirring, until dissolved. Strain and

Pasta Alla Norma:

1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), peeled & cut into rounds (½ inch)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, peeled
3 cans (28 ounces each) good quality canned whole tomatoes, roughly chopped (juices
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound whole wheat spaghetti or other whole wheat pasta
2-3 teaspoons sea salt
½ cup ricotta salata, grated (optional)
1 small bunch basil, chiffonade (about 1/3 cup)

1. Heat griddle grill. Brush grill with1-2 tablespoons oil. Grill eggplant on both sides. Drain
eggplant on paper towels, sprinkle with salt, and set aside.

2. In 10-inch sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of remaining olive oil. Add garlic pieces and cook
on low heat until garlic just begins to turn golden color (do not burn garlic). Remove garlic
from oil and discard.

3. Add tomatoes to garlic flavored oil. Cook on medium high heat until tomatoes begin to
caramelize. Add tomato juices and cook until juice is reduced to saucy consistency. Add salt
and pepper flakes. Simmer on low heat for about 5 minutes.

4. Bring 2-gallon pot with about 1 gallon of water to boil. Add 2-3 teaspoons sea salt. Add
pasta and cook until al dente (about 10-12 minutes). Drain in colander.

5. Toss pasta immediately with sauce. Garnish with eggplant and ricotta salata and basil.


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