Recent topics we've covered in class: fruits & spices, vegetables and herbs, knife skills, and the basics of keeping the school kitchen sanitary. (ServSafe Certification comes later).
Before I get too boring, here is an example of a fruit recipe: "Caramelized Pear Crisps" from our Fruits and Spices class
Slice 2 pears thinly using a mandolin and place them on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper (or silpat mat, which I tried later and trust me, this works a lot better). Dust with powdered sugar and bake in the oven at 175 degrees until they are sufficiently dried out, 2-3 hours.
(oh, and baking times go out the window in the professional culinary world. Ask the Chefs teaching at culinary school, and they will tell you, the food is done... when it's done).
Among other recipes made during that class were bananas foster, peach fritters, filled baked apples, fruit compote, guacamole, blueberry cobbler, grilled chicken with spiced kumquat chutney, poached pears, strawberry rhubarb sorbet, fruit and spice granola,passionata smoothie, mango-tomatillo salsa, fried plantains and prosciutto and brie sandwiches with rosemary fig confit. So we traveled across the spectrum of ways to cook fruit, from sweet to savory.
A few random facts about fruit:
- When cutting and preparing fruits that turn brown, such as apples and pears, place the slices in a solution of lemon juice and water as you go to prevent browning.
- Freezing fruit works better if there is some sugar in the fruit to protect cell walls against ice crystals (as fruit freezes, the water content expands into ice crystals and breaks cell walls).
- Melons are in the squash family, except for watermelon.
- Tropical fruits contain bromelain, which prevents gelatin from congealing, so you need to boil the fruit for all gelatin applications in desserts.
- An avocado only gets ripe after picking
- Fruits that never ripen after they are picked are soft berries, cherries, grapes, citrus, watermelon, and pineapples. So be choosy when you are shopping for these items.
Now to talk about spices...
I learned that Mace is actually the outer covering of Nutmeg. (Seems a little obvious, since mace is so similar to nutmeg...)
The shelf life of spices is basically a year. Whole spices last longer than ground spices, so if you are buying spices for your home kitchen, stick with small quantities and purchase whole spices when you can and grind them yourself when ready to use.