Last week I took my first cooking class at Portland’s Culinary Workshop. I signed up for their Healthy Cuisine class and it was such a great experience! Co-owner and chef Susana Holloway designed a menu that accommodated a variety of dietary needs, looked exciting, and tasted delicious. The (entirely gf) menu for the evening consisted of:
Bright beet dip with crackers
Steamed Salmon wrapped in Banana Leaf with Miso Glaze
Sautéed Gingery Pea Shoots
Roasted Root Vegetables with Cashew Cream
Coconut Butter “Pumpkin Pie”
A few years after culinary school, Susana went back for a degree in nutrition. Her passion for healthy food was immediately evident. At the start of class she told us that we would be focusing on nutrient rich, whole foods—not low fat, chemically altered substitutes. That’s when I knew I was in the right place. To me, eating healthy doesn’t mean counting calories, it means designing meals that provide a variety of nutrients, and includes healthy fats and natural sugars (in moderation.) Nuts, seeds, coconut, and natural oils were our sources of fats, and naturally sweet vegetables and fruits provided the sugars. We also focused on cooking methods that enhance flavor without diminishing nutrients, such as steaming and quick sautéing.
Even though I’ve spent time cultivating my cooking skills, this class expanded my knowledge and taught me some new techniques. This was my first experience cooking with banana leaves and now the process of preparing banana leaves is something I could easily do again. The salmon was steamed in an orange miso glaze. If you’re like me, you avoid miso because it’s hard to know if it’s celiac-safe. Susana used a chickpea based miso that was both gluten and soy free.
It was also the first time I’ve made a nut-based cream. I roast root vegetables as a regular staple throughout the fall and winter, but the cashew cream makes this otherwise simple dish feel special. The best part is, there is no cream in the cream! The pre-soaked cashews blend into a rich, creamy texture without any dairy required. This is a very basic version, but in class we added some lemon, olive oil and fresh herbs that contrasted nicely with the earthiness of the vegetables.
My other favorite was the bright beet dip. The brightness was due in part to using raw beets. I am guilty of having held the assumption that beets really need to be cooked to rid them of their natural “dirt” flavor. Not so! Once peeled, chopped, and blended they were so delicious I could hardly get enough. Here’s a recipe that will give you an idea of how to transform raw beets into a bright, flavorful dip.
This class reinforced my belief that a lot of flavor comes from using fresh ingredients and a combination of herbs and spices. It was fun and I left feeling full, energized, and excited for my next cooking class at Portland’s Culinary Workshop.