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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Beans And Sushi Make A Surprising Match

The Class Five subject line was a little scary: Beans, Legumes and Sea Vegetables but we quickly learned not only about their nutritional punch but also how great they can taste with just a few readily available spices.

The protein power of beans is pretty commonly known but their ability to curb obesity was a surprise to me. A recent Real Age study found that bean eaters weigh about 6.6 pounds less than non-bean eaters. We also learned that the lowly bean is high in vitamins, minerals, flavonoids and other cancer fighting food components.

Speaking of minerals the amazing factoid of the class for me was about sea vegetables. Yes, that gnarly seaweed you hate to step on at the beach has some amazing nutrient power. It offers the broadest range of minerals of any food, containing nearly all of the minerals found in the ocean which are amazingly the same minerals found in human blood. Among the most popular are Arame, Dulse, Hijiki, Kombu (kelp), Sushi Nori and Wakame.

As unlikely as the bean and seaweed combination sounds our mentor,Chef Jennifer Brewer, explained that cooking them together tenderizes the beans and enhances disgestion without sacrificing fiber.

A trio of soups was on our menu tonight so we logically kicked things off making the holy trinity of aromatics that the French call mirepoix. This fancy sounding concoction is nothing more than two parts diced onion to one part each diced carrots and celery. It is the basis for nearly every traditional French stew and soup.

We used mirepoix as a base for three lentil soups. We served them as a trio in one bowl as they were as thick and delicious as stews. Shown here are Basic Red Lentil Soup, Indian Red Lentil Soup featuring garam marsala spices and Thai Style Lentil Soup with coconut and curry.

And to complete our super soup and salad bar we made a Sea Vegetable Noodle Salad that featured soba noodles and was just packed with fresh Asian flavors.

We had begun the evening by splitting into three groups and fencing off in a competition to see which group could build the tastiest hummus. We stretched the textbook definition of hummus a bit by using not only the traditional chick peas but a variety of beans as well. And for dipping into the hummus we actually made a gluten free Rice Flour Chapatis or flat bread. Chili peppers, cilantro and cumin made this little cakes just burst with flavor.

Things can get really hectic in our training because it is a hands-on class. This wide shot shows the dozen chefs-in-training going about their assigned tasks which all contribute to the complete menu.

But there is always time to take a quick photo break. Here from left to right pouring over the sizzling cook top are Cheryl, Patty and Kristin. That tasty trio of lentil soups did not come without some serious nurturing over the hot pots.

And finally there was dessert. Ten out of twelve of these students are women. So how do you win over this decidedly female class? You simply make chocolate one of the flavors for dessert. Only Jenny Brewer would not just stop at chocolate. In order to make this dish special and nutritious our recipe called for black beans in it. Yes, warm Black Bean Brownies topped with a raspberry sorbet had all the decadence of a molten cake plus some nutritional value.

My parting shot from Week #5 is of the chocoholics, Julie (left) and Erin who did not seem to mind much when presented with the task of making our dessert. The final portions were kind of small which might have been a factor of how much tasting they did during assembly.

Stay tuned for next week when we cook in the raw!

-That Carl Guy

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