Whew. I can’t believe six months could pass so quickly. Just two more months to go, and I will complete the Chef Training Program at George Brown College and graduate from my second culinary school. (I already received a pastry arts diploma from L’Academie de Cuisine in Maryland.)
It’s a lot of fun. Although the culinary labs, where we actually put on our whites and get into the kitchen, are the best classes, we have plenty of traditional, classroom-style lectures as well. A few of them have been fairly yawn-inducing (yes, hospitality math, I mean you), but most of them have contributed their fair share of intriguing information and assignments.
Here’s a snapshot of what I’ve been doing for the last six months, besides happily sweating in a kitchen gleaming with stainless steel.
While doing research for a presentation on Israeli cuisine, I learned how to make malabi, a rose-water pudding of Turkish origin that is now the most popular street dessert in Israel. Served chilled in clear goblets with a puddle of vibrant raspberry syrup and a scattering of nutty toasted coconut, it’s a refreshing and exotic summer dessert. If you’d like to give it a try, I’ve included the recipe below.
I tried halva and shakshuka for the first time—and you’re thinking: “This is what you have to do for homework? Go out and try all kinds of delicious foods?” I know, really tough life I’ve got, isn’t it? (Scene: a Middle Eastern grocery store. Me: Let’s buy a jar of date honey, too. After all, it’s for research purposes.)
For another presentation, one on methods of food preservation, I tried making my own glace cherries—and succeeded.
A captivating sweet called gulab jamun sparked my newfound interest in Indian pastry—this was during a presentation that took place in nutrition class, ironically enough. I’ve made good use of the fact that the St. Lawrence Market, which National Geographic rated as the top food market in the world, is literally a block from my school. And for an assignment in the elegant-sounding class of “The Art of Eating and Dining,” I went out for dinner at a brand-new restaurant in a converted mansion, Osteria dei Ganzi, and then wrote a review about it.
The interior of the mansion was stunning, but the chicken breast medallion with pear and parmiggiano-reggiano was the most exciting part of the meal. The sweet-salty duo works together in a way that might surprise you.
I also had the best Black Forest Cake ever—served in a Mason jar.
And I’ve spent a considerable amount of time browsing the shelves of the George Brown library. This is just a portion of the cookbook section; it’s a real treasure field.
This week is the college’s mid-semester break, so I get to spend the first days of summer on a mini-vacation. It’s also the beginning of strawberry season here in Ontario, and I intend to pick several pints and try oven-drying them. Another project for the presentation on food preservation.
Savor these first bright days of summer. And might I suggest a batch of malabi to celebrate? It’s the perfect treat for an al fresco dinner: simple, elegant, and cooling. Sort of like ice cream, but even better—it won’t melt.
From The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey by Janna Gur4 cups milk ¾ cup (75 g.) cornstarch 1 tablespoon rosewater (you should be able to find this at a specialty grocer or any Middle Eastern market) 1 cup heavy whipping cream (35%) ½ cup (100 g.) sugar Raspberry syrup Toasted coconut (see below)
- Dissolve the cornstarch in 1 cup of the milk. Add the rosewater.
- Bring the remaining milk, the cream, and the sugar to a simmer in a saucepan. Pour in the cornstarch mixture and cook 2 to 3 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened.
- Pour into serving dishes, cover with cling wrap, and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to three days.
- Garnish with raspberry syrup and toasted coconut before serving.
Yield: Twelve ½-cup servings
Toasted Coconut: Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Spread shredded, sweetened coconut out on a baking sheet and toast until evenly golden brown, stirring frequently as the pieces closer to the rim of the tray will color more quickly. The exact time this takes will depend on how much coconut you are toasting, but about ten minutes should do it. If you have extra toasted coconut left over, chop it finely and store it in the freezer. It’s fabulous to roll truffles in.