One of my more recently-realized goals for my 24th year has been to educate myself more about food. I’m a pretty decent cook but I’m no chef. My knife skills, preparation, and presentation techniques definitely leave room for improvement. So when my friend (and fellow food blogger) Kayla suggested we get together a take a class at Brooklyn Kitchen, I jumped at the chance. The schedule for August had some exciting offerings, and we eagerly decided on a Greek Dinner class. I love Greek food, and preparing a full dinner that we would get to enjoy at the end of the night felt more worth it to me for the price ($75) than some of the other classes on canning or pie-making.
The menu for the class was very traditional and consisted of four courses. The class was only six students, which provided a nice, intimate atmosphere for chatting, getting to know one-another, and preparing the meal, of course. We each were given an item to prepare: greek salad, horta boureki (greens wrapped in phyla dough), pastitsio, and a warm rice pudding.
Our teacher, a professional chef and food stylist, demonstrated how we would be preparing each course and we got to work on our individual tasks. I was in charge of assembling the horta boureki. I volunteered to do this because working with the phyllo dough seemed tricky, and this was just the kind of thing that I could use improvement in: being neat, gentle, and assembling something into a pretty package. Plus, “painting” each layer of phyllo dough with butter just looked fun.
The filling for the horta boureki was delicious enough on it’s own. Leeks, onions, and spinach are sautéed with garlic, and generous chunks of feta and plump currants are tossed in at the end. To save time, our teacher prepared this before class, but as I placed spoonfuls of the filling atop 5 layers of butter-laced phyllo dough, I knew this was going to be my favorite course. After careful and meticulous preparation (I was so proud when the teacher asked me if I had done this before), the boureki emerged from the oven a perfect golden brown. The picture was taken after they had been cut in half to share… but I wish I had gotten a shot of the final product!
After the bourekis were done, I grated parmesan cheese to top the pastitsio (this is where my work for the night ended). Pastitsio is a traditional, casserole-style Greek dish where pasta, tomatoes, and ground beef are layered with béchamel sauce and topped with cheese. It’s delicious and incredibly rich, something you enjoy on special occasions or holidays. The version we made in class was made with spaghetti, but I think I would prefer it with a smaller pasta shape like orichette or mini rigatoni so that when it comes out of the casserole dish, each portion maintains its shape. Regardless, I know I’ll be making this again.
This part of the class gave us a bit of a lesson on seasoning. We were seasoning the ground beef with salt, trying to bring out the flavor, when our teacher stepped in to show us just how much salt we needed to be using. She explained that a lot of people are light-handed with the salt while cooking because of concerns over “sodium,” but don’t realize that things prepared at home need salt, and even still, have much less salt than processed foods. We definitely tasted the difference after she encouraged us to be more heavy-handed.
I was stuffed after the pastitsio, but when a personal ramekin of the warm rice pudding was served to me, I was curious. I’ve never been a fan of rice pudding. My grandpa makes it every Christmas and everyone always raves about it. I’ve tried to like it, but there is just something about the dessert that makes me pass it up in favor of cake or pie. Tasting this warm rice pudding made me realize that its the temperature of traditional rice pudding that I don’t like! When it’s cold, the texture is different and the coldness feels unnatural. But warm, the dessert takes on new life, especially when topped with honey-glazed apricots and pine nuts. Perhaps I’ll try microwaving my rice pudding come holiday time.
I hope to be spending more time at Brooklyn Kitchen in the future. Some of the upcoming classes just seem too good to pass up. Pizza making taught by the people behind Roberta’s Pizzeria, West African Cooking, Korean Dinner… Yes, I’ll be back very soon.
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