Mediterranean food originates from countries like Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Greece, Turkey and other cultures around the Mediterranean sea. Mediterranean diet is dominated by breads, rice, couscous, polenta, bulgur, and other grains, and potatoes.
Vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, cheese, yogurt and olives are also common in meals. They eat little poultry, fish, eggs and sweets. They consume red meat only a few times per month, and they want it lean, not fatty. Wine and water are also an important part of Mediterranean diet.I have never cooked Mediterranean food before, so last Saturday, July 2, 2011, I attended Mediterranean Cooking classes at the Sylvia Reynoso Gala Culinary Training Center at Shaw Blvd. I was happy and excited because not only was I going to cook something entirely new, I was also going to cook with a chef who is also a star. Chef Ernest Gala graduated at several prestigious chef schools all over the world. He is also a well-known chef in this country.
I learned many things in the class:
– If raw lamb is brown in color and smells bad , it means it’s already 9 months old.
– To ensure that meats (lamb, pork and beef) are tender, I must boil them first .
– While grilling always brush with marinade.
– The common ingredients in Mediterranean food are basil and oregano.
We cooked flame broiled pork baby back ribs, slow oven baked Monterey BBQ beef short ribs, oven-baked lamb riblets, moussaka and spanakopitas and tiropotas, Greek appetizers.
We used cooking equipment that I have never used before , like pressure cookers and the orange dutch oven pans. We only used wok, non stick pan, pots, oven, and gas stove at home. We also used ingredients I have never used before, like feta cheese, molasses , lamb, and ricotta cheese.
Before I attended the cooking class, I thought that cooking lamb was hard, but it was really very easy.
While I was cooking my BBQ beef short ribs , Chef Ernest’s mother told me that I cooked like a professional chef. I felt happy that they called me a profesional chef. I remember another cooking class that I went to – the chefs said exactly the same thing.
We cooked the pork baby back ribs with pressure cookers – that’s why it turned out very tender. The sauce for the baby back ribs is interesting because it uses molasses, an ingredient used commonly in cuisines in the Middle East.
Can you say “spanakopitas”? My mom keeps saying it because she likes the sound of it. Spanakopitas are a Greek appetizer that has feta cheese, parmesan cheese, ham and onion, wrapped in a filo sheet and baked in the oven.
Tiropitas are also Greek appetizers wrapped in filo pastry and contains feta cheese, cream cheese, quickmelt cheese , ricotta , and cottage cheese, plus basil.
Mom waited for me to finish the 3-hour cooking class in the waiting room outside before coming inside to take photos of me.
We took home a generous amount of food after the classes. We had those for dinner, along with fried chicken that my Papa had cooked. The beef short ribs meat is hard outside but tender inside. Maybe it needs to be in the pressure cooker for a longer time. But the sauce is yummy. The lamb riblets are tender and the sauce is spicy, but I like it . Even my Papa likes it, although he thought he was eating beef :-). My mom’s favorite was the pork baby back ribs because it was tasty and tender. The vinegar and molasses combination gave it a sweet and sour taste.
My mom asked me what moussaka was and I said it was pasta, but it did not have pasta. What I meant was that it looked like lasagna because it has meat sauce in it and had cheese on top, but it had no pasta. Instead it had egg plant and onions. I guess that’s why it’s called Greek style lasagna. I wasn’t really sure if we were supposed to eat it with rice or just eat it on its own. The moussaka was my baby sister’s favorite because it had lots of cheese.
It was my mom’s and my siblings’ first time to eat these kinds of Mediterranean dishes. My mom says I will enroll in Chef Ernest’s class again next week. I guess she liked the food I took home.
Mediterranean Cooking with Chef Ernest Reynoso Gala- Two thumbs up!