October 15, 2012

Middle Eastern 30-minute vegan cooking class

Moroccan-style Eggplant, Olive and Bean Tagine; Spicy Carrot and Cashew Biryani
We periodically take a cooking class or two at PCC, our local food co-op, especially if one of our favorite instructors is teaching. When we noticed that Sureyya Gokeri was teaching a 30-minute vegan Middle Eastern food class, we signed up. Sureyya is from Turkey close to the Syrian border on the coast, and a superb cook of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food.  The classes may seem a little pricey, but include a wonderful meal — and dinner plus cooking techniques plus entertaining stories add up to a fair deal.

Almond and Onion Soup with Fresh Mint and Garlic Sauce
First item on the menu was Almond and Onion Soup with Fresh Mint and Garlic Sauce. The soup was thick, rich and deeply flavored. The garlic sauce was raw, and stirred in just before serving. Sureyya made her own stock from vegetable scraps and peels.

Root Vegetable and Herb Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Coriander
The second dish, Root Vegetable and Herb Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Coriander had me a little nervous because it contained my nemesis, fennel, AND beets. Bleh. I considered claiming a fennel allergy and eating the beets, which I don't hate, but decided to take my chances with the whole lot since the veggies were to be roasted. Roasting makes everything better. The salad, which had butternut squash, parsnip, peppers, celery root and garlic in addition to the fennel and beets, was delicious. Even the fennel was good. Yes, even the fennel, because roasting is magic.


The Spicy Carrot and Cashew Biryani on a bed of Seasonal Herbs was wonderful, and looked great after being packed into a custard dish and unmolded onto the plate. The biryani was fragrant with cardamom, cumin, coriander and bay leaves and stuffed with carrots and cashews. And, I suppose, arsenic.

The biryani was plated with a Moroccan-style Eggplant, Olive and Bean Tagine. In addition to eggplant, green olives and lima beans, the tagine contained zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes and potatoes. Sureyya warned us that when buying eggplant, don't buy soft ones. Choose very firm eggplants for the best quality.

Everything was extremely delicious, and my only complaint would be that the recipes used too much fat for my taste. I would definitely use less oil when making the dishes, tweaking them to my personal preferences while maintaining the vibrant flavors, textures and colors.

30 comments:

  1. That all looks phenomenal, what a teacher! I don't suppose she's posted the recipes anywhere has she?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She posts recipes each month at http://bit.ly/OCK2Z0
      They aren't all vegan but some are. Right now she has two vegan recipes posted. I posted one of her recipes at http://bit.ly/5N9Tl It's a recipe for spiced olives and it's delicious!

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  2. Wow, what a great class! The food looks fantastic, although I would be hesitant with the coriander involved (my arch nemesis). I'm glad you liked everything, including the beets and fennel. Now I understand why you got scared when you saw my beet muffin post. :)

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    Replies
    1. I happen to love coriander but one of the students couldn't eat it, and Surreya, who showed us how to cook the food and customize it to anyone's needs, prepared the cilantro-hater's food minus the cilantro.

      The only thing worse than a beet muffin would be a fennel muffin. I always try things though, unless the smell is offensive. And I don't hate beets, just aren't a big fan. :)

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  3. Roasting IS magic...I swear you could roast cardboard and I would eat it! Your food looks fantastic :-)

    Courtney

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    1. I've never tried roasted cardboard ... but, maybe. :D

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  4. Roasted cardboard is better than cooked celery. As you already know, my cooked celery aversion matches your fennel aversion. I am now getting the heebie jeebies.
    The food looks great to me. I grew up on Syrian food. My dad's best friend was Syrian, and his wife was an amazing cook. The food above is hitting my sense memories. You are very brave, and now you never walk through trying fennel again ;)

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    Replies
    1. I will always balk at fennel, and anything that smells or tastes like fennel. The strange thing is that roasted fennel loses the gag-inducing fennel flavor and tastes quite mild and good. Still, I know it's fennel and am cautious. Beets don't upset me like fennel — I just prefer to not eat them. :)

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  5. ha ha, I don't really like fennel either - though, like you said, I don't mind it roasted. But, I gotta say, that soup sounds AMAZING. Especially with garlic sauce!!! hello yum town.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, the soup was a revelation. Who knew that onions and almonds could be so delicious?

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  6. Oh, what I would give to be a local! I would go to this class in a heartbeat, although I must admit, I would be more interested in the eating than the cooking/learning. ;)

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    Replies
    1. Eating is definitely the highlight, but Sureyya runs a lively, never-boring class filled with jokes and stories, and she offers up some surprising cooking tips.

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  7. This all looks so delicious!!! And it's amazing how roasting things can make such a HUGE difference, maximally increasing deliciousness

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    Replies
    1. It was extremely delicious, and a lot of roasting took place.

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  8. This sounds so great! I've sort of been looking for cooking classes around here, but nothing is really popping out at me. I can't Believe you ate both fennel and beets!! What next?? All-fennel diet cleanse?? Beet parties??

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    Replies
    1. I've been trying to overcome my food weirdities and I'm doing better. Fennel has been a hold-out, but roasted or baked fennel tastes good, and I'm able to eat it without thinking about the raw stuff and gagging. I can even eat nuts on top of baked goods — but not in them, yet. Baby steps. Beets are different — I'm not repelled by them, just don't find the taste real appealing.

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  9. I'd eat that pretty biryani with the eggplants. i need to take time out and go for some classes. i want to make ethiopian so badly.

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    Replies
    1. Oh yes, Ethiopian food. I think the restaurant at Pike Place sometimes has classes. Or you can buy a copy of Papa Tofu Cooks Ethiopian from Kittee Bee Berns!

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  10. Makkah Market is one of the few super market offering the best middle east food like shish kebabs, falafel sandwich etc. in Philadelphia, with the excellent taste and quick assistance.

    Middle east food

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  11. I was sneering at the coriander, but it's fennel you hate? Wow; I can even eat it raw (it's good for digestion!). Sometimes you can't put a price on watching good food prepared before you- especially when you go home with instructions on how to replicate!

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    1. I wish we would be more diligent at going home and preparing the food we just learned about and loved so much. For some reason we go home and make the same stuff we always make. I think I'll make the onion and almond soup — just thinking about it makes me hungry.

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  12. I really want to try that onion soup with almond. It sounds wonderful.

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    Replies
    1. Mollie, it WAS wonderful. I'm thinking of making some tonight.

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  13. That sounds like a fun cooking class. You might not want to check out my post of the day today - beet burgers seasoned with fennel seeds! :D

    But yes, roasting is magic! I'm glad you enjoyed the food, including the fennel! The molded rice looks so pretty. Mmm, arsenic! :D

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    1. The weird thing is I think I was checking out your post just as you were checking out mine. I'm good with the beets — but no way will the fennel happen. And the cheddar looks so seductive.

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    2. Freaky timing! You really need to try the cheddar - I just had some more today! (I might have an addiction problem)

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  14. Roasting is magic! It just makes everything better!

    Sounds like a really fun class- that tagine looks amazing!

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    Replies
    1. Roasting and grilling — my two favorite ways to cook veggies.

      I loved the tagine! But, then, I loved everything we ate.

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  15. I am so envious right now! All that stuff looks amazing. And makes me hungry although I just had breakfast.

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    Replies
    1. This was one of my favorite classes. Such good food!

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