May 19, 2009

Vegan cooking class with Chef Paul Tseng

The last cooking class we took at the Willy St. Coop with Chef Paul was a Chinese cooking class with vegan options, and it included seafood and chicken. This class was called "Vegan All the Way" and it was pretty amazing. I'm trying to remember the order of events, but when I think back to the class it seems like Chef Paul was doing five things at once, so I'll do my best to describe what he did. On the menu was polenta with toasted almonds and herbs served with roasted red pepper sauce, roasted vegetable moussaka with tempeh, and braised belgian endive with tofu, fresh pineapple and summer vegetables. Also, marinated mushrooms with fresh lentil pasta.

The ingredients ready to go

Paul made the pasta dough early on because it needed time to rest before being rolled out. I've never see pasta like this before - it contained cooked, cooled red lentils.

The chef works the lentils into the flour.

After the dough had rested, covered with a damp towel, it was rolled into a thin circle, sprinkled with flour, rolled up into a tube shape and cut into about 1/4" wide strips. More flour was sprinkled, the noodles were flipped around to unfurl them and they were cooked in a large pot of boiling water for 2-3 minutes. The button mushrooms were quartered and marinated in soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, scallion, sweetener, salt and pepper. These were probably the best noodles I've ever tasted with a texture that was both chewy and tender.

Fresh lentil pasta with marinated mushrooms

Somehow, at the same time he was kneading the pasta dough, Paul also had slices of eggplant and zucchini for the moussaka roasting in a hot oven, and polenta cooling in the fridge — and a red pepper charring on the gas stove. For the polenta, coarse cornmeal was cooked in vegetable stock until thick. After removing it from the heat, lemon zest, toasted almond slivers, olive oil, minced fresh herbs, minced shallot, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper were added, and the mixture was packed into a large, shallow, round pan and placed in the fridge to set up. Roasted red peppers, minced garlic and olive oil were pureed with a stick blender, and then enhanced with fresh herbs, salt and pepper. The polenta, still slightly warm, came out of the fridge, got cut into triangles and was served with the sauce. Delicious and elegant.

Polenta triangles with roasted red pepper sauce

On to the moussaka. Onions and garlic were sautéed then cooked with cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, seeded and diced tomatoes, chopped tempeh and lemon juice. It was simmered to reduce the tomato liquid. The roasted eggplant and zucchini (mentioned earlier) were layered with the tempeh mixture in a glass baking dish. The dish was topped with a mixture of garbanzo flour, dried herbs, oil and bread crumbs. The moussaka was baked until the topping was golden.

The end of the moussaka. It's hard to remember to
photograph things when they look and smell so good.

The last thing on the menu was braised vegetables. This dish contained fresh ginger, garlic, jalapeno, fresh pineapple, carrot, brussels sprouts, summer squash, asparagus, firm tofu and vegetable stock. (It was supposed to have endive and not brussels sprouts but a substitution was made to accommodate availability.) It's intended to be served over steamed rice but we ate it straight up. This was really delicious.

Braised vegetables

The layers of flavor, gorgeous appearance and heavenly aroma of the food prepared in this class were an inspiration.

Our teacher seeding tomatoes and saving the juice

One of the things we also learned in class was not to waste anything. For example, even the tough stems that are snapped off the bottoms of asparagus stalks can be peeled and cooked! And all of the vegetable trimmings can be made into stock or composted.

Don't forget that tomorrow is the deadline for posting comments about why you would like to own a copy of "Peta's Vegan College Cookbook." I'll announce a winner on May 21.


  1. Everything looks so delicious--and the plating is stunning. What a fun class to take!

  2. Yum! It all looks wonderful but I'm especially loving that pasta!

  3. Ricki,
    It was definitely fun - especially the part where we get to taste everything.

    The pasta was great. And it seemed so easy when Paul made it.

  4. Looks fabulous. Homemade pasta is always a favorite at our house... especially when mushrooms are involved!

    Love the Willy St. Coop!

  5. Am I ever sorry to have missed that class. The pasta looks fabulous!

  6. Lo,
    The pasta was a winner, and I share your sentiments about Willy St.

    I kept wishing you were there. It was great.


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