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Class is in Session

Cooking class can be so much fun! Pretty sure we have just as much fun, if not more, than our students. Classes at VSpicery are all about demonstrating how to create maximum flavor with minimum effort. We love to answer questions about cooking techniques, and regularly help our students and customers perfect everyday dishes that wow the diners around their family tables.

In our November cooking class, we had some tasty alternatives on the menu for holiday dishes, and the results were delicious. We began with a simple and flavorful salad that pairs beautifully with fall and winter menus. To make the salad we added granny smith apple chunks, sliced red onion, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and toasted coarsely chopped pecans to a bed of fresh romaine and arugula lettuce. The sharpness of the cheddar cheese nicely balances the tart apple flavor and nutty toasted pecans, making this salad a serious taste bud teaser.

Next, we made our maple orange dressing using our Maple Flakes, maple syrup, honey, Himalayan Pink Salt, Green Peppercorns, Apple Balsamic Vinegar and Seraphino Greek Organic Olive Oil. We developed this dressing for our previous salad class, and it has quickly become one of our favorites! Our dried maple flakes are key to giving this dressing a delightful maple kick. The orange juice brightens the dressing and balances the acidity of the vinegar really well. Once the ingredients are mixed together well, and emulsified with olive oil, it’s ready for serving.

Our class moved right along to the main course with Herbal Crust Turkey Thighs. VSpicery’s Herbal Crust Seasoning was developed specifically for roasted meats, including game meats like venison. This blend is perfect for your holiday bird, and the pan drippings make the best gravy we have ever made. We normally roast a whole turkey for our Thanksgiving meal, but using turkey thighs is just as tasty. Turkey thighs take less time to cook, are really flavorful and no carving is needed. All you need to do is lightly coat with olive oil (or any oil of your choice), add Herbal Crust Seasoning, and bake. We tend to prefer using bone-in, skin-on thighs, since roasting with the bone in gives much better flavor and the skin keeps the meat moist throughout the roasting process. After the turkey thighs were cooked, we took the bone out, and sliced each thigh into 3 nice sized chunks. You can serve it with or without the skin.

We rounded out the meal with some yummy side dishes that are super easy to make, healthy to eat, and diet friendly. If you haven’t tried Delicata Squash yet, you really should! Delicata Squash is low in calories, and has a thicker consistency than other squash varieties. This is the perfect alternative to high carb sides like mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes. All you need to do is roast the squash in the oven with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast cut side down. Once cooked, scoop out the meat of the squash into a bowl and mash it up with our new blend, Sunny Soiree, some butter and a tiny splash of heavy cream, then season to taste with salt and pepper. You can also add a little goat cheese, if you want a creamy tang of flavor, but it’s entirely optional. This simple dish will quickly become a go to side for any meal.

For the final two sides, we made steamed green beans and roasted carrots. This may sound uninspired, but as usual, VSpicery takes the bland and unexciting to flavor heights that will make you crave these healthy veggies regularly.

After steaming the green beans, we made a simple warm vinaigrette for them. We used our Champagne Pear Vinegar, Yellow Mustard Powder, Shallots, Honey and Himalayan Pink salt. We poured the vinegar into a sauté pan on medium heat, and added the rest of the ingredients as it warmed up. When vinegar mix is just coming to a boil, remove the pan from heat, then pour the mixture over green beans just prior to serving.

The last side dish we made was Spiced Roasted Carrots. We started by quartering the whole carrot sticks, then tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and thyme. While the carrots were roasting, we softened some butter and stirred in cumin, coriander, turmeric, and aleppo pepper. Then, we tossed the roasted carrots in the spiced butter and transferred them to a serving platter. You can use cumin and coriander ground powder, but you get a deeper nuttier flavor if you lightly toast the whole seeds, then grind them down before adding to the butter mix. This carrot side dish also pairs really well with roasted meats, baked salmon and pork.

Last, but definitely not least, is the gravy! As mentioned above, the pan drippings from roasting the turkey with Herbal Crust Seasoning is what makes this so incredibly good. Just make gravy as you usually would by adding the pan drippings to a sauté pan over medium heat. Stir constantly, while thickening it with flour to your desired consistency. For this class, we used a gluten free flour to accommodate our student’s dietary restrictions, and it turned out great! We discovered how tasty this gravy is a few years ago while cooking a Thanksgiving feast for a catering client, and now we look forward to it every year. If you want to read more about it, check out our original Tasty Gravy blog post.

That’s it for this class menu! This meal can be ready in a fraction of the time that it normally takes to fill up your holiday table, and will work for just about any diet. Treat your family to a healthy, quick and incredibly delicious holiday meal this year. VSpicery is here to help you with all of your flavor needs. Keep an eye out for our next class offering! We try to schedule at least one public class a month. You can also book your own private demonstration. We just need 6 or more to put your group on our kitchen calendar. We can create a menu for your private class, or you can choose. Call us at the shop 813-870-1133 for more info.

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30 Days of Flavor: 03/29/11 – Bellindora Vinegars

Vin_Apple

We will be discussing flavors this month in our “30 Days of Flavor” blog series. Every day this month, VSpicery will select a spice, seasoning, salt, etc., as the flavor of the day, giving you it’s history, flavor profile, and uses. We hope you enjoy these flavors and their unique stories.

We carry a line of flavored Bellindora vinegars from Napa Valley, California, that are packed with flavor and can be used various ways to give new dimension to your dishes. Three of the flavors begin with a balsamic vinegar base (apple, fig and pomegranate) and one that begins with a champagne vinegar (champagne pear), and are then infused with fruit flavor. You can come to our shop in Tampa, or one of the markets that we attend to sample one or all varieties to find your favorite.

Our Apple Balsamic vinegar has a nice and refreshing apple taste that works well as a vinaigrette, glaze, reduction, or as part of a marinade. Use it with our Orange Olive Oil, and some Eden’s Nectar Spring honey for a fabulous fruit salad dressing. We sampled this fruit salad creation at a market, and everyone wanted to buy the prepared salad! Brush on baked chicken or pork during the last 15 minutes of cooking for a nice sweetly tart flavor infusion, or combine with herbs and olive oil for a tasty salad dressing.

Champagne Pear Vinegar has just the right balance of sweetness from the pears with the tart flavor of the vinegar that it may just become your favorite, it is certainly one of ours. This vinegar was made specifically for us when our first pear vinegar producer went out of business and sold the pear and olive farms. We waited 18 months for the vinegar to age in oak barrels before we could finally sample this fine product, and it was definitely worth the wait. Mix with VSpicery’s Salad Seasons, Serophino Olive Oil, and Eden’s Nectar Honey for a nice, flavorful vinaigrette. Tired of the same old chicken dish? Use our Harmony Chicken Rub and olive oil to season chicken, whole or pieces, and bake as you would normally. Then during the last 15 minutes of cooking drizzle some Champagne Pear Vinegar (or spritz with a mister or squirt bottle), and continue baking until the chicken is done. This awesome flavor combination will become a family favorite! Also makes a tasty glaze or reduction sauce.

Wonderful on salads, sandwiches, and roasted or grilled meats, our Fig Balsamic Vinegar really livens up your meals. Use it to make a vinaigrette for your salad, as a glaze for fish, chicken or pork, or make a fabulous reduction sauce to top veggies or meats. If you like turkey sandwiches, you have to try it on your next one. Use your bread of choice, add turkey and provolone or swiss, lettuce, tomato, mayo optional, and drizzle a few drops of the Fig Vinegar. You’ll be amazed how this vinegar compliments the other flavors of the sandwich. We seasonally carry dried Turkish Figs that are really meaty and delicious, usually available around the holiday season, that taste like a fig newton without the cookie. A favorite way for some of our customers to use these two items is for their Thanksgiving turkey, by stuffing the bird with the dried figs and seasoning the outside with salt, pepper and garlic, then during the final fifteen minutes or so of cooking, baste with the fig vinegar. The flavor is amazing!

Our Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar has a pleasantly tart taste that compliments salads, chicken, fish, and pork. It makes a fantastic vinaigrette, glaze, reduction, or sandwich condiment. Our favorite thing to do with this vinegar is a sautéed chicken salad. Put 1-2 tbls. of butter and equal parts olive oil in a pan, add onions or shallots, and cook until they begin to caramelize. Take 2 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, and sauté with the caramelized onions. Once the chicken is done, place it and the onions on a bed of fresh spinach, topped with goat cheese or bleu cheese, pecans, and dried cranberries. Then deglaze the pan with Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar. Reduce to half, let it begin to thicken, then top the salad with this reduction. Yum! This recipe works with all four of these vinegar flavors, but we especially prefer the Champagne Pear or Pomegranate vinegar, either provide a nice balance to the other flavors in the salad.