Kitchen Talk: Virtual Cooking Classes Abound in COVID Times

Aug. 28, 2020 – By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR.

As I settle into the sixth month of social distancing, there are certain aspects of COVID pandemic that I have come to enjoy. In particular, I am taking advantage of the many virtual educational opportunities, especially online cooking classes.

Yesterday I watched three food demos: How to make blintzes, chopped liver, and sweet noodle kugel. They were presented by Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz, co-authors of The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Food.

Their classes are part of “A Seat at the Table, a Journey into Jewish Food,” a free series offered until December by YIVO, the Institute for Jewish Research. To register go to https://yivo.org/food

Today, I’ll be going on a virtual tour of St. Petersburg (the one in Russia) from a Jewish perspective, and then at 3 p.m. I’m signed up for a cooking class with cookbook author and national columnist Bonnie Stern. She’ll be teaching participants how to use fresh herbs and phyllo dough.

Carolyn Tanner-Cohen is another Toronto-based culinary expert offering online cooking classes. She has been running the Delicious Dish Cooking School from her home since 2002. She’s been kind enough to share two terrific recipes (below), which would work very well for Rosh Hashanah: Honey Za’atar Chicken Drumsticks and Braised Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa, Zucchini, Tomatoes and Pine Nuts.

Tanner-Cohen said that with COVID, she’s had to reimagine her school. “I had been wanting to refigure my business and change it, but there wasn’t a real need,” she said. “People still wanted engagement in person. Now people are comfortable being at home. This is the new normal.”

Tanner-Cohen has had a following on Instagram (@deliciousdishcooking) for several years. When the pandemic started, she would let her followers know what she was cooking for dinner and list the ingredients. “I was giving out the menu a week in advance with a grocery list.”

People would tune into Instagram Live to watch or cook along with her, she explained. “Every time I made dinner I would be doing it live.”

Tanner-Cohen said she has now increased her Instagram followers from 2,500 to 5,800, and she’s developed a new platform for E-commerce on her Web site, https://deliciousdish.ca/

She began offering cooking classes on weeknights. “I’m doing Zoom classes four nights a week. At 5 p.m., we all cook dinner together.” Her main page has the class schedule for the upcoming month, along with grocery lists. She said there’s a regular group of participants to her classes who have become a community.

On Sept. 14 and 15, Tanner-Cohen will be running a longer, two-part baking class for Rosh Hashanah, and on the following two days (Sept. 16 and 17), she will be preparing the holiday dinner. “If you log in you can make your entire Rosh Hashanah meal with me. We’re going to cook it together and people can freeze it.”

HONEY ZA’ATAR CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS 

Honey Zatar Chicken Drumsticks. Photo credit: Carolyn Tanner Cohen

12 chicken drumsticks
2½ tbsp (40 ml) za’atar, divided
4 tbsp (60 ml) sesame seeds, divided
2 tsp (10 ml) kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the chicken 
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) honey

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) convection. Line a sheet with parchment or foil. Season the chicken with a little salt and pepper.

Combine 1½ tbsp of the za’atar, 2 tbsp of the sesame seeds, salt and oil in a bowl. 

Rub the oil and za’atar mixture all over the chicken and place the chicken on the lined cookie sheet.

Drizzle the honey all over the chicken pieces. Sprinkle the chicken with the remainder of the za’atar and sesame seeds.

Bake for about 45 minutes. Makes 4 – 6 servings

BRAISED STUFFED PEPPERS WITH QUINOA, ZUCCHINI, TOMATOES AND PINE NUTS

Braised Stuffed Peppers
Braised Stuffed Peppers. Photo credit: Carolyn Tanner Cohen

6 –10 red and yellow bell peppers uniform in size

Filling:

2-3 tbsp (30- 45 ml) olive oil
3 onions, finely chopped
2 zucchini ends removed, grated on a large hole box grater
2 tsp (10 ml) kosher salt
1 tsp (5 ml) sweet paprika
½ tsp (3 ml) pepper
2 large tomatoes grated
1½ cup (375 ml) uncooked quinoa
⅓ cup (90 ml) pine nuts toasted
½ cup (125 ml) chopped parsley

For the Sauce

2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
4 cloves garlic minced
¼ cup (125 ml) tomato paste
1½ cups (375 ml) vegetable or chicken stock
1 tsp (5 ml) sugar
½ tsp (3 ml) kosher salt
¼ tsp (2 ml) pepper
2-3 whole onions, peeled

Cut the tops off the peppers. With your fingers remove the seeds and membranes and set the peppers aside.

Filling: In a large sauté pan, heat the oil, add the chopped onion and cook on medium heat until golden brown and caramelized, about 10 minutes. 

Add the grated zucchini, toss and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, paprika and grated tomato. Toss to combine the ingredients and let them cook for 1–2 minutes. Add the quinoa and cook another 1–2 minutes. 

Add the pine nuts and parsley and toss. Turn the heat off while preparing the sauce.

Sauce: In a large braising pot with a lid heat the oil on low heat. Choose a pot that will fit the peppers in snugly. 

Add the garlic and sauté for less than 10 seconds. Add the tomato paste, carefully to avoid splattering. Add the stock, whisk to combine the tomato paste with the stock. Add the sugar, salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it simmer for a few minutes. Set aside about ¾ cup (220 ml) of sauce. 

In the meantime, stuff the peppers with the filling, about ⅔ cup (180 ml) per pepper. 

Place the peppers in the sauce (cut side up), squeezing the peppers in. The less space the better. If you have any space in between the peppers, fill it with the extra whole (or half) peeled onions (They will flavour the sauce). 

Pour the reserved ¾ cup (200 ml) sauce over the filled peppers. Put the lid on the pot, turn the heat to low and let the peppers simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Makes 6 –10 servings.

CULINARY CALENDAR

Sept. 1, 3:30 p.m. ET: “Braid Along” Challah Workshop led by Bonnie Stern and Rabbi Elyse Goldstein. Presented by City Shul. To register go to https://www.cityshul.com/form/challah.html

Sept. 9, 2 p.m. ET: Ashkenazi Cuisine: Identity, Memory, and Culture: Jeffrey Yoskowitz will be in conversation about Eastern European Jewish cuisine with award-winning author Michael Twitty, and acclaimed cookbook author Leah Koenig. Register for Free at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/9615983422166/WN_THYxFfgSSPmwSuDqAKMPvA


Barbara Silverstein
Barbara Silverstein

Barbara Silverstein is a Toronto-area journalist and an award-winning food writer. She was a long-time contributor to The Canadian Jewish News. Her articles have also appeared in Homemaker’s Magazine, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, and Tablet Magazine.