food + drink, just for fun

Out & About in Raleigh: Mother/Daughter Date Night

A few weeks back my mother celebrated her birthday, and as Sur La Table…Mother/Daughter Date Night.usual I was having trouble deciding on the perfect gift. I have had this day on my calendar every year for many years now, but every year it’s a scramble to decide what to get. It’s not that she is difficult to buy for, it’s that she never really wants anything. This year, I wanted to do something different. After much investigation and deliberation, I finally decided on a cooking class at

This was something neither one of us had done before…

so at the very I know I’m a damn good cook. We both love to remix recipes on the fly because those are just suggestions anyhow! This venture would likely be a challenge because we had to follow instructions.

least we would share a new experience. The funny thing about this gift idea is that both my mother and I can throw down in the kitchen. She has taught me everything I know, and

We arrived at Sur La Table for our class a little early…

and the staff kindly lets us know it would begin promptly at 7 pm. They also shared we were welcome to shop the store or go next door to purchase “beverages” to enjoy during our class. What? Cooking class is BYOB? This was a game changer! The menu theme was “Everyday Mediterranean” which to me, sounded like a misnomer. In my experience, this type of cuisine required a lot of TLC, so I was intrigued at how anyone could make it every day. The spread included a variety of clean, plant forward dishes that reflected seasonal produce. They even had a little warning that some ingredients may be swapped out depending on what was available. For a locavore like myself, this was great news!

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When it was time to begin, Chef Rebecca, our instructor for the evening, ushered us into the kitchen

as her assistants handed out aprons and showed us to our cooking stations. There was a bounty of beautiful ingredients for our meal of baked snapper with harissa, chilled chard and noodle salad with salsa verde, and blistered green beans with tahini sauce. The meal still sounded pretty fancy for weeknight and I was skeptical we would get everything completed in time.

Chef Rebecca opened the lesson with the best 2-minute cooking basics tutorial I’ve ever heard. Just as casually as you’re reading this, Chef explained how to safely hold a knife; chop, dice, and mince; as well as walking us through the primary cooking utensils and equipment we’d be using. Even though I cook all the time, this little how-to was still a nice refresher. We teamed up with our neighbors; another mother and daughter enjoying an evening out and went about cooking our first recipe.

The thing that was so nice about this lesson was working in teams.

Everyone chose a different task or two to help complete each dish. We were able to divide and conquer without feeling overwhelmed. We still needed to communicate about timing, amounts of ingredients, and order of operations, so this encouraged conversation between everyone in the group. We were all working together and chatting having a great time. A little less than an hour later we’d mixed up the salsa verde, prepped the cold noodle salad, and had our fish ready for the oven.

At this point, Chef told us we’d be taking a short break

to allow the assistants time to clean up a little and get our fish in the oven. Wow, this was definitely worth the money. FYI-cooking is super duper WAY MORE fun when you don’t have to shop or clean 🙂

We went wandering aimlessly through the store as the kitchen was magically tidied up. The place is full of stuff you didn’t even know existed yet would instantly make your life easier. Giving you a few minutes to look around after you’ve been playing with all the gadgets in your cooking class is a pretty great way to make sure people buy something.

After some time we were herded back to the kitchen to finish our dishes.

To my surprise, the handful of steps needed to complete our green bean dish actually taught me something new. I make blistered green beans all the time in the oven, but I never parboil them. I just throw them on in after rinsing and trimming. Chef suggested that parboiling the green beans first would ensure maximum caramelization and even cooking. Ah-ha!

Once the beans were appropriately blistered, we assembled our plates with the fish, the green beans, and the chilled salad. The salsa verde had been quietly melding in a ramekin since the beginning of the lesson, but as we spooned it down over the chilled salad, I knew it was going to be the star of the evening. As the time came to dig into our “Everyday Mediterranean” dishes I could hardly contain myself. They were really delicious, AND the fact that we didn’t have to clean up made the whole experience that much more enjoyable.

My absolute favorite recipe of the evening was the chilled noodle salad with salsa verde , which is just a genius raw sauce to have in your cooking arsenal. Salsa verde is a mix of vinegar, oil, citrus, and fresh herbs…you could add in any other fragrant tidbits like capers or shallots you have on hand. It’s perfect for fish, veggies, grilled naan, or roasted potatoes (I’ve actually made it three times since I went to the cooking class because it’s THAT good).

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Simple but effective.

That was really the theme of the whole evening. Simple techniques, flavorful ingredients, and an effective recipe that turned out what I can only call a “weeknight masterpiece”. Sur La Table gave mom and I an opportunity to enjoy creating a meal together while making new friends and learn a few new cooking techniques. The recipes were delicious, but more than that, they were practical and approachable.

The instructor, Chef Rebecca had an inclusive teaching style that allowed each participant to embody their own level of experience. She gave general directions, but offered one-on-one assistance if you had additional questions. If you’re new to cooking, this class will provide a chance to learn in a welcoming and playful environment. If you have some experience, you can really put it to the test! If you’re looking for a delightfully low maintenance culinary adventure, sign up for a cooking class at Sur La Table.  You and your best gal / mom / partner / neighbor / WHOMEVER will have an excellent time

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