monicaSPEAK

Chef Monica Pope writes about eating & cooking where your food lives

It’s in Our (De-)Nature… August 19, 2010

Matagorda Stone Crab Claws

Green Plum Cooking School – Saturday, July 31st

My mind has already switched back into vacation mode (Yes, again! Every year, I close t’afia for a week so my staff can all have a nice vacation away without worrying about who’s going to cover whose shifts).  But before shutting it all down, I have a class to teach.  I decided, since I’m feeling great about going on vacation and really relaxing, that I will gift the class some Matagorda stone crab claws today.  We don’t get these often, so it’s a real treat.  We also have lots of blueberries right now and I haven’t done blueberries in class yet, so I’m going to make a clafouti.  That’s one of my favorite words, by the way.  I really like saying it.  It is French and it is typically a dessert, but I used to do a zucchini clafouti back in my Boulevard Bistrot days.  A clafouti is a crust-less tart – imagine fruit bobbing in pancake batter, that’s what it’s like.

One Handed Egg Cracking

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Long Enough For Me… August 7, 2010

Everything we need...

Green Plum Cooking School – July 17th

Right from the start, I’m not sure what is going on this morning.  Usually, we hand out tickets for seats to my free morning cooking class starting at 9:00 am.  People wander up and in, cradling breakfast and coffee in their laps.  We end up with a full house most Saturdays, sometimes overfull, that’s when I pull out the igloos to seat people on.  Tommy, who volunteers to man the door, tries to prevent overcapacity, but I just can’t turn anyone away.  Today is a little different, though.  The line begins at the top of the stairs just before 9:00 and snakes all the way down the stairs and just keeps going into the dining room below.  I’m shocked!  It’s the middle of a very hot summer and we’ve got people lining up for an early Saturday morning cooking class.  Maybe they are just now making good on their New Year’s resolutions.  I’m not sure, but it’s grate…I mean, great.

We also have a new vendor starting today at the Midtown Farmers Market (aka MFM): Hans Hansen of Twin Persimmons Farm.  Hans is a cool guy who specializes in native plants and sprouts.  I ask the class what brought so many of them here today and most say that a friend told them they had to come.  Hum…SHEEP PEOPLE, I love it!

Today, I am cooking Chinese long beans.  When the woman from The Secret Garden (another of our regular MFM vendors) says the name for Chinese long beans in Chinese, it sounds like six syllables.  I try to repeat the Chinese name myself, at least six times throughout the class; they laugh at me but I’m not sure it’s that funny, really.

I don’t know why, but I have a problem with long beans, kind of like I have a problem with shrimp.  And water.  Not shrimp with water, but shrimp…and (also) water, and maybe some other things.  I’m determined to leave the long beans long, but The Secret Garden folks tell me I should cut them.  Other people tell me that, too.  But I don’t get it — they’re long, why not keep them long?  The first thing I should do is start the beans to cook, but I’m waiting for them to be prepped — NOT cut, but topped and tailed.  So, instead, I start the blossom butter.  I usually just grab this secret ingredient from my kitchen downstairs and no one knows what the hell I’m talking about even though I say, “It’s a compound butter with herbs, edible flowers, lemon zest, and salt and pepper.”  They still don’t really get the beauty and use of blossom butter on or in everything.  So today, I am going to demonstrate it.

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