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YMCA Community Cooking Class!

Last week, I attended a monthly cooking class at the Anthony Bowen YMCA in DC. I have been checking out their monthly schedule to see what exciting programs they had. I decided about a year ago, that I wanted to pursue culinary passion without going to formal culinary school. If passion is in your heart, formal training is not always needed. Therefore, I have been researching alternative ways to obtain culinary knowledge.

I was apprehensive to go to the class alone, but later realized if I want this dream to come true; I have to concur my fears. The class is set in a professional kitchen in the middle of the Anthony Bowen YMCA. When I walked in, I was greeted by the instructor, Tessa, who was super cool and friendly. I spoke to her about my goals and she was more than happy to share her own experiences. There was also a guest who overlooked the kitchen named Laura. She is a sous chef at Miriam’s Kitchen, which is a shelter that is focused on ending chronic homelessness in Washington, DC. She encouraged me to volunteer a shift to prep for a meal to serve. It would give me additional kitchen experience.

The community cooking class menu is based on recipes from the American Heart Association. They provide healthy alternatives that limit salt and sugar and amp up the flavor with fresh herbs and spices. Our menu was an herbed flounder and spring vegetables en papillote and white bean and tomato bruschetta salad. I will admit that I was intimidated by the directions for each recipe, but Tessa made it easy. Our first steps were to prep the asparagus, peppers, carrots and leek that served as the bed for the fish. Next, we seasoned the fish with salt, pepper, garlic and fresh tarragon. En papillote is a fancy French method, which means to cook in parchment paper. We cut out the parchment paper in the shape of a heart and laid the veggies on one side of the paper. We laid the fish on top of the veggies and added olive oil to add moisture. Finally, we closed the parchment paper over and tucked in the ends like an empanada and baked it off for 10 minutes. Next, we worked on the salad. We quartered cherry tomatoes and rinsed off white beans to remove the liquid the canned beans are in. Add the beans and tomatoes together and season it with salt, pepper, basil leaves, olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Finally lay the mixture on a bed of greens and add mozzarella cheese to the top.

Everything was delicious and I was so surprised that I could cook such a fancy meal. It also sharpened my knife skills and added new recipes to my knowledge. I can’t wait to try some of the other classes that the Y offers including their CSA Meal Prep classes. I’m not sure if other Y’s offer cooking classes, but it is a great way to get some kitchen experience!

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