The Tragic Optimist

what I learned at the cooking class – part I: the cooking

When Chris bought our Big Green Egg, it came with a coupon for a free cooking class at the store where we bought it.  We’ve taken a couple of awesome classes there before, and yesterday evening, we cashed in the coupon and took a class on grilling vegetables.This was a participation class, which meant we actually did a lot of the work and cooking ourselves rather than just watching someone show us how to cook.    I have to admit, I was originally skeptical.  I grill vegetables a lot, so I wasn’t sure how much I’d learn.  I’m happy to report that I was extremely wrong – I learned so much.  And got to eat everything.  And it was good.

What we cooked – and what I learned about it:

  • Steamed and grilled artichokes – I like artichokes a lot, but I’d never bothered to try to cook them, it just seemed like too much work.  The class didn’t really change my thoughts on that a lot.  Artichokes are a pain – both in how much work you have to do, and in how much they can hurt you with those stupid thorns.  That said, steaming them, and then putting them on the grill for just a bit of char, and to evaporate the water from steaming, made for a really tasty artichoke.
  • Lemon aioli – an aioli is just a mayonnaise with some garlic in it.  We made the aioli from scratch, which I’d never done before.  It turns out that most food processors come with an oil dripper, either in the lid of the processor, or in the bottom of the pusher that you use to push food into the food tube with.  Basically, you run the processor with the egg yolk and water and lemon, and then put the oil in the oil dripper and run the processor continuously as the oil slowly drips in and emulsifies.  It was cool.  Science in action creating yumminess.
  • Oaxaca Grilled corn – you can grill corn in the husk or already husked, and I’d always done the former.  In this class, we husked the corn, then threw it in boiling water for maybe 3 minutes and then grilled it.  Again, the grilling in this case was mostly just to caramelize the corn just a bit.  Then we rolled it in butter.  Then we brushed it with mayonnaise.  Then we rolled it in cotija cheese.  Then we sprinkled it with ancho and a little lime.  Oh. My. God.  It sounds over the top, and it was, but it was so, so very good.
  • Grilled Green Beans with charred red pepper and onion dip – this was the one dish we didn’t make, but they had it ready for us as appetizers when we first got there.  They tossed trimmed green beans with grapeseed oil and salt and pepper and then threw them on the grill for 2 – 4 minutes.  Awesomely addicted appetizer.  I’m totally doing this for a party some time.
  • Bonus note on the grapeseed oil – they recommend grapeseed oil for grilling because it’s a neutral tasting oil, and it has a higher smoke point than canola oil.  Good to know.  It is expensive, but apparently you can get really big jugs of it so it’s a little less expensive.  Probably worth it if we’re doing a lot of grilling this summer.
  • Hot and spicy grilled sweet potatoes with piquillo pepper ketchup – we cut the sweet potatoes in to wedges, tossed with oil, ancho chile powder, chipotle chile pepper, and smoked black pepper, and salt.  Then grilled them from 10 – 15 minutes.  While these were good, they were my least favorite, only because they were flavors I’ve had before, and struck me as a recipe I might have tried on my own.  Still, I’ll probably make them because I love sweet potatoe fries.
  • Charred romaine salad with smoked tomato vinaigrette – this is super simple and amazing.  So you cut the hearts of romaine in half lenthwise.  Then you put them cut side down on a hot grill for 30 seconds and then flip – you should have charred bits.  Then you chop the romaine.  Toss with the vinaigrette – this had smoked tomatoes vinegar, garlic, chili, sugar, onion, and tomato paste.  So dang flavorful.  I love the depth of flavor with the romaine being charred.  This is being added to the list of things to serve at barbecues.
  • Portobella sliders with basil pesto – we made a red onion jam – basically cooking onion, thyme, sugar, balsamic vinegar salt and pepper until is all soft and yummy.  Then you grill portobella mushroom caps (with the gills removed), and then put the onion jam in the mushroom.  Top with cheese.  Put on a top rack in the grill to melt the cheese.  By the way, that top shelf (warming rack) of grills is the hottest part of the grill when the lid is closed due to that whole heat rising thing – keep in mind so you don’t overcook things by setting them there.  Anyway, the mushroom caps go on toasted buns with butter lettuce and basil pesto.  A very, very good option if you’re doing burgers on the grill and have a couple of vegetarians – it’s a thousand times better than veggie burgers.  Plus that onion jam would be good on regular burgers, too (I imagine).

I wish I’d gotten pictures, but I was too busy participating and eating.  Tune in for part II, where I talk with the instructor about class design.



  1. Yum! That all sounds great. We totally want a grill to go with our new yard.

  2. That grilled corn and charred salad sounds amazing! I need to try these! If only I had a grill….Good thing our friends do!

  3. motherhoodandpotatoes

    I’m a little late in reading/commenting – thanks for posting this experience you had. The food sounds delicious especially the grilled sweet potatoes!

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