learn… taste… enjoy!

June 30, 2010

Our local natural foods co-op offers classes through their community learning center. I found out about these classes because my friend Kristen (My S.F. Top Chef Tour partner in crime) purchased  a Summer Taco and Salsa Party class for both of us. Birthday presents that keep on giving… gotta love that!

The class was a two-hour instructional class.

We walked through the door, got checked in and were given our recipe handouts with step by step cooking instructions. We were also given a list of classes through September. I already have my eye on several classes. We weren’t sure what to expect. We picked two seats with decent views and waited for others to join our round table.

It was 100 plus degrees outside and there were 35 students in the class. They had air conditioning, but the heat from the cooking and bodies pretty much killed that. A ceiling fan would have been a great addition.

The co-op offers hands-on classes, but this one was an instructor lead demo class. The girls that sat at our table were veterans. They all preferred this format over the hands-on format. They said in the hands on classes, you break into sub groups and each group is responsible for one portion of the dish – you don’t learn how to make the entire meal and it’s hard to take notes.

Our instructor was Chef Gigi. She graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco in 1981.  She’s been in the restaurant industry for over 30 years as a chef and manager. She currently owns a catering business, a food safety business, teaches and writes restaurant reviews and recipes for a local paper and magazine.

I’m going to spend the next couple of posts highlighting each of the taco dishes and sauces that were made. She said that she was all about sharing recipes. All 3 recipes were delicious, but I definitely had a favorite.

Besides the 3 tacos and sauces – she showed us how to make our own salsa and pico de gallo.

First up: Salsa

The below recipe makes about 2 pints.

5-6 Roma Tomatoes – She prefers Roma because the skin is firm and this works well for charred salsa.
1 Medium Onion – Quartered – Her little tidbit – the more torpedo shaped the onion, the stronger the flavor – she likes sweet and rounded because they are more mild.
1 Jalapeno (Small) – She said the same rings true for the jalapeno – the pointier the bottom, the hotter it will be.
3-4 Tomatillos (Medium) – take the paper off, wash and make sure you dry them really well.

Heat stainless steel or cast iron skillet to extreme HOT! – You can’t use a non-stick pan because it won’t be able to handle the heat and you need the heat for a good char. She has a dedicated salsa pan. She wipes the pan out with a cloth, it never hits the water. The pan definitely looked loved.

Add veggies and char until there is a quarter to 1/2 dollar size char on at least 3 sides. She said for one time in your life you want your veggies to BURN.

She then placed the charred veggies into a glass dish and added the following:

1 1/2 Teaspoons Granulated Garlic – Don’t use fresh because you need the garlic to melt into the charred veggies. (Chevy’s secret)
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
2 Teaspoons Salt
Pinch of Oregano and Cumin
Chopped Cilantro

Once all of the seasonings have been added – refrigerate overnight. She said that it’s really important for the veggies to marinate in the spices and be cooled overnight. The next step is to add them to your food processor. You will probably need to do it in a couple of batches. Do not over process, you want it to be a little on the chunky side. (As pictured above)

Second up: Pico de Gallo

The below recipe makes 1 pint.

3 Firm Roma Tomatoes, diced – again she likes the thickness of the Roma skin and she likes that they have less seeds.
1/2 Cup Onion – diced – she prefers a sweet onion.
Jalapeno, diced – amount depends on heat level)  – she used a very small one.
Chopped Cilantro to taste
Juice of 1 Lime
Salt to Taste

Mix together in a small bowl and refrigerate.

Stay tuned for the taco recipes over the next few days. We definitely had a great time in the class – our table was pretty fun. They also were very accommodating of me snapping photos like I’d never seen salsa before, LOL.  I shared my blog via my iPhone and one of the girls copied down the name of my fancy chopper – she’s excited to make zucchini pasta. It was a fun girl’s night out and I’m looking forward to sharing the rest of the recipes with you guys.



  1. so which one was your favorite?!

    or havent you mentioned that yet?!

    the salso looks amazing tho! ill have to give that a try!

    • I had a favorite taco and will be posting the recipe for it tomorrow. 😉 Come on, I know you are on the edge of your seat waiting in anticipation, hah! Gotta catch up with you – will send an email soon.

  2. This looks like so much fun, I will have to see if they offer stuff like this in my area.
    The salsa and pico de gallo look delicious. The recipes seem pretty similar, so which one tasted better?

    • It really was a lot of fun. I liked the salsa because of the char – it was the perfect texture – I don’t like super chunky salsa, so it was perfect. The pico tasted great in the tacos and was a much easier process. I’ll need to buy a new “salsa” pan – I’ve been wanting a cast iron skillet, so I need to look for sales.

      • I don’t care for chunky salsa either that’s why I came up with one that eliminates that LOL No cooking for mine though.

        BTW have you checked out my giveway today? You can win a $40.00 gift certificate to csn stores which if you won you could put towards that cast iron skillet ;o)

  3. Mmmmm…tacos. Definitely one of my favorite foods. It’s gone down a bit on the list since I discovered sushi, but still top 3 for sure! When I was younger I always asked my Mom to make tacos when I came over. Actually, I take that back – I STILL do that!

    • Sushi does top the list for me too! But like you, I enjoy a good taco for sure!

  4. OMG! We had so much fun! It was toasty inside, but we learned a lot of great tips and weren’t overwhelmed. I know that I could make it all at home and look forward to sharing with friends! I liked the salsa best too…great flavor! No more comments until future posts reveal more… 🙂

    P.S. Happy 40th! ;0

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