Category: culinary school (Page 2 of 5)

Culinary School Update on Simple, Good & Tasty: Menu Planning Basics

Visit Simple, Good and Tasty for one of my last culinary school updates for the semester. This time we change gears as I share what I’ve learned from my menu planning course.

Our teacher provided us with an introduction to menu planning that included topics such as pricing strategies, truthfulness in item descriptions, and basic design principles. Then, he set us loose to create our own. 
I’ll meet you there. 

A Few Tastes: Los Paisanos Taqueria, Sun Street Breads & A Sysco Food Show

This past weekend, Jake and I headed to the Twin Cities for the wedding reception we never had. We had said our vows in October at a small ceremony and were finally able to extend the celebration to family and friends.

Neither Jake or I enjoy planning party details such as color schemes and table decorations, so our family turned the reception into a beautiful, food-filled surprise at the Embassy Suites near the airport where Jake’s uncle manages the food services. Bites from the evening included Rustica’s bittersweet chocolate cookies, absinthe cocktails, crab salad served in tiny, edible spoons, and rosy roast beef with my favorite creamy horseradish sauce. I’ll share more as we collect photos from friends. We are continually humbled by the kindness and generosity of our family and friends and extend our gratitude to everyone who planned and participated in the reception.

We stayed with both of our families, who spoiled with home cooked foods. We also managed to grab a few meals out. Here are a few tastes from the past week:

Los Paisanos Taqueria, East St. Paul, MN
Tortas are essentially impossible to purchase in Fargo-Moorhead, so I always find one whenever we stay with my husbands folks in East St. Paul. A while back, I wrote about a torta I ordered from By More Taqueria. Afterwards, a reader recommended Los Paisanos Taqueria, noting that it’s his favorite place to grab a torta in East St. Paul. This was my second visit since he left the comment.

The restaurant is located down the road from the Rainbow Foods on Arcade. It’s painted in bright colors and looks a little worn. Those who are concerned about sanitation might notice the current ServSafe Food Handler certification prominently displayed near the register. My typical order of a small horchata and beef milenesa torta costs about $10.

The sandwich is the size of my face. The bottom bun is spread with re-fried beans while the top covers layers of avocado, cheese, shredded lettuce, mayonnaise, and pickled jalapenos. My favorite part is the thin beef cutlet and its crisp breading that’s heated on the griddle. Don’t hesitate to ask for a small cup of the spicy red salsa to dip the sandwich in if it’s not included in your take-out bag. There are tables for customers who want to dine-in, but I find the restaurant smells strongly of fruity air freshener. Service has always been friendly. 
Sun Street Breads, South Minneapolis, MN
My husband’s found a friend in Sun Street Bread’s breakfast biscuit sandwiches. He remembered enjoying one earlier this winter and wanted to return for our first post-reception meal. You know it’s good when Andrew Zimmern continues to mention Sun Street as one of his favorite bakeries. He even specifically mentioned the egg biscuit sandwich on his list of “personal bests.” 
On this visit, Jake ordered the Southern Fried Biscuit ($7.50) to soak up the beverages from the previous evening. 
A tender, toasted biscuit, runny fried egg, bacon, fried chicken and gravy laden with chunks of sausage. I feel my arteries constrict just looking at this photo. My goodness, it was really good. Especially that peppery country gravy.
I’m not sure this side of fruit ($3.50) offset all of the Southern fried, but it was generously portioned and of high quality. I ordered from Sun Street’s lunch menu and tried the Steak & Swiss ($9.75), their version of a cheese steak. Ironically, I wasn’t crazy about the bread because its texture reminded me of Olive Garden breadsticks (thought it was certainly acceptable), but liked the other components. Especially the flavorful beef, spicy pickled banana peppers, and swiss cheese sauce. 
Each lunch sandwich comes with one’s choice of fries, salad, fruit or soup ($1 upcharge). I was pleasantly surprised by the large size of my accompanying salad and its freshness. A scoop of beans was a welcome gift of randomness. They tasted of smoked paprika. 
Sun Street is very busy during weekend brunches, but during the past few times I’ve dined, there I’ve never had trouble finding a table. 
Sysco Food Show

As culinary students, we’re invited to attend Fargo-Moorhead’s food service shows for free. Last semester, we visited US Food’s sprawling show held in the Fargo Dome and this week, we attended Sysco’s show at Scheel’s Arena. I have a mixed feelings about Sysco. Obviously, they make purchasing convenient for restaurants, but also seem to be making efforts in purchasing meats from distributors who raise their animals humanely, supporting sustainable seafood practices, and increasing partnerships with local distributors. On the other hand, I wish more restaurants would more intentionally seek food from local suppliers and farms and make their own foods from scratch instead of relying on pre-made convenience products. But what kind of fool turns down free food? Albeit, most of the food is frozen, canned, jarred, of a mix, or pre-baked, but it’s fun, nevertheless. 
Most of the food vendors at these shows are gracious to the roaming pack of hungry students and provide engaging interactions. Some are a little less thrilled. On this visit, I tried to restrain myself to a walleye finger, lemonade, iced tea, a few nachos with self-serve cheese sauce, and a dinner mint. One can certainly go overboard sampling from the platters of most any fried food imaginable, cheeses, and desserts.

As the token Korean, I took it upon myself to try a Korean empanada, a new product from one of Sysco’s internationally-themed lines. I found that it tasted surprisingly. . . Korean. Nicely done. My classmates seemed content to end their tours with ice cream cones dispensed by the Blue Bunny cart. 

As Promised: A Recipe For Pistachio-Crusted Citrus Cheesecake

In culinary school last semester, I spent a couple months in baking lab and bragged about making this fantastic pistachio-crusted citrus cheesecake.

I even promised to share the recipe, soon. Apparently, “soon” means five months later.

It’s worth the wait.

Typically, I don’t order cheesecake because I find it overly rich and cloyingly sweet. In my worst nightmares, I’m being forced to eat a brick of cheesecake in a flavor like mocha-nut-fudge-bomb, or something that might be served at The Cheesecake Factory.

This cheesecake is much lighter and gently flavored with citrus zest, while a thin nut crust replaces the heavy cookie crusts. For those like myself who struggle eating super sweet desserts, I’d recommend serving this cheesecake with a tart berry sauce.

When we made this cheesecake in class, the student in charge of purchasing bought small bags of shell-on pistachios. I spent a long time shelling the nuts until we reached one pound, so buy shelled pistachios if you can. If the nuts are salted, they’ll add further contrast to the sweet cream cheese filling.

Late is better than never, so here’s the recipe, as promised.

Pistachio-Crusted Citrus Cheesecake
Adapted from the recipe for Pistachio Citrus Cheesecake, recipe 35.22, published in On Cooking: A Textbook Of Culinary Fundamentals, 4th Edition.

The original recipe makes 4, ten-inch cakes. I halved the recipe for home use. Use any type of citrus zest and feel free to combine different types of citrus zests. Grate it finely or further chop with a knife because large pieces of zest, though pretty, will remain chewy. The original recipe also instructs one NOT to use springform pans. I suppose springforms might ruin the delicate nut crust.

Butter, melted (salted or unsalted). Enough to coat the insides of the pans.
1/2 lb pistachios, roughly ground. We used a food processor.
3 lb. 5 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 oz. flour, sifted
1 lb. sugar
9 eggs
5 oz. heavy cream
4 Tb. citrus zest, finely grated.


  1. Preheat oven to 325℉.
  2. Generously smear the insides of the cake pans with melted butter. This will help the nuts stick to the pan and form a crust.
  3. Evenly cover the buttered cake pan with nuts, including the bottom and sides. 
  4. Beat the softened cream cheese until light and smooth. Then, mix in the sifted flour and sugar. 
  5. Beat in the eggs, two at a time. 
  6. Stir in the cream and citrus zests. 
  7. Pour mixture into prepared cake pans.
  8. Place cake pans in a larger pan. Create a water bath by filling the larger pan with about an inch of water. 
  9. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the cheesecake is set. Add more water to the water bath if it evaporates.
  10. Cool, cut, and serve the cake. We cut slices from the pan and served, but you could invert the cheesecake onto a platter and serve crust-side up. 

Culinary School Update: On Poultry and Peking Ducks

Join me at Simple, Good and Tasty where I share highlights from our poultry unit.

During the past half-semester, I worked hard to bounce back from my first “F,” ever, broke down my first chicken, and learned how to make Peking duck. 
You can, in fact, make a pretty decent Peking duck at home if you have an air compressor or a bicycle pump. 
Read more here
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