Cooking Class
Chef Ivan Flowers

In the last class I taught you how to make an elegant casserole. I do hope some of you wowed your friends and family with the dish. This class will be the first of few I will do with this theme. A couple of my readers, Carolyn Adair Cooke and Krista Anderson Belling suggested this idea and I loved it. Times sure have changed since I was in college in New York. Back then if you had a mini-fridge and a toaster oven in your dorm room it was a huge deal. Now dorms have kitchens! What a fab idea and a wonderful way to get younger people cooking. I created the following recipes to be healthy, quick and with a minimum amount of ingredients and equipment. All recipes serve four.

Let’s get cooking!

The first dish actually requires no cooking; it is a quick Ahi Poke. Poke (pronounced Pokee) originated in Hawaii and literally means chunk. It refers to any dish that has meat or seafood cut into small chunks and served with sauce. For this poke, you will need: one pound Ahi tuna, one tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce, ½ teaspoon sesame oil, two tablespoons canola oil, one tablespoon minced scallion, one large avocado, juice of ½ a lime, ½ cup mayonnaise, two tablespoons Sriracha, salt, small bowl, medium bowl, large bowl, whisk, large spoon, knife and cutting board.

The first thing you want to do is create the dressings. You do this so the flavors have time to marry and develop. In a small bowl whisk together the sesame oil, canola oil and soy sauce. Please do not substitute olive oil for the canola oil. Unlike olive oil, canola oil has a neutral flavor that won’t interfere with the other flavors in the dish.

Next, in a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and the Sriracha. Now mince the scallions and dice the avocado. On the diced avocado you want to squeeze the lime and salt to taste. The lime will keep the avocado from oxidizing and the salt enhances its flavor.

Set these aside and dice the Ahi. Make your cuts as uniform as possible. This is always important, but especially so in this dish because you want every bite to have an even distribution of ingredients.

Place the Ahi in the large bowl and add in the scallion, avocado and sesame oil dressing. Mix with a large spoon. That’s it! Serve chilled with a drizzle of the Sriracha mayonnaise.

The second dish is Pasta Can-Do. This recipe takes advantage of low cost canned foods. Yes, canned food DOES have a place in cooking. For this recipe you will need: two cans no salt added petite diced tomatoes (14.5 ounce), one can low sodium black olives (6 ounce), one can no-salt added sliced mushrooms (8 ounce), three garlic cloves, two teaspoons dried Italian seasoning, three tablespoons olive oil, one 16 ounce package whole wheat linguini, salt, pepper, large sauce pan with a lid, large sauté pan with a lid, cutting board, colander, knife, large bowl, wooden spoon and can opener.

First you want to get your pasta cooking. I chose whole wheat because it is much higher in fiber and protein than white pasta. Fill your saucepan with cold water and add a generous amount of salt. You add the salt because this is the only chance you will get to season the pasta. Once the water is boiling, add in the pasta, give it a stir and cook uncovered until it is al dente. Al dente means “to the tooth,” so the pasta is cooked so it is still firm when bitten. Drain the pasta in a colander, reserving one cup of the pasta water.

Next mince your three garlic cloves and slice the olives. In the sauté pan add in the olive oil and put it over low heat. Add in the garlic and the Italian herbs and let it cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is soft, but not browned. This will take about 3-4 minutes. You put the herbs in with the garlic so they can flavor the oil. Once the garlic is cooked, add in the tomatoes, mushrooms and olives. Stir to combine and increase heat to medium-high and cover. Bring this to a simmer and then uncover, stir and reduce heat to medium. Cook this until desired consistency. Before adding pasta, salt and pepper to taste.

Once it is ready, stir the pasta into the sauce in the sauté pan with the heat on low. You do this because it allows every strand of pasta to get coated with the sauce. At this point, if you want a saucier pasta use some of the reserved pasta water. This is an old trick that adds in flavor and a bit of the pasta starch into the sauce. Once all is combined, put into a large bowl and enjoy! I like to serve this with some freshly grated Parmesan.

The final dish is Eggs-cellent Dinner. This is a recipe for a Frittata, which in Italian means fried. It is a baked egg dish that is wonderful because you can add basically any of your fave ingredients into it! For this recipe you will need: eight large eggs, two teaspoons unsalted butter, two teaspoons olive oil,  ½ cup cream or milk, one cup shredded mozzarella, one cup fave cooked veggies or meats, large bowl, salt, pepper, rubber spatula, whisk and 12 inch oven safe sauté pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl crack all the eggs and add in the cream. Whisk this together until just beaten. Over beating the eggs will result in a dense Frittata.  Now add in the shredded mozzarella, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and your veggies and or meats and combine. Next add the butter and olive oil into your sauté pan. You want to use unsalted butter because that way you control the seasoning of the dish. You use the olive oil so the butter has a higher smoking point (it won’t burn). Put the pan over medium-high heat and once the butter is melted, add in the egg mixture. Using the spatula stir the eggs a couple of times and then let them cook. Once the eggs start to pull away from the side of the pan (about 5-7 minutes) put the pan into the oven and cook until set, about 15 minutes. That’s it! You can serve this warm or at room temp. I like to eat it with a nice mixed green salad.

There you have it, three quick and healthy dinners ideal for dorm room cooking. Once you master these recipes and techniques, have some fun with the recipes and make them your own. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake that is how you learn. Remember, as with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what helps you create delicious meals you’ll never forget.

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Chef Flowers has over 25 years of fine cuisine experience. The former Executive Chef at Top of The Market, San Diego, also owned Fournos restaurant in Sedona, Arizona, named a top 25 restaurant in Arizona. He was also Executive Chef at L’Auberge de Sedona, the AAA Four-Diamond, Four Star award winning restaurant. Flowers has created extraordinary cuisine for some of the finest restaurants in Arizona, including T. Cooks at Scottsdale's Royal Palms Resort and the Phoenician's Mary Elaine's and Different Pointe of View.