Lebanese Cooking 101
A little over a year ago I fell in love with Tawlet and their Lebanese-style weekend brunch. Since then, I’ve been there quite a few times and it never disappoints. The food is always fresh and abundant, and the setting is just perfect. This week I went back with my friend Jodi and her out-of-town visitors, but this time the scenario was a little different: it was a Monday night and we were doing the cooking!
Tawlet offers cooking classes where, for a very reasonable fee, you get the whole restaurant to yourself while you and your friends learn Lebanese cooking from one of the resident cooks. There are various menus to choose from, or you can tell them something that you’ve tried and want to learn how to make and they’ll customize a cooking class for you. We were debating between a class that was all about the various types of kibbeh or the class called “Lebanese 101,” which is an introduction to the most typical mezze. In the end we went the Lebanese 101 with a meat kibbeh dish thrown in.
Jodi, Ted, Bethany, and I arrived on time to be greeted by our cooking instructor, Georgina. We were quickly given aprons and hats to wear and were sent over to the preparation area where cutting boards and ingredients were ready for us.
If I expected the cooking class to be something like a cooking show with all of the steps explained in detail and the rational and science behind everything clearly explained, it was a bit more like cooking with a favorite aunt who was passing on a family recipe. Georgina let us help as much (or as little) as we pleased, sometimes stopping to explain why we were doing something (you wash the parsley in salt water for “hygiene”) and other times saying nothing unless we asked (So, why are we puncturing the eggplant with knives?).
In addtion to the meat kibbeh we had tabbouleh, kibbeh batata, and moutabbal on the menu. We got started on pieces of all the dishes at once. If you didn’t know Lebanese food well, it might have been hard to keep track of which ingredients went with which dish. (Later we discovered that Georgina has impeccable timing as all four dishes finished one right after the other.)
We chopped, washed, stirred, laughed, and of course took a ton of pictures (with multiple devices each–our teacher was incredibly patient with us!).
An hour and a half later, after the four dishes were done (and we’d posed for a picture), we sat down to a lovely meal of Lebanese mezze and 961 beer. So delicious!
After dinner there were various desserts to sample as well as cherries just picked from the village of one of the staff members.
I’m already thinking about diving into more Lebanese cuisine with another cooking class. I hear they have a class for 10 participants which includes a full sit-down meal at the end. Birthday dinner party, perhaps?
You can read Jodi’s account (and see her lovely photos) of the evening here.