I take a cooking class and get drunk on olive oil

I haven’t taken a cooking class since Home Ec, so when a group of my girl friends decided to host a get-together at the Whole Foods demonstration kitchen, I was excited.

The evening’s theme was Spanish tapas, and our chef Hillori explained that tapas were small bites eaten in bars and were traditionally made on large platters and served with toothpicks. Establishments used the honor system; at the end of the night, you’d bring up your pile of toothpicks to be counted so that you could pay for what you ate.

Luckily, we had no such system tonight to keep track of the amount we ate, otherwise my toothpick pile might have looked more like a mountain by the end of the evening!

We started by making prosciutto, manchego and fig tartines. We combined butter with fig preserves and spread over small pieces of baguette. Then, we topped those with prosciutto (can also use Serrano ham) and pieces of manchego cheese (a hard cheese that Hillori cleverly sliced with a vegetable peeler). Once plated, the tartines were drizzled with olive oil and topped with salt and pepper.

We then made a few things to accompany some of the later dishes: almond and parsley salsa verde, and lemon and garlic aioli. We made piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese and served them with the salsa verde, then garlic shrimp with sherry and fresh parsley. Lastly, we sampled spicy chorizo served with the aioli for dipping.

I felt like I was on the set of a cooking show from the Food Network, except this time, I could ask the chef a question and get an answer right away, it was great. I kept leaning forward in my seat to get a better look at the food preparation, forgetting about the ceiling mirror that offered a better view.

Everything was rich and delicious, and I love that the class forced me to step outside my comfort zone and try things I normally wouldn’t. I used ingredients that I would never think to buy, or use. And I found several uses for the parsley that’s growing rampant in the garden right now.

On all the dishes, olive oil was used in abundance, something that bothered me at first, but I told myself to go with it. When in Spain… right? Besides, the liquor license for the demonstration room was still in the works, so we couldn’t yet sip on Spanish wine while we did our cooking. By the end of the night, I was so stuffed with the flavors of Spain, I felt like I had drank a bottle of wine myself.

The girls and I made a date with Hillori for another class focusing on making quick and easy desserts, and my sweet tooth can’t wait.