One of the great perks of my job is getting to attend La Cocina‘s montly cooking classes. The classes are held at La Cocina’s commercial kitchen and are taught by the participants in the incubator program. This month we traveled to the Soviet Bloc to cook some Russian and Georgian cuisine. I was particularly excited for this class because I’ve heard so many great things from my colleagues, and I’ve never tried Russian or Georgian food before.
Anna is from Russia and her company specializes in piroshki’s – meat or vegetarian filled buns. She sells her food out of 331 Cortland in Bernal Heights. Her goals for her businesses are to expand her catering business, and open a second location of her own.
Lali just started her new bussines, Lali’s, at La Cocina and she plans on developing it as a catering company. She is from Tbilisi, Georgia.
There were about 25 people in the class and we divided ourselves in half to work on the food. Peter and I headed to Lali’s side first to make Chebureki, lamb-filled dumplings. They are crescent-shaped and look like a flattened version of its cousin, the empanada.
Lali explained that Georgian’s typically do not deep fry their food. Chebureki is served as an appetizer at for special occassions. I feel like every culture has their own version of a deep fried, meat or vegetable filled appetizer. For example, FIlippino’s have lumpia, Chinese have spring rolls, and Argentinians have empanadas.
Chebureki is usually filled with ground lamb, but you can use any type of ground meat you like. Also, chebureki is fried very quickly – turned once or twice in the oil and quickly removed – so if you’re nervous about the meat not cooking through the trick is to flatten the dumplings. Lali did this before we threw them in the pot.
We rotated around the table helping with the next dish, which was the Georgian rice pilaf. The rice reminded me of Turkish and Persian pilaf’s I’ve had in the past. It kind of makes sense considering their proximity to these countries. I was very surprised to find out that Georgian food was much more influenced by Turkey, Iran, and Armenia more so than Russia.
Next, we helped with phkhali, which is a vegetable spread. The main ingredients were pureed, which included green beans and walnuts. But what stood out for me were the spices she included. Coriander, cilantro, and curry powder were added to the spread.
Finally, we worked on the Chakhobili.
Chakhobili is a very thick tomato-based chicken stew. The spices cilantro, coriander, and fenu are what give it its unique flavor. I am definitely adding this to my weekly dinner rotation.
Halfway through we switched and joined Anna. With Anna, we worked on chopping the vegetables for the egg and green onion piroshkis.
We then spooned filling into flattened out dough and folded them almost into a croissant shape.
Also, on her menu was the meat solyanka. This soup was amazing. It really surprised me because it didn’t taste like anything I’ve ever had before. It was very savory and tangy at the same time. The tanginess came from the 2 cups of pickle juice that were added to the soup. And, finally it was topped off with a dollop of sour cream. Honestly, don’t judge until you’ve tried.
I loved overhearing someone in the class say to a friend, “Oh, Anna says this soup is GREAT for hangovers.”
We didn’t finish cooking until close to 9:00 p.m., so I did NOT get a picture of the final product! This class was such a great experience, I wish they held the Russian/Georgian class more than once a year. If something like this sounds like fun to you, you can always sign up for future cooking classes at www.lacocinasf.org !