Culinary courses of your dreamsIt seems a...


Culinary courses of your dreams

It seems a lot of people (present company not excluded) nurture secret dreams of being the chef at a famous restaurant, wearing the tallest toque and brandishing a chinoise. In reality, however, some of these same people (present company not excluded) quail when faced with turning an onion into "fine dice," deglazing a roast pan, or planning a week's menu in advance.

If you count yourself among this clan, or if you simply care about cooking and eating better, you should certainly check out the mini-course schedule at the Baltimore International Culinary College. The courses, under the general direction of chef Daniel Lundberg, are part of the academic curriculum at BICC; they are open to the public at a cost of $10 per session. They're held at the college's new cooking demonstration theater at 206 Water St. (There's a parking garage right next door.)

Subjects, all taught by faculty chefs, include Principles of Cooking, Vegetable Cutting and Garniture, Cooking with Herbs and Spices, Understanding Shellfish and Mollusks, Cooking with Beef I and II, Menu Planning, Irish Cookery (BICC has a campus in Virginia, Ireland, where students can learn classical cuisine in the setting of an 18th century estate), Vegetarian Entrees -- that's just the beginning.

A sample course, Cooking Healthy and Natural, offered valuable tips on substituting other ingredients for fats and sodium and other cooking methods for sauteing and frying. Chef George Keeney produced an array of amazingly delicious foods. Among them were a low-cal Bananas Foster (he used honey and frozen custard sauce), a piquant spaghetti sauce (he used bulgur wheat soaked in beef stock to add texture and flavor), and creamed chicken over rice pilaf (he used skim milk and a "slurry" of cornstarch and skim milk).

Along the way, he offered suggestions for making changes in eating and cooking habits: Make changes gradually; don't deprive yourself, but "budget" special foods wisely; use a spray-on cooking oil rather than oil or butter; cut back on red meat.

Equally valuable were the general tips that simply came along in the course of the discussion: How to wash lettuce (fill the sink with water, put in the leaves, agitate gently with your hands, remove to a colander, drain sink -- all the sand and grit will have sunk to the bottom); how to mince an onion (trim, peel, cut in half lengthwise, slice finely widthwise, turn and slice finely lengthwise, use holding hand like a "hawk's claw," don't raise knife blade too high, keep blade in contact with holding fingers).

Courses are offered Monday through Friday at 9:45 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and Monday through Thursday at 3 p.m. For a complete schedule, call (410) 752-1446.

/# (P.S. You get to eat the food.) If you're an average American, you probably eat way too much salt -- as much as 6 to 18 grams a day, instead of the half-gram your body actually requires. The American Heart Association wants you to cut it out -- and they've designated Wednesday as Great Salt-Out Day to remind you.

Restaurants throughout the state will remove the salt shakers from their tables to prove that food can taste fine without salt. The event is co-sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and Parsley Patch Salt-Free Blends, made by McCormick.

Excessive salt consumption has been linked to high blood pressure in some salt-sensitive people. Here's what a heart association booklet called "How You Can Help Your Doctor Treat Your High Blood Pressure" says to people who have high blood pressure, or hypertension:

*You can't ignore high blood pressure; it won't simply go away.

*It can be effectively treated.

*Treating high blood pressure can mean a longer, healthier life.

That booklet, plus two others -- "Salt, Sodium and Blood Pressure" and "Now You're Cookin' " -- are available from the American Heart Association. Call (800) HEART-03 for copies or for more information about high blood pressure and sodium.

;/ Here's a recipe from "Now You're Cookin' ":

Tarragon chicken

Serves six.

1 chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, cut up, skin and visible fat removed; or 3 whole chicken breasts, split, skinned, trimmed of fat

1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced

3-4 shallots, peeled and cut into thirds (optional)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth

1 teaspoon dry tarragon

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

fresh watercress, for garnish (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Wash chicken and pat dry. Place in shallow baking pan. Sprinkle shallots and onions around and under chicken pieces. Pour oil and wine or vermouth over chicken. Sprinkle with tarragon and black pepper. Cover baking pan tightly with foil. Bake 45 minutes. Remove foil. Turn oven up to 375 degrees. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes. If desired, garnish with fresh watercress. Cookbook author Susan Belsinger will be signing copies of her new book, "Herbs in the Kitchen" (Interweave Press, $24.95), written with Carolyn Dille, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today at the Book Revue, 8225 Main St., Ellicott City. She is also the author of "Flowers in the Kitchen" and "The Chesapeake Cookbook."

The new book includes more than 200 recipes, plus tips on

growing and harvesting herbs. Among the recipes are dilled ricotta torte, sage apple cake and rosemary ragout.

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