Winter to Spring Victoria Food Culture 1 Cooking with Don Genova

As much as Victoria B.C. Canada is near the nerve center for coffee culture in North America (with nothing to be ashamed of from a Worldwide perspective…) local culinary culture is something that is fairly new – at least for the amateur like me.

And with the arrival of Cook Culture on Blanshard between Yates and Johnson, culinary learning has taken an uptick. And I am not saying that culinary learning is not available elsewhere in Victoria – because it is – but it either not well publicized (like some of the UVic programs) or it’s a professional caliber that is really more suited to the career cooking professional – the chef. Camosun is one place where you can take some serious chef training or community based cooking classes – all great.

Don Genova Cook Culture 2011 Food classesWhat Cook Culture offers are single evening workshops more suited to the rest of us – slightly older folks like me (and my much younger wife) who are already pretty food smart who want to learn some more tricks or hone our existing skills.

Photo right – Mill Bay’s Don Genova was the affable and engaging host of Pasta 101 at Cook Culture in Victoria.

Cook Culture delivers in cupfuls.
Our first class (tonight) was Pasta 101 with food journalist Don Genova – in a fun, informal and intimately small group of 12 in a large and brightly lit gourmet professional kitchen.
Here’s what we did. We all got a chance to participate in the creation of a basic egg pasta dough. Don’s pacing was good and informative – we were all into it – and everyone has a chance to ask as many questions as they want, to participate to whatever degree they are comfortable or to just sit back and observe. Tonight just about everyone jumped in.

Our first dish after the basic sheets of pasta were produced was Tortelli di Zuca – a broadly interpreted recipe that features pumpkin or squash, olive oil, crushed amaretti cookies, a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon, beaten egg – under a sauce of butter and sage leaves. And topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
It’s brilliant and simple.

Second up, our group created some mighty fine looking spaghetti that Don turned into a quick Spaghetti with proscuitto ham, lemon zest, chopped parsley and the ever present Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Thirdly, a Fettucini with a duo of pesto and turkey ragu.
The fresh pesto was whipped up with fresh garlic, basil, olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and walnuts. Who needs pine nuts in a pesto? Walnuts are cheaper.

With some leftover time, Don expedited a pasta based dessert using (correct me if I am wrong Don…) some vermicelli pasta in something called Hazelnut Noddle pudding (with some Genova variations) and drizzled with a fresh Crème anglaise. Yummy.

Everyone had fun. Don Genova is the kind of food teacher that talks to his students, not down to them – in a lively and friendly environment. I can totally imagine spending some more time at Cook Culture (with Don and some of the other great chef’s and teachers.)