Do you love to cook? Or, is cuisine so far from your comfort zone that you normally wouldn’t consider turning on the stove, let alone make something called “chawli”? Either way, League of Kitchens can help to nudge you in the right direction. League of Kitchens is an immersive culinary adventure where New York City immigrants teach intimate workshops right in their own homes. We recommend, a "Taste Of" class for a shorter, more topline session that lasts 2.5 hours and yields 2-3 dishes. The environment is casual, yet instructive, and makes participants feel confident no matter what level “chef” they are. The "Immersion Workshops," which last 5+ hours, and produce several courses, are a bit more intense, but really allow you to hone your craft.
We had the opportunity to participate in A Taste of Indian Cooking with Yamini; a lovely way to spend a fall Sunday afternoon. This shorter session allows you to grasp simple concepts, and familiarize yourself with ingredients you may not be used to working with. For us, this included grating ginger that we used in almost every recipe, as well as learning to work with dough in a non-baking environment. The atmosphere of the class is relaxed and warm, and, if we had to choose an Indian grandmother to show us how to roll dough into delectable roti, we would definitely want it to be Yamini.
The menu for our session included green chawli, long beans cooked with shredded coconut, and spinach roti, a whole wheat flatbread with spinach. Furthermore, spices play a crucial role in Indian cooking, and make up the core of each recipe. For dessert (which we actually prepared first), we had a seviya (vermicelli) kheer, a milk pudding with roasted vermicelli, cardamom, nuts and raisins.
The most rewarding aspect of participating in a League of Kitchens workshop is the one-on-one guidance you receive. It's hard to obtain this unique feature if you're simply following a recipe. While Yamini makes it look simple, rolling dough into thin circles is an art form. It wasn’t until she specifically designated the amount of pressure necessary to apply to the roti with our rolling pins, or specified how long to let the dough sit in the skillet, that we were able to complete these tasks correctly. The best part was getting to taste the fruits of your labor with new acquaintances and sit down to an enjoyable “family” dinner.
This is the spectacular experience that League of Kitchens offers – you are given the unique opportunity to enhance your cooking techniques with the help of someone who has been making these dishes their entire life. Participants leave with a booklet of their teachers' family history and recipes, and, ultimately have had the chance to gain greater knowledge about and exposure to a culture that was previously foreign to them. A workshop would make a fantastic gift, and is perfect not only for those who love cooking, but also for the curious who are interested in trying something new.