Date Night - Cooking Class

Bill and I have been long overdue for a date night. We were talking about what we wanted to, dinner (same old, same old); and I thought, we can do better than that. So, I signed us up for a cooking class!
Specifically we took the "Gourmet Couples" class at Sweet Basil in Scottsdale.

We arrived not knowing what to expect. We had taken a cooking class back in Milwaukee a few years ago, but we didn't actually get to cook at it (it was this one here that was more of an observation cooking class). We also noticed that we were quite a bit younger than the rest of the class. There was one couple around our age, but the rest of the class was all in their mid-60's at least.

We took our seats, and the instructor (Chef Dane Smith) explained that each couple would prepare a different recipe for the entire group. All in all we'd end up with a full three course meal for everybody. Here was our menu:

Roasted Cauliflower & Sesame Spread
Jicama & Mango Slaw
(served with Bay Moon, Sauvigonon Blanc 2013)

Mixed Seafood Grill with Paprika Lemon Dressing
Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes
Creamed Corn with Bacon & Leeks
Nutty Almond-Sesame Red Quinoa
(served with Black Mountain, Pinot Noir 2013)

Cherries with Cinnamon Dumplings

Bill and I volunteered to make the "Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes" side dish. Everybody got to work; but we soon realized that our dish would only take about 10 minutes to prepare, and we were probably a good hour and half from when we needed to even start it.

So, what to do?

We noticed another couple brought their own bottle of wine in, and we decided to follow suit. We ran next door to Safeway and picked up a bottle of Pinot Noir from Bill's favorite winery (see here). When we got back we opened up the bottle and shared with everyone. Boy, did that get the party started!

Everyone who wasn't cooking started drinking and talking, and I soon found myself having a great time with a bunch of people twice my age. I don't know if it was the booze, the company, or that we were all making something together, but I have never felt so at ease with a group of strangers before. After us, a few other couples decided to make wine-runs too, and everybody shared with everybody. It was actually pretty amazing.

The time flew by, and suddenly the first course was ready.
Roasted Cauliflower & Sesame Spread / Jicama & Mango Slaw
You may have noticed I only posted one cauliflower recipe last month (see here) for my Vegetable of the Month series. That's because I knew we would be doing this and decided to make the "Roasted Cauliflower & Sesame Spread" our second cauliflower recipe for the month (see end of post for the full recipe).

I thought the cauliflower spread ended up being only okay. I think I'm just not a huge fan of the cauliflower flavor, and it seems to be a really hard flavor to mask. I definitely liked the slaw better. I loved the jicama and mango flavors together. There was pepper in it too, but I'm not a pepper fan. I ended up just eating around those.

Pretty soon it was our turn to prepare the asparagus that would go with the entrée. It was super easy, and turned out great. Bill and I ended up "plating" all the entrées for everybody too.
Mixed Seafood Grill with Paprika lemon Dressing / Asparagus with Balsamic Tomatoes / Creamed Corn with Bacon & Leeks / Nutty Almond-Sesame Red Quinoa
The shrimp and calamari were delicious. There was also halibut (can't really see it on the plate here) that was only okay - kind of bland. The creamed corn was pretty good (the bacon helped), but I wasn't a fan of the quinoa. I've just never cared for it, and this dish was no exception. Obviously, the asparagus was delicious and by far the best side dish.

I should note that the entire class stopped to watch how the calamari was prepared. We were all mesmerized, and I can honestly say I would attempt making it from scratch now.  It's messy work, but I definitely think I could successfully remove the bones and ink sac from a squid. Never thought I'd be able to say that.

Finally, it was time for dessert.
Cherries with Cinnamon Dumplings
This was my favorite dish of the night! The homemade ice cream was delicious as is, but combining it with cinnamon dumplings and topping the entire thing with hot cherries - fabulous!!

All in all, this was a great date. It was social, interactive, fun, and we got a great meal out of it too! I can't recommend this class enough. If you're not local, I strongly suggest finding a cooking classes in your neighborhood for your next date night. You won't regret it!

Here's the cauliflower recipe, as promised. If we decide to make any of the other recipes from that night again, I'll be sure to post those too. Enjoy!

Roasted Cauliflower & Sesame Spread
1 head of cauliflower (2lbs), halved crosswise and thinly sliced
¼ cup vegetable oil
1½ TBSP minced fresh ginger
1½ tsp ground coriander
Kosher Salt
3 TBSP tahini (sesame) paste
3 TBSP fresh lemon juice
3 TBSP chopped cilantro
Sesame seeds
Pita bread or chips, for serving

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment.
2.  In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the oil, ginger and coriander, and season with salt. Spread the cauliflower on the baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice, until tender and lightly browned in spots. Let cool slightly.
3.  Transfer the cauliflower to a food processor. Add the tahini and lemon juice and pulse to a chunky puree; season with salt. Add the cilantro and pulse just until incorporated. Transfer the spread to a bowl and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve warm with pita bread or chips.
Make ahead: The sesame-cauliflower spread can be refrigerated overnight.


  1. That was a very fun evening. Wine always helps.