Smile Politely

Date Night: Learning to cook

I’ve been wanting to attend a cooking class at Harvest Market for some time now. I’ve known a few people who raved about it — “It’s such a great deal! Emily is amazing! You get so much food!” — so I was looking forward to checking it our for myself. Spoiler alert: It was everything I hoped it would be.

The Nook, located on the second floor of Harvest Market, is a full kitchen serving as an instructional/educational space for food and drink demonstrations, classes, promotional events, etc. Open since October 2016, all classes and events are led by a registered dietician who’s a full-time staff member at the Market.

There are a few ground rules you must know first:

  • A minimum class group of 5 is needed for private cooking demonstrations.
  • Final headcount, recipe selection, and payment in full are required no later than one week before class.
  • Cost is $10 per person.
  • Demonstrations are approximately 90 minutes long.
  • You can have drinks purchased downstairs or from the bar upstairs.

After reaching out to several friends I had a group of about 10 that wanted to join. Our first hurdle was scheduling. Emily Dupuis, the Registered Dietitian at Harvest Market, was completely booked about a month out. I’m not sure if that’s always the case, but it sounds like these classes are becoming pretty popular. You can also sign up for various themed cooking demos throughout the month (calendar of events is on the website). But be quick, they fill up fast!

Found on the website and also emailed upon scheduling is a cooking demo recipe index. Here you’ll find a lengthy list to choose from with themes like Viva la Vegetarian, BBQ Side Dishes, and DIY Pizza Pie!, just to name a few. Our group settled on Spanish Tapas which consisted of chorizo and cheese stuffed dates, roasted chickpeas, and patatas bravas with aioli, baked croquettes with a spicy chipotle dipping sauce.

Upon arriving we were warmly and cheerfully greeted by Dupuis who already had our place settings ready and food prepped. A few of us grabbed a drink at the bar before class started. Guests are seated at a long countertop that runs the length of the room. Behind, Dupuis works her magic for all to see. As I mentioned, the majority of food prep is done before the class arrives — potatoes were chopped, dates pitted, croquettes formed — that sort of thing. But, she does set aside some unassembled items to use during the class in order to help explain how to prepare. A bonus for our group was a big pan of asparagus she had left over from another class!

She first started with the veggies that needed to go in the oven (which is a magnificent convection oven by the way). Sprinkling in tips on oven temperature and the like, she walked us through each recipes’ ingredients and how to prep simply and effectively. While the potatoes and asparagus were roasting in the oven, we passed around a bowl of the roasted chickpeas. Coated in spices (smoked paprika, cayenne, cumin, salt/pepper) and maple syrup, they had been popped in the oven beforehand. They were crispy and savory-sweet — a wonderful pre-dinner snack that kept our hunger at bay while the rest cooked.

Croquettes are typically fried, but in her version, they are baked. Ground turkey was mixed with spices, bell pepper, scallions, and manchego cheese and formed into little oblong balls that were then dipped in flour, egg, and bread crumbs and placed on a baking pan. After these were also placed in the oven we moved on to all of the amazing dipping sauces. There was a tomato and garlic aioli, spicy chipotle, and a creamy avocado sauce. I really liked the latter two the best. The veggies were done first, plated and passed around family style. To finish off the asparagus she squeezed fresh lemon and sprinkled on shredded asiago cheese. The potatoes were tossed with fresh herbs, garlic, sherry vinegar, lime juice and shredded romano cheese. Both cooked to perfection. Each of the three sauces worked well with everything that was served. Soon after, the croquettes were also ready to come out of the oven. Golden brown and bursting with melty manchego cheese, these little nuggets were the highlight of the evening….until we got to the dates.


Enormous medjool dates were pitted and then stuffed with cooked chorizo and manchego cheese. After a short burst in the oven they were ready to be devoured. Served warm, they were sweet, savory, and oh-so-decadent. They were insanely easy to prepare and now my new favorite snack to make at home.

Our group had a blast attending Harvest Market’s cooking class together. I can’t wait to schedule another one. For $10 you’ll have new recipes to bring home, will most likely learn a new tip or two, and won’t leave hungry.

Sign up for classes through Harvest Market’s website. Common Ground Co-op in Urbana also hosts cooking classes and events throughout the year, and you can check that calendar here

All photos by Bobbie Bonebrake

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