A few friends and I regularly attend the cooking classes held at Sofra Bakery & Cafe in Cambridge, Massachusetts. If you are not familiar with Sofra, it is the second restaurant created by chef, Ana Sortun. Ana’s first restaurant, Oleana also located in Cambridge, was opened in 2001 and consistently receives rave reviews for its Turkish cuisine. Ana recently opened her third restaurant, Sarma with her former Oleana chef de cuisine, Cassie Pluma. Sarma is located in Somerville and serves eclectic and delicious food mezze style.
Here are the titles of the classes we’ve attended: Mezze:Beirut Style; Eastern Mediterranean Entertaining; Not Your Average Eggplant; Grains & Greens and most recently, Why Ottoman Cuisine? The classes are demonstration style with about 20 attendees seated cozily in Sofra’s small space. The demo cooking is performed on an induction burner, with busy chefs in the main kitchen preparing beautiful plates of food for us to sample. Let’s just say we never leave hungry as the portions are substational and paired with beautiful wines. Class prices are approximately $110 which is up there, but worth it if you can swing it.
In addition to the amazing food, you are sent home with all of the recipes and suggestions on where to find ingredients (mostly the Armenian markets in Watertown, of course). Some of the dishes we’ve sampled along the way have included “Green Apple Fatoush”, “Apricot Dolma”, “Lamb Kefta Stuffed with Goat Cheese” and “Lebanese Eggplant Relish”. Ana, Cassie and their team combine traditional flavor profiles with interesting ingredient combinations to produce new versions of classic recipes. It has been a great formula for success.
For this past class, “Why Ottoman Cuisine?”, just two of us attended. Since I am now writing up my food experiences on the blog, I suggested to my friend that I should take her picture as she was my first “Co-Scout” for the blog. She thankfully obliged. Here is my Co-Scout (and good buddy), Amy.
Don’t you love her scarf? I do.
Here is the menu we were given to guide the evening. They supply you with a clipboard and pen to write your notes on, very handy.
First up, Whipped Fava with Dill & Cucumber. A puree of fava beans, olive oil, lemon and garlic is served with a tart cucumber and pistachio salad that is flavored with dill. A slice of hard boiled egg and a dusting of sumac top the dish. It was delicious and very filling.
The next dish was Circassian Chicken which was served like a salad, but could also be served like a pate with crackers. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are braised with allspice, coriander and bay leaf. The meat is chopped fine and added to a puree of bread, walnut and olive oils, lemon juice and walnuts which serves as a mayonnaise for the mixture. A tart green apple and watercress salad cut through the richness. This was probably my favorite dish of the evening.
Manti, which are lamb filled dumplings, were next. A homemade pasta dough was rolled thin, cut into small squares and wrapped around a mixture of ground lamb, grated onion and spices. This is one of the many ways of forming manti as shown (like a beggar’s purse). The dumplings are then toasted in the oven and served with a tomato-brown butter sauce and yogurt. Condiments included sumac, maras pepper and dried spearmint. These manti melted in your mouth!
Last up was a dish called Sultan’s Delight. Short ribs were braised in a flavorful mixture of balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and pomegranate molasses. A mornay sauce with kasseri cheese is enhanced with smoked salt and eggplant and serves as the bed for the braised short rib. Pinenuts, fresh dill and urfa pepper finish the dish. This was probably not the dish to end on because it was so rich, and there was no acidic relief like in the previous dishes. It wasn’t my favorite to be honest, but it was tasty.
They served a Riesling wine that has completely changed my mind about Rieslings. It was called a “Kabinett Riesling” and bore none of the resemblence to the super sweet varities I sampled in Alsace when I was a student. They also served a Dolcetto from Piemonte.
Many restaurants are catching on to the “cooking class” idea so consider attending one! They are a super fun way to spend an evening with your friends.