Middle School Culinary Camp

Monday

This week commences our first EVER middle school summer camp! Our theme for the week is cuisines. We have Creole, Italian, Mexican, Singaporean, and Indian cuisines this week. Each table/team is comprised of 6 campers. This weeks our teams are the Creolians, the Calzone Queens, the Pepper People, Lah-Ksa, and the Indian Steph Curry Chickens. Every team represented themselves through a banner. Check them out below! One team stays inside to help and plate the meals each day.

Following some team bonding, icebreakers, and poster making, it was time to go over rules. We reviewed our handy acronym, CHEFS. CHEFS stands for clean, helpful, experiment, friends, and safe. Then we reviewed some knife safety and finally got to start cooking. 

Today's theme was Creole. We made shrimp Creole, Remoulade dressing for a salad, and bread pudding with meringue on top. Tara showed us how to chop the Holy Trinity of Creole cooking, onions, celery, and green bell peppers, and the "Pope," or the garlic. We accomplished our cooking in 3 stations.

Station 1: Preparing the salad and Remoulade dressing. The dressing involved chopping onions, celery, tomatoes, and parsley. To this we added mustard, ketchup, red wine vinegar, and some spices. We blended this to a creamy consistency with a blender. Then we chopped some lettuce for the base of the salad. 

Station 2: Making bread pudding and meringue. We measured and added bread, breadcrumbs, cream, milk, vanilla, and sugar for the pudding. On top of that we put sliced up butter. We got to separate eggs and make meringue with egg whites, sugar, and a hand mixer. We were looking for stiff peaks, which was harder to obtain than expected. Then, we popped the bread pudding in the oven and during the last 5 minutes of baking, spread the meringue on top. 

Station 3: Making the shrimp Creole. This involved chopping the Holy Trinity of veggies, plus the garlic. While doing this, campers took turns working with a roux at the stove. This was equal parts oil and flour that had to be stirred constantly 'til it got brown and thick. We added the Holy Trinity to the roux after about 10 minutes. Then, we mixed the rest of the ingredients: shrimp, lemon, tomato paste, tomatoes, and spices. We added this to the roux and veggies, and once cooked the end product was Shrimp Creole!

We spent a lot of time in the kitchen, so everyone except the Creolians briefly headed outside in the drizzle, before heading back inside to eat. In the mean time, the Creolians were like professionals while cleaning tables, setting tables, and plating the food.

Our day concluded with a delicious Creole lunch!

Tuesday

Italian day was a success! We kicked the day off by decorating some Italian themed mugs. Here's a peak at our campers work:

After this we played four rounds of food group bingo. Then it was on to cooking. Italian day was an ambitious one! We made mushroom tortellini with a Bolognese sauce and tiramisu. We conquered our Italian cuisine in three stations.

Station 1: Making the sauce. This involved cutting the carrots into a julienne and mincing celery and onions. We compared this blend of veggies, a mirepoix, to yesterday's veggies, the Holy Trinity. We put the onions in a pan with ground turkey and browned those. Then we added this to the larger pot with the carrots, celery, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and spices.

Station 2: Making the tiramisu. This involved separating eggs again, and whipping the egg white, which, like yesterday, worked 2 out of 3 times. Then, we dunked lady finger cookies in coffee and they got super mushy. These made the bottom of the tiramisu, and on top we put the mixture of whipped egg whites, ricotta cheese, egg yolk, sugar, and lemon that we zested. The completed tiramisu went into the fridge to chill.

Station 3: Making the mushroom filling and filling the tortellini. We had to mince mushrooms, shallots, and garlic, which then got sautéed in a pan with some olive oil. We added parmesan cheese, also. Once the filling was chopped and on the stove, we used the filling from the previous group to make the tortellini. We had pre-rolled dough (thanks, Dryades!) that Tara cut into squares. So, campers had to scoop a little bit of sautéed mushrooms and fold the corners in tightly to form the pasta.

Everyone except the Calzone Queens played Mafia with Joey. The Calzone Queens cleaned the tables, set the tables, and plated the food. Mmm, what a tasty final product!

Wednesday

Our Mexican cuisine day involved a new camp activity: Chopped Jr. Each team got a basket with 4 key ingredients that they must use in their dish. They had 50 minutes to cook, plate, and prepare a presentation. In the basket, campers had a tilapia filet, mango, hot cocoa mix, and a tortilla. The "pantry" consisted of things like shredded cheese, black beans, tomato, green pepper, corn, cucumber, and spices.

Every team had stove and oven access, and every team decided to pan fry their tilapia. Some also sautéed veggies. We had a couple teams use the oven for their tortilla or to melt cheese, and another group melted cheese on the stove. Everyone actually finished before the time was up, so we moved right on to judging. Carli, Chandler, Mimi, and Jenny were judges, and Joey was the announcer/host.

We had some solid presentations, including the use of a sombrero! In general, we felt the cocoa mix was not highlighted enough, and some of the dishes were over-seasoned, salty, or too fishy. Despite these complaints, we were in general pleasantly surprised by how tasty the food was!

We swiftly moved into cooking from here. We made enchiladas with two sauces, tomato and mole. We did this in three stations. Unfortunately, we didn't get the chance to take a single picture during this time.

Station 1: Making the tomato enchilada sauce. We cooked onion and garlic in a pan and then added chopped tomatoes. We seasoned this with sugar, salt, and pepper. We blended this mixture with cilantro and lime. 

Station 2: Making the enchiladas. We had to pull chicken off a rotisserie chicken and chop peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Then we stuffed the tortillas with the chicken, veggies, black beans, and cheese and rolled them up.

Station 3: Making the mole. This involved cooking some onions and oil in a pan, then adding ingredients like cocoa powder, honey, cumin, chili powder, and chicken broth.  

While the Pepper People set up the tables and finished cooking, everyone else played Mafia with Joey. Due to an oven malfunction the enchiladas weren't that great and a lot of our campers didn't like either sauce. Too bad, but it was still a super fun day packed with cooking!

Our team of the day, The Pepper People!

Our team of the day, The Pepper People!

Thursday

We had a jam packed Singaporean cuisine day! We kicked it off with tasting stations of various Singaporean snacks and foods. Singaporean food is a mixture of food from 4 other Asian countries: Malaysia, India, China, and Peranakan. Campers got to taste the foods and then try to identify the ingredients and how the would use it in a dish. We started with kaya, a coconut egg jam, on toast. Then, we moved on to coconut sticky rice, which is Thai and normally served with mango. This was the crowd pleaser. The most disliked food was broccoli in oyster sauce, which no one could correctly identify. Lastly, we had another generally disliked station, ondeh-ondeh, which are glutinous rice balls covered in coconut flakes. The texture was different for many campers. We captured a few funny reactions on camera, too.

After, we were treated to a presentation from Jenny, of the Herman Grimma House, a museum in the Quarter that cooks over a hearth. She taught a lesson on the medicinal properties of various herbs, like mint, basil, rosemary, and lavender. We passed around the herbs and campers had a chance to taste and smell them. Following a review of the herbs' various uses, each table got to make a jar of herb-based mosquito repellent! This included water, lemon, citrus essential oil, and the herbs. It was exciting to learn about a natural, good smelling way to keep the mosquitos away!

Today's cooking included an Indian dish, curry roasted cauliflower, a Malaysian dish, chicken satay with peanut sauce, and a Chinese dish, prawn dumplings. Like always, we worked in three stations.

Station 1: Marinating the chicken and making the peanut sauce. There were all kinds of delicious things for the chicken, like garlic, soy sauce, oyster sauce, turmeric and ginger. There were even MORE delicious things for the sauce, like peanut butter, coconut milk, lime juice, and various spices. YUM!

Station 2: Making the prawn filling and then folding the dumplings. Campers had to chop up the shrimp, then added oyster sauce, sesame oil, olive oil, sugar, ginger, salt, and pepper. Campers then used dumpling wrappers and put a blob of the filling in the middle. They folded the dumplings into a triangle.

Station 3: Making the cauliflower. Campers started by chopping the cauliflower and shallots into small pieces, so they could roast quickly in our short amount of time. To the chopped veggies, we added curry powder, turmeric, and cumin.

Once we finished cooking, we actually had some time to get outside and play a game! The Lah-Ksa team stayed in to boil the dumplings, cook the chicken, plate, and clean. Today's meal was served communally, so plating looked a little different. 

Outside, campers played Steal the Chicken Satay Spray. This game of strategy involved lots of teamwork so that campers could make it to the other end of the yard with Joey's Satay Spray (really a bottle of sunscreen), without him guessing who had the Spray. Just as we were out of time, the campers finally succeeded in beating Joey!

The food was amazing, as was eating communally at our tables. There were a ton of flavors and most if not all campers encountered a new spice or cooking technique during our Singapore day!

Friday

Unbelievably, the Middle School Camp is over, which concludes all of SoFab's summer camps. We ended with an Indian cuisine day. Firstly, we decorated and made adjustments to cookbooks with this week's recipes. This was over swiftly, and then we moved on to Jeopardy!

The categories were comprised of the different countries' cuisines that we cooked this week. The counselors competed as their own team, the Counselor Queens. Jeopardy was a great review of key words that we went over this week, including names of dishes that we made. The Counselor Queens dominated, beating the Lah-Ksa team, in second place, by 1,000 points. Despite the counselor's dramatic win, we declared the Lah-Ksas the winners and awarded them their prize of Finding Dory fruit snacks.

For Indian cuisine day, we made cheese naan, daal (split peas in a curry), and cut up fruit for dessert. 

Station 1: Making the naan. Tara pre-made and pre-balled the dough. Campers rolled the dough a little, then loaded in shredded cheese. They folded the dough into a ball again, now stuffed with cheese. They rolled this out and then 2 at a time pan-fried their cheesy naan at the stove with Carli. 

Station 2: Making the daal. This involved heating spices and garlic, then adding these to the peas. This also involved chopping ginger from the root, to season the daal.

Station 3: Campers got the chance to work with some interesting fruits, like pineapple, mango, and papaya, to make a tasty fruit salad.

Moving on from cooking, the Indian Steph Curry Chicken stayed inside and fried up the naan, cleaned, and plated. Everyone else went outside and played Chefs and Waiters and then Murder. 

Lastly, it was time to eat. We discussed all the flavors and cuisines we tried that week, and then the campers headed out with their cookbooks and insect repellent from Thursday. What a fantastic week!