At home on the range Cooking: An Annapolis school shows its students how to add a pinch of zip to their culinary creations.

September 18, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Making spinach-stuffed tomatoes with yellow pepper sauce or Indonesian vegetable stew with baked tofu isn't the easiest task.

There's the simmering, chopping, charring and boiling that has to be perfectly timed. And the ingredients and spices -- cumin, turmeric, coriander, garlic and peppers -- have to be measured to the morsel.

Yet, for many, this is therapy.

At the county's only culinary school, the Annapolis School of Cooking, a dozen people this week learned some new skills and, in some cases, let off a little steam.

Cheryl Findlay drew back the end of a thick wooden roller over her shoulder and swung it onto a balled-up piece of chicken.

"This is the best therapy," she said, laughing and giving the chicken a good smack after each word. "I [WHACK] need [WHACK] to do this [WHACK] at work."

Like more than half the students, Findlay works for the government. She is a Defense Department analyst.

"And I can indulge myself here," she said, resting the end of the roller on the table. "I can make basmati rice and tofu, and then when I go home, I can keep making my husband barbecue pork chops."

She gave the chicken another whack.

Each station in the large kitchen of the catering store Pease Porridge Hot had a half-foot high pile of bright yellow and red bell peppers, olive oil, lemons, stalks of lemon grass and potatoes. Cooking-school teachers Eileen Zack, founder of the catering business, and Rita Calvert, a food stylist and columnist, moved swiftly from one table to the next, inhaling aromas from steaming pots and offering tips.

"Put the cut potatoes in water so they won't brown," Calvert said.

"Always heat the pan before adding the vegetables," Zach told a group making stuffed tomatoes over a saute pan.

To a group mincing garlic, Calvert said, "If you run your fingers under water along a stainless steel knife, you will get rid of the smell."

Catherine Tallman from Crofton peeled an avocado by using a trick she had just learned.

"Why cook?" she asked. "Because I like to eat. It's like art. It's soothing and relaxing."

Her friend, Mary Kimble, a management analyst for the federal government also from Crofton, said, "I don't like my job, so this is therapy."

Some students were beginning cooks. "If I saw this in a recipe book, I'd flip right past it," said Maureen Benkovich from 'N Grasonville, staring at the stew recipe. "I thought it's about time I learned. And I'd like to cook for my husband and friends."

Wallace Hutton, a recently retired Annapolis lawyer and the only man in the group, signed up with his wife to learn new recipes.

"I'll tell you, this is work," he said, grating a coconut.

Zack approached Calvert last year about starting a cooking school. With little or no competition and a large kitchen available from Zack's catering company, the two decided to give it a try.

Most of their students are women, but last week they had six Navy officers take the course on the "Fabulous P's of Italy."

"There are a lot of women with families trying to zip up their cooking," Zack said.

"Some have been cooking the same food for 20 years. Some are trying to eat better. For many, it is now recreational to cook, and it's fun," she added.

Zack and Calvert usually offer one class a week and haven't repeated a theme yet. All the food, which is eaten at the end of the class, is provided free by Fresh Fields.

Each class costs $35. The cost for four classes is $120.

For more information about the Annapolis School of Cooking, call 410-263-2895.

Pub Date: 9/18/97

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