Summer Appetizer Cooking Class At The Essex Culinary Resort

I am enjoying a lovely, wee get away to The Essex Culinary Resort & Spa in Essex Junction, Vermont.

Yesterday I had a massage, which was totally indulgent, but Monday afternoon I went to a cooking class, which was FANTASTIC and so much fun.

There were 8 attendees, all women, and our male chef instructor in the toque of honor.

We got poured some wine, then set to different prep stations while Chef Laurence Wallace walked us through the recipes, offering tips and plenty of culinary knowledge as we went along.

Look at the interesting menu that we got to prepare.

And many of the ingredients were grown right here at the resort.

Even the Inn rooms had a culinary feel to them.

Beautiful grounds.

Learn more about the Cook Academy at The Essex on Facebook and all that the resort has to offer on its Website.

Each and every one of these recipes was (is!!) delicious. The fresh flavors and interesting combination of ingredients was a true delight to behold and to eat.

We’ll start with the Zucchini Pancakes With Za’atar Crème Frâiche.

I had never tried Za’atar before. It is a spice blend frequently used in the Middle East and Mediterranean areas. Very good.

Zucchini Pancakes With Za’atar Crème Frâiche


2 medium sized zucchini
2 Tbs grated red onion
2 eggs, lightly whisked
6 to 8 Tbs flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
Unsalted butter and olive oil
Crème frâiche
Za’atar (recipe follows)


1. Preheat oven to 300℉.

2. Coursely grate the zucchini. Squeeze in a colander to remove excess liquid. Stir in onion and eggs.

3. Stir in 6 Tbs flour, the baking powder, salt and pepper. (If batter gets too thin from more liquid leaking out of the zucchini, then add the remaining 2 Tbs flour.)

4. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and melt 1/2 Tbs butter and 1/2 Tbs oil.

5. When the butter is hot, but not smoking, lower the heat to medium low and drop heaping spoonfuls of batter into the pan.

6. Fry each side until golden brown; about 2 minutes per side. Place the pancakes on a sheet pan and keep warm in the oven.

7. Repeat the process until all the pancakes have been cooked.

8. Mix Za’atar with crème frâiche.

Serve the warm pancakes with the seasoned crème frâiche .

Makes 12 (3 inch) pancakes



3 Tbs sumac
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon coarse salt


1. Grind the sesame seeds in food processor or with mortar and pestle. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

The array of flavors in this next starter is astonishing. At once citrusy, spicy and creamy. Wonderful.

Preserved Lemon Spread On Grilled Baguette Slices With Arugula And Burrata Cheese


1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbs finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 small anchovy fillets, minced
2 Tbs cornichons, minced
2 Tbs Harissa paste
Peel from one preserved lemon, rinsed and minced
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 baguette, cut into 30 slices
Handful of arugula
Slices of Burrata cheese


1. Combine first 8 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse.

2. Gradually drizzle in oil. Chill and rewhisk before serving.

3. Preheat a chargrill pan over medium heat. Add bread slices to pan and cook for 1 minute each side or until golden. Cool.

4. Top grilled baguette slices with spread. Top with some arugula and Burrata.

I HATE tarragon. Despise it.

But, I do have an open mind (and mouth much of the time), so I gave it a go here.

Whatever it was….the lemon, the cool of the crab and cucumber…I don’t know. But, I really enjoyed this very smart starter. As impressive to look at as they were to eat.

Tarragon Crab Salad Cucumber Bites


1/3 cup mayonnaise
Zest of one lemon plus 1 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs tarragon, minced
1 Tbs parsley, minced
8 oz jumbo lump crab meat
2 Tbs green onion, sliced thin on the bias
salt and pepper to taste
1 large English cucumber, partially peeled and cut into 1 inch slices.


1. In a large bowl, mix the mayo, vinegar, lemon and minced tarragon until smooth.

2. Add the crab meat and scallions to the dressing, and fold gently to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Using a melon baller or a small sharp spoon, scoop out the inside of each cucumber round. Be careful to leave the bottom intact without going all the way through to make tiny cucumber cups.

4. Fill each cucumber cup with tarragon crab salad.

5. Garnish with extra minced tarragon and green onion.

One of my favorite recipes of the class was for these Gazpacho Shooters. The presentation in the shot glasses is so cute and inviting. The balance of herbs, flavorings and vegetables is as perfect as you can get. It is Souper. Ha!

Gazpacho Shooters


2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup tomato juice
1/2 Tbs ginger, grated
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Juice of one lemon
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs Sambal or hot chile sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup basil, roughly chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup mint, roughly chopped
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Place tomato into a food processor and pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Place in a large bowl.

2. Place cuke and onion in processor and pulse. Add to tomatoes.

3. Add remaining ingredients to the food processor and process until smoother than the vegetables. Add to the vegetables and mix well.

4. Add 1/2 cup of the complete mixture back to the processor and blend until smooth. Combine all together again and taste for seasoning. Chill.

5. Serve gazpacho in shooter glasses.

Serves 4

Set out a bowl of these nuts and watch them disappear in a minute.

Sweet And Smoky Nuts


1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Pinch of cayenne
1/4 tsp smoked sea salt
1-2 egg whites
8 oz unsalted mixed nuts (Make sure to use some Marcona. Yum!)


1. Preheat oven to 325℉.

2. Line a 15×10 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl whisk sugars, spices, salt with egg whites, adding egg white in small amounts until mixture is the consistency of batter. (You may not need all of the egg whites.)

4. Fold nuts into egg white mixture.

5. Spread nuts in an even layer in the prepared baking pan.

3. Bake for 25 minutes or until nuts are toasted and appear dry, stirring twice. Remove from oven and stir again. Cool completely in baking pan. Break up any large clusters.

The cool polenta topped with the achingly fresh tomato olive salad was a pure palate pleaser. Bonus…they look so great.

Polenta Rounds With Tomato And Olive Salad


1 cup polenta
1 cup water
3 cups milk
1 tsp salt
4 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Tomato And Olive Salad (recipe follows)


1. Whisk polenta and water in medium bowl to blend.

2. Bring milk and salt to a simmer in a large saucepan.

3. Butter a 8×8 baking sheet or pan.

4. Gradually add cornmeal mixture to saucepan, whisking constantly until polenta comes to a boil.

5. Reduce heat and simmer until polenta is very thick, stirring occasionally.

6. Mix in 2 Tbs butter.

7. Immediately pour polenta into prepared pan to 1/2 inch thickness. Sprinkle with Parmesan and chill until firm.

8. Cut polenta, using a biscuit cutter, into bite sized rounds.

9. Top with Tomato And Olive Salad.

Makes about 12 (2 inch) rounds

Tomato And Olive Salad


1 cup Roma tomatoes, diced
2/3 cup Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic mixed to a paste with some salt
2 Tbs basil, cut into chiffonade
1 Tbs fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 Tbs parsley, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbs lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbs Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and black pepper to taste


1. Toss all ingredients together in a small mixing bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Makes 3 cups

I was surprised that there was a sweet offering at this class. But not disappointed!



1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup sweet white wine (Riesling, Sherry, Moscato, Sauternes or ice wine)
1 Tbs brandy
3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
fresh mint leaves for garnish
Strawberries to serve


1. In a small bowl, combine wine, brandy, sugar, lemon zest and juice, nutmeg and stir to dissolve. (Let sit overnight for even better flavor.)

2. Whip the cream and sugar in a chilled bowl, until the cream begins to thicken. Gradually whip in wine mixture, whisking constantly, until the cream is fluffy and soft peaks form. Do not over beat or mixture will curdle.

3. Serve in chilled parfait glasses or smoothed across dessert plates, accompanied by strawberries and a sprig of mint.

Serves 4

All of the recipes in this post are from The Essex Culinary Resort And Spa in Essex Junction, Vermont.

One thing wrong with this class.

There was no music.

Of course, I was not going to sing in this kitchen…A capella or otherwise.

Not sing OUT LOUD.

I was humming some Wave Pictures in my mind, since this food and drink laden tune was just right for my happy little, cooking class taking self.
The Wave Pictures-I Love You Like A Madman

Check out The Wave Pictures on the band’s Website, where you can find out upcoming tour dates and buy the music.


About I Sing In The Kitchen

Music obsessed cooking freak whipping up fab food one song at at time.
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4 Responses to Summer Appetizer Cooking Class At The Essex Culinary Resort

  1. James! says:

    I loved that song. The sax at the end especially.

  2. JoAnne says:

    You are so ready for darina’s cooking school!

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