My Big Night at Salud! Cooking School with Deb Paquette

Deb Paquette teaching at “Salud!” Cooking School

I had a dream come true last Tuesday night: I got to watch Deb Paquette cook my dinner, and talk with her the whole time.

For those of you who are not local to Nashville, Deb owned and operated my very favorite local restaurant, Zola, until a couple of years ago, when she and her husband made a decision to do something different. I thought she had left Nashville, but it turns out they never did completely leave. She’s been involved with menu planning and helping a few new restaurants get themselves up and running (among them, Local Taco, and the soon to be opened Urban Grub).

But one day, about a couple of months ago, due to a terrible case of the trots (that I blame indirectly on Deb, because I ended up having an AWFUL meal at a restaurant that was NOT Zola, since Zola no longer exists) while I was anxiously making my rumble-tummied way to the bathroom at Whole Foods, I happened on the catalog that informed me that Whole Foods had a cooking school. And IN that cooking school, in a few short weeks, none other than DEB PAQUETTE would be teaching me to think “Outside the Box”, culinarily speaking.

Well, pass the toilet paper, and SIGN ME UP!!!!!!!!!

I had the time of my life. (cue music).

I had a front row seat, and Deb chatted away with her rapt audience, as she made 3 soups:

Roasted Cantaloupe Soup
Roasted Beet, Carrot and Red Bell Pepper Soup
Smoked Onion Soup (she SMOKED CREAM to make this soup! Yes, I’m serious! Think about THAT!!!)

Beet, Carrot, and Red Bell Pepper Soup: look at that glorious color!!!
Roasted Cantaloupe Soup: garnished with Bacon, Balsamic Vinegar and Frozen Buttermilk

and

Pork Tenderloin done 3 ways, with a Trifecta of Rubs:

Moroccan
Turkish
French

Pork with a Trifecta of Rubs: Turkish Rub with Hummus, Feta and Mint/Onion Relish, Moroccan Roasted Pork with Mango Relish, and French Pork with Olive Aioli

. And her very own super special chocolate chip cookies.

I took a few pictures. (They’re not the best. Sorry. But you’ll get the idea.)

I took copious notes, as pearls of culinary wisdom dropped from her lips.

I tasted. I sighed with delight.

I giggled.

I sparked. I fizzed. For the lady who knows what time it is.
(Sadder But Wiser Girl/The Music Man reference. 😀 )

Gosh, it was great. It fed my mind, my body, and my spirit.

I’m not going to give you any of her recipes until I have done a trial run myself at home, but I have no doubt I can replicate them. A few will take some special spice mixtures I’ll need to concoct myself.

Ras el hanout is one of those. It’s a Moroccan blend of spices. Deb pronounced it “razzle” as in dazzle. The name means “top of the shop” in Arabic, and refers to a mixture of the best spices a seller has to offer. Typically it might contain the “5 c’s”: cardamom, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, as well as turmeric and nutmeg.

The Moroccan pork Deb topped with a mango lime pineapple ginger walnut relish. Aiyee!!! The flavors!!! My tongue went off on the road to Morocco! (cue Crosby and Hope)

The Turkish rub had a blackened spice called kimizi berbere in it (toasted cayenne and paprika that Deb toasts outside due to the potent fumes put off by the cayenne. as well as 2 teaspoons of fenugreek, a kind of yellow grainy stuff used in curries. She topped her Turkish pork with hummus, feta, and a mint/onion relish.

My very favorite was the French Pork with Olive Oil Aioli. Sacré Bleu!!! My tastebuds were in heaven, I assure you! The rub itself contained fennel seed, coriander seed, redpepper flakes, fresh rosemary, dried tarragon, granulated garlic and lemon zest. Cue Pepé Le Pew: Come weeth me to the Casbah, and we will make beeyouteeful music togezair. And the aioli on top? Oooooooh la la!! C’était magnifique!!!

I am making that one FOR SURE!!!  And I’ll report back when I do.

No, that’s not blood on her apron from fending me off. It’s beet juice.

My heartfelt thanks to Deb, for giving me my very own Big Night. It was a night I will never forget, as long as I live!!!


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