Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

Tucson Cooking Classes with Donna Nordin

Tucson Cooking Classes with Donna Nordin

If you like food and you like to cook, then you won’t want to miss a Donna Nordin Cooks cooking class.

If you’re a cook or a wannabe cook, you will appreciate hanging out in a cook’s kitchen. Nordin’s kitchen will not disappoint. It’s set up as a demo kitchen and she uses a lot of gadgets and knives.

In case you don’t know who Donna Nordin is — she’s the former owner, along with her husband Don Luria, of Cafe Terra Cotta. The restaurant is a lingering memory but the recipes live on as do the couple who  continue to spread their culinary talents and ideas into our local community.

Making mole
The spicy couple -- Donna & Don

The demo class was filled with friends and fans wanting to soak up some Southwest cooking knowledge.

The class began with making chocolate mousse pie. (big smile)

According to Nordin, “This is the single recipe that put me on the culinary map. During my cooking school days in San Francisco, Bon Appetit chose one of my chocolate desserts to feature in the December 1980 issue and included it as the cover picture. That national response was overwhelming. When we opened Cafe Terra Cotta in Tucson in 1986, it became our signature dessert and it is destined to remain in that position.”

As with most knowledgeable cooks, Nordin is animated and filled with so much chocolate trivia and tips. I prefer to think of it as chocolate 101.

After the pie was freezing, she started on the grilled duck breast with mole sauce and mango salsa. (Admit it…you’re starting to salivate.)

According to Nordin, “Mole (mo-lay) has a rather strange reputation as a “chocolate sauce” for poultry. There’s more to a good mole than chocolate and it’s certainly not the main ingredient. It merely adds another element to a complex mixture of chile, spices, nuts, and dried fruits. The long list of ingredients in most moles scare off some cooks but in reality is extremely manageable. The recipe used in the class was developed by Steve Critcher, one of our chefs at Cafe Terra Cotta from 1988 to 1994.”

Without providing the recipe, let me just say that the list was long and the ingredients unusual. Aside from many spices there was a banana, ground espresso, Coca-Cola, and crystallized ginger.

Don Luria grilled the duck breasts to rare perfection. So where do you buy duck breasts in Tucson? AJ’s Fine Foods and possibly Dickman’s Meat & Deli, Lee Lee’s Oriental Market, and just maybe Rincon Market. This mole is also suitable and doable with turkey.

A good mole should be sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter. As you might imagine, there was a whole lot of dicing, chopping, sauteing, going on in the kitchen mixed with laughter. One of the highlights was how to make a mango look pretty. My mangoes look butchered at best.

Mango 101
Mango Art

Then came the easy to do Arizona coleslaw — cabbage with a zing of lime juice, cilantro, and oil instead of mayo. Add a bit of jicama for crunch and tomato for color and coleslaw takes a turn for the better.

Of course after making all this food or watching Nordin make all this food, it was time to eat it.

But first what Southwest style meal is complete without a tequila drink of some kind? This just wasn’t any tequila. This tequila had been infused with serrano chiles (no seeds), cilantro sprigs, and the juice of Kalamata olives (no proportions provided). Then the bottle goes into a dark cabinet for 2 or 3 weeks.

We sipped cocktails made with the piquant tequila. I don’t usually drink in the middle of day but made an exception.

The food was plated and we sat at a beautifully appointed table eating a four-star restaurant/resort quality lunch. I am a fan!

Hungry for Cafe Terra Cotta
Glorious lunch

Will I make any of these recipes? Now that I have seen how the peppers were handled and cooked (I learn visually) it doesn’t feel so daunting. Yes, I can imagine this mole on a roast turkey or grilled turkey. And you can freeze mole and use it for other things.

If you live in Tucson, I highly recommend a Donna Nordin Cooks class.

Remember me from Cafe Terra Cotta
Second helpings, please

The entire schedule is below. whether she cooks Southwest or French or something in between,  you will be educated, entertained, and well fed.

September 28 and October 1
Oeufs Pasquet
Gateau d’Helene

October 12 and 15
Garlic Custard
Stuffed Poblano Chiles
Chocolate Truffle Cake

November 9 and 12 (Holiday Do Ahead)
Gateau d’Fromage
Pork Sylvestre
Baked Blueberry Pudding

November 30 and December 3
Tortilla Soup
Shrimp Stuffed with Goat Cheese
Arizona Princess Cake

December 7 and 10 (Holiday Desserts)
Chocolate Truffles
Buche de Noel
Rum Baba
Chicken Jarlsberg Sandwich

January 4 and 7
Onion Soup Gratinee
Salmon in Parchment
Profiteroles/Choc. Sauce

January 18 and 21
Tomatillo Bisque
Pork Tenderloin with Apricot Chutney
Coconut Cream Pie

February 8 and 11
Artichauts a La Perouges
Pear Tarte Tartin

February 22 and 25
Grilled Caesar Salad
Chicken/Garlic Goat Cheese Sauce
Creme Brulee

Each class is $55/pp. To reserve call 520-299-8100. Don’t wait until the last minute; the classes fill up fast. You can follow Donna Nordin Cooks on Facebook for some recipes too.

    Leave a Reply