Hatch chile cooking classes kick off Central Market’s annual pepper party

If it’s early August, Austinites are getting excited about Hatch chiles.

Hatch chiles are a seasonal pepper that arrive in Austin every August. Several grocery stores go all out with Hatch classes and new products, including Central Market, which is credited with bringing the phenomenon to Texas in the mid-1990s. File photo

The New Mexican chile peppers have been a hit in Central Texas ever since Central Market started bringing them here in the mid-1990s. Whole Foods followed, and now both stores — as well as other grocery retailers, including Wheatsville and Central Market’s parent company, H-E-B — sell literal tons of Hatch peppers and Hatch-flavored foods during this time of year.

Whole Foods closed its culinary center downtown a few years ago, but Central Market’s cooking classes at the North location are still going strong.

RECIPE: A cheeseburger worthy of this year’s Hatch chilies

Why are grocery stores so hot for Hatch chile peppers?


Local grocery stores including Central Market and Whole Foods roast Hatch peppers from New Mexico every August. Photo from Central Market.

They’ve released this month’s Hatch cooking classes, which start on Wednesday with a steakhouse-themed class at 6:30 p.m. On Thursday at 6:30 p.m., you can sign up to learn how to make Hatch tamales, and on Saturday night, the cooking staff will teach a Hatch seafood session starting at 6:30 p.m.

The classes continue for the next few weeks, and you can find the full list of classes and Hatch activities at centralmarket.com.

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Want to learn how to make pickles, pâté? Check out these Adult Summer Camp cooking classes at Confituras

Confituras Little Kitchen, the biscuit-and-jam shop at 2129 Goodrich Avenue, is hosting a series of Austin Summer Camp cooking classes in July and August that will teach artisan culinary skills, such as how to make pâté or pickles.

Pickled green beans are one of the things you can learn how to make at Confituras’ Adult Summer Camp classes. Contributed by Confituras

On Thursday, Pure Luck Farm & Dairy owner Amelia Sweethardt will teach a sold-out class on making cultured butter and buttermilk. Next week, Jackie Letelier, who formerly ran a pate and terrine company in Austin, will teach a class on July 12 at 6:30 p.m. on how to make those European meat spreads.

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On July 15, the co-founders of Lick Honest Ice Creams will teach a class on making summer ice cream flavors, and on July 19, Confituras owner Stephanie McClenny, with an assist from Revolution Spirits, will show students how to make cocktail shrubs and fruit syrups.

Shrubs are the vinegar-based preserved fruit that you can use in cocktails and other summer drinks. Contributed by Confituras

Preservation guru and “Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen” author Kate Payne will teach a class on July 26 about making your own salt-brined pickled green beans, and on August 2, Dolce Neve owner Marco Silvestrini will teach a class on making homemade granita, a cousin to the popular gelato sold at his South First shop.

The classes, which cost $45 or $55 each, include samples of what you’re making and a small batch to take home, as well as instructions and recipes. You can bring your own beverages, including wine.

Con Olio launches kids’ culinary camps at the Arboretum

Con’ Olio & Vinegars, the popular olive oil-and-vinegar shop with several Austin-area locations, is now hosting kids’ culinary camps at its Arboretum store.

Con’ Olio’s new culinary camps for kids are from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday several weeks in July and August. Contributed by Con’ Olio.

The camps started a few weeks ago, but there are several that remain for children ages 7 and 11 and another for those ages 11 to 15. Each class costs $200 and ” focuses on fostering independence, creativity and courage in the kitchen.”

RELATED: Looking for more summer camps? Check out our Austin360 Camp Guide

The classes, which run from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, start with an introduction to basic culinary skills such as safety, cleaning and choosing menu ingredients, and then participants use those culinary skills to make snacks, meals and desserts. You can view the menus and sign up for classes at conolios.com/classes


You don’t have to be a student to take these food science, cooking classes at UT this summer

Want to learn about food science, nutrition and cooking this summer?

Susie’s Kitchen is a new series of science, nutrition and cooking classes taught at the University of Texas. The first class is June 16. Contributed by Vivian Abagiu.

The University of Texas is offering four classes, starting June 16, in the Susie Jastrow Teaching Kitchen, which is part of its nutrition sciences department in Mary Gearing Hall.

Susie’s Kitchen, as the new series is known, will cover some of the hottest topics in nutrition right now, including the Mediterranean diet, fermentation, plant-based diets and anti-inflammatory foods. Each Saturday class is taught by advanced undergraduate students in the nutritional sciences department and features a classroom portion on the science behind the diet recommendations and then a cooking class in the test kitchen where students learn how to incorporate the recommendations into their cooking. The class then gets to eat the food together for lunch.

The classes from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. cost $100 each, or you can get a discount if you buy all four.

The Susie Jastrow Teaching Kitchen at UT is in Mary Gearing Hall. Contributed by Vivian Abagiu.

How many global cuisines will you find in the South? Just ask Virginia Willis

Ever since her 2008 book, “Bon Appetit, Y’all,” Virginia Willis has been one of the top Southern food writers.

Virginia Willis is the Southern cookbook writer who has a new book out called “Secrets of the Southern Table.” Contributed by Angie Mosier.

Willis, who ran the TV kitchens for Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay and Nathalie Dupree, has been building her own star for a while and is a frequent guest at the Central Market Cooking School in Austin, and she’ll return next week for a class on May 12 to promote her newest book, “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30).

The new book chronicles the vast and varied stories of food and food makers throughout the South today, incorporating a much more diverse perspective on what we call “Southern food” than we typically see in books on this regional cuisine, such as recipes descended from the Chinese immigrants who moved to the Mississippi Delta during Reconstruction. You’ll find profiles of (and recipes from) arepa-makers in Atlanta, quail farmers in South Carolina and Morovian bakers in North Carolina, whose families settled the area in the 1740s, as well as recipes from Willis’ own family history.

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She’ll tell many of these stories and more at her class next week. You can still get tickets to the class ($70, centralmarket.com), where she’ll teach a handful of dishes, including Asian Cajun shrimp, grilled skirt steak, tomato ginger green beans, crispy Greek potatoes and Mexican chocolate pudding.

Here’s her spin on summer squash, which is spiced with the ever-popular harissa and a lemon vinaigrette.

Pan-Seared Summer Squash with Spiced Lemon Vinaigrette

Summer squash thrive in the semitropical South. My grandparents always had a garden with many mounded rows of squash, and my grandfather taught me that summer squash bear both male and female flowers. The female flowers are easy to identify by looking for a miniature squash just below each blossom. Male flowers sit directly on the stem and do not produce fruit. Pick these male blossoms for using the flower. If you pick the females, you won’t have any squash. Simple biology.

This modern spin on summer squash is from Virginia Willis’ new cookbook. Contributed by Angie Mosier.

This dish was inspired by chef-owner Rafih Benjelloun of Imperial Fez, a beloved Atlanta institution for more than twenty-five years. At his restaurant, guests are magically transported to Morocco — the tea is mint, not sweet; diners rest on comfortable pillows surrounded by opulent colors; shoes are left at the door; and belly dancers dance and sway to the music.

Harissa is a spicy, aromatic, and flavorful chile paste used in Middle Eastern and North African cooking. The blend differs from country to country, but it’s a puree of hot chile peppers, garlic, olive oil, and spices such as cumin, coriander, and caraway. It can be found at Middle Eastern markets, well-stocked gourmet stores, and natural foods stores.

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To prepare the garlic paste, place the unpeeled garlic on a cutting board, broad-side down, set the flat side of a chef’s knife on top, and give the knife a quick whack with the palm of your hand to crush each clove. Remove the papery skin and trim away the tough basal plane at the end of the clove. Halve the garlic and remove any of the green shoot, if present, as it is bitter. Coarsely chop the garlic, then sprinkle it with a pinch of coarse salt. (The salt acts as an abrasive and helps grind the garlic.) Using the side of the knife like an artist’s palette knife, press firmly on the cutting board and crush the garlic a little at a time. Repeat until the garlic is a fine paste.

— Virginia Willis

3 or 4 small yellow squash (about 1 pound)
3 or 4 small green squash (about 1 pound)
Zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon harissa or chile paste, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Trim the stem and flower ends of the squash, and then use a chef’s knife to quarter each one lengthwise. Using the tip of your knife, trim away the seeds. (The seeds can make the dish watery.) Cut the squash into 1-inch pieces.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Without crowding, add the squash to the dry skillet and cook, stirring often, until lightly blistered on both sides and tender to the point of a knife, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl or jar with a lid, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, oil, garlic, harissa, and cumin to make the dressing. Stir or shake to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the squash in a large bowl and drizzle some of the dressing over the top. Toss to coat and combine, and add more as needed. Sprinkle with the parsley. This dish is excellent served hot or room temperature or cold as a salad. If you serve it cold, make sure to taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper before serving, as chilling dulls the seasoning. Serves 4 to 6.

— From “Secrets of the Southern Table: A Food Lover’s Tour of the Global South” by Virginia Willis (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30)

All the love: Former Dai Due baker teaching classes, planning brick-and-mortar shop

Abby Love, the former baker for Dai Due, is having a good Valentine’s Day.

Abby Love is the bread baker and pastry chef, formerly of Dai Due, who is now teaching baking classes as she prepares to open her own bakery, L’Oven. Contributed by @abbyjluv

After leaving the lauded Manor Road eatery last year, she’s been teaching classes and making partnerships with other food businesses around Austin, including a special chocolate sourdough with Confituras last weekend. (The classes have been selling out quickly, so keep an eye out for tickets if you want to snag one.)

Abby Love is a Louisiana native who moved to Austin in 2013 and opened Dai Due, the lauded restaurant on Manor Road. Contributed by @abbyjluv

The bread baker and pastry chef easily met a crowdfunding goal for L’Oven, a brick-and-mortar operation she has in the works, but in the meantime, you can catch her teaching classes at various locations around Austin.

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Love’s hands-on baking classes are already popular. Contributed by @abbyjluv

From the about page of her site: “She will bore us with science. Because making good bread is often about understanding the building blocks of your loaf. Be prepared to learn baker’s math, think about the structure of a wheat kernel, and use words like “enzyme” and “protein” for the first time in maybe decades.”

The Louisiana native, who moved to Austin in 2013, is also hosting private classes and pop-ups, which you can learn about at lovenbread.com.

BrisketU teams up with local breweries to host barbecue classes

If the instantly-sold-out Camp Brisket is any indication, Texans just can’t get enough barbecue education.

That annual event at Texas A&M with Foodways Texas takes place over several days and is pretty hard to get tickets for, but a Houston-based company has created a new approach that involves craft beer.

Brisket is considered the pinnacle of Texas barbecue, and you can learn how to smoke one yourself at one of the classes with BrisketU. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Brisket is considered the pinnacle of Texas barbecue, and you can learn how to smoke one yourself at one of the classes with BrisketU. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

BrisketU, which recently expanded to Austin, offers three-hour Backyard Pitmaster classes on a Saturday or Sunday at a local brewery. For $69, attendees get to learn about choosing the right meat, trimming it and preparing it for the smoker, as well as all the info you need about wood, tools and techniques to get that brisket right once it’s in there, all while enjoying a beer from the host brewery.

Right now, brisket is the only class offered on upcoming weekends with the Austin outpost of BrisketU, helmed by Ken and Debbie Reed, but the Houston operation has expanded to include even more kinds of meat.

“Cooking is a passion of mine,” says new BrisketU manager, Ken Reed. “I attended a BrisketU in Houston and knew that bringing these classes to Austin would be a wonderful opportunity to share something I really enjoy.”

Here’s the upcoming schedule. All the classes start at noon. For more info and tickets, go to austin.brisketu.com.

Feb. 11: Oskar Blues Blues Brewery
Feb. 18  : Whitestone Brewery
Feb. 25: Oskar Blues Blues Brewery
March 4: 4th Tap Brewing Co-Op
March 11: Oskar Blues Blues Brewery
March 18: Whitestone Brewery
March 25: 4th Tap Brewing Co-Op