Culinary Voyage Begins With Cooking Class
TravelStaycation in the Kitchen

Culinary Voyage Begins With Cooking Class

You can bring different cultures home to your kids before they head back to school.

The possibilities for wraps are limitless. (U.S. Department of Agriculture photo)
The possibilities for wraps are limitless. (U.S. Department of Agriculture photo)

The days of summer vacation are winding down, as are the options to keep the kids engaged and entertained until they return from school. So here’s an activity for all ages: the 21st century staycation cooking class.

What’s on the menu? Wraps, the lunch named “most fun to assemble and more fun to eat” by our panel of 12-and-under experts. Wrap-making nurtures creativity and ingenuity, and they’re so versatile that you never have to make the same wrap twice.

If you have the right stuff on the table, it’ll be the best homemade activity of the summer.

It’s easy to adjust the menu if you want to invite your friends, neighbors or colleagues for the best staycation activity ever — at least until cooler fall temperatures make foraging in the mountains a delight.

Class Begins

There I was, standing at the head of my long dining table, a sea of skeptical, smiling faces looking up at me. In front of Tiara, Zach, John, Alanna, Xander and Max are peelers, graters, grinders, whisks, measuring cups and spoons, bowls, jars, a baking dish, knives, chopping blocks, even a food processor.

Each youth has a set of recipes and is wearing comfy clothes and a funny apron.

We have our spices — salt, pepper, cinnamon, curry and nutmeg; our condiments — mustard, olive oil, two kinds of vinegar; our fresh herbs — parsley, basil, thyme, dill, chives; our fruits — lemons and peaches; our vegetables — cabbage, carrots, celery, peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, red onions. We have garlic and shallots and cans and jars of tuna, soy sauce and tahini.

To wrap it all up, we have tortillas, chapattis, lavash bread, and romaine or butter lettuce leaves.

We’ll make three fillings, coleslaw, mayonnaise and vinaigrette dressing, and we’ll anticipate the epiphany: Not everything comes from a jar. Then, for dessert, peach crisp.

It’s a Wrap

What’s a wrap? Take a large tortilla and spread as many fillings as you can fit: hummus, tuna salad, deviled eggs, turkey, chicken or salmon. Scatter sprouts, lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, carrot and celery sticks, avocado, red and green onions, cucumber, and spinach. Top with cheese (if you skipped the meat), olives, pickles, even baked tofu or pretzels, and fold into a neat package resembling a taco, burrito or crepe.

The skinniest participant had the distinction of making the largest wrap in class. “I loved folding everything up,” he said. “Much more fun than a boring flat sandwich.”

Why did he make it so big?’ “I was just messing around. But I ate the whole thing.”

Just as the filling options are endless, the wrappers offer fun choices. Most cultures have versions of flatbread, whether tortillas, lavash, crepes or chapatis. Lettuce leaves make fun wrappers with fewer calories:

  • Lettuce leaves — Wash and dry leaves. Spoon the filling onto a leaf. Fold the sides over the filling, and roll up the leaf. Use a toothpick to ensure the leaf won’t open.
  • Lavash — Cut each piece in half crosswise to make four 12-by-12-inch squares. Wrap in the same manner as a tortilla.
  • Tortilla — Flour is more pliable than corn and is available in a variety of flavors. A new favorite is the spelt tortilla. Toasting tortillas before wrapping adds flavor. Toast them one at a time directly on a gas or electric burner at moderately high heat for 30 to 40 seconds, flipping and rotating with tongs, until they puff slightly and are browned in spots. They should remain pliable.

To fill a wrap, place a wrapper on a flat surface. Spoon half the mixture in a strip on the lower half, leaving a 2-inch border on the sides. Add toppings, then fold the sides of the wrapper over the filling. Fold up the bottom and roll up, enclosing the filling.

Creativity Encouraged

We want to instill a joy of cooking and a sense of adventure. First we instill fundamentals, then we get creative.

One preteen loves pesto. Another craves sun-dried tomatoes or artichoke hearts. One is allergic to mushrooms but loves jicama. No problem.

Encourage accents by offering a basket of fragrant fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, cilantro, fennel and dill, and varieties of mustard — Dijon, sweet and popping with seeds. Add basil, chives or wasabi powder to made-from-scratch mayo.

Get Started

Proceed with the peach crisp. It needs an hour to bake. Then tackle the wraps.

Take turns reading the recipes aloud before assembling them. Demonstrate safe ways of holding a knife, slicing, dicing, grating and measuring. Dole out responsibilities. It’s best if one person does a task while others watch to get a sense of the continuity of completing a dish.

Demonstrate how to fold the tortilla tightly so the filling doesn’t ooze out. That’s a self-esteem builder.

When you ask for volunteers, beware: You’ve never seen so many hands shoot up.

Be Safe

Emphasize food safety.

Wash your hands, and not just with 10 drips of water and a smidge of soap.

Food safety training specialist Jeff Nelken invented a test: “While kids are rubbing with soap and water, sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice.”

Remove all jewelry, especially bracelets and rings. No dirt allowed.

The counters must be immaculate. Sterilize all surfaces. Bacteria are lurking.

Keep pets out of the kitchen. No cats on counters. No lizards or birds on shoulders. No bowls of turtles nearby.

One type of food, one utensil. Each time you use anything, wash it in hot, soapy water, especially when working with raw eggs, meat, chicken or dairy, all susceptible to salmonella. Also wash your hands and clean cutting boards and counters thoroughly.

Make sure perishable foods go in the refrigerator as soon as you’re finished with them.

Sabayon-Style Mayonnaise

From “Joy of Cooking” by Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker and Ethan Becker

Makes 1 cup. The yolks are sufficiently cooked to remove any concern about salmonella.

3 egg yolks
3-4½ tablespoons cold water or stock
½ cup fresh vegetable or olive oil at room temperature
1½-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice and/or white wine vinegar
½-1 teaspoon dry or Dijon mustard
Salt and ground white pepper to taste
Combine in a medium stainless-steel bowl or saucepan with sloping sides the egg yolks and water or stock. Whisk together vigorously until frothy, 30 to 60 seconds. Hold the bowl with a potholder and set it over medium heat. Immediately start whisking and don’t stop until the mixture is frothy and beginning to stiffen and you can glimpse the bottom of the bowl as you whisk. Remove from the heat and whisk for 20 more seconds to cool the yolks. Immediately add the oil in a thick stream. Whisk just until the oil is incorporated; do not overbeat. Move to a clean bowl to let the mixture cool uncovered. Stir in the lemon juice and/or vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate. The mayonnaise will be ready to serve in 2 to 3 hours and will keep in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

Fresh Herb Vinaigrette

Makes 1½ cups.

1/3 to ½ cup red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup minced or finely snipped fresh herbs, such as basil, dill, parsley or chives
Whisk together until well blended the vinegar or juice, shallot, mustard, salt and pepper. Add the oil in a slow stream, whisking constantly until smooth. Add the herbs just before using the dressing.

Crunchy Coleslaw

Serves 6.

¼ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon sugar
¾ cup herb vinaigrette or more if needed
1 small head green or red cabbage, cored, with outer leaves removed
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 celery stalk, diced
2 carrots, peeled and grated
1 cup coarsely chopped red onion
¾ cup chopped red or yellow bell pepper
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Shred the cabbage and place it in ice-cold water for at least 30 minutes. Stir until well blended the mayonnaise, sugar and vinaigrette. Place the parsley, celery, carrots, onion and bell pepper into a large bowl. Add the cold, crisp cabbage. Stir in just enough dressing to moisten the cabbage. Season with salt and pepper.

Deviled Eggs

Makes 4 servings.

6 hardboiled eggs, finely chopped
¼ to 1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced chives
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate until cold. The mixture will last in the refrigerator 2 to 3 days.

Albacore Spread

Makes 4 servings.

1 6½-ounce can water-packed tuna, drained
1 cup leftover grilled or poached tuna
½ cup diced celery hearts
½ cup minced red onions
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1-2 tablespoons black olives
¼ cup mayonnaise or more to taste
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Flake the tuna with a fork in a medium bowl. Add the celery, onions, parsley, dill, olives, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until cold. The spread will last in the refrigerator 3 to 4 days.


Makes 2 cups.

1½ cups cooked chickpeas
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce
Juice from 2 medium lemons
¾ cup tahini
¼ cup parsley, finely minced
¼ cup scallions, minced
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place the ingredients in a food processor with a steel blade. Let the processor run for 1 minute or until you reach the desired consistency. Chill thoroughly.

Peach Crisp

Makes 6-8 servings.

8 medium peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced into large chunks
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Position the rack in the lower third of the oven. Butter a 2-inch-deep glass baking dish. Spread the peaches evenly in the dish.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Using two dull knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Scatter the topping evenly over the fruit.

Bake until the topping is golden brown, the juices are bubbling, and the peaches are tender when pierced with a skewer, about 45 to 50 minutes.

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