Culinary skills are developing quickly at Urban Promise, and the Moroccan stew with squash and quinoa was on the table in record time. The young chefs proudly noted that immunity to crying when cutting onions kicked in. Although willingness to try new foods is picking up, enjoyment of unfamiliar tastes is lagging, and several chefs missed having meat in the stew. While waiting for the quinoa to finish cooking, we played a game, naming foods the colors of the rainbow, noting that red cabbage and red onion are incorrectly named, since they are actually purple.
— Jane Elkis Berkowitz and Becky Bryan
Team Up Philly at Universal Daroff
Every new dish isn’t a winner. The exotic blend of spices in the Moroccan vegetable stew smelled enticing while it was simmering. Unfortunately, it was not well received at the table. The unfamiliar vegetables certainly contributed, but we also learned that it is easy to overdo it when adjusting seasoning at the end of the cooking time, especially when there is hot pepper involved! Our students all said that the stew would have been better with chicken — and a little less hot pepper.
— Elena Levitan and Beth Buckman
Robert B. Pollock Elementary School
This week the students and I enjoyed trying something new with the Moroccan Stew and Quinoa dish. I was surprised that many of the students were familiar with ginger: Amera Sirleaf, grade 5, shared, “I like having ginger tea at home.” The students enjoyed the stew: Julian Lebron shared, “I think this is my second favorite to the breakfast biscuits because this is nice and spicy!” We talked about dishes from around the globe and found it interesting how many countries we had all tried dishes from before!
— Olivia Bates
This girls were enthused about cooking this dish with all of the different spices. They rated it a 7.5 out of 10. Most of them had never tried butternut squash before and enjoyed the new experience. Some of them thought there should have been more of a sauce in the stew, and they felt it needed a little salt and pepper.
— Mari Bartram & Olivia Bartram
The Moroccan Stew presented students with new ingredients and spice combinations that were a delight for some ... and a challenge for others. This group loves the preparation phase!
— Bette Begleiter
“This may be our best group yet,” observed Ms. Susan Lore as the students cooperatively decided tasks and quickly began preparing the vegetables for our Moroccan stew. As they read the recipe, we realized this would be the first experience eating squash for all of the them. It didn’t take long for these first-time squash eaters to turn into Chopped judges! Eliany Chavarria said, “I like how the beans and tomatoes have a good texture.” A’Zon Young suggested, “This would be better with some meat in it, maybe chicken.” And then he noted, “I think the ginger ties the flavors together.” All the “judges” agreed.
— Susan Lore, Edith Bobb
Seeing the Comly Culinary kids around the hallway the day of cooking class is why I do this: Their excitement is contagious! Today’s meal was one of many firsts. Cheyanna Rivas was so excited, “I can’t wait to cook my first stew.”
Jaesha Benjamin was very curious about the butternut squash. “Wow, this is heavy! I’ve never tasted butternut squash. Is it called butternut because it looks like the color of butter?”
The volunteers could not find pre-cut squash so all the culinary kids got to try peeling and cubing the whole squash. They soon discovered it wasn’t easy. Maeve Taffe said, “I’ve never peeled anything, especially a squash!”
The chopping began, and Erica Gogan remarked, “It is so satisfying to hear everyone chopping up the vegetables.” As they chopped, diced and measured the ingredients into the skillet, they all questioned how a dish without meat could be a full meal. Then, the quinoa and chickpeas entered the picture.
LiLa Mora explained that chickpeas have lots of protein, so it replaces the meat. Her classmates were impressed with her knowledge. Finally, after what seemed like forever, we combined the nutritious quinoa and the vegetables, and mouths started to water.
The stew was plated and everyone sat down to dine. Reviews were mixed. LiLa Mora loved the complex tastes with all the different seasonings. Maeve Taffe was a no-go. Erica Gogan said, “It’s really good. So many different flavors and spices. I like the flavors of the quinoa and the chickpeas.” Jaesha Benjamin asked for seconds. Cheyanna Rivas said it best, “Good or bad, we tried something we may never have had a chance to ever try.” So true!
— Lorrie Craley
This week the students were very curious about the Moroccan stew. They wanted to know where Morocco was located and had questions about the unfamiliar spices in the recipe. We had them smell each spice before adding. They thought the stew might taste good because the spices smelled so fragrant! The students did a wonderful job working as a team. Their chopping skills are becoming quite impressive. When he sampled the stew, Calvin remarked, “This is amazing!”
— Angela Burke, Cindy DePasquale
"What is the difference between a soup and a stew?” asked Susan Munafo, after the students read the recipe. “A soup has more liquid,” replied CJ William. “The stew has bigger pieces,” answered Vincent Vadeanu. “You’re both correct,” Jane Pupis told them.
Looking at the ingredients, the class noticed that some of the spices were similar to the Shakshouka, and then there were others that were new to all. And, only one person had had quinoa before. The students got to taste fresh ginger, chickpeas and pumpkin seeds (our substitute for the almonds) before we added them to the stew. Sophia Heavens did NOT like the ginger at all. The students weren’t sure how they would like this recipe. Surprisingly everyone had a positive response to it. Vincent was very proud of his plate of stew and loved this recipe, saying, “The star of the dish was probably the squash.” He later added, “The seasoning plays a big part in this recipe.”
Andrew Ramos agreed with him, saying “The whole dish was delish.”
Then we had the ones who thought that the butternut squash was too sweet.
CJ said, “The chickpeas and carrots were great with the quinoa.”
Sophia thought, “The quinoa was outstanding.”
Finally, Laziz added, “The pumpkin seeds were amazing.”
All positive comments. CJ ’s comment, “I can’t wait to taste the salmon next week,” received lot of cheers.
— Jane Pupis & Susan Munafo
It is wonderful to watch our chefs as their palettes expand to try new foods. The Moroccan stew was a big hit. The children remarked on the crunchiness of the almonds and the texture they added to the dish. There were also questions about the quinoa, such as how such a tiny grain could pack in so much nutrition. It was heartening to read in Nalia Diaz’s blue book, in big letters, “Cooking is Awesome!”
— Sallie Anderson and Pat Kelly
Everyone was really excited to chop all the vegetables, and they all wanted to be the person chosen to help cook everything. However, this week, the students were a little hesitant to try our finished dish. Not everyone liked the dish that we made this week, but they were all willing to at least try everything.
So far this spring, my students’ favorite dishes were the scrambled eggs with the biscuit, and the chicken noodle soup. Many of the students are looking forward to trying next week’s salmon dish even though some of us are not big fans of fish.
— Wendy Vandenburg
“Who likes spicy?” we asked as soon as our Bayard Taylor chefs gathered at the cooking table for our Week 4 class. When every hand shot up, we knew it was going to be a day of fun and enthusiasm making Moroccan Stew with Squash and Quinoa.
There are lots of spices in this North African recipe — coriander, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, ginger, cilantro and cayenne pepper — and the class was excited to see how they would work together. “I liked how this one recipe used multiple spices,” Jayden Murphy noted. “I liked how we added different ingredients we never heard of,” said Mirelyz Perez. Though there were lots of ingredients to keep track of, our increasingly skilled chefs took care of the prep work quickly. Jayden and Gabriel Ortiz volunteered to peel the carrots, and discovered that cutting them into “rounds” was the same as cutting them into “coins,” as we’d done for chicken noodle soup. Zusanna de Jesus, who joined our class just this week, plunged right in and showed not a bit of shyness whacking a flat knife on the garlic cloves to remove the skins. Mirelyz diced the onion nicely, and managed not to cry.
Everyone wanted to smell the minced ginger, after the aroma got their attention. “It’s not like garlic,” Gabriel observed. “It’s sweet, but a good sweet,” Zusanna said, before moving on to sauté the onions. Meanwhile, everyone wanted a turn measuring the spices into one bowl, and learning that so many African and Mideast spices begin with the letter C. The job-sharing made the spices a little late for the simmering onion, carrots and squash, but when they were added everyone noted how nice it smelled. Then it was on to the quinoa, timing it so that it would be ready when the vegetables were.
When it was time to serve, our chefs eagerly lined up to fill their bowls and took them to the table they had set up on their own, including water glasses for all. It felt like a family moment when we all sat down together. “I like it a lot!” Zusanna said when she tasted the stew. Jayden wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, giving a thumbs up for the vegetables but a thumbs down to the slivered almonds we had mixed in. “Those threw it off for me,” he said. Mirelyz and Gabriel, who had had a lot of fun making the stew, weren’t fans of the final product. Which was OK, since part of the learning in a cooking class is discovering your opinion is just as important as everyone else’s — and you don’t have to like every recipe. But there are always other things to like. Asked what she enjoyed most about her first class, Zusanna quickly replied, “Everything. I liked doing the different parts and I liked eating what we made.”
— Nancy Smith and Peter Landry
Wissahickon Charter School, Awbury Campus
We had a small turnout for class but these two managed to do the work of five. Egypt Scott also showed up after dance practice, bringing along her younger cousin to eat dinner and help with the dishes. The spicy stew was well received not only by the students but also by family members who tried it when they came for pick up. All the leftovers were packed up and sent home for families to enjoy. “I love squash,” said Marsalis, who was plucking chunks from the stew.
Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences
Some notes from our Moroccan stew class:
Jayla Velazquez said, “I felt a little unsettled about our meal because I wasn’t sure if the meal was appetizing... I didn’t fully enjoy the meal today.”
Marialis Rodriguez said, “This reminds me of when I go to new restaurants.”
— Tijuanda Riddick and Teresa Leedie
This week’s recipe definitely had the children curious. James Brown and Allanah Bumpers manned the stove, and it was great to see their reactions to certain spices. James was not a fan of smoked paprika, and Allanah looked a little confused when we were adding cinnamon! We assured them that it would all come together in the end. When Mr. Higgins walked into the kitchen to take pictures, he said it smelled amazing and compared the dish to a popular Philly restaurant around the corner! In the end, they weren’t huge fans of this dish. We did add a side salad with homemade ranch dressing, and they all enjoyed that!