19 May 2014

Dare to Dream of Cooking Classes and Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta and Chick Peas

Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta
If your weekly dinner routine consists of Ramen noodles, takeaway pizza or prepackaged dishes that come with microwave instructions, it might be a good time to brush up on those culinary skills. Luckily for us, interesting and healthy cooking classes are sprouting up everywhere in the Okanagan Valley if you have a look. A few weeks ago I attended a basic Lebanese cooking class from Betty Cherkaoui the proprietor of the newly opened SAJ Common Kitchen in Pandosy Village. I was greeted with a warm smile and the promise of things to come.

 According to Betty the name of her space is a tribute to her mother, who is no longer with us. The name Saj means a flatbread, or pita bread, that is made in the traditional Lebanese way. She grew up enjoying this pita made by her mothers hands. The common part refers to the fact that the fully equipped, approved commercial kitchen can be rented by anyone needing a kitchen space to create his or her products, prepare food or hold an event.

 Betty is both a caterer and cooking teacher, who was inspired to create this space for people just like her who had struggled in the past to find a commercial kitchen to create their magic. In British Columbia health and safety rules regulate that you need to prepare items for sale in a commercially approved kitchen. SAJ Common Kitchen targets farmers market food vendors, event and corporate caterers, teachers needing a space to hold cooking classes, chef trainers, and food artisans to make their dreams become a reality. 

Saj is all kitchen, with brightly painted walls, multicoloured sectional sofa, and shiny stainless steel appliances creating a cheerful ambience. With practical state of the art commercial stove tops and ovens, sinks, prep tables, an enormous walk-in refrigerator, and seating for 20 the kitchen is equipped with everything you would need to recreate your vision. 

Betty also offers cooking classes where, for a very reasonable fee, you get the whole place to yourself while you and your friends or a group of soon-to-be-friends learn Lebanese Cooking 101.  She was born in Lebanon and grew up in a family where they gravitated around the kitchen table. Friends and neighbours would gather, whether it be for breakfast,"sabhiya" lunch or dinner where her mothers' cooking was loved and enjoyed by so many. Betty learned the art of Lebanese cooking at a very young age at her mothers side. 

When cooking in my own kitchen I gravitate towards Mediterranean flavours like tart lemon, sweet basil and oregano, and heavy doses of heart-healthy olive oil. Lebanese cooking satisfies all of this and more. Throughout the cooking class Betty took us through the preparation of bold tasting Lebanese Cuisine 101 with demonstrations on preparing basic appetizers like sinfully creamy, lemony hummus, baba ghanoush (which means “spoiled father”) graced with mint, and then moving on to marinated chicken with notes of citrus, exotic sumac, and chilies. We made a "tried and true" tabbouleh salad from precious grains of bulgur wheat prepared by hand by her mother ( a rare treasure indeed), and a satisfying rice pilaf.

“Sahtayn!” “Good health to you many times over,” exclaims Betty as we tucked in to our Lebanese feast. It all ended with a not too sweet baklava. Join Betty for a step by step cooking class, in small intimate groups, where you can participate and share not only her passion for Lebanese cooking, but share a few stories, laughs and a cup of Turkish coffee. Be immersed in the flavours of Lebanon and take a little piece of Lebanon home with you.

SAJ Communal Kitchen
2270 Tutt Street

This salad was inspired by one we made in class. I enjoyed the addition of chopped romaine lettuce for extra crunch, and added a can of chick peas and sassy feta cheese for good measure. At the last minute I found myself devoid of bulgur wheat so substituted quinoa. A happy outcome.

**Quinoa Tabbouleh with Feta and Chickpeas**

1 cup (6 oz./185 g.) quinoa, preferably multi-color
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tomatoes, preferably heirloom, cut into 1/4-inch (12- mm) pieces
1 can (15 oz./470 g.) chickpeas, rinsed and well drained
1 English cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch (12-mm.) pieces
4 green onions, chopped
3/4 cup (1 oz./30 g.) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g.) crumbled feta cheese (optional)
1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml.) extra-virgin olive oil
2 lemons,  juice and zest
1 small head romaine lettuce, chopped

In a large bowl zest 2 lemons. Squeeze juice from same two lemons into bowl. Add 1/2 cup olive oil and freshly ground black pepper and mix.

Place the quinoa in a medium saucepan. Rinse with cold water, drain; Repeat rinsing 3 more times, and then drain the quinoa and return to the pan. Add 1 1/2 cups (12 fl. oz./375 ml.) water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand at least 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Transfer the quinoa to the large bowl with the lemon juice mixture. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, chickpeas, cucumbers, green onions, romaine lettuce, parsley, mint and feta, (if using). Add to the cooled quinoa mixture.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with romaine hearts for scooping if desired.

Serves 4.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. Um... guilty as charged. And have I told you that I am just getting into quinoa now? I love it! And chickpeas and feta are always on hand, especially in the summer. A fabulous salad and yes thank you I will make this. The perfect summer meal.

    1. I hope you do Jamie. It is good for us as well.

  2. I have everything to make this:-)
    Almost sure I have the tricolor quinoa..
    I am excited!
    Thank you for sharing this.
    I think I would love cooking classes..
    I am a homebody though,and not too keen on groups anymore..
    I love making new dishes most of the time..and apart from maybe 2 Costco pre made things like egg rolls and spring rolls..nothing much is premade at all here.

    1. Avoiding processed foods is the best thing we can do. I have read about making tabbouleh with quinoa and finally took the plunge.

  3. Brilliant! What fun and I love the recipe. That's my kind of salad!

    1. New it would be Jacqueline, and the feta cheese is optional for Graham, but essential to me:D

  4. I love this and I love chickpeas too Val!
    Sounds and look delicious!

  5. Hi Val, fun class. I like the addition of romaine, chickpeas and the quinoa substitute in the recipe. I am also still in the mood for a good falafel.

    1. Local Lounge has a falafel appetizer, Summerhill has a chard wrapped falafel, Hanna's has a falafel burger, the Grateful Fed has a falafel wrap, of course there is always the Pita Pit..wink. Don't know if any are good but it would be fun to have another kitchen experiment.

    2. In Penticton there is Dream Cafe,or Falafel Bite at the farmers market, Opus Cafe and maybe more:D

  6. How fun! I'd love to take a cooking class, particularly with this kind of food, Val. :-) How inspiring!

    1. I always seem to learn something in cooking classes no matter how basic the menu. Plus is it just fun to rally around with like minded people.

  7. Funny enough, a couple of days ago I stumble upon a video about Lebanese cousine and got excited by the idea of cooking my very first Lebanese dish. I though to prepare a lebanese bulgur and potato pie (don't remember the original name, sic) but this recipe is fresher, easier and perfect for these hot days (!) in London.

    1. I saw a recipe for a vegetarian kibbeh which was made with potato and bulgur. It looked so delicious and I do have it earmarked for future experimentation.

  8. I would love to take a cooking class. How fun. We must be on the same wavelength. I've been craving tabbouleh. What a great idea to use quinoa.

  9. Sounds like a fun class! And, what a great salad for summer.

  10. I love the idea of a common kitchen. I should look and see if we have anything similar around here. The California Cottage Laws are pretty strict.

  11. i've always been a fan of tabbouleh and i think making it with quinoa is just brilliant! great dish!

  12. The classes must have been so interesting and fun! I love quinoa and this salad will be pinned to try this summer.

  13. This is the way we are gong these days at home..healthy salads. I like what you did.


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