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Culinary School Midterms

Life’s been pretty crazy – I just finished my last day of midterms today, praise God! I was SO freaked out about them. Because listen to a description of them:

DAY 1: 125 question written midterm Ingredient ID (walk into the kitchen, and 25 random spices, flours, grains, vegetables, etc. are laid out and you have to know what they all are. Including different KINDS of seaweed. Tamarind paste? Asafoetida? Kombu? Yeah.) Knife skills

DAY 2: Impromptu cooking – pick out of a hat a type of grain and a type of sauce (pureed, dairy-free white sauce, gluten free roux, nut and seed sauce, etc.) and use whatever’s in the kitchen to make a sick-wicked dish to showcase your skills.

DAY 3: Impromptu cooking 2 – Make a soup, either carrots or cauliflower as a base, and a salad to showcase your skills. After cooking, we had to perfectly plate a serving, present it to our instructor and tell her what it was, and then leave her with her big evaluation sheet about our dish. Then, we were called back in one by one and told her evaluation. Think…Iron Chef. ;-)

Sooo……..this sounded kinda scary to me. Luckily, everything went very smoothly (thank you St. Joseph of Cupertino and St. Martha!!!)

The first day of cooking, I drew pureed sauce and polenta. SO I made this roasted tomato and garlic romesco sauce to put over a spicy pepper polenta stuffed in a roasted green pepper. It turned out very well, and my instructor REALLY enjoyed it! And…….if ya want…….here’s the recipe!!

Spicy Polenta Stuffed Roasted Pepper


  • 1 poblano chili, sliced in half

  • 3 heirloom tomatoes4 cloves of garlic, smashed

  • bottom half of 1 green pepper, de-seeded and de-veined

  • 1 onion + 1/2, chopped

  • olive oil

  • salt

  • pepper

  • 4-6 sprigs fresh rosemary

  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme

  • a few leaves fresh tarragon

  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, shredded

  • 1 cup polenta

  • 4 cups water

  • 1 small jalapeno pepper

  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped

  • ancho chili powder and cayenne pepper, to taste


  1. Slice all tomatoes in half and place skin side down in a pan with at least 2″ sides. Add poblano chili and green pepper half. Sprinkle on 1 onion, then nestle smashed garlic cloves underneath the tomatoes, so they don’t burn. Drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Add fresh herbs.

  2. Roast at 450 degrees for about 20 mins. After 20 minutes, the green pepper half should be done. Remove from pan, set aside, and place pan back in oven for another 20-30 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, prepare the polenta. Boil the 4 cups water. Once it is at a rolling boil, add the polenta in a small stream, stirring constantly. Reduce to low heat and stir almost constantly. If you don’t stir frequently, it will make huge lumps.

  4. Sautee the 1/2 onion chopped and add to polenta.

  5. Remove poblano chili from roasting pan, return pan to oven, and chop the chili and add it to the polenta. Add in red peppers, cayenne, and ancho chili powder. Salt and pepper to taste. If it needs more kick, give it some!

  6. Cook until it has reached desired consistency – approx. 30 minutes if you want it thick.

  7. After 45 mins-1 hour, the vegetables should be done roasting, and the pan should be pretty juicy. Remove from oven.

  8. Remove woody stems (from the herbs), and squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skin into the pan – discard skin.

  9. Setting 1 tomato aside, carefully pour contents of pan into a good blender or food processor. You may want to add some fresh herbs and garlic at this time! Process until smooth.

  10. Pour into a saucepan and squish the remaining tomato into the sauce (this makes for an earthier sauce, which I like – if you want it smooth, puree it all!) Taste and adjust seasonings.

  11. Place on stove to reduce if you want a thicker sauce, or add some veg or chicken stock if you want it thinner.

  12. Place roasted green pepper back in oven for a few minutes to heat back up. Remove from oven and fill with your polenta.

  13. Pour some of your delicious roasty sauce over the top, and garnish with some fresh basil, thyme, and tarragon. Enjoy!

Now…….TODAY……was AWESOME. It was a bit stressful during it, b/c it was taking wayyy longer than I expected to make a freaking soup and salad, but I ended up finishing right on time! And…..during my critique, my instructor said my soup was their FAVORITE out of the whole group, and it was the only one they wanted to eat the whole bowl of! I had achieved an amazing depth of flavor, but not one of the ingredients overpowered any of the others. YAY!!!!! SO exciting to hear!!! So uh…you want this recipe too? ;-) It is SUPER good, not gonna lie. I’ll try to give it to you as accurately as possible, though I didn’t actually measure while I was making it.

Coconut Lime Carrot Soup


  • 4 Tbsp coconut oil

  • 1 Tbsp cumin powder

  • 2 Tbsp chili paste

  • 4 carrots, sliced

  • 1 celery stalk, sliced

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 1 small potato, chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 inch fresh ginger, chopped

  • 3 cups veg stock

  • 1.5 cans of 13.5 oz coconut milk

  • 1 generous pinch cayenne pepper

  • juice of 1 lime

  • zest of 1 lime


  1. In a large pot, heat coconut oil over med heat. Add cumin and chili paste and cook for 1-2 mins, till you can smell the flavors – be careful not to burn it!

  2. Add all chopped veggies and caramelize – approximately 10-15 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they’re brown and wonderful looking and smelling out of this WORLD!

  3. Add veg stock and coconut milk, stir well, and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, until all the veggies are tender. Taste at this point and adjust seasonings to your liking. I added salt and cayenne pepper at this point.

  4. After veggies are done, remove from heat, carefully pour into food processor or blender, add lime zest, and puree (if you want chunkier, don’t puree long).

  5. Pour back into pot and stir in lime juice. Taste and again adjust for seasonings – more lime if you want it, more ginger, more cayenne, etc.

  6. Serve with a cilantro leaf and some curly lime zest as a garnish. SO GOOD!!! :-D

  7. And then……my salad! I made a Pomegranate Citrus Roasted Asparagus salad. My instructor also loved this, and said I achieved the perfect balance of sweet and savory in the dressing! Unfortunately, I have no idea what proportions I actually used in it…lol, but I’ll try to recreate it for you!

Pomegranate Citrus Roasted Asparagus Salad


  • Asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces

  • olive oil

  • salt

  • pepper

  • Any greens you like – spinach, arugula, random baby greens, lettuce, etc.

  • walnuts

  • maple syrup

  • pomegranate molasses

  • cayenne pepper

  • 2 Tbs water

  • dried currants


  • 1 pink grapefruit, juiced

  • 1-2tsp red blush raspberry vinegar (I think that’s what it was called…lol)

  • a touch of pomegranate molasses

  • 3 Tbs? olive oil

  • salt

  • pepper


  1. First, place asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper, toss, and roast in oven at 450 for about 10-15 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, wash greens and put together dressing – simply whisk together all ingredients, and adjust to taste.

  3. Next, heat a saucepan over medium heat. Pour in some maple syrup, pomegranate molasses, a generous pinch of cayenne pepper, and a bit of water if needed. Add some walnuts and stir constantly until heated and nuts have soaked up most of the liquid, and liquid has begun to become sticky.

  4. Remove walnuts from pan and place on a plate to cool.

  5. When asparagus is done, remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.

  6. To assemble salad, shred greens if not already bite-sized, add asparagus (saving some spear tops for garnish), and toss. Add some dried currants and the walnuts and pour on some dressing. For garnish, try placing 3 asparagus spears side by side and wrapping with a curly-q of grapefruit zest. Sprinkle smaller zests around the top. Voila!

Ok…phew. And now I have to go work so I can afford to eat this month. Enough recipes for you? ;-) Let me know what you think of them if you make any!

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