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Canyon Sages Cook Up a Storm
March 21, 2013 - By Michele Johnson
PHOTOS COURTESY OF CANYON SAGES
“Appetizers and Small Bites with an Emphasis on Presentation” was the topic of the Sages latest cook class, taught by Karla Morrison.
On Wednesday, February 27, Canyon Sages cooks gathered at Catherine McClenahans beautiful hillside home to conjure up Appetizers and Small Bites with an Emphasis on Presentation under the skilled leadership of Karla Morrison.
In a couple of short hours, the class of 15 or so chefs pitched in to create a bakers dozen of delicious hors doeuvres that decorated the granite counters, looking as good as they tasted. And tasted they were, with everyone getting their just desserts (and veggies) when they broke for lunch and conversation.
This was the fifth Sages cooking class since October, the brainchild of organizer Andrea Palella. Each of these excellent cooking classes, covering different regions and influences, has been full with a waiting list. As for Karlas February class, who would have thought that healthy cooking could be so versatile, delicious and deceptively simple to prepare: skewers of seared tuna with soy sauce and pineapple; dates stuffed with goat cheese and cinnamon; fresh fruit kabobs. Whats not to like?
The piece de resistance was Karlas now famous no-bake chocolate cupcakes with raspberries for dessert. Karla and Catherine were a natural fit and have been friends since they discovered they shared a home city and countryOttawa, Canada. Karla was raised in Ottawa, where she came by cooking naturally, as the hard-working oldest girl among 10 siblings in a family that owned restaurants and catering companies.
I started drying silverware at 13 or 14 and graduated to the cash register at 15, she said. Along the way, she helped cater a dinner for Prince Charles and Princess Diana and served Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev his first lobster. Karla came to America as a family emissary to help open and run a restaurant in Santa Monica Place called David Smiths Deli. That was where she met her husband, Joe.
He came in to fix the restaurant fridge. Sixteen years ago, they moved to Topanga with their 4-year-old daughter, Kayla, settling into an old home that they completely rebuilt. Joe and Karla own Morrison Heating and Air, which has served the Canyons needs for many years. Working the front office hasnt been enough for Karla with her volunteering spirit tugging at her sleeve. She has been pitching in to help with the senior dinners for 15 years, started the Pass the Parmesan fundraiser for Topanga Elementary, and has worked tirelessly fundraising for many Canyon organizations. For all that hard, volunteer work, she was named the Chambers Citizen of the Year in 2005. Does she miss the restaurant biz? Not really. Oh my God, its a hard business!
But she does enjoy cooking and keeps her hand in, teaching classes and continuing to cook for the Sages monthly senior dinners.
The Joys of Cooking
Canyon Sages cooking class of 15 or so “chefs” pitched in to create a baker’s dozen of delicious hors d’oeuvres that decorated the granite counters, looking as good as they tasted.
The cooking classes have been a real success story. Judith Fine-Sarchielli kicked off the first one at Susan Cohens home kitchen. It featured Tuscan Gluten-Free cooking. Many came just to find out what gluten-free was all about, but some, like Pat MacNeil, wanted to learn to cook dishes for someone suffering from celiac disease. For them, eating gluten-free isnt a choice, its a necessity. The elegant Judith, who lived for years in Tuscany, Italy, and served as a chef and cooking teacher for more than 35 years, helped the group whip up a wonderful gluten-free bruschetta and a mushroom risotto. The December class, led by Dina Fraboni, featured Easy Vegan dishes. It was taught at the Community House kitchen, to accommodate a larger group. Dina is a nutritionist who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Hollywood. The cooks fixed and then chowed down on amazing black bean walnut burgers with chipotle mayonnaise, creamy broccoli soup and a very light coconut bliss with raspberries and pecans for dessert. Yum!
Elke Kochs Fresh French Garden class followed in January, 2013. She had an ambitious menu with a different take on bruschetta, a Spinach Corn Quiche, Fish in Olive Cream Sauce and Marjoram, Moulin de Mougin salad and Apricot Gratin for dessert. Elke had worked in a five-star French restaurant in Germany while working toward her BA in hotel management and charmed the group with her lovely manner and accent. Students brought wine and other drinks to add to the magic.
At each class, participants help cook the dishes, then dine on them, all for a minimal charge over the instructors cost. As all the generous Sages instructors dowhether they teach exercise, gardening, photography, computer or watercolor classesthey offer a special price with Sage-agers in mind.The cooking classes will continue, using ideas from Andrea Palellas fertile imagination.
Many will feature Indian cooking and in June, former Bon Appetit editor Kristine Kidd will shop with the class at Topangas Farmers Market and then cook what they buy. Enrollment is limited and the classes are always in demand. To sign up, join the Canyon Sages at topangatowncouncil.org or call Michele at (310) 455-1319.
The Canyon Sages is an organization for seniors of any age, operating for the last few years under the auspices of the Topanga Town Council.