Culture Kitchen Closes Shop

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If you recently visited Culture Kitchen’s homepage you read the note below and learned that we have closed our shop.

Wondering what’s next for the blog?  I’ll be posting every few weeks, sharing my adventures continuing to cook with the amazing Culture Kitchen Cooks.  Right now I’m working on a post sharing an afternoon of cooking with Dang from Thailand.  Stay tuned!

Looking forward to continuing to cook with you!

Abby

THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT!

2.5 years ago, the idea of Culture Kitchen was born

1.5 years ago, Culture Kitchen became a company.

Today, we close our shop & move on to new ways of pursuing our mission.

From the start, we set out to connect people by sharing culture and incredible food.  We began with cooking classes. We celebrated the amazing cooking skills and culture of our talented instructors, immigrants to the San Francisco Bay Area who have mastered their culture’s cuisine from years of cooking.  Our intimate classes focused not only on teaching authentic ethnic culinary cuisines, but the story of our instructors, bringing to life the flavors, experiences and essence of their home country.  We then ventured into a new product line, the Culture Kitchen Kits.  Our kits took some of the most memorable classes and instructors and brought their recipes and ingredients to the entire US.  In less than a year, we shipped cooking kits to almost all 50 states, covering 8 different cuisines and 8 incredible home-taught cooks.  Some of you shared your dinner photos with us and proved that together, we were able to connect people by sharing culture and food, no matter where you live.  

The last few years have been an amazing and life changing journey with the Culture Kitchen team, our vibrant cooks, their families, and all of our dedicated customers.  But we weren’t able to get everything to come together like we had imagined.  We had challenges with sales, bumps in the road with funding and sometimes dwindeling team energy from working very long hours.  All these things lead us to decide it was best to close-up shop, give big hugs to all of our Culture Kitchen family and explore our own ways of spreading culture through food with other projects.  It’s with heavy hearts that we close the doors of Culture Kitchen.  It has been a great privilege doing this work and making memories over the kitchen table with you. 

We are honored for all of the encouragement, enthusiasm, and support from our investors, teammates, customers, and everyone whose lives Culture Kitchen has touched.  Words cannot express how grateful we are to have had the opportunity to pursue our dream.  The mission of connecting people by sharing culture and food is bigger than just one company. We hope you will continue to explore ways to connect people through food.

THANK YOU!

Abby Sturges & Jennifer López

Co-founders

Hawaii Food & Wine Festival: Battle of the Food Geeks

 

We were honored to be asked by the Hawaii Food & Wine festival and 500 Startups to present Culture Kitchen as part of their Battle of the Food Geeks last week alongside other great food startups.  It was great to share what Culture Kitchen is all about with an excited audience of festival attendees and the esteemed panel of food and tech leaders.  A big thanks to everyone who came out and our impressive panel of Susan Feniger, Roy Yamaguchi, Sang Yoon, Lee Anne Wong, Chris Grdovic and Dave McClure!  Thanks for making our first trip to Hawaii memorable, aloha and mahalo!

Mical’s Eritrean Coffee Roasting Technique

It’s the middle of the month which means we shipped this month’s kit!  Current subscribers, Eritrean with Mical is on it’s way to you and you are in for a treat.  You’ll be exploring the flavors or Eritrea through Mical’s favorite stew style recipes as well as receiving everything you need to have an authentic Eritrean coffee ceremony.  In case any of you want to see Mical demonstrate how to best roast your coffee beans, check out this video to see her in action:

Kickstarter Campaign


We have great news here at Culture Kitchen, we launched a kickstarter campaign this week to help develop a whole new set of Culture Kitchen kits, but this time with a focus on video.

We have spend the last 6 months working on bringing wonderful menus to your doorstep from some of the best cooks we have had the privilege of working with.  As we have grown our user base and developed more kits one area we feel we have neglected is bringing to life the Master Cooks sharing their recipes.  Each kit has had stories and technique told through the eyes of the Master Cooks, but from the inside we know there is far more to share than that.

Kickstarter is a crowdsourced platform to raise funds and pre-order products that are yet to exist. We are excited to continue producing kits and take them to their next level by bringing the Master Cooks we get to work with in the Kitchen into your kitchen with video.

Our goal is to make every kitchen a Culture Kitchen, and get cooking and exploration to happen daily.  Help share our mission and new Kickstarter campaign.

Straight from the Source: Meet Aradhita

Aradhita is the amazing Master Cook behind this months new Culture Kitchen Kit.  Hear from her in this post on her cooking career.

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In the year 2000, I gave up my bachelor life and got married. The only cooking I knew up until that point was how to boil milk and a few snacks. My husband used to live in Bangalore (often times known as the Silicon Valley of India) and we were supposed to travel there from our home town 2 weeks after getting married. He casually told me that I should learn 2-3 dishes from his mom before we leave. I panicked and interviewed my mom and my mother-in-law for recipes and wrote everything down – with the hope to try and figure it out when we reach Bangalore. The day came and we left for Bangalore, during the journey, I told my husband about my cooking skills. He was of course not thrilled and bought me a recipe book from the train station.

 

We reach Bangalore and I could not even figure out how to make rice. I remembered we went to the market and bought an electric rice maker and I had to read the manual to understand the ratio of rice to water. Well, that was the start of an amazing journey of my life. I had a brand new life in a brand new city, plenty of time in my hand, a few hand written recipes, recipe book and a desire to succeed and rise to my husband’s expectations.

 

One quality which helped me was the fact that I liked to eat. Till date, I cannot decide what I like more – to cook or to eat. So, as a connoisseur of food with zero cooking skills, I started experimenting with ingredients and spices. I got rid of my phobia of not touching raw meat and fish and started cooking, testing and making panic calls back home when things didn’t work. Slowly but surely, I started liking what I made. And when I like a dish, I knew others would like it too. I learned some more when my mother and mother in law visited Bangalore. Bangalore has a very cosmopolitan nature and that allowed me to not limit myself to any particular style. I grew in confidence within couple of years, started to throw parties at home where I would do all the cooking – something I enjoy even today. In 2006, we came to the Bay Area and I think my best came out. I cooked for a friend once and all of their guests called me back to see if I could cater for them. That started my catering business which I ran for a couple of years. Though I cook many different styles today, what I most enjoy is Bengali cuisine – it brings back all the memories from my home. Normally we put lot of emphasis on fish, lentils, rice and sweets. The taste can be fiery or subtle. Bengalis are generally obsessed with food – I have seen my father going to market daily to buy fresh supply of fish and vegetables. And that is the norm. Bengalis are also very particular about the way and the order food has to be eaten. Each item is served separately so taste of each once can be enjoyed. In big occasions like marriage (including mine), food is served in banana leaves. In any big occasion, normally a meal will consist of rice, dal, bhaja, at least 2 types of vegetables, fish, chicken, mishit doi (sweet curd) and sweets. And after all these, a paan (beetle leaf) is usually served. Normally all the guests will be seated to have the meal and it’s a very traditional practice for the host to go to each table, greet the guests and request them to eat well. Hosts will also request them to eat more of a particular thing like fish, chicken or sweet. It is also a normal practice for the guests to oblige. So in the end, everyone ends up over eating J.

 

PS: I still have those hand written recipes and the recipe book we bought from the train station.

New site, new blog, Same Mission.

You may have noticed we got a bit of a facelift.

We have been working for a while in the Kitchen to release this new blog and site, and are so happy to have them go live!  This new site is part of a larger mission for us and just one step in the direction of our larger vision. We are a very small team producing all of our kits, vetting recipes, working with our amazing cooks, and hosting cooking classes.  Things have been getting a little crazy over here! Lots to do and lots of things we want to do, but unfortunately we can’t keep doing them all with a small team.  So, as our subscription base for the Culture Kitchen Kits grew we knew we needed to make some decisions about how we would grow Culture Kitchen.

Our mission has always been to spread culture through food and build personal connections between people and different cultures.  We feel we can best do that on a national scale by growing our kit community.  Because of this refocus we have decided to put a hold on in-person Cooking Classes.  We encourage you to check back in the far future as we would love to bring cooking classes back to the Bay Area as our company and team grow.  We hope you understand and share our excitement to continue forward with our mission of sharing culture through food and explore with our Master Cooks in a new way, this time every month.

For more information on our kits visit our site here.

We hope you enjoy good food, good company and always keep exploring.

-The Culture Kitchen Team

Iraqi Eggplant with Garlic & Mint Yogurt Sauce

Baraka’s Culture Kitchen Kit will surely feed an army, but what if you wanted a few more pieces to fill out your diningroom table?  Then you have to have Baraka’s Eggplant with garlic and mint sauce.  A staple recipe in Baraka’s home, here at Culture Kitchen, and soon we hope your home too.  Get the recipe below and get cooking!

Ingredients:

2 Large eggplants
1 handful of mint
2 cups yogurt
salt
Corn oil (for frying, feel free to use your standard high burning point oil)

Tools Needed:

Measuring cups and spoons, a medium-sized mixing bowl, and a large fry pan (Note: if you do not have a large fry pan, you can use a smaller one, but you will need to fry the eggplant in smaller batches).

Instructions:

Wash the eggplants and cut off the tops. Using a knife, peel the skin in stripes from top to bottom. The end result should have a white and purple stripe pattern.

Cut the peeled eggplants in half horizontally and again lengthwise into slices, about 1/3 inch thick.

Lay out eggplant slices in a large dish and sprinkle them with 3-4 tablespoons of salt. The salt pulls the water out of the eggplants, which helps them brown while frying. Move the eggplant around every 10 minutes to evenly distribute the salt and remove as much water as possible. Drain the water as it collects in the bottom of the dish. Allow the eggplant to sit for up to an hour.

While the eggplant is sitting, wash and pick off all the leaves of mint. Reserve the flowering buds at the top of a stem for garnish. Roughly chop the larger mint leaves.

Peel and mince 4 to 5 cloves of garlic. You want to make the pieces as tiny as possible to mix throughout the sauce.

Combine the yogurt, mint, and garlic and mix thoroughly.

Once the eggplant has had a chance to sit for about an hour, heat 1/4 cup corn oil in a pan over medium to high heat until very hot.

Using your hands, squeeze as much water as possible out of the eggplant pieces.

Slide the eggplant slices into the oil at a shallow angle to prevent splattering and fry in batches until golden brown, flipping once (about 2 minutes on each side).

Depending on how high the heat and how hot the oil, the eggplant may cook more quickly or slowly. Also, the eggplant will continue to “cook,” deepening in color even after it has been removed from the oil.

Remove the eggplant from the pan and set aside to cool completely before topping with the yogurt.

Do not drain oil from the eggplant on a paper towel as you need the oil from the eggplant for the correct flavor and texture.

Once the eggplant slices are fully cooled, arrange them flat on a serving dish and spread the yogurt sauce on top. Garnish with the reserved mint buds and serve.

Unveiling the Culture Kitchen Box

We have gotten many requests asking exactly what does it look like to get a Culture Kitchen Kit.  So we made this quick video to help represent what a dinner party with Culture Kitchen could look like.

Hope you enjoy and to Good Food, Good Company and exploration!

Chocoflan- Delicious Mexican Treat

So most of you know what Flan is, the lovely vanilla custard with caramel sauce that makes your mouth water.

Now how could such a thing get better? Add chocolate.

Paloma is sharing a sweet dessert her children love at home, and a great pairing option for your Mexican Mole Fiesta.  Now fret not if you are just making a little mole for you and one or two others, the Chocoflan is well worth the addition cooking, and somehow I bet no matter how big your crowd is you will all be members of the clean plate club.

Ingredients:

12 oz. Can Evaporated Milk
14 oz. Can Condensed Milk (Paloma loves La Lechera)
6-7 eggs (3 for flan and 3-4 for cake)
2 Tbs Vanilla Extract (pure is best)
1 Standard box cake mix (or your favorite chocolate cake recipe- one that makes a light fluffy cake)
1/4- 1/2 cup veggie oil (depending on your cake recipe)

Tools needed:

Blender, spatula, can opener, measuring cups and spoons, a mixing bowl, foil and 1 deep 9-10 inch round cake pan. (Alternatively, you can use 2 shallow 8-9 inch round cake pans as Paloma did in these pictures, depending on whether you prefer 2 short cakes with thin layers or 1 tall cake with thick layers.)

Instructions:

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Create a water bath (baño de María) by filling a large pan (large enough to fit your cake pan inside it) half full with water and place in the oven on a middle rack. You want the water to be roughly half the height of your cake pan.

Follow the instructions on the back of your standard chocolate cake mix to make the chocolate cake batter, set aside.

In a blender, pour the evaporated milk, condensed milk, 3 eggs, and 2 tablespoons vanilla. Blend until fully combined.

In a skillet on the stove over medium heat, add a 1/2 cup of sugar and stir continuously. You want the sugar to melt but, not burn. When the sugar is melted and a light golden brown color, it is finished. Immediately pour the melted sugar into the cake pan. Swirl the caramel until you have completely covered the bottom on the pan, let harden.

Pour the contents of the blender (the flan) into the cake pan with caramel. Pour the chocolate cake batter into the same pan on top of the flan mixture. Don’t worry if the two batters mix a little, as they will separate in the oven.

Cover the cake pan with foil and place into the shallow pan of water in the oven. You want the water level to be slightly higher than your flan layer. Once you have set the pan in the water, make sure the water level is low enough that no water enters the cake pan. Cook for 60 minutes.

Check the cake by piercing with a toothpick of knife. If it comes out clean, it is ready. If the cake needs to bake longer, continue to bake without the foil cover for an additional 5-8 minutes and then check again.

When the cake is done, remove the pan from the oven. Cool for at least 10 minutes before platting.

Place a serving dish over the top of the cake pan. Holding the serving dish against the pan with oven mitts or pot holders, flip the serving dish and cake pan at the same time, and gently remove the cake pan from the chocoflan.

Serve immediately or let the cake sit for 40 minutes to cool completely and then serve. You can eat Chocoflan either warm or cool, but Paloma prefers her chocoflan chilled.

We <3 Substitutions: A World of Poblano Mole

That secret mole recipe…every Mexican family has one.

Whether it has an extra cinnamon stick, multiple types of peppercorns, a carrot, or extra peanuts, the one common thing among all these mole recipes is the large quantity of spices, nuts, seeds, and chilies that comprise that special sauce, which sometimes totals 20 different ingredients! No matter where in Mexico you travel, you will find some variation of Mole, but one state holds the crown for the tastiest and rumored home of mole, Puebla.

This month, we are debuting Paloma’s incredible family recipe for mole taught to her by, of course, her grandmother. This Mole Poblano is rich and sweet and full of layered flavor. Now, the box contains all the dry ingredients that make famous mole, but there are still a few ingredients that may be a little harder to find if you don’t have access to a Mexican or Latino market. Fear not: our team of recipe developers and testers have tested a plethora of substitutions to make for a tasty mole even if you can’t make it to the Mexican Market.

Bolillos are Mexican rolls. These rolls are dry, crunchy and are often used for Mexican sandwiches because they are known for not being too sweet.  Bolillos aren’t commonly found in regular bakeries, but they are a staple at any Mexican market or bakery. Can’t find a bolillo? Here is a common substitution to make sure you have a tasty, thick sauce.

French Bread/Roll

French bread worked well as a substitution, as it is the most similar to Bolillo bread, only with a rougher crust. Using french bread produced a richer and sweeter mole compared to Paloma’s recipe. The sweet flavor highlights the cinnamon, though, so beware!

Bimbo White Bread 

Do not be fooled: all white breads are not equal. We know it might be tempting to just swap out your bolillo for sliced white bread, but from our experience, we advise you to resist the urge.  We used the commonly found Bimbo sliced white bread and it was much too sweet for the mole! Instead of helping to bring out the mole flavors, it overpowered it. Most importantly, the mole lost its spicy kick!  Take our advice and avoid the sweet, soft sliced white breads.

Plantains are in the banana family but aren’t quite the peelable lunch variety. In mole recipes, plantains act as a thickening agent to help create a deeper flavor of the nuts and chocolate.  Plantains come in a few varieties and stages of ripeness. They are common in Mexican and Latino markets, but if you can’t find them at your local grocer, feel free to use these one of these two substitutions.

Unripe bananas

Using unripe bananas produced a flavor closest to Paloma’s mole. The consistency of this mole was slightly sweeter, creamier, and had a bit more kick at the end of every bite making for a nice finish.

Sweet Potato 

Using sweet potato definitely thickened up the mole sauce compared to Paloma’s mole, which produced a slightly grittier and less pureed mole that left us tasters with the occasional spicier bite. While the flavor wasn’t too far off from Paloma’s mole, make sure to add more chicken broth and blend for longer if substituting sweet potato for plantains, as they proved to be tough to blend!

Peanuts–to shell or not to shell? 

There are so many steps to making mole that we attempted to shortcut one, the shelling of roasted peanuts. Instead, we used pre-shelled peanuts. While the flavor wasn’t too far off from Paloma’s mole recipe, it did produce a slightly sweeter, thicker and creamier mole lacking the more full-roasted flavor when shelling peanuts yourself. If you want the real deal, set aside to the time to crack all the shells from those peanuts!

We hope this informs your grocery shopping efforts and saves you some time when looking for those less available mole ingredients that we can’t ship you in your CK Box!

Happy Mole-making!

The Culture Kitchen Team