One of the great things about Cooking Club is that young chefs get to make and try new foods — and try familiar foods made in new ways. That was certainly the case in our Week 6 class when Mari’s Vegetarian “Cheesesteaks” were on the menu.

This recipe is unusual for young chefs — so unusual it could even be considered “exotic,” as Mayalee Ramos had described one of our earlier meals.

As we got started, the class was interested to learn that the recipe had once been on the menu at a “fancy restaurant” in downtown Philadelphia. “We’re going to be eating fancy!” Angela Darden exclaimed in excitement.

In this recipe, big, round portobello mushrooms take the place of cheesesteak meat, and no one in class had ever worked with them before. The students were impressed with their size, but wary of their texture. “Ewww!” Joel Rodriguez said as he opened a package and touched the mushroom caps for the first time. “That’s just the mushroom’s skin,” we reassured. “It feels like your skin.” After resolving that, everyone wanted a turn cutting the mushrooms into thin slices. Angela, Mayalee and Jomarys Vega Santos took the lead and soon had a big bowl filled with the handsome brown vegetables.

Joshlynn Hill, meanwhile, wanted to slice the fresh green pepper the recipe calls for. “Can I taste this?” she asked after slicing the pepper into sections. “Of course,” we answered, and she liked it so much she polished off a whole section just by herself. Joel, as usual, handled the onions, because he had become best in the class at keeping the tears from flowing. Because the recipe requires lots of vegetables, we used two sauté pans and divided the mushrooms, peppers and onions evenly between them. Joshlynn and Jomarys quickly took charge, and Jomarys even tasted the mix like an adult chef while it cooked to check its texture.

As the cheesesteak vegetables simmered, the class turned its attention to the zucchini fries. Our chefs had seen at home how egg whites are separated from the yolks, and they quickly got the whites out of the shells and into a bowl, with only one tiny break. They asked if they could eat the yolks raw, as Rocky had done in the famous Philadelphia movie. We decided to save that for another time, so Joel got busy whisking the egg and milk mixture to coat the fries. Everyone got into the act dipping the zucchini sticks into the liquid and dragging them through the topping of breadcrumbs, paprika and parmesan cheese.

With the zucchini fries on sheet pans in the oven, the class separated the cooked cheesesteak vegetables into six portions and topped them with slices of cheese (including some non-dairy cheddar because Angela is lactose intolerant).

When the crisp fries were done, each chef spooned a portion of cheesesteak vegetables onto a fresh hoagie roll and marched to the table. Though some students were reluctant to try such an “exotic” dish, others gave it a thumb’s up. “I like this,” Angela said. “This is good.”

Perhaps the biggest compliment came after the class when Mr. Laver dropped by to see what we had made. “Cheesesteaks!” we said, which disappointed him because he said he likes to “eat vegetarian.” “You’re in luck,” we answered. “These are vegetarian cheesesteaks!” Hearing that, he happily accepted a portion we had packed up. “I’ll have this for part of my dinner!” he said.