For the past 2 years, I have been teaching cooking basics in a little booth at the Hillsdale Farmers’ Market. Once a month the first year, then twice a month the second. This year, Hillsdale Farmers’ Market will host free weekly culinary classes, thanks to a very forward-thinking market manager & community-minded market board, enthusiastic class participants (several showed up throughout the season for every class last year!), encouraging Farmer & artisan vendor support through conversation, produce, & products, and a generous donation from SweetWares. I’m simply thrilled.
The mission of The Farmer’s Feast is to cultivate domestic culinary arts. I believe that one of the best ways to do this is to offer instruction and classes free of charge to anyone who wishes to participate. The best venue is the Farmers’ Market, where the food is freshest & most nutrient-dense, raised passionately & sustainably, and with few, if any, chemicals. The Farmers’ Market is also a place where you can develop a relationship with the person who grows your food, which is extremely important, given the mystery that shrouds our industrial food supply (i.e. GMOs, pink slime, arsenic-fed chickens, etc.).
The primary focus of these classes is cooking basics, in order to develop a skill set that can be applied to all of the local bounty. Because the audience ranges from beginner cooks to those who are more advanced, we use the basics as a springboard, expanding the lesson and branching out to encompass more professional techniques, and old-world from-scratch processes.
To teach these classes, I draw on my formal training, 24 years of professional culinary experience in fine dining & catering, my experience as a mother of a young child, 20+ years of preserving foods at home, and the wonderful relationship that I have with local Farmers, Fishermen, Cheesemakers, & Food Artisans. At heart, I am a frugal cook, trained by very successful restauranteurs that it is disrespectful to the people who raise your food & to the food itself to be wasteful…plus every penny counts (one of these days, I’ll tell a tale of staff meals of offal & fish heads). All of these aspects work their way into the classes.
The season kick-off coincided with Hillsdale Farmers’ Market’s Opening Day last Sunday. It was a bustling market, brimming with energy & enthusiasm, and there was a good turnout for the first class. Knife skills basics was an apropos warm-up class, and this week, I’m ready to take on Scary Foods. Below is a season schedule. Find a topic that interests you and stop by for a bit, or pull up a chair and stay for the entire process. Or “enroll” for the season and take advantage of free education.
I do hope to see you at the market!
Hillsdale Farmers’ Market
Feed Me Fresh Cooking Series
Sundays 11 am – 1 pm
Knife Skills & Mise en Place
Two essential keys in making everyday cooking more manageable – sharp knives & having “everything in its place”. For the season kick-off, we’ll start at the beginning, with some kitchen basic how-tos. How to hold, hone, & wield a knife, plus various vegetable cuts (dice, baton, julienne, chiffonade).
Herb talk – gardening is underway and herb starts are available from several market vendors; there are serious payback benefits to getting some herbs in the ground. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions & provide planting tips.
Scary Foods – Part 1
We’ll explore the culinary possibilities of intriguing market finds. Be prepared to try things that can sting, poison, and cause general nervousness when one is contemplating their culinary uses.
Cooking for the Week
The weather is warming and we want more time outside! Cook once and eat through the week by making meals that evolve, becoming much more than “leftovers”. Plus ease the pressure of busy weeknight suppers with meals that freeze.
Whole Fish – How to Filet It, Store It, Cook It, Cure It
Fileting a fish is a skill that can be very beneficial to your food budget. Take advantage of the price of whole fish & process it yourself. Throw nothing away – frugality with fishes will lead to tasty dishes! Recipes for bellies, bones, scraps, & fish heads provided.
Getting off the Bottle – Salad Dressing From Scratch
From basic vinaigrettes, to green goddess, to creamy blue cheese & ranch, salad dressings are a cinch to whip up in a snap. Forget the fillers, preservatives, and additives – do it yourself simply & naturally, and do justice to your Farmers’ Market veggies!
Ricotta, Mascarpone, Mozzarella, Paneer, Farmer’s Cheese
Watch milk transform right before your eyes as I demonstrate basic cheese-making techniques.
Bacon, Ham, Guanciale, and Lardo are simple and safe to cure at home. This demo will guide the audience through the process of salting, brining, and curing.
Seasoned ground meat. Sounds easy, no? Basic sausage really is that easy, as long as you follow a few guidelines.
The second half of the demo will focus on stuffing sausage meat into casings, cooking, and storing. Plus recipes for using fresh sausage.
Kid Snacks (good for “kids at heart”, too!)
Fruit Leather, Toaster Pastries, Homemade Gelatin Dessert, Hummus, Nut Butter, Pudding
Cook healthy snacks for & with your little ones – Parents are encouraged to bring along the kids. There will be snacks, and coloring sheets to work on while we entertain the parents!
Refrigerator pickles and processed pickles that come together quickly are the focus of this demo. Make quick pickles and enjoy them right away.
summer break – no class
Salsas & Condiments
Simple accompaniments to compliment your meal. Add spice, zing, & flavor to grilled or roasted meats & vegetables. Top soups, stews, or bruschetta with a spoonful of intense flavor. Throw together a stellar cheese plate for your dinner guests. Or whip up spectacular sandwiches. It’s easy once you have a stash of condiments in your fridge or on your pantry shelf!
Raw Foods Primer
It’s a hot food trend…and speaking of hot, it’s too hot to cook in the kitchen! Not to mention all the health benefits of a raw-foods diet. We’ll make some fun, fresh, tasty treats using glorious market produce. No stove required.
We all seem to be doing more for ourselves these days – why not update your pantry with market-fresh staples? Invest a little time, and in return, save money by making your own fancy pantry items. Flavored vinegar, salt, & sugar. Dried mushrooms. Vanilla extract. Mustard. Mayonnaise. Crackers. Hot sauce. Chile flakes. Dried herbs. Spiced nuts. Pancake, biscuit, cornbread, & cake mixes.
We’ll squeeze in as many recipes as will fit in the day’s pantry!
Preserving the Harvest
Learn the basics of home canning. We’ll make jam from start to finish using fresh Farmers’ Market fruit and the waterbath canning method. Tips, techniques, and terminology. A great tutorial for anyone who wants to start canning.
The second half of the class will focus on ways to use your preserves. Don’t worry – if you’re not a jam-on-toast connoisseur, we’ll explore different avenues for all those jars of sweet fruit in your pantry.
Fun recipes that use sweet foods in savory ways (melon pasta sauce), and savory foods in sweet ways (Moroccan sweet tomatoes). Sound weird? Maybe, but so is the thought of carrot cake…and that’s delicious!
Today, we collaborate with Hillsdale Farmers’ Market’s Annual Tomato Festival, presenting a multitude of tomato recipes & uses. Tomatoes are one of the most versatile foods. They can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, beverages, even dessert!
The Gluten-Free Guest
We all know someone who is not eating gluten – either as a long-term dietary commitment, or perhaps to give the body a respite from gluten for a time. In this class, we’ll explore ways to adjust recipes that traditionally call for gluten, and discover dishes from cuisines that are naturally gluten-free.
Bento Box Lunch
Back to school means homework for parents – making school lunches that are both healthy and appreciated by kids (so they will actually eat it!).
The bento box is a great way to include a variety of foods, and what could be more fun than a treasure-box lunch with different compartments to discover?!
The air is cooling, the cabbages are beginning to appear at the market, and winter is long and dark. Squirrel away a taste of fleeting summer by fermenting some of the harvest. Fermented foods are splendid for the digestion, and taste delicious. We’ll make sauerkraut & apple-scrap vinegar, and talk about fermenting basics. Help with the demo and take home a quart of kraut-starter to ferment at home!
Three Thrifty Meals
Frugality in the kitchen does not equal meager or humdrum. Market-fresh dinners that satisfy the palate, nutritional needs, & the budget.
Just because it’s not a loin or a chop is no reason to turn your nose up on those odd cuts! Harder working muscle can be some of the tastiest…once seasoned & tenderized through slow-cooking. And even the oddest offal can be delightful with proper cooking techniques. Join us at this demo as we make friends with odds & ends!
Meat Braising Primer
Learn the basics of a moist, flavorful braise. Slow-cooking is key. As is using the right cut. We’ll simmer a basic stew, and prepare a larger cut to cook whole.
Toasting, grinding, soaking, frying. Ingredients, technique, patience. Observe the process of making mole, a beautiful ritual for festive occasions.
Scary Foods 2
A fall follow-up to our May Scary Foods demo. We’ll demystify mysterious market finds…by cooking and eating them! Bring your adventurous spirit. And remember…it wasn’t long ago that tomatoes were considered a scary food!
Hors d’oeuvres, canapés, dips. Easy entertaining ideas for the holidays ahead.
There’s a giant turkey in the oven and you need a dessert – what to do?! No-bake desserts; a non-traditional, but fun alternative that will delight your guests.
Holiday Side Dishes
We’ll shop the market and whip up unique side dishes for your feast. Easy enough for every-day, yet festively flavored. Sides worthy of gracing your holiday table.