August was an adventure of the taste buds at Robin Hills Farm. The entire month of August would play host to our first series of cooking classes out at the farm. Emily Van der Waard of Chelsea, Michigan, graciously offered her time and expertise in developing a 4-class series is hosting a ‘Garden Party.’ In preparation for the series, she created specific (and delicious) recipes inspired by Robin Hills Farm produce. Plus, we held the series in our open air classroom smack dab in the middle of the garden. The series began with The Appetizer. Emily began the first class by instructing her students on how to properly use a knife in cooking and preparing. To apply those skills, each student was given a chopping board, a knife, and a vegetable that would become one of three appetizers cooked and ready to serve by the end of class. This series’s chosen appetizers were: Grilled bruschetta with ground cherries, fresh basil, parmesan cheese, and balsamic honey glaze; Baked goats cheese, with fresh herbs, honeycomb and crusty French bread; and Gazpacho Bites with jalapeno cream.
Each class in the series featured similarly creative and scrumptious recipes smothered in Emily’s genius and beaming farm-to-table. The second class, The Salad, began with Emily deconstructing the traditional view of ‘the salad.’ “Salad doesn’t mean lettuce,” Emily began. Instead, Emily walked her students through a variety of ‘salads’ that many would overlook simply because of the lack of that one crucial ingredient: lettuce. Her recipes consisted of: Caprese salad with balsamic reduction; Garden slaw with green goddess dressing; and Cucumber tomato salad with mint dressing. She finished each salad off with a homemade dressing.
The next class was the long-awaited Entree, which featured some remarkable recipes suitable for any Garden Party. Emily offered both vegetarian and meat-loving options, and she executed the mains with precision and care. Students left well-fed and gushing over the flavors. The recipes of the day were: Curry Chicken Skewers, with Cucumber Mint Yogurt; Curry Grilled Cauliflower Steaks with Spicy Vegetable Chutney; and Lentils and Cous Cous. Feedback from students mentioned ‘tastings’ were the highlight of the class.
The final class of the series focused on the dessert. Once again, Emily arrived with her finest Garden Party recipes in tow. Students were not disappointed. The features were: Pound Cake Ground Cherry Trifle with raspberry coulis; and Panna Cotta with lavender and tarragon honey sauce. Since it was the final class of the series, students indulged in the fruits of labor, and there was plenty to go around.
The grand finale of the Garden Party Series, however, was the Harvest Dinner fundraiser cooked and served by Emily and her students. In collaboration with the Chelsea Community Kitchen, Robin Hills Farm hosted a fundraising dinner for community members to benefit the CCK. The dinner was followed by a film screening of “Growing Local,” a documentary on the local food movement, and a panel discussion featuring Taryn Hammer Marcus, one of the farmer’s featured in the film, and local residents involved with the local food movement.
Thank you, Emily, and all who took interest in our Garden Party Series!