Sunday, April 28, 2013

A Cooking Class with Locavore Amy Cotler

What a glorious Sunday! It finally feels like spring. And what better way to celebrate warm sunshine and bright blue skies than to think about cooking local foods that are coming into season? My mom has been a fan of Amy Cotler of The Locavore Way for several years now. My mom has been going to farmers markets and growing her own food since before it was trendy, and loved Amy Cotler's book. Yesterday, my mom and I attended a cooking class at Amy's 19th century farmhouse in West Stockbridge, making beautifully simple recipes using produce that is in season now.

Wilted Greens with Gorgonzola Croutons
The class was called "Main Course Salads using Local Greens," but few of them were what I traditionally think of as a regular salad. We learned how to make a basic vinaigrette (3:1 ratio - 3 parts oil, 1 part acid), and I learned that you can make rice by boiling it and draining the excess water just like pasta! This may have been common knowledge but it was life-changing for me.

Shrimp, Rice and Spring Green Sambal
Amy is a phenomenal teacher. Incredibly laid-back, a wealth of knowledge but still completely humble and accessible, and she has a fantastic sense of humor. The class was very small, four students total, and I was glad to not have any more than that. Amy split up the menu into parts and divided us into two teams to tackle the recipes. The best part, of course, was sitting down to eat the finished products at the end. Amy even offered us some wine to go with our food, and sent us home with a chunk of heavenly Lindt bittersweet chocolate. 

Spring Greens Market Salad with Pan Roasted Potatoes and Feta
The class was a blast. I got to meet some wonderful people, spend some quality time with my mom, bonding over something we share a passion for, and learned some new skills and recipes that I will surely use in the future. I can't wait for my local farmer's market to open! I'm sure I will post the other recipes soon, but my favorite recipe is below. Coming up next post: healthier brownies!

Mesculun Greens with Roasted Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and Balsamic Syrup

4-6 portabello mushrooms
1/3 cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced (or to taste)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, or a generous pinch of dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Around 1/4 cup (or 2 ounces) goat cheese
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 handfuls of mesculun or any baby greens (about 3 ounces) OR 12 ounces of cooking greens, such as spinach, stems removed
1/4 cup of finely diced carrots, or yellow and red peppers
4 slices of baguette

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove the mushrooms stems and discard, rinse caps very briefly and dry well. Toss mushroom caps with 1/4 cup olive oil, then sprinkle with the garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for 5-20 minutes.

2. Turn cap side up and brush with with any oil that drained off the mushrooms. Roast until the mushrooms are soft and moist, covering the pan loosely with foil. If they start to dry out, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and turn gill side up with tongs. Leave the oven on. Using two spoons, drop a little goat cheese, about 1 teaspoons each, into the mushrooms. Leave on baking sheet.

3. Combine the balsamic and sugar in a small pot and boil, until reduced by almost 1/2, watching carefully during the final reduction so it doesn't burn. Set aside.

4. When you are ready to serve: place the cheese-filled mushrooms in the moven, just until the cheese is warm, 3-5 minutes. (Don't overheat, or the cheese will run.)

5. If using mesculun greens, equally divide the greens between 4 plates, or plce in a ring on a large platter. If using cooking greens, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a wok in just a touch of garlic and toss the greens JUST until they BEGIN to wilt. Place on plates or a platter.

6. To serve, remove the mushrooms with a spatula, to top greens or put in the center of the platter. Drizzle syrup decoratively over the salad, then sprinkle with carrots and peppers. Serve at once with baguette slices. (Bread can be toasted or cubed and toasted, if you like.)

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