My cooking school with Sara Foster continued this morning with a hands-on session culminating with lunch. While Blackberry Farm has a tradition of bringing in top chefs from across the country for its Food & Wine programs, this is one of the first times that students have been invited to don aprons and closed-toe shoes (to prevent a knife accident!) and tackle the recipes ourselves.
Kudos to Blackberry Farm and to Sara for letting us be the guinea pigs.
After we picked a work station, Sara told us what each group would be preparing. My table’s task was to make Succotash Salad with Garden Tomatoes, while other groups made grilled vegetables, a salad with roasted butternut squash and goat cheese, barbecued pork tenderloin and lemon pie with a divine gingersnap crust. Everything was quadrupled so we’d have enough to feed the group, meaning a mountain of onions to dice, tomatoes to chop and corn to slice off the cob.
Always helpful and gracious, Sara walked from table to table, advising us to do our mise-en-place prior to starting and answering questions on everything from how to slice jalapenos to whether to add vinaigrette to a hot bean salad or to let it cool first.
Joseph Lenn, chef de cuisine of the Main House at Blackberry Farm, also spent the morning with us, and it was from him that I learned two marvelous, time-saving techniques for dicing onions and tomatoes. I promise to pass them along once I’m back at home and can illustrate them with step-by-step photos. (I couldn’t take them this morning given the amount of food we had to cook (large) and the time we had to cook it in (not so large). Many thanks to both Sara and Joseph for being so patient and kind with all of our questions.
When all the basil had been mixed into the salad and the last tenderloin had been pulled from the grill, we settled down to enjoy the fruits of our morning, a fantastic buffet of dishes created from Sara Foster’s three cookbooks (The Foster’s Market Cookbook, Fresh Every Day and Sara Foster’s Casual Cooking).
There, lingering over lemon pie and coffee, we shared stories of our homes, our kitchens, our families. And that’s the whole reason why I cook, because it brings people together for good food and just-as-good conversation.