A group of enthusiastic participants, including both novice and seasoned cooks, gathered at the Market Kitchen on June 11 for the first Grow Cook Learn event of the 2013 season, Dressing Up Your Spring Salad. On the menu was a trio of salads featuring many locally sourced ingredients, some obtained earlier in the day on a road trip to various local farms and suppliers.
As the participants arrived, there was no doubt that real cooking was happening — the room was filled with the sounds and aroma of sizzling bacon. Later, the fragrance of olive oil, lemon and lime juice and fresh vegetables scented the air.
Many of the participants had never made salad dressing before, including Rosa who was there with her daughter Laura. For them, the class was a chance to spend time together while learning new things. Rosa said she’s planning to make her own dressings at home now. She also found it interesting to learn about quinoa, a new ingredient for her.
Instructors Brittany McMullen and Dianne Armstrong demonstrated recipes and techniques in the teaching kitchen at the front of the room, sharing information and tips along the way. Each participant in the hands-on class had their own workstation, equipped with the tools to make their own trio of salad dressings. Although everyone was eager to begin, food safety was a priority and hand washing for everyone was first on the agenda.
Another participant, Chris, took cooking classes as a teenager and now cooks for her family. She found her first Grow Cook Learn class valuable and appreciated the opportunity to taste some foods she’d never had before, such as avocado and quinoa.
The instructors provided students with guidelines for oil-to-acid ratios in salad dressings, advising that they should adjust those to suit individual preferences. After measuring out the basic salad dressings at their work tables, students visited a central seasoning station to add herbs and spices to kick up the flavour. They also learned to test their dressings by dipping in a spinach or lettuce leaf and tasting to determine if they need to adjust the seasonings.
For Kerri, who came at a friend’s suggestion, this was her first cooking class. She said she loved the class and that it was a good opportunity to try new things. The most surprising thing she learned was to add mustard to the other ingredients to emulsify salad dressings.
Tips Shared at this Class
- You can buy nuts in quantity and store them in the freezer
- You can use quinoa instead of rice
- When using pastas, potatoes and quinoa in salads, they will absorb the flavours better if you dress them while still hot
- To remove the tough ends of asparagus, bend the spear from the bottom and it will snap in the right place
- When buying avocados to use right away, look for black skins with a little give; to help ripen a green avocado faster, store it in a paper bag
- Roll lemons and limes on the counter before cutting them to release more juice
You can find the recipes for the three salads below, as well as guidelines for making salad dressings, here.