IN THE KITCHEN: From farm to plate

Garden State on Your Plate shares the joy of eating local

By Faith Bahadurian, Special Writer
   Each spring the Garden State on Your Plate program of the Princeton School Gardens Cooperative introduces children to a taste of locally grown or produced food, and shows them how it’s connected to a local farm or grower.
   Farmer-chef teams guide children in the Princeton YMCA’s Princeton Young Achievers program through tasting exercises that teach them about flavor and the difference that proximity to farms makes in flavor quality. The program allows the kids to assist food professionals, and reinforces for them the pleasure and community of the table.
   I sat in on the first program recently, when Josh Thomsen, executive chef/partner of Agricola restaurant and farmer Steve Tomlinson of Great Road Farm, which supplies many of the ingredients used at Agricola, presented a program on chickens and eggs.
   Farmer Steve brought several pretty, brown chickens to the Marcy T. Crimmins Learning Center in Princeton Community Village (one of three PYA sites), where they happily commenced hunting and pecking in a temporary outdoor enclosure. As the kids excitedly looked on, he talked about raising chickens, describing how strong shells depend on natural feeding, and how the birds need to be brought inside at night to protect them from foxes.
   Inside, Chef Josh had dozens of hard-boiled brown eggs waiting, along with the fixings for egg salad. Tubs of chives, tarragon, and Italian parsley filled the air with a delicious herby fragrance. After a quick egg-peeling demo, Chef Josh chopped up eggs as quickly as the enthusiastic kids could peel them. Then he combined them with the other ingredients as he took questions and imparted more information along the way.
   As each child was served a scoop of salad to enjoy, Chef Josh passed around several farm-made powders made from dehydrated vegetables: tomato, carrot, mushroom, celery, and also some salt mixed with lemon zest. Some of the children sprinkled one or more on their egg salad to try the different tastes. (Tomato was a hit, so future sessions will send the kids home with some from Savory Spice Shop.)
   This rousing good time sent the children home with the recipe and plenty to think and talk about. Other topics will include mushrooms, lettuces and apples, arugula, and cheese and wild herbs. (See http://www.psgcoop.org/garden-state-on-your-plate/, for recipes as they become available.)
   Below, find the recipe for the egg salad, plus another egg-centric recipe from ChopChop magazine, which aims to inspire and teach kids to cook and eat real food with their families (see chopchopmag.org). The quarterly, available in English or Spanish, makes a great gift for families with children.
GREAT ROAD
FARM EGG SALAD
Adapted from Josh Thomsen, Executive Chef, Agricola. Allowing the eggs to stand in the hot water, rather than boiling them, ensures against rubbery whites and gray-green yolks.
8 large eggs
   ½ cup mayonnaise
   2 small stalks celery, finely chopped
   2 small green onions, white and green parts, finely chopped
   1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
   1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
   ½ tablespoon fresh tarragon, minced
   1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
   Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
   Place eggs in a saucepan just large enough to hold them. Add cold water to cover by 1 inch and bring just to a boil over high heat. Remove the pan from the heat and cover. Let stand for 15 minutes. Drain eggs, then transfer to a bowl of ice water and let cool completely.
   In a bowl, mix together mayonnaise, celery, green onions, parsley, chives, tarragon and mustard. Peel eggs and chop finely. Add to mayonnaise mixture and mix gently. Season with salt and pepper.
BASIC FRITTATA
(WITH VARIATIONS)
Adapted from ChopChopMag.org.
The great thing about a frittata, as ChopChop tells us, is that it can be prepared ahead of time and eaten warm or at room temperature, so it makes a great (and portable) protein-rich breakfast or lunch. You can vary the vegetables and the herbs to your liking and what you have on hand, even using fresh spinach or shredded kale. You could also add a half cup of diced, cooked meat.
   3 teaspoons olive, canola, or vegetable oil
   1 onion, peeled and chopped
   ½ head broccoli or cauliflower or ¾ pound asparagus, chopped
   ½ cup leftover cooked potatoes or cooked rice or day-old bread cubes
   8 large eggs
   1 teaspoon kosher salt
   ¼ teaspoon black pepper
   1 cup fresh basil or Italian flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
   ½ cup grated or crumbled cheese, such as cheddar, Swiss, feta or Parmesan
   Turn the oven on and set it to 350 degrees. Using your clean hand or a paper towel, lightly coat an 8 x 8 baking dish or 9-inch pie pan with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Put a large skillet on the stove, turn the heat to medium, and carefully add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally with the spatula or big spoon, until golden and softened, about 7 minutes. Turn the heat down to low, add the vegetables and potatoes, and cook until the vegetables are the tenderness you like, 5-10 minutes. Set aside for 10 minutes, or until cool.
   Put the eggs, salt, and pepper in the mixing bowl and, using a whisk or fork, mix well. Add the onion mixture, basil, and cheese, and mix well. Pour the mixture into the baking pan and carefully move it to the oven. Bake until the top is golden and the eggs are set, 25-30 minutes. (To see if the eggs are set, use pot holders to jiggle the pan back and forth: you should not see the eggs moving around in a liquidy way.)
   Set aside to cool and serve warm or at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.
Faith Bahadurian blogs at http://njspice.net (also Twitter @njspice).