After all this talk of gardening techniques, seeds, and soil, we can’t forget the original purpose of a garden – to grow food! On Monday, July 15th, Derek Nottingham from Guest Services visited Boys Home to give a cooking demonstration using some of the fresh produce from the garden.

The focus for the morning was on salads; they’re simple, easy to make, and they don’t heat up the house when it’s 89 degrees and humid! The kitchen staff had thoughtfully sliced all of the veggies beforehand, so it was mostly a matter of mixing everything into the appropriate bowl. There were six varieties of salad all together: southwest tomato, spinach and berry, tomato and broccoli with a blue cheese dressing, Greek salad, apple zucchini with vinaigrette, and watermelon and herb. Despite years as a professional chef, Derek admitted to being laid-back about following recipes. “If you’re baking, you want your cake to rise, so follow the recipe exactly,” he advised. “Otherwise, you can relax a little.”

For some, the highlight of a salad is the dressing, which is surprisingly simple and easy to make. Derek demonstrated making a quick vinaigrette using vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a little bit of mustard. (Fun fact – in a salad dressing, the mustard doesn’t add much flavor, but it acts as an emulsifier, helping keep the oil and vinegar from separating.) Essentially, add all the ingredients, whisk everything together, and taste test. If it’s too sour, add a little more oil. If it tastes like olive oil, add a little more vinegar. The great thing about making your own is that you can adjust it to fit your tastes!

Another tasty offering on the morning’s menu was grilled green beans with green onions. This, too, was simple and easy. Guest services employee Pam sliced the green onions, peeled the garlic, and tossed them with the beans in olive oil and salt and pepper. Then everything went onto the griddle at medium-high temperature until the garlic caramelized and the edges of the green beans turned brown. Lastly, she transferred them from the griddle to the serving dish, sprinkled the whole thing with shredded parmesan, and it was ready to eat.

The cooking demo was fun and delicious, but cooking and eating from the garden happens more than once each summer! Over the last couple months, staff and students have enjoyed garden fresh greens in salads and vegetable dishes, and everyone is looking forward to more salad greens, tomatoes, peppers, and onions throughout the summer.