What to do with Tomatoes! Tomato Sauce and Tomato Crostinnis

tomatoes1

With Summer starting a bit late this year due to a cooler July 2016, tomatoes are at their peak now in September when normally, the peak season would be August. Our crops at Forest Grove Elementary are doing really well under our hoop house which is also protecting them from late season blight. Even the random plants growing without being under the protection of the hoop house are also doing quite well.

20160914_093741

We’ve been harvesting a variety of tomatoes including: pear, grape, cherry and a larger sized tomato. Sounds more like fruit which reminds me to say that tomatoes are in fact fruit as the come from a flower. Our crops have been really tasty and sweet too.

So what is the best way to enjoy tomatoes? I have two suggestions right from the mouths of our kids at Forest Grove. Our two most popular recipes to how to enjoy tomatoes, one using uncooked simple ingredients crostinniwithtomatobasil (link to video) and one using tomatoes in a freshtomatosauceforpasta.

Fresh Tomatoes on Crostinni 

Harvest as many different kinds of fresh tomatoes as you can

Cut a baguette on an angle and spread out on a baking sheet to crisp up

Paint each piece of bread with olive oil and bake in a 375 degree oven for about 8 mins

Rub each piece of toasted baguette with a clove of raw garlic. NOTE: be careful not to rub too much garlic on each piece as it will taste quite “spicy” to kids.

Cut up fresh tomatoes into small pieces; small enough to fit on to each piece of bread.

Combine the cut up tomatoes, chopped basil, olive oil, salt & pepper with a splash of balsamic vinegar into a bowl.

dsc_4530

When crostinni toasts have cooled, add the tomato topping on to each piece along with some grated Parmesan cheese.

dsc_4957

Serve immediately as a starter or appetizer.

Also try roasting peppers add instead of tomatoes.

If you can’t enjoy the tomatoes right away or have a bumper crop where you have an abundance, consider freezing some of your crops in a large ziploc bag. This works really well if you would like to make tomato sauce later in the year. We are doing this at Forest Grove since the tomatoes are ready faster than our cooking classes will start.

Speaking of cooking classes and cooking tomatoes, our recipe for a basic tomato sauce has been a real hit with the kids. My own daughter has perfected the recipe recently at age 9 after practicing several times over the summer. It’s made her feel super proud to be able to cook for her family !

Basic Tomato Sauce

The recipe I use stems from a combination of my Foods 11 and 12 classes in  high school when I was taught by a young Italian teacher as well as watching other Italian cooking shows. I find using simple fresh ingredients and only a few ingredients helps kids remember too.

We also do a version with canned tomatoes which can be cooked down and reduced into a pizza sauce. Simply subsitute the canned tomatoes for the fresh and prepare the below recipe the same way.

For the fresh tomato version, start with peeling and slicing about 6 large cloves of garlic

On the same cutting board with the same knife, cut up 4 to 6 vine ripened tomatoes in 6 pieces per half tomato to transfer the flavour of the garlic.

Once your garlic is sliced, add the garlic to a cold pan with about 4 tablespoons of olive oil

As the pan heats up, add a few pinches of red chilli flakes

There is a debate about whether to allow the garlic to brown. To me, allowing the garlic to brown just slightly around the edges really improves the flavour of the sauce.

Once the garlic has started to brown a bit, add the cut up tomatoes. NOTE: this is the part where the pan will spit as the juice from the tomatoes hits the hot oil. This can scare some kids so warn them ahead of time.

Sprinkle the tomatoes with sea salt and dried oregano. If you have fresh oregano, add it closer to the end of the sauce.

Allow the sauce to cook and reduce slightly. When sauce has reduced a bit, add fresh chopped basil which should also be still growing nicely around BC. Amazingly, I found a huge bunch of basil at a local produce market for only $1.79!

This is when your pasta should be almost done. Instead of draining the pasta, I prefer to remove the pasta with tongs or a slotted spoon and add it to the pan along with some pasta water.

Toss the sauce together with the pasta and serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Kids will never go back to the jarred stuff again. I promise!

20160804_165955

Advertisements

Summer Sets, Autumn Rises: Summer Re Cap and Back to School Reconnection

DSC_3103

Summer Cooking Camps, Garden Work Bees, Campers, Volunteers, Seed and Good Times

There has been a ton to reflect on in the last two months. It was the first time Sprouting Chefs was back in the gardens cooking with kids in the summer since 2010 and to be honest, I was a mix of excited and scared which are both the same feeling funny enough. Excited to be fulfilling the part of our program that answers the question of “what to do in the summer with school gardens” and scared a bit wondering if I could pull it off again.

All worthy thoughts looking back now. The camps filled up nicely with an age range of children from 7 years old to 13 years old in scattered weeks through the summer. We had access to use the Community Room at Lochdale Community School which had a lovely school garden I had planted out in the Spring of 2016 with the school. I was familiar with the space and a few of the kids too.

DSC_4674

A few goals of the Summer Cooking Camp: to harvest and cook with the food growing in the school garden, to highlight local seasonal ingredients available in BC, to teach at least 10 basic recipes to children that they can then use at home with their families, to instill a sense of confidence and empowerment within each child.

IMG_20160719_153740

From Asian Salad Rolls, Roasted Chicken (as seen in the photo above!), Pastas, Salads, Wraps and Infused Waters, we did it all plus a few more depending on the group. Also new this year was taking the groups to Whole Food to learn how to shop on a budget. The older group, 10 to 13 yr olds, learned how to either work together in groups or shop individually with only $5 each to then create a recipe when they returned to camp. It was awesome to see the final creations which included: Tomato Lentil Soup, A Crostinni Hors D’Ouerve with Chicken Sausage, Avacado and Cheese, French Toast, and a Fruit Crisp too. It was great to have a handful of new volunteers and a couple of fabulous staff to help me manage the various degrees of organized chaos. Chase Ando and Valerie Song from AVA Gardens brought in their enthusasim, energy and passion for food during the week with the older kids. We all had a blast!

20160720_133505.jpg

20160708_135614

In between all the camps, Sprouting Chefs was also funded to oversee and maintain the Forest Grove School Garden during the summer.

20160723_110348

Bursting with life at every turn, Garden Work Bees ranged in activities from watering, harvesting both crops and seeds, planting out more crops, composting and weeding.

IMG_20160827_175914

Families from the school’s Garden Club, Forest Grove Alumni and a handful of volunteers from BDO, a new corporate sponsor all came out throughout the summer. Many folks ask how to care for a school garden during the summer and what has been working really well for a handful of schools Sprouting Chefs oversees is a simple volunteer schedule that gets created just before school ends. Parents from the Garden Clubs are asked to sign up for a week to water and care for the garden. In the end, only about 9 families are needed and the families feel really good about caring for the garden and helping their community.

What is needed to maintain a school garden in the summer: access to a hose and water source, someone coordinating the transition between the families usually via email, and a strong knowledge of what each garden space needs. Some of the Forest Grove Families took on more than 1 week, their dedication and commitment to the garden was that strong.

Always in the back of my mind as the summer days passed was the fact the kids in the school would be back soon and to make sure there was something for them to discover and admire about what they had planted in the spring.

Garlic was harvested in July and cured for the Fall Cooking Classes, the Labyrinth was redefined as the grass had grown in and the front garden area was thoroughly watered and weeded all ready for the kids to enjoy again.

When it comes to fall and preparing for the new school year in the garden, the biggest crop and excitement is around our tomatillos. For the past few years now, the kids at Forest Grove have been learning about preserving and then selling Roasted Tomatillo Salsa at the school’s Christmas Craft Fair. Out of the sales and interest, the students then estimate how many more new crops to plant for the following year.

Sadly, the Christmas Craft Fair is not going ahead this year so Garden Club will be creating the salsa to sell to the community  in another way; either via the Burnaby Farmer’s Market or at the upcoming Fall Community Event we are creating with the school.

The Fall Community Event will be a set of 6 in school Cooking Classes with the Intermediate students ending with a celebration where the school community and a few local community groups will come together for a lunch. Another exciting and new adventure for Sprouting Chefs as a pilot project that may become an event other schools can also create with our help.

 

Kids who grow kale, EAT Kale!

Kale in the rain. Our Kale grew to a huge 6 or 8 feet this year after being planted last spring. Kale also oddly enough, represented the virtue of “forgiveness”. The Gr. 6 class last year tried growing it in their classroom only to mostly neglect their seedlings by not watering them. Instead of judging or condemning them for neglecting the plants, I simply handed out more seeds to sprinkle right into the garden. This worked wonderfully. The kale grew over the year and there was even kale buds/sprouts which we discovered were DELICIOUS!

Kids who grow kale, Eat kale! Kale chips, kale spanakopita, kale buds/sprouts, kale salad…