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Students get lesson in cooking with Interior Alaska produce

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Posted: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 12:01 am

FAIRBANKS — Learning about the economics and health attributes of locally grown foods had some tasty benefits Friday for students in a Future Foods class at Barnette Magnet School.

All eyes were on Chef Michael Roddey, as he chopped, pickled, sautéed, cored, diced, rolled and wrapped a variety of delectable dishes for students to taste test.

To work his magic, Roddey, assistant professor, culinary arts and hospitality at UAF Community and Technical College, selected fresh vegetables and herbs from a nearby table covered with produce students purchased during a recent trip to the Tanana Valley Farmers Market.

Nestled among the kale and collard greens, kohlrabi, large, red heritage tomatoes, fennel, carrots, leeks and locally produced herb vinegars was raspberry jam, which Roddey used for sautéed cabbage and apples with sour raspberry sauce and fennel.

“The kids picked the raspberries and made the jam,” said teacher Colleen Smith.

Earlier in the program, the students (grades 5-8) visited local farms to learn about farming principles and production.

The idea for studying local sustainable foods, came from the students, Smith said.

As Roddy deftly sliced, diced, pickled or sautéed each dish, he explained each step in detail and threw in some cooking safety tips for good measure.

“Notice my fingers are bent,” he said, while chopping an onion.

“Use the knife away from yourself to be safe,” he said, while coring a locally grown apple.

The apple coring method, he explained, is similar to coring a cabbage; first it is quartered and then the core is carefully pared out.

“And where do I put the core of the apple?” he asked the class.

“In the compost,” came the unanimous reply from his enthusiastic audience.

After each of the food demos, students eagerly lined up to taste a small but wholesome portion.

A class favorite was the 10-minute zucchini pickles.

But tastebuds also were enticed by thinly sliced kale greens combined with vinegar, salt and pepper, water and honey.

“It smells like Thai food,” said Jake Foshee, 13, as he ate his small serving.

As students came for seconds, Roddey pointed out, “It’s still kale. We’re not changing it. We’re just not cooking it to oblivion.”

Next on the gas hot plate were apples and onions to be softened before cabbage was added, and fennel introduced at the end for flavoring. The students’ raspberry jam enhanced with lemon-basil vinegar and honey, provided the magical transformation into a sweet and sour dish.

“It tastes like sweet apple pie with vegetables,” said Derek Helmo, as he savored his sample.

Evan Aldridge, 13, was surprised he liked the dish. “I never really liked sweet things with unsweets, but this is really good,” he said.

Collard greens came into play for Roddey’s final dish, using the collard leaves to wrap a combination of cooked, Delta-produced barley, fennel, carrots, tomatoes and onions.

As Roddey folded the individual wraps, students quickly lined up to try the final healthy treat of the day.

“That was way better than I thought it would be,” said Kaia Victorino, 12, adding she liked the wraps and the sautéed kale the best.

Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.

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