Welcome to Teen Week at Gardens to Tables Culinary Camp! We are going to explore the French Cuisine and enjoy a little bit of healthy competition this week. Let’s get started!
We began our journey through the French cuisine by getting a tour of the SLU garden. We talked all about what it means to have and take care of an organic garden. We also did an informative overview of the different tools one can use in a garden. Then, we planted some organic produce into the fresh soil. Our very first morning at the garden was a success!
From the garden, we headed into the food lab for the first time this week. We started our exploration of French cooking by making our own lunch with a fun competition. We learned how to make a French Bechamel Sauce (remember! fat + flour + heat = roux) and used this sauce to make homemade Baked Mac and Cheese. We also made haricots vera with compound herb butter and cut up some delicious fruit for lunch. We got to try all kinds of different Mac and Cheeses since everyone added their own little flair to the dish, and kitchen 3 won!! Congratulations!
We then got to hang out with one of our Professors at SLU, Ted, and learn a little about a research tool used at the university that measures resting metabolic rate. By learning how many calories someone burns in a day without any physical activity at all, we can begin numerous interesting studies!
After the demonstration, we journeyed into the “potato” side of France and made cold potato leak soup and bacon, potato, and reblochon cheese casserole. Delicious! One of our professional chefs and instructors at SLU, Chef Steve, came to teach the campers different knife techniques as well.
Tuesdays mean field trips at Culinary Camp! This week, we visited a St. Louis organic farm: Kraut Run. The campers listened to Farmer Chris and learned all about what hard work it takes to take care of an organic farm. He explained compost and how important it is to use healthy and active soil to nourish their plants. The healthier the soil, the more nutritious the food that comes out of it! He also showed the campers the livestock on the farm including pigs and chickens. He explained that when the animals get to roam outside, find their own food and water, and are in their more natural environment, they are healthier for us to eat. Avoiding the antibiotics that are ever-present in the meat one finds at the grocery store is not only more delicious but it is so much better for our bodies in the long run! Then the teens got to try out some farming activities for themselves. It was such a hot day on the farm, but we had a lot of fun!
In the afternoon after heading back to SLU, eating lunch, and having some physical activity outside, we headed back into the food lab for some exciting cooking. We gave the campers free rein and had a fun crepe-making competition. One of our professional chefs and instructors at SLU, Chef Todd, went around to each kitchen and taught them the proper technique for making crepes. From that point, the campers had their ingredients and their imaginations! All the teens did an amazing job and created some delicious crepes for the counselor sot anonymously judge. Congrats to our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners!!
The campers started off their Wednesday morning with a great start with Disability Awareness Day! Four stations were set up in the garden to allow the campers to learn first-hand the many restraints and difficulties of being disabled. The campers first listened to two representatives from the Saint Louis Paraquad. Both representatives shared their own personal stories of how being disabled has changed their life and how they have been able to adapt. The campers were able to test out using wheelchairs, leg splints, and adaptive kitchen tools such as a one-handed can-opener and bottle opener, as well as a one-handed cutting board and knife. Chef Whitney showed the campers how to make organic chicken feed using her own personal recipe, but were challenged to use the leg splints while doing so.
After the garden, the campers headed back up to the kitchen to learn some more French recipes and techniques! First they began preparing for lunch: Chicken with Mustard Cream Sauce, Gruyere and Parmesan Souffles, and a Strawberry Salad with Poppyseed Vinaigrette. The campers learned how to properly whip egg whites and fold them into their souffle batter without deflating the egg whites. This ensured a tall, voluminous souffle! For the chicken, the campers sauteed their chicken then made a delicious, quick cream sauce to cover it. Dry white wine was reduced in a sauce pan before adding heavy cream, Dijon mustard, and fresh tarragon from the garden. Yum!
After lunch and a quick game outside for physical activity, the campers headed back to the kitchen to prep for the appetizer party! The campers made candied walnuts using brown sugar and honey, Coq au Vin, and a tomato and Gruyere galette. Coq au Vin is a traditional French meal using chicken and red wine. After marinating in red wine overnight, the chicken is browned in a pan. Mushrooms, small pearl onions, and bacon are sauteed in the same pan to caramelize. The campers learned the importance of a roux to thicken sauces and stews, such as Coq au Vin. Flour is added to a fat, usually butter, and cooked until the desired color. Once cooked, the chicken is added back to the pan to finish cooking with the red wine, onions, mushrooms, and a bouquet garni of parsley and thyme.
For the tomato and Gruyere galette, the campers made a traditional tart dough using flour, butter, and cold water. Once chilled, the dough was rolled out into a rustic circle shape and laid on a sheet tray. The campers filled their tart with fresh sliced tomatoes, sliced Gruyere cheese, basil, Parmesan cheese, and salt. Once the galette’s sides were folded up, each galette was brushed generously with melted butter. We can’t wait to try out our delicious recipes on Friday!
Thursdays are always an exciting day at Culinary Camp! The campers engage in a variety of tasks on Thursdays including Herb day in the garden, cooking food for Campus Kitchens, learning about hunger awareness, and ending the day relaxing and playing in the sun at SLU’s pool! Herb Day started off great in the garden. The campers took a tour of the garden, discovering where all the herbs were. They smelled, tasted, and picked a variety of herbs: basil, mint, lavender, lemon balm, chives, dill, rosemary, and many more! The campers were able to make a cooling herb spray (perfect for these sweltering days!) and a delicious herb butter utilizing the many herbs in the garden.
After the garden, the campers headed back up to the kitchen to learn about hunger awareness and hunger around the world, especially in the United States. Then it was time to start cooking! Today, the campers did not cook for themselves, but for others who might not have accessibility to food. The teens made thirty meals for Campus Kitchens, a non-profit organization which cooks and delivers meals to those in need. Today, the teens made braised carrots and endives, chicken salad sandwiches, and strawberry-nectarine bread. The meals were packaged and brought to Reinert Hall, where Campus Kitchens operates at SLU. After delivering the meals, the campers celebrated their hard work at the pool for some sun and fun!
Today was harvest in the garden and more traditional French cooking! In the morning, the campers harvested vegetables, herbs, and fruit from the garden. It was great to see all the wonderful produce that stems from all that hard work! The campers harvested swiss chard, kohlrabi, turnips, beets, raspberries, fresh thyme, basil, and spinach.
After the garden, the campers headed back up to the kitchen to finish cooking for French week and the appetizer party! For lunch, the campers made Alsace Flammkuchen, a rich, decadent thin crust French/German style pizza with bacon, onions, and creme fraiche. They also prepared a simple, creamy pea salad using fresh tarragon and chives. After lunch, the campers finished off their recipes for the appetizer party. They prepared chocolate mousse using espresso, French cheese Grougeres, and traditional Ratatouille using eggplant, zucchini, garlic, and tomatoes. It was great to sample and taste all the delicious French food made this week at the appetizer party. Cheers to another great week, campers! Bon Appetit!