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Notes from the Field…Cook Fresh Crew Summer Lunch Program


The Cook Fresh Grow Crew have been busy in the kitchen preparing lunches for all 60 interns every Tuesday this summer! Each week, we have an amazing guest chef come into the Urban Roots kitchen to teach the Cook Fresh youth various culinary skills, how to prepare different cultural dishes, and how to use our home grown fresh produce in a variety of ways.

We have already had the pleasure of inviting six guest chefs, from a variety of culinary backgrounds, to share their cooking background with the interns. The first week of the summer program was kicked off with some traditional “Soul Food” led by guest chef Darlene Fry, who brought her intuitive cooking methods to the Cook Fresh crew, challenging them to use their senses and use zero recipes! The menu was diverse and included some great southern style greens, mixing up tradition with the use of some pac choi from one of our gardens.

The following week brought another fantastic menu from Birchwood Café’s Head Chef, Marshall Paulsen. He brought in some great contributions from the café, such as their very own black bean burgers, fresh granola, their buttermilk blue cheese salad dressing, and some incredible Birchwood Birdseed Bread. The youth learned how to make a refreshing quinoa salad with some beautiful produce from our gardens, as well as some amazing wedge salads that highlighted a summer crisp lettuce that the youth harvested just the day before.

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Extending on the cultural cuisine theme, our next two lunches included menus from across the world. Ping Wang, a professor at Metro State University volunteered her time to teach the crew about traditional Northern Chinese cooking and the history behind it. The youth helped prepare some amazing stir fry, as well as a sesame kohlrabi salad, and some delicious Chinese bread rolls. The week after, Rajen Rayan came back to Urban Roots for a third year in a row to help prepare a flavorful Indian menu. The interns prepared a traditional chicken curry, which surely gave them a good arm workout from all of the stirring! They also prepared a cucumber yogurt salad that had everyone in awe because the secret ingredient was pineapple!

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Just before our Birchwood Booster Club Dinner, Union Kitchen’s Yia Vang came by to cook lunch to be inspired by the crew before the big fundraiser that week. Yia brought great enthusiasm to his menu, highlighting the summer grilling season by bringing in his very own Brazilian style grill to cook up some insanely delicious grilled chimichurri pork and chicken! The interns had a blast grilling up the meat and some of our fresh vegetables, even in the 90 degree Minnesota summer heat!

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Most recently, we had the pleasure of inviting head chef, Taelyn Lang, from COOK St Paul into our kitchen to craft up some amazing Korean Bi Bim Bop. Using fresh cabbage, summer squash, beets, dragon beans, chard, kale, and carrots from the Urban Roots gardens, the interns were able to put together some incredible Korean side dishes, with the addition of copious amounts of chili flakes (which even went into a beautiful fruit salad)!

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With just two lunches left, the Cook Fresh Grow Crew are more than excited to learn how to concoct some more dishes from the fantastic chefs that will be helping us out! The last two weeks of the summer program bring in two last guest chefs. First, we will be inviting food stylist, Kimberly Colburn, who just recently visited the entire Cook Fresh crew to show them the tricks of food styling, like how the professionals make cereal look so perfect on the box! To wrap up the summer lunch program, Beth Dooley, a passionate local food advocate and author of the book “In Winter’s Kitchen” will be joining the youth to make an delectable last meal for all of the interns for the summer.

Also, be sure to come out to the Urban Roots Open House on August 10th, from 4-6:30! The Cook Fresh crew will be there selling our very first Urban Roots Cookbook that they have developed, featuring all of the dishes from the lunches, as well as their own favorite recipes and more! You don’t want to miss it!