As a chef-educator whose passion is working with whole, fresh ingredients, I really enjoy teaching people how to prepare them in ways that not only taste delicious, but make them less intimidating. I've had many people tell me that it's hard to eat healthy—it isn't accessible or affordable and, even if it was, it often doesn't taste good. It's a common theme when you start talking about fresh food.
And there are not just naysayers. For too long, Philadelphia has been rife with food deserts and food insecurity. Those issues are far from solved, but thanks to the amazing work by our partners at food access organizations, like The Food Trust and Share Food Program, and St. Christopher's Farm to Families, more and more people are able to obtain fresh, nutritious ingredients just a few blocks from where they live.
There are also other barriers—a big one being that many people just don't know where to begin when preparing dishes from scratch in a tasty way for their families. Additionally, they don't know how to store fresh ingredients or how long they'll last before going bad—fruits and vegetables from the produce section don't usually come stamped with a "Best By" date. Spending money to introduce a new recipe to their family is a risk that many folks would prefer not to take. So, that's where Vetri Community Partnership's Mobile Teaching Kitchen comes in.
Launched this past fall, the Mobile Teaching Kitchen is a modified food truck carrying everything needed for pop-up cooking demonstrations in settings like a parking lot, along the curb of a school, and even in the middle of a park. We invite children, families, and community members to participate in 15-minute cooking demonstrations where they learn culinary skills, such as cutting into a turnip, de-stemming kale, and learning what it means to roast. We always try to introduce new vegetables, such as red cabbage, Swiss chard, or butternut squash with a few familiar ingredients to round out the dish.
After they work with us to build the recipe, we taste the results together and hand out a recipe card to encourage families to try it on their own. At a recent farmers market in Hunting Park, we demonstrated a kale, apple, and sweet potato dish and the farmer sold out of kale because so many people picked up the ingredients from our recipe.
Our mission at Vetri Community Partnership is to empower children and families to lead healthy lives through fresh food, hands-on experiences, and education. When I hear someone say "I can't believe this tastes so good!" or "She's a picky eater, I never thought she'd eat this!" I know that we are doing our part by making healthy food preparation and eating approachable, fun, and, most importantly, delicious.
We hope you'll join us for an upcoming event at Clark Park Farmers' Market this Saturday from 10 am-2 pm. Click here for our calendar to find additional events. See below for a recipe you can try!
Roasted Corn, Turnips, and Wilted Swiss Chard
This versatile one pot dish is best served warm as a side or cold the next day. (Vegetarian, Gluten Free)
Yields: 8 servings | Recipe Difficulty: Easy
2 tablespoon olive oil
4 medium turnips, washed (cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 bunch Swiss chard, washed and dried (stems chopped small, greens ripped by hand)
4 medium corn on the cobs, shucked (kernels removed and set aside)
4 scallions, washed (chopped small)
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 375 degrees F. In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat half of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped turnips to the pan, tossing to coat with the olive oil. The smaller you cut the turnips, the quicker they'll cook. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, continuously stirring.
2. While the turnips are cooking, toss the corn and scallions with half a tablespoon of the olive oil and season with salt, and pepper. Place corn and scallions on a parchment lined sheet pan and cook in the oven for 7-10 minutes or just until the corn starts to get brown on the edges.
3. After 5 minutes have passed, remove the lid from sauté pan carefully as steam will be created. Add the chopped stems of the Swiss chard and stir to combine. Cook the stems and turnips together for 5 minutes. Add the torn leaves of the Swiss chard to the pan after 5 more minutes have passed, return heat to low and place lid on tip allowing the steam from the pan to wilt the greens.
4. After greens have shrunk and softened, remove lid from pan carefully, aware of the steam. Stick a fork in one of the turnips and see if it comes out easily. If the fork sticks, cook for an additional 5 minutes with the lid on.
5. Remove the corn and scallions from the oven, pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the cooked turnips and Swiss chard greens to the mixing bowl with the corn and scallions. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, juice of half a lime, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
* Try to use a pan large enough to hold all of the vegetables keeping in mind that they do shrink down when cooked, if you don't have one, try to cook this recipe in batches or cut the recipe in half.
* Add salt and pepper throughout the cooking process, tasting as you go instead of adding only at the end. This is called seasoning in layers.
* The smaller the vegetables are cut, the quicker this recipe comes together.
* Swiss chard often needs to be rinsed a few times, be sure to check that all dirt has been removed before cooking.