Local celebrity chefs demonstrated how to prepare a simple, yet savory meal with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients Wednesday at the Hopkinsville-Christian County Downtown Farmers Market.
The on-site cooking series, "Local Taught, Market Bought," kicked off at lunchtime with Graham and Heather Harvey Dawson and Lane Meinert of The Mixer, a restaurant opening this fall on Sixth Street.
"We're excited they are here to do our first demonstration using items that are locally available here from our vendors," said Laura Faulkner, management services coordinator for Community Development Services. "They're going to show you how to take something from a table and make it wonderful."
Meinert, a native of east Tennessee, prepared Rabbit Pops with Ranch Peas and Tomato and Asparagus Salad using Kentucky Proud recipes. Although he has 30 years of experience in the culinary arts, Meinert said cooking is adaptable.
"Recipes are a compass, rather than a true guide (in cooking)," said the chef of 30 years. "If you don't have this (ingredient), you can substitute this (one)."
In his Rabbit Pops recipe, Meinert said people may choose to substitute chicken, beef, shrimp, pork or even fish for the protein ingredient.
"You may have to adjust the cooking time, but the marinade would stay the same," he said.
Meinert showed the market crowd how to trim the meat and add it to metal skewers before pouring the garlic, rosemary and orange zest marinade over the top.
"You can marinade overnight, you can do it for two hours but a minimum of 30 minutes. If you don't have time to marinade, use Italian dressing. Food's just not that hard, not that complicated," he said. "When it comes to salt and pepper, I like to season the meat as it goes into the marinade so it's not over salted."
For the side dish, Tomato and Asparagus Salad, Meinert prepped the asparagus by trimming the ends.
"A good rule of thumb is if you're not good with a knife, when you bend it, where it breaks is where it needs to be broken. The woody part will automatically come off," he said.
"We're going to blanch it with hot water,
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then we'll shock it with ice water so it stays nice and green. Then, after it's chilled, dice it up with the tomatoes and make another vinaigrette for the salad."
When choosing tomatoes, Meinert said there are options.
"You can use any color tomato. You can use cherry tomatoes and just half them," he said. "There's no certain size these need to be."
To complete the meal, Meinert blanched and pureed green peas, then added sour cream and dry ranch mix to use as a dip for the rabbit poppers.
For anyone nervous about preparing meals at home, Meinert advised people to relax and enjoy the experience.
"(Cooking) doesn't have to be that serious," he said. "Just do whatever you want to do."
For dessert, pastry chef Heather Dawson shared a simple recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Compote.
"We wanted to do something that was really simple but very versatile for people," she said. "A lot of people these days don't really know how to use rhubarb. It's such a good flavor to pair with strawberries. It's one of my favorites."
Dawson said she and her grandmother, Rita Harvey, would make jams, compotes and pies together every summer with fresh strawberries from local farms.
"I know if she was around, she would be here every Wednesday and every Saturday (at the Farmers Market), and we would be making a bunch of jams," she said. "This is really close to my heart."
For her compote recipe, Dawson and her husband Graham cut the strawberries and rhubarb into small slices.
"Rhubarb is really sour. If you ate it by itself, you probably wouldn't like it," she said. "It is a wonderful complement to strawberries."
Dawson said for a more tart compote, use a half cup of sugar. For a sweeter compote, add ¾ to 1 cup of sugar to the mixture, she said.
With any recipe using fresh ingredients, cooking times may vary, Dawson said.
"Every 10 to 15 minutes just check on it, stir it," she said. "If it looks to liquidy, just cook it a little longer. Sometimes you get strawberries that aren't super juicy, so it doesn't take as long."
Without access to an oven, Dawson premade compote-filled tartlets for the audience to sample. She said compote is a versatile filling for most any dessert.
"Top it off on angel food cake, on pound cake ... put it in a pie shell. I made mini tartlets. I like to top it off with meringue, but (you) can do whipped cream," she said. "If you do need to make it in advance, put some melted white chocolate in the bottom of the tartlet and that will protect them from getting soggy."
The audience sampled all the recipes and the chefs heard compliments throughout Founders Square.
Faulkner said nine more "Local Taught, Market Bought" cooking demonstrations are planned this season, featuring local celebrities who are chefs by trade or practice culinary art for fun.
For the next on-site cooking demonstration, Shateeka Osborne will demonstrate a special grilled cheese recipe at 10:30 a.m. June 8.
"Some will be on Wednesdays. Some on Saturdays," Faulkner said. "We will have samples of all the delicacies that people make, so people can try them. We will have a local fresh-produce box that will include most of the items that you can purchase at the market already prepped and ready to go."
Produce boxes range between $20 and $25 each, Faulkner said. Visit the Hopkinsville-Christian County Downtown Farmers Market Facebook page to get more information about upcoming "Local Taught, Market Bought" events.
"(Cooking) should be fun. It shouldn't be overwhelming," Dawson said. "We're hoping we can show people that."
Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or email@example.com.
Upcoming "Local Taught, Market Bought" cooking demonstrations at the Hopkinsville-Christian County Downtown Farmers Market:
10:30 a.m. June 8 - Shateeka Osbourne -- Special grilled cheese
11:30 a.m. June 26 - Zirconia Alleyne and Desaepa Vansauwa -- Broccoli and Beef Stir-fry
10:30 a.m. July 20 - Adam Barnes-Gallerie -- Fresh Green Bean Stir-fry
11:30 a.m. July 31 - Cody Noffsinger -- Tex-Mex Quinoa Salad
10:30 a.m. Aug. 10 - Margaret Prim -- Red Potato Salad
11:30 a.m. Aug. 21 - To be determined
11:30 a.m. Sept. 4 - Devon Jenkins -- Tomato Corn Pesto Pizza
10:30 a.m. Sept. 28 - Betty Adams -- Curried Chicken and Melon Salad
11:30 a.m. Oct. 9 - Taylor Hayes -- Eggplant Parmesan Rollatini