Thursday, September 21: 35 or so people gather at the GSU Link in front of a pop-up kitchen as the smell of fresh produce wafts in the air. Amidst the normal chaos of the GSU at dinnertime, “rock star” chef Adam Pagan leads an Improv Cooking class, utilizing all of the ingredients inside the Ward’s Berry Farm CSA box.
Not sure what that is? Well, neither did I. But we were both missing out. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, a program run by Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon, MA. These farmers’ choice boxes are available 20 weeks out of the year, June 14 – October 25. The program reflects the values of our own weekly Farmers’ Market here at BU: to support local, sustainable farming. Conveniently, you can pick up your CSA box right there at the market on Thursdays, 11am-3pm.
But let’s be real, many of the people purchasing this fresh produce are college students? Who has time to cook? Better yet, who knows what to do with such basic ingredients? Pagan offers simple solutions.
First, he whipped up some butternut squash soup, with a bit of cinnamon and corn to add an extra crunch. It was fantastic. I had to stop myself from asking for seconds, then thirds. I overheard a fellow taster asking if this soup is sold in restaurants – that really says it all.
Where it is served is in our dining halls, because Pagan happens to be the Head Chef at the new Fresh Food Company at Marciano Commons. In a refreshingly small setting, passersby got to see the man behind the counters showing off his expertise. Believe me, he has a lot of it.
With this four-line-long recipe and simple, fresh ingredients from the CSA box, he produced a deliciously healthy appetizer. Simultaneously chopping, stirring and flipping while answering all of the questions thrown at him, Pagan is truly a natural in the kitchen.
Next, he moved on to the pan-seared chicken over apple and broccoli slaw. Sounds complicated, right? Pagan whipped up the apple and broccoli slaw in two minutes flat – a very easy way to impress dinner guests, he pointed out. Just wait for the chicken to cook and you’ve got yourself a meal.
All the while, he offered easy cooking tips. For example, whenever you sauté, “you want to hear that sizzle when the chicken hits the pan, otherwise, you’re just sweating it.” I’m not too sure what “sweating” chicken means, but I don’t think I want any further clarifications.
Even better, boil or cook raisins (preferably golden ones, which are sweeter) in apple juice. It’ll add a boost of flavor and the raisins themselves will add another texture to the dish. Here, he added it to the apple and broccoli slaw – the perfect touch.
“I’m a big fan of freshness,” says Pagan, “I used pretty basic ingredients here, but extracted all the flavors.” Props to BU for putting such focus on fresh produce and incorporating these values into our dining halls. As anyone knows who has visited friends’ schools, we could have it much, much worse.
What many people, and students especially, don’t realize is that the simpler, the better. Sure, Naked Juice is healthy, but straight fruit is healthier. A frozen Lean Cuisine meal seems healthy, but why not boil up some vegetables?
Processed foods, such as said frozen meals, granola bars, deli meat, and prepackaged fruit cups contain unnecessary preservatives and added artificial flavors, leaving people bloated and consuming more calories than they probably know. That’s not to say that these foods are entirely unhealthy, but fresh is undoubtedly always better. Also, almost always, the fewer ingredients the better. Take a look at the ingredients list on products.
To those students who live in apartments with kitchens, a stop by the farmers’ market every week to stock up on fresh food is a very practical option. Another perk: they have chocolate, pastries, bakeries, and pumpkins there!
There will be another cooking class on October 20 with different ingredients and new recipes. Farmer’s Choice Boxes are available at the Farmers’ Market, which runs until October 25. Boxes typically feed 2-4 people.