I wanted to take a break from our usual posts to tell you about the coolest cooking experience I had recently while in Costa Brava, the coastal area of northeastern Spain. My two boys and my sister's two little girls love to cook, so we knew we wanted to arrange a cooking experience which would allow us to learn some local dishes. We were lucky to find Yves, an area chef who asked us if we wanted to meet him at Clos Serra Blanca, a nearby organic farm. His plan was for us to pick our lunch from the fields and then cook with him in their brand new open air kitchen. We could not pass up the chance! We told Yves we love cooking with kids so he and his wife brought their two young children to enjoy the experience.
The new managers of Clos Serra Blanca, Sebastian and Lauren gave us a tour of the beautiful farm. Sebastian told us about the unique dry climate and dust storms that can make organic farming a challenge. They were committed however, to expanding and including new sustainable farming practices like filtering and reusing water. This beautiful landscape was able to produce a feast for our group, and in fact they offer a regular CSA (community supported agriculture) for local families. It was honestly a dream to see the kids all picking veggies and fruits from the fields. We all got various jobs rinsing and prepping the produce and watched Chef Yves prepare the local fish and beef very simply with sea salt. We also used fresh parsley, garlic and olive oil to make a chimichurri sauce for the meat. It was a treat to see him prepare such a simple menu with the most fresh seasonal produce.
Here are a few tricks we learned from Yves:
1. Don't be afraid of kohlrabi: Kohlrabi is a vegetable that many of their CSA participants don't know how to prepare, and I also feel lost when it comes to kohlrabi. After peeling and cutting into planks, we sautéed them with some oil and water to add moisture, then finished in the oven with salt and spices. So easy!
2. Add umami to salad dressing: Soy sauce in a salad dressing adds a yummier salty flavor than salt alone.
3. Give carrots special attention: Sautée carrots in a little butter and then broil them, which turns them into a lovely candied treat. It also helped that the carrots we used were naturally very sweet!
I really enjoyed sitting with the Yves’ boys peeling the nispero fruit, a small orange fruit that tastes a bit like a sweet cantaloupe. I then watched them skillfully cut the nispero and some fresh strawberries for a refreshing fruit salad.
We soon learned we were the first group to enjoy this unique cooking experience and the team plans on offering even more attractions for visitors to enjoy the farm. Our group was in heaven as we sat under the shade and shared the beautiful lunch that we all helped to make. As it turns out, my husband and I were also celebrating our 24th wedding anniversary!
Looking back on this experience, it really was a culmination of all of the things important to me and my family: cooking with kids, learning about other cultural foods, enjoying fresh local foods, and sustainable eating. We will never forget this magical day and we thank Yves, Sebastian and Lauren for the experience.