If It Grows Together, It Goes Together

A good way to learn about destinations is to sample local cuisine, even when traveling in the U.S. If you’re visiting Fort Collins, Colorado, check out cooking classes given by Linda Hoffman. Her mantra is “If it grows together, it goes together.”  That means she builds recipes and meals around whatever is in season and emphasizes use of fresh and local products.  She urges cooks to look beyond the usual suspects such as corn and tomatoes in the fall or asparagus and peas in the spring.

Teaching cooking techniques

Teaching cooking techniques

“What do we do with beets, turnips, and rutabagas, for heaven’s sake?” she asks.  “And what about winter greens like kale, spinach, and arugula or winter squashes?”

In fact, how to make use of the less-common veggies is what most of her students really want to know.  At her school, called Come Back to the Table, Hoffman teaches “Soup’s On!” a class that begins with a basic chicken stock that is expanded into four different variations using seasonal ingredients such as white beans, baked pumpkins, and seafood.

During a visit to Fort Collins, I participated in a cooking lesson led by Hoffman and experienced first-hand a feast comprised of local products.  Dinner started with an appetizer of Buena Vista trout, smoked on apple chips from a local orchard and served with fresh apple salsa.  Our salad combined local greens, roasted butternut squash, blackberries, and camembert from MouCo, an area cheese company.  Sautéed mushrooms from Hazel Dell farms topped grilled flank steak of grass fed beef from The Farm at Sunrise Ranch. Hoffman uses certified organic vegetables and herbs, pairing green beans and corn (because they do grow together) with fresh sage from Wolf Moon Farms and Native Hill Farm.  Desert was an open-faced fresh pear tart.

Short and gray-haired, Hoffman became a chef late in life, attending Boulder Culinary School at age 57 after her husband passed away.  The motivation to learn more about healthy food was jump-started even further by her bout with cancer.

When she realized that she preferred the creativity of teaching to restaurant cooking, she remodeled her home kitchen to accommodate classes. “I don’t want people to be intimidated by a large, institutional kitchen,” she says. “They see that I prepare everything in a space just like theirs at home.”  But the real reason she likes a home atmosphere for cooking, unlike a standardized restaurant venue, is that it allows her to be an impromptu cook–using whatever seasonal commodities she has on hand.

Break out of usual tourist mode and schedule a class with Hoffman. At Come Back to the Table, you’ll enjoy learning new cooking techniques as well as dining on dishes you’ve prepared.

www.comebacktothetable.com

www.colorado.com/fortcollins

Photos by Beverly and Larry Burmeier

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