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Food is Medicine: Turner Farm Teaching Kitchen

February 17, 2018

When I was sick as a child, my grandmother would make me her, “cold concoction.” It was hot water with lemon, ginger, and a dollop of honey.  Turns out, my Irish Catholic, whiskey drinking, old-school grandmother was also a nutritional trailblazer.  The food-is-medicine movement has gained massive traction as physicians and medical institutions are making food a formal part of treatment, rather than relying solely on medications.  At the forefront of this movement is Dr. David Eisenberg, the Director of Culinary Nutrition at Harvard. Dr. Eisenberg is bringing Teaching Kitchens into the world—a kind of cooking laboratory that combines culinary instruction using healthful whole ingredients, nutrition education, exercise, mindfulness, and personalized health coaching. There are 32 teaching kitchens across the nation affiliated with Dr. Eisenberg’s work, and one is right here in Cincinnati at Turner Farm.

Turner Farm has been in operation since the early 1800’s, and is one of just three working farms remaining within the village of Indian Hill. It is my heaven. Everytime I pull onto the gravel road the world seems to get quiet and time slows down just a little.  Right past the fields of produce, the grazing livestock, and the market (where you can purchase goods from the farm) is the teaching kitchen. The kitchen, which opened in 2016, was built in a renovated, 100-year old, 2-story barn, in consultation with the Culinary Institute of America. It looks like Chip and Joanna from HGTV designed it--so, straight perfection.  The kitchen hosts private dinners, day-long retreats, corporate meetings, and public classes aimed to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to take ownership of their own health.  The kitchen partners with the University of Cincinnati Center for Integrative Health and Wellness to teach medical students and other health professionals valuable nutrition information, culinary skills and self-care practices. This work is led by Dr. Sian Cotton, who is helping Cincinnati think differently about health.

In June, Turner Farm hired Chef Stephanie Michalak as the first Culinary Manager. Stephanie grew up in Connecticut, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, earned a masters degree in Food Studies from NYU, and spent time in Germany, India, and Ireland studying food culture. She also makes super tasty, healthy food.  Stephanie and Turner’s Director of Events, Mary Joseph, have built up an impressive list of public course offerings at Turner. March offerings include, Pizza from Scratch, Beer+Food Pairings, Plant-Based Cooking, and Spring Pasta.  One of the most requested offerings is Stephanie’s knife skills class, which she will be bringing back this spring or summer.  In partnership with UC, the teaching kitchen hosts classes that cover various health concerns like weight management, stress management, and cancer. These classes are taught by both Stephanie and a medical professional and offer hands-on kitchen experience. Stephanie is constantly adapting and evolving her curriculum, and welcomes requests from the community.  Her goal, as Turner’s, is to help people fall in love with cooking and ingesting healthy food.

 

Molly and I attended the Winter Salads course in February, utilizing ingredients that are in season in the winter, as well as grains to make the salads heartier for a winter meal. Stephanie had prepared all 15 salads in advance, so we could eat while she taught. As we ate, she remade the salads in front of us, explaining each step.  We walked away with a packet of recipes to make all of them at home, and some new knowledge. My favorite part was learning how to cut a Pomegranate. I’ve legitimately been wondering that for years. Also, pro tip, when you’re making a salad for guests, make sure the salad is already cut in bite size pieces so people don’t have to chop their salad at the table. Brilliant.

 

At our class, we watched Stephanie cook, without hands on experience. The classes at Turner vary, so read the description for each course and choose what level of involvement you desire. For example, the knives skills class is with a smaller group, and all hands on. It totally depends on what you’re looking for.  The space is beautiful, the class environment was relaxed and welcoming, the food was amazing, and the information was helpful.

 

One of our favorite salads was the Grapefruit and Kale Salad. Here is the recipe:

 

Yield: 2 to 4 Servings

 

Ingredients:

1 grapefruit

2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

8 cups Kale, thinly sliced

1 avocado, halved, pitted, sliced

Salt and black pepper to taste

 

Method:

1. Using a sharp knife, cut and peel white pith from grapefruit; discard. Working over a small bowl, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl. Squeeze juice from membranes into another small bowl; add any accumulated juices from bowl with segments (there should be about 1/4 cup juice total). Whisk oil into juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Place kale in a large bowl and drizzle 3 Tbsp. dressing over. Toss to combine and let stand for 10 minutes while kale wilts slightly. Toss once more, then arrange grapefruit segments and avocado slices over kale. Drizzle with remaining dressing and serve. 

 

For more information on Turner’s offerings check out their calendar here.          .

 

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