'Cooking Rogue'

Latest Ashland Food Co-op series starts with eggs, moves to bounty of spring
Egg dishes that make perfect sense as light main courses include asparagus with breadcrumb and fried eggs. See the accompanying recipe. MCT photo

Nestled in many community-supported agriculture boxes, eggs helped chef Kristen Lyon hatch a new plan for local cooking classes.

"Eggs are this wonderful, little package of protein," says Lyon.

Get cracking: Egg facts

Eggs are convenient, low-cost and nutrition-packed. But with so many choices, it's easy to get facts scrambled about which are the most eco-friendly and nutritious. Here's a guide from the April issue of Women's Health:

  • Pasteurized — treated with heat to kill potential salmonella bacteria. A good choice for recipes that don't require cooking, such as Caesar dressing; however, the process may reduce levels of certain vitamins.
  • USDA-certified organic — from chickens whose feed is grown organically, without the use of most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Hens must have year-round access to the outdoors and cannot be confined in cages.
  • Free-range — hens have access to the outdoors. This may satisfy animal lovers, but it has no bearing on the eggs' nutritional content.

— McClatchy News Service

Freshly laid eggs are some of the first foodstuffs available at local, springtime farmers markets and also accompany myriad vegetables and fruits in CSA subscriptions. Such seasonal bounty is the focus of Lyon's new class series, "Cooking Rogue," which kicks off Thursday, April 5, at Ashland Food Co-op. A condensed but similar concept is offered free through J'ville Market.

"She is so dedicated to our local food system," says Mary Shaw, culinary educator for Ashland Food Co-op. "That's the face we'd love to have in the community."

While many Rogue Valley residents want to support the region's farmers, ranchers and artisan food producers, they often don't know how to use the products in their own kitchens, says Lyon. So the 33-year-old chef applied a repertoire of basic skills to whole, fresh foods, including some regional specialties. The result is a combination of classes that appeal to both the novice and practiced home cook who wants to take meals to a "new level," says Shaw.

"She's so unpretentious, gracious and has a wonderful sense of humor."

Positive feedback has followed Lyon's previous Co-op classes, including soft cheesemaking and smoking and curing meats, says Shaw. Lyon reprises those topics, respectively in June and November, for the upcoming series. In between, she'll teach preservation of fruits and vegetables and making stocks, sauces and creative soups.

"I've done a lot of these concepts before ... but never as a full package," says Lyon.

Stocks and soups ushered in Lyon's J'ville Market classes last month. CSA members had requested more ideas for preparing foods provided through the program, says Ken Snoke, founder of J'ville Market. Lyon's classes were part of the answer, he adds.

"She tends to not focus on real gourmet stuff," he says. "Most of the people signed back up."

The market's next classes are planned for 6 p.m. Thursdays, April 12 and May 10, at its headquarters on North Fifth Street in Jacksonville. Those classes will mirror the co-op's first two: "Eggcellent Eggs" and "Spring Treasures."

The first, says Lyon, will furnish a lot of recipes, particularly make-ahead, freezable dishes for eggs. The second celebrates spring's delicate, fleeting produce, such as fiddleheads, wild mushrooms and dandelion greens with an emphasis on quick cooking to safeguard vital nutrients.

"They're so tender," says Lyon. "They're these treasures that we have."

Register for co-op classes at www.ashlandfood.coop or by calling the store at 541-482-2237. Register for J'ville Market classes by emailing kjoylyon@hotmail.com.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email slemon@mailtribune.com.

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