Conveniently tucked at the crossroads of Armonk, Chappaqua and Mt. Kisco is Fiddleheads Cooking Studio, a space that has been quietly converting children into Top Chef Jr. hopefuls for close to five years. Pulling off Armonk Road up the gravel path to the red barn where classes are held, one is instantly transported to a rustic, farm-to-table environment. The renovated bright kitchen within is typically laden with seasonal, fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs from the gardens, garnering excitement amongst participants to delve into the planned menu.
Playing with Food
Fiddleheads classes are guided by owner Renana Shvil’s unique five senses philosophy that melds kitchen science and storytelling within cooking education. With a mission of “growing the next generation of food explorers,” classes are offered for children as young as 2.5 years old, extending to adulthood. As Renana says, children of all ages can be joyful participants in the kitchen. She explains, “Talking about making healthier choices should be a constant, engaging process. From getting acquainted with the bare ingredients to enjoying the finished product, each activity represents a learning opportunity. Children gain a new appreciation for food once they begin to learn about its source. This studio was conceived to offer a fun, educational place that promotes food exploration, while expanding the taste buds.”
Fiddleheads’ hands-on experiences begin with basic food education, learning more complicated methods that build confidence and independence in the kitchen as they progress. Students work together, measuring and mixing to create a dish as they learn to use kitchen tools safely. There is no down time and as dishes cook, Renana engages participants in an interactive conversation about how food grows, who grows it, and how it got to the kitchen. This is accomplished either through story time, an art project or gardening activity. The class culminates with the group sharing their meal as well as their feelings and thoughts about the final product’s flavor and texture.
A Community Affair
Building a community that finds a love of fresh, healthy foods is at the crux of Fiddleheads’ mission. That’s why the cooking studio recently partnered with Whole Foods to offer a series of free programs that inspired children to get excited about seasonal ingredients. As parents checked off items on their shopping list, Fiddleheads taught children to make pizzas using homemade roasted tomato sauce that were further personalized with an assortment of veggies. That popular class was followed up with programming with recipes for a deconstructed apple crumble cake complemented by homemade whipped cream, a crowd-pleasing pumpkin bread and a squash and kale soup that made children forget that they “don’t like kale.”
Beyond Whole Foods, Renana and her team can also be found hosting mini cooking sessions around town at after-school programs, birthday parties, public libraries and local farmers’ markets. Visit fiddleheadscookingstudio.com for the up-to-date calendar.
There is no greater holiday to get the entire family involved in meal preparation than Thanksgiving. With the holiday approaching, Renana is full of ideas on how everyone can contribute. She says, “Thanksgiving is the one holiday in this country that’s celebrated by people of all faiths, beliefs and backgrounds. It’s therefore so appropriate that the cooking also involves everyone. Historically, the celebration of harvest involves the entire family, who would each take an active role in the process, preserving fruits and vegetables and preparing for the winter. Along that vein, I love involving the kids as much as possible as we set the table, decorate and cook for the holiday.”
Renana’s favorite dessert to make with the kids is a galette, a rustic pie that could be either sweet or savory. Not only is this a tasty dish, but it’s simple to make and doesn’t require perfection to be beautiful.
Fiddlehead’s Sweet and Savory Galettes
- Crust (makes enough for 2 galettes):
- 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- Large inch of salt
- 16 tablespoons butter, chilled unsalted, cut into ½ inch cubes
- 3-4 tablespoons ice water
- 1 teaspoon vinegar
Pulse the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor to combine. Add butter and pulse until
mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; drizzle with vinegar and
3 tablespoons ice water. Mix with a fork, just until a shaggy dough comes together. Turn out the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Divide the dough into 2 even parts, using a knife and transfer into 2 separate pieces of plastic warp. Gather the plastic wrap from the top, and pat each piece into a disk. Throughout the process try to handle the dough as little as possible. Chill at least 1 hour.
Note: You can make the dough a few days in advance and freeze until the day of use. If freezing, defrost 4 hours before use.
Savory Butternut Squash Filling:
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced into ¼ -inch cubes
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 5-10 cloves, garlic whole and unpeeled
- 3-4 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large shallot or yellow onion thinly sliced
- 1 ½ teaspoon fresh thyme
- 2 ½ teaspoons dried sage, divided
- 1/2 cup fresh ricotta
- ¼ cup creamy goat cheese
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.
Put diced squash in a large bowl and add the olive oil, chopped garlic and 1 teaspoon thyme. Toss to coat evenly. Spread out on one of the prepared baking sheets, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake together with the garlic cloves for 25-30 minutes. Let cool.
Heat a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add a thin coating of olive oil to the bottom of the pan. Add the shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly caramelized, stirring and adjusting the heat if needed. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried sage. Continue cooking until fragrant, then remove from the heat and set aside.
Once the squash has finished roasting, allow to cool for 5 minutes. Pick the garlic cloves and place them in a separate dish, then gently toss squash with the shallot mixture. Lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.
When the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel and put in the reserved bowl. Mash with a fork and stir in the ricotta.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough into an approximate 12-inch circle. Carefully transfer the rolled dough to a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Spread the garlic-cheese mixture over the top, leaving a 2-inch border.
Spread the roasted butternut squash evenly onto the dough, keeping the 2-inch border. Top evenly with goat cheese, the remaining sage and thyme.
Fold the excess dough on top of the ingredients in a circle, until you have a tightly formed tart.
Chill for 15 minutes, and bake for 45 minutes, or until the goat cheese is browning and the dough is firm. Allow to cool slightly before cutting.
Notes: Steps 1-5 can be done up to 2 days ahead.
Sweet Apple Filling:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 – 4 small apples
- ¼ cup brown sugar or 2 tablespoons of molasses
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ cup heavy cream or 1 beaten egg + 1 tablespoon milk
- 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Add the butter to a small saucepan and melt over medium heat. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 – 7 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Halve each of the apples and use a spoon or a melon baller to scoop out the cores. Using a pairing-knife, thinly slice the apples into 1/8-inch-thick slices.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough into an approximate 12-inch circle, or until about 1/8-inch-thick. Arrange the apple slices in one layer over the top as desired, leaving an approximate 2-inch border. Sprinkle the apples with the brown sugar or molasses as well as the cinnamon and drizzle the brown butter over the top.
Working around the circle, carefully fold the edges of the dough over the outermost apples to create a border. Brush the exposed border of dough with the heavy cream or beaten egg with milk and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.
Bake until the apples are soft and the crust is golden, about 40 – 45 minutes. Let cool for 5 – 10 minutes before slicing. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.