Tomato season is here, and Bachman Community Center is offering a class to show gardeners and farmers market shoppers fresh ways to use the new harvest in their kitchens.
"Now that some of the community gardeners [at Bachman] and other new gardeners are finally growing a lot of tomatoes, it's fun to learn to cook those tomatoes," said Bachman Executive Director Lissa Goeltz.
Black Creek Golf Club Executive Chef Kenyatta Ashford will be the instructor for the "You Say Tomato..." cooking class to be held at Bachman Saturday, July 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Ashford previously led several cooking demonstrations during the Signal Mountain Farmers Market held at the center each Thursday, showing shoppers how to make a dish using fresh vegetables available at that week's market.
The Mountain Stewards organized a class at the center in the fall teaching how to use root vegetables, but Goeltz said this is the first she has arranged.
"I've had a lot of requests from people who would like to know how to cook with some of the vegetables they're buying at the farmers market," she said. "It's just a fun thing to do with friends."
Ashford said participants will learn skills such as basic knife sharpening and how to make multiple dishes using tomatoes.
"If you plant a garden, you may not have any idea how to use a particular ingredient," he said. "A lot of times you get caught in a rut and eat the same thing all the time."
He said he chose a tomato-based class because the vegetable is in season and because it can be used in such a wide variety of dishes.
Attendees will eat what they make; the menu includes basic tomato sauce with homemade pasta, fresh salsa, tomato bruschetta and roasted fish with romesco sauce.
Ashford said he always uses local ingredients in his cooking when possible and will do the same for the class.
"It's just common sense to support the local economy and highlight the abundance of food in the area," he said, adding that local produce is typically more nutritious as well. "It tastes better and is better quality usually, because it hasn't traveled a long way."
A Culinary Institute of America graduate, Ashford has been a chef for eight years, working at several fine restaurants in the region including St. John's, Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn. - "one of the best restaurants in the country," he said - and under chef John Besh at Luke in his native city of New Orleans. About a year ago Ashford became executive chef at Black Creek and met member and farmers market vendor Terri Farmer, who asked him to do the demonstrations at her local market on Signal.
All ingredients and most supplies are included in the $45 cooking class charge, but each participant will need to bring their own apron and chef's knife.
The class is limited to 12-15 participants and the deadline to register is Monday, July 9.