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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
At Powissett Farm on Thursday, author and chef Didi Emmons taught a group of seniors from Westwood, Dover and Sherborn how to use various well-known and obscure herbs to cook a farro salad and a green gazpacho.
The seniors were supposed to first make a trip the garden of Eva Sommaripa, a “near-legendary farmer whose 200-plus uncommon herbs, greens, and edible ‘weeds’ grace the menus of many famous restaurants in the Northeast,” about whom Emmons wrote the book “Wild Flavors: One Chef's Transformative Year Cooking from Eva's Farm.”
But with the rain halting that trip, the group instead had to use herbs about which Emmons joked: “some are from my garden, and some are from Whole Foods’ garden.”
Before the food was made, many of the herbs were passed around and smelled or tasted, as many of them were not as well-known as the classics like basil or oregano. These included red Russian kale, hyssop, and sorrel.
There was also a bit of time spent on knife-work, with the basics of chopping herbs, as well as the practice of smashing garlic cloves, covered. Emmons noted the common mistakes amateur chefs tend to make (for example, she highlighted that many people want to pull the knife in rather than push it out).
The green gazpacho was perhaps the most intriguing of the meals, both because of its odd ingredient base and its celebrity connection. While most people are familiar with tomato as the base of the soup, Emmons used a honeydew melon, and explained that “it’s garlicky, but it should be. Imagine yourself in Barcelona at midnight, sipping on this soup.”
This unique choice fascinated former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, as Emmons relayed to the class. One day while on the phone with her boyfriend, Emmons got a call from Patrick (whom she had never met before). He asked her what the secret ingredient was, but was in such shock over the call that she couldn’t think of what he was talking about. He then asked her to rattle off every ingredient in the soup, and when she hit honeydew melon, he declared “Aha! There’s your secret ingredient”, and told her how much he had enjoyed it.
Unfortunately for her boyfriend, she was in such shock over the call that she completely forgot about him on the other line.
While there were no former governors or potential presidential candidates present, everyone seemed to enjoy the meal. Diane Rothauser applauded the meal, while noting that “it’s wonderful to learn how to cook from the garden. I wish I had a garden as good as Eva’s garden.”
Even though the group didn’t make it to Eva’s famous garden, Didi Emmons, using items from her own home plot and some from Whole Foods, proved you can still make a great meal.