In between combining and stirring ingredients, the teenagers talked about clothes, school and pizza.
Little about the conversations signaled the unique nature of the friendships formed in the cooking class hosted by The Friendship Circle, a New Albany organization that creates social experiences for teenagers and young adults with special needs. The activities, which are held at The Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center in New Albany, bring together people with special needs and typical students who volunteer to serve as mentors and friends.
When Chef Melissa Hura asked the would-be chefs about their favorite foods, everyone offered an opinion. The pizza lovers cheered each time another student named the dish as their favorite.
Class participants listened while Hura explained how to prepare colcannon, an Irish dish made from potatoes and cabbage.
“When we get it mixed, taste it to make sure it tastes good,” said Hura, a personal chef who owns Dinner Rescue Crew. “That’s what a good cook does. They always taste their food at every step.”
Kayla Tull, 19, found the first taste lacking.
“Can we have some salt?” asked the Gahanna resident, who has birth defects stemming from cytomegalovirus, a flu-like virus that her mother contracted during her first trimester of pregnancy. The virus affected the right side of Kayla’s brain and caused developmental and physical limitations.
Her cooking partner Talia Rozenbojm, 17, suggested that the addition of the cabbage and other spices might improve the flavor.
She was right. After the final ingredient was added, Kayla pronounced it “good.”
The girls, who both attend Gahanna Lincoln High School, had fun making the dish together. Talia, who started volunteering last summer, said she has enjoyed getting to know Kayla and the other program participants.
“I’m meeting all these cool people,” she said.
The program, which also includes sports classes and special outings, has been wonderful for Kayla, said her mom Lori Tull of Gahanna.
“The volunteer interaction is great,” she said. “It gives them a good role model. They have a great time.”
*1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
*4 cups finely chopped cabbage
*2 large leeks
*1 cup milk
*2 tablespoons caraway seeds
*½ tsp. anise seeds
*¼ cup butter
*salt and pepper to taste
1. Grown-up: Peel the potatoes.
2. Kid (with supervision as needed): Cut the potatoes into chunks. Finely chop cabbage. Slice leeks into ¼ inch rounds.
3. Grown-up and kid: Place the potatoes into a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and allow steam to dry for a minute or two.
4. Grown-up and kid: While the potatoes are boiling, place the cabbage into a pot with several tablespoons of water, cover and bring to boil over medium heat. Once it’s boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the cabbage is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Pour off excess liquid and set cabbage aside.
5. Kid: Place the sliced leeks, milk, caraway seeds and anise seeds into a large saucepan.
6. Grown-up and kid: Cook the leeks over medium-low heat, and bring to a simmer. Cook the leeks until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the butter, and season with salt and pepper. Let the mixture stand until the butter melts.
7. Kid: Mash the potatoes with a masher in large bowl.
8. Kid: Fold in the leek mixture.
9. Grown-up: Transfer potato mixture to a serving bowl and serve immediately. Serves up to 10 people.