There are still four weeks left in the Rockmart Farm­er’s Market six-week cooking class, and Spaghetti Squash Gremolata was on the menu for the students who learned how to prepare the classic dish in a hygienic, safe and fresh way.

Held at the community kitchen inside the Silver Comet Trailhead building on Water Street, the six-week cooking class is hosted by the market’s Executive Director Shonna Kirkpatrick who has designed the course to build off previous lessons week after week. The class primarily uses local produce straight from the Farmers Market.

“We begin with the discussions where we tell stories about food and our experiences and thoughts about food,” said Kirkpatrick. “Then we talk about the importance of hygiene, nutrition, and safety before we make and eat the food together.”

Student Lily Anderson shared a story about her first time cooking. She said she was “making custard and it curdled like scrambled eggs and turned green.”

“I didn’t eat it,” joked the young chef.

Safety and skills were next for the chefs who learned why and how they should clean their produce.

In recent years, contaminated fruits and vegetables have been the culprit in several large outbreaks of food-borne illness. The idea is to help youth and adults alike learn about those threats, and how to combat them.

For instance, vegetables can become contaminated from harmful substances present in the soil or water during the growing phase, poor hygiene among workers during harvest, in-kitchen contamination through improper sanitation of surfaces, and improper cooling after harvest or purchase. Providing knowledge like that can help the young chefs understand that making safe choices when cooking will lead to a happy digestive system later, and avoid upset stomachs after a meal.

“In the last class we learned how to properly wipe down surfaces and the proper way to clean our hands,” Lily said.

It’s these practices that organizers of the class hope the cooking class will get youth to pick up the healthy habits in the kitchen and make meals that are both delicious and safe to eat.

Having already learned the rules of sanitation and hygiene, the chefs only had to make sure the produce itself was clean by “properly washing the veggies with cold water and potentially using a vegetable brush on the harder skinned foods,” said Kirkpatrick.

With their stories shared and the vegetables washed, the cooks combined their ingredients to make a lean, healthy version of Spaghetti with vegetables instead of pasta. It’s a healthier alternative to regular pasta, full of carbohydrates and calories.

To make the meal, the class applied the knife-handling skills they learned in the previous week’s class to cut the squash into spaghetti strands.

Afterward, the group heated olive oil and added garlic, red tomatoes, salt and pepper before letting the oil simmer until thick.

Adding parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice gave the olive oil some extra flavor, and then the group topped the veggie-spaghetti with the sauce, gremolata and yellow tomato before sitting down at the table, eating, and continuing their discussion “just like at home,” said Kirkpatrick.

“I think the class is really fun because I’m not doing anything else right now, and it’s something I can use in the future,” said Lily. “Cooking is a really good skill that can help you in life.”

The community kitchen is still home to cooking classes, but it’s too late to sign up for the current six-week course.

Those interested in learning the ins and outs of cooking should check www.rockmartfarmersmarket.com/upcoming-classes for a schedule, and Kirkpatrick mentioned there will be future six-week cooking classes for the aspiring chefs of Polk County.