What's New @ The Westport Farmers Market

Liz Rueven

Chef Cecily Gans, Main Course Catering, will present arugula salad with fresh fruit vinaigrette  on August 19 between 10-2, at the Westport Farmers’ Market.  

Always the communicative and generous instructor, she will provide hand outs of her recipe and tips on composing summer salads.   As a chef who has touched so many young hearts in Westport, she will surely be greeting lots of her former students and their parents as they stop by to taste and visit.

Ask a sampling of student at Staples High School in Westport, which class they loved the most, or hoped to enroll in but couldn’t get into because it was oversubscribed, and many will say it was CULINARY ARTS, taught by Cecily Gans. Fourteen years ago, after her training at Johnson and Wales University, Gans became the Culinary Arts Chef/ Instructor at SHS.  She wrote the curriculum which has served to teach, thrill and feed hundreds of young cooking enthusiasts and burgeoning chefs. This summer she ran CULINARY CAMP, offered through Westport Continuing Education, for young chefs in grades 6-9.  Gans,  two assistant chefs and numerous counselors  (many of whom were previous students) taught  three, intensive one week sessions in the gleaming, extraordinarily well appointed, professional kitchens at SHS.  These themed sessions allowed students to explore and prepare dishes from American Regional, European and Asian cuisines.   

Cecily Gans is also Chef and owner of Main Course Catering in Fairfield, with her husband, managing partner and catering chef, Richard Stein.  They operate a full service catering company serving Fairfield and Westchester counties.  Gans has been cooking professionally for 25 years . In addition to her training and experience in numerous restaurants, hotels and catering companies,  she has a M.A. in teaching.  Her earliest memories of cooking are with her grandmother, who was a chef/ instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, when it was located in New Haven.

Sourcing ingredients from farmers’ markets comes naturally to Gans. She uses as many local and organic ingredients as possible in all of her catered dishes.  She encourages her clients to think green and local, citing a BBQ she recently catered.  Upon Gans’ suggestion, her client used biodegradable, disposable dishes and utensils concluding that the benefits and the message to her guests was worth the small, additional expense.   Gans  receives reliable and large deliveries from a purveyor who handles organic, farm fresh ingredients in MA. and counts on the convenience of Connecticut Farm Fresh Express, for deliveries to her commissary kitchen. 

On August 19,  Chef Gans will present a vibrant summer salad of arugula, goat cheese, nectarines and hazelnuts tossed with fresh chives and thyme, and dressed in a blueberry vinaigrette.   She describes Beltane Farm’s goat cheese as having the perfect texture and tanginess.  This fragrant log has the ability to crumble nicely over a salad or blend into a recipe calling for creaminess.  She has a “go to” recipe for her vinaigrette base and blends seasonal fruits like peaches or blueberries into it, when they are bursting with mid-summer sweetness and juice.

Gans commented on the noticeable improvements at the Westport Farmers’ Market this season.  She described it as a community meeting spot and one of her favorite summer activities.  She starts her shopping expedition with an iced Roman coffee from Raus, enjoys the kids’ activities with her 21 month old daughter, Leila, orders a whole wheat Skinny Pines Pizza  (oh, those fresh veggie toppings!!) and relaxes over lunch at one of the newly provided seating areas.   After strolling the market and surveying what is available, chatting with farmers and friends,  she settles into the business of buying what she needs for her family’s meals. Sounds like she has it all figured out!