Posts tagged ‘cooking’

Family Sushi Night

Why didn’t we do this sooner? Recently I noticed a few moms handing out sheets of toasted nori to their kids and was reminded what a good snack it is; plus, we go out for sushi every month or so — why not make it at home?

We used:
2 c cooked short grain white rice, tossed with rice vinegar, sugar and salt
one slivered avocado
one slivered carrot
one slivered cucumber
2 slivered sweet potatoes, roasted with sesame oil and soy sauce
1/4 lb shitake mushrooms, sliced and sauteed in a bit of sesame oil
2 eggs scrambled with a bit of rice vinegar

I meant to fry up some tofu, too, but forgot. No matter–we had plenty of fillings, and even some leftover. Making sushi with two kids is a bit of an art project, but they ate a ton and are already dreaming of creative sushi fillings for next time (roasted broccoli! spinach! edamame!)
It’s a good, cheap dinner that everybody likes.

My Son Cooked Dinner

Let’s say it again, shall we? My son cooked dinner! And for those of you who are new here, or maybe just a bit inattentive, I’ll point out that he’s five.

Hats off to the Spatulatta girls, who provided the inspiration and recipes.

The menu: rigatoni with pesto, sauteed spinach (ok, Tony made that), and chocolate covered bananas.

Eli kept marveling, “No Da-da make dinner. No Mama make dinner. Mama hehp Buh-buh make dinner. Buh-buh make dinner!” And Ben was a very proud chef, indeed, telling Tony, “You’re not going to believe how delicious this is, Daddy!”

And indeed it was.

Scenes from Spatulatta

Well, the Spatulatta Cookbook arrived earlier this week and the kids are eating it up. This is not the first kid’s cookbook we’ve encountered; in fact, among the over one hundred cookbooks on my kitchen shelf, five are for children. We’ve got the classic, Mollie Katzen’s sweetly illustrated Pretend Soup; we’ve got Linda Collister’s beautifully photographed Cooking with Kids, plus the retro-looking Look and Cook, by Tina Davis. We’ve got my childhood favorite, Mud Pies and Other Recipes, which is full of recipes to make for your dolls and stuffed animals in the backyard. And then we’ve got a real treasure, Michel Oliver’s La Cuisine est un Jeu d’Enfants, with an introduction by Jean Cocteau. This was given to Tony by his grandmother, and is inscribed thus:

“This is to mark your very first birthday–and I hope you will emulate your Mamma and Papa in the preparation of gourmet foods–I will look forward to your first efforts–and I hope it will be a souffle–that’s my favorite.”

Nothing like setting a child’s sights high! (And in fact, with such familial encouragement, Tony embarked on a culinary career that included, as a kid, chicken kiev and lemon meringue pie, and now covers most of our family dinners). We don’t use this cookbook much — it weighs about ten pounds, for one thing — but I love a cookbook for kids that includes such basics as coq au vin, pain perdu and sauce bechamel.

We use all these cookbooks, but what sets Spatulatta apart is that it is written by kids, the two girls behind the Spatulatta website, Isabella and Olivia Gerasole. As a serious cookbook reader, I was worried that this might translate into some cutesy, written-by-adults-to-sound-like-kids tone, but that’s not the result at all. The recipes are peppered with little comments like “Pretty neat, huh?” and “This is the fun, slimy part…” and Ben, a brand new cookbook reader (let alone reader) was delighted at these remarks aimed at him. I like that each step in a recipe is explained clearly enough for a five year old to understand, with cooking terms marked in bold and keyed to a glossary in the back. It’s a smart cookbook, too, with its spiral-bound, coated pages that wipe clean, tabbed section dividers and plenty of room to write in notes. The people who designed it know what they’re doing.

In our first 3 days with this cookbook, we made Extra E-Z Fudge, Heart-in-Hand Cookies, and Berry Dip & Roll, which were all a tremendous success and are not at all a representative sampling of the recipes in the book, which are seasonally organized and include a nice section of vegetarian recipes. I let Ben call the shots, and he went for the sweets; we’ll get to the Bunny Salad, Black Bean Chili, and other healthier choices another day. The one surprising omission from the cookbook, I think, is breakfast! Pancakes, french toast, and muffins tend to be a staple of most kid’s cookbooks, for good reason: they’re simple and plenty good for you. Spatulatta leans more toward lunch and dinner foods, when I’m less inclined to think of involving the kids in the cooking in favor of getting a meal on the table promptly. But of course, the more I include the kids in the kitchen, the less of an art project cooking will be for them, so I like that Spatulatta will help nudge us this direction. My kids, at 5 and 2, are definitely younger than the target Spatulatta audience, but this cookbook will grow with them, and I’m looking forward to the meals along the way.

Pasta with Fresh Corn and Shitake Mushrooms

We have Tony to thank for this recipe; he was inspired by the fabulous corn and shitake side dish served at the Slanted Door, and turned it into a dinner (with some carmelized tofu) that the whole family loved.

Pasta with Fresh Corn and Shitake Mushrooms

4 ears corn, removed from the cob
12 oz. shitake mushrooms
1 lb short pasta (campanelle or something ideally with a little “scoop” to it… orecchiette would also be good)
2-3 stalks lemongrass (optional, but good)
1 “thumb” of fresh ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
soy sauce
peanut or canola oil
ground black pepper to taste

1 ounce soy sauce
2 ounces sherry
2 tsp sesame oil
6 ounces veggie stock
1 1/2 tbsp. corn starch, dissolved in a little water

Put up a big pot of water to boil for the pasta.

Combine all the sauce ingredients in a Pyrex measuring cup — total liquid should be just a little more than a cup.

Trim the stems off the mushrooms and wipe off any excess dirt with a paper towel. Slice the mushrooms into 1/4 inch strips.

Take the lemongrass stalks and cut them into 1 inch pieces. Crush the pieces with the handle of your knife.

Add the pasta to the water and cook as directed by the box, testing frequently.

Heat about a tbsp of oil over medium high heat in a large skillet and add the mushrooms. Stir them often. After a few minutes they’ll start to give off some liquid and reduce in size. Add the lemongrass, if using. After another few minutes, add all the garlic and half of the ginger and stir constantly for another minute or two. Add a generous dash of soy sauce, stir vigorously for about 10 seconds and remove to a bowl.

Add another tbsp of oil to the pan, and when it’s hot, add the corn, stirring frequently. Cook for just a minute or two.

While the corn cooks, pick out the lemongrass stalks from the mushrooms and discard.

Add the remaining ginger and black pepper to the corn if desired. Cook for about another minute, and as with the mushrooms, add a dash of soy sauce and stir vigorously for 10 seconds. Return the mushrooms to the pan just to get them hot again.

Pour in the sauce and cook for just another 30 seconds until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it well and return it to the pot. Add the corn and mushroom mixture and the cilantro to the pasta and combine thoroughly.


Pizza Dough

This is the best recipe I’ve made yet for pizza that you grill; try it out!

1 1/4 oz envelope yeast (or 2 1/4 t)
3/4 c warm water
1 3/4 c flour
1 1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t olive oil

Stir the yeast, 1 T flour, and 1/4 c warm water together in a small bowl and let sit until it’s bubbled up and creamy-looking, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, stir together 1 1/4 c flour and the salt; then add the yeast, oil and remaining 1/2 c water. Stir until smooth.

Stir in enough additional flour (about 1/2c) so that the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, then turn it onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

Let rise on a generously floured surface until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours (or stick it in the fridge, in a bowl, and let rise all day; bring to room temperature before shaping).

When you’re ready to shape the dough, don’t punch it down but dredge it in flour and then hold it up with both hands moving around the circle of dough like a steering wheel, letting gravity pull the dough down. Once it’s stretched to about 7″ around, lay it on a well-floured board or pizza peel and stretch it out to about 9″.

Let the dough rest 10-20 minutes before grilling.

When you’re ready to make pizza, preheat the grill on high for 5-10 minutes, then oil well. Slide the dough onto the grill and bake until browned on the bottom (about 5 minutes). Remove from the grill, turn the dough over, and put your toppings on the grilled side. Now turn the grill down to medium, slide the topped pizza dough back on to the grill, and close the grill to cook the pizza. Check after 5 minutes, and continue grilling till the cheese is bubbly and the bottom of the crust is browned.

Kids in the Kitchen

I am all about encouraging kids to cook, to experiment with food, to hang out in the kitchen with me as much as possible. This often means creating a big mess, but I think the long-term gains (kids with healthy attitudes about food) are worth it. At the moment, my boys eat well, have strong opinions about food, and are happy to watch the Food Network with me when we fly on JetBlue. So far, so good.

So I was happy to learn about Spatulatta, a cooking show by and for kids. It’s not on network tv yet, just on the web, but they’re aiming more broadly. It’s a sweet show, with recipes and videos demonstrating essential kitchen skills, from separating an egg to arranging a Mother’s Day breakfast tray! If you agree that the show offers good, educational entertainment for kids, click on the survey at the website; the results may help them get their own PBS show!

Triple Citrus Poppy Seed Coffee Cake

I haven’t posted an actual recipe in a while, and this is a delicious one. It’s based on one I tore out of a Martha Stewart Living a few years ago, and it doesn’t seem to be on her website any more so I’m doing you all an enormous favor by posting a simplified version of the recipe here. My main edit is to change the ridiculous first ingredient, which she list as “1 5/8 cups (13 tablespoons) butter” — as if either of those measurements are at all simple to calculate. Further, you actually only need one stick of butter in the dough; the remaining tablespoons of butter are added at various points — to grease the bowl, to brush the dough before its rise, to brush on the loaves before their rise. And you can take or leave those. In fact, you could just grease the bowl with the butter wrapper and be done with it. Next time I make this, I’m going to leave the egg yolks out of the filling (mostly because it’s annoying to have 2 leftover egg whites), and I’ll report back on how that works.

For the dough:
½ c warm water
2 T active dry yeast (2 envelopes)
1 t sugar

½ c butter, melted and cooled (plus some more to grease the bowl)
2/3 c sugar
1 c orange juice
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lime
zest of 1 orange
1 t salt
5-6 c flour

For the filling:
1 pound cream cheese (room temperature)
1 c confectioner’s sugar
2 egg yolks
2 t vanilla
1 c dried cranberries, dried blueberries, dried currants (or a mix)
2/3 c poppy seeds

For the egg wash:
1 lightly beaten egg

Stir together the water, yeast and 1 t sugar in a large bowl until yeast dissolves. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Now whisk in oj, eggs, remaining 2/3 c sugar, melted butter, zests and salt. Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and forms a ball.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until just slightly sticky, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a buttered bowl and turn so that the dough is lightly coated with butter. Loosely cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, either at room temperature (about 1 ½ hours) or in the refrigerator overnight.

Meanwhile, stir together cream cheese, egg yolks, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add poppy seeds and dried berries. Set aside (at room temp or in the fridge, wherever your dough is).

When you’re ready to shape and bake the coffee cakes, butter 2 baking sheets and set aside.

Punch down dough and divide in half. Roll out one half into an 11 x 15” rectangle. Spread half the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1” border. Beginning at one long side, tightly roll dough into a log, encasing the filling. Pinch seam to seal. Carefully transfer log to baking sheet. With a sharp knife, make cuts about 2” apart along one long side of the log, cutting just three-quarters of the way across. Lift the first segment, turn it cut side up, and lay it flat on the baking sheet. Repeat with the next segment, twisting it so it sits on the opposite side of the roll. Continue down the log, alternating sides.

Roll out, fill and cut remaining dough.

Preheat oven to 350. Loosely cover dough and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes. Brush dough with egg wash, avoiding the filling. Bake until cooked through and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Carefully slide coffee cakes onto wire racks, and let cool completely before slicing.


I’m not sure these text-free recipe diagrams would work for me; after all, after however many years, I still don’t understand what those little laundry labels in my clothes mean. I am definitely a word person, not an image person. But the pictures are appealing; I could imagine a poster decorating my kitchen wall…
Meanwhile, the designer is apparently still working out some of the bugs in this system: “The ingredients are still a work in progress,” she said in the New York Times; “For example, it’s hard to explain the difference between flour, baking powder, anthrax and cocaine without words.”
OK! Let me know when you work that out…

Muffins Waiting

One of the (many) reasons we renovated our house last year was because our little Edwardian, with all its chair rails and moldings, didn’t have much open wall space for Tony’s late father’s enormous paintings. Now, we’ve been able to hang several of the fabulous, gorgeous canvases… but as it turns out, Ben needs plenty of display space, too. He’s taken to taping his pictures (right now it’s all trains, all the time) to the half-wall over his art table, to doors, and now to the front window.
On the far right, you see an Amtrak train (“toot!!” it says,) its pantograph carefully connecting it to the electric wires above. The sign on the bottom says simply, “Ben Love Tony.” And this morning’s addition, after we’d baked banana coconut muffins, welcomed friends for a playdate: “Muffins Waiting.”

I’m so happy to live in this house!

(a note about the muffins: you can replace half the butter with 3/4 c ground flax seed and feel virtuous about eating two or three…)

Chocolate Honey Cake

For my honey, of course, on his birthday.
This is Nigella Lawson’s chocolate honey cake (scroll way down for the recipe), from the chocolate cake hall of fame in Feast. It’s moist and rich, you can mix it all in the food processor, and those little marzipan-almond wing bees are fun to make, like edible play-doh (Wait, says Eli, play-doh isn’t edible?). And they taste good, too.