I’M ABOUT TO SAY SOMETHING that gives me a ridiculous sense of pride and satisfaction. Our family loves cauliflower. However, I’m sure it won’t last (See the ever-evolving What Works Now, What Doesn’t Work Now lists to the right… Sigh.) and they’ll really only eat/enjoy it two ways. The first is roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. With browned edges, every bite is crispy, salty and all of the cabbage-y taste disappears completely. It’s wonderful with any roasted meat (especially since the oven’s already on = easy.) The second option is mixed with pasta, cheese and turkey sausage. I originally saw this recipe in an issue of Food Network Magazine, just after Estelle was born last year. We tried it out while my in-laws were visiting to help, and despite my husband and father-in-laws’ initial doubts it was a hit! We’ve been making it ever since. You know who likes it the most these days? Eleven-month-old Estelle. I think she knows it’s in her honor… [Read more...]
THIS IS A CLASSIC ITALIAN MEAL, so naturally I’d never heard of it. That was before I moved to Rome and discovered that Italian food is more than pasta, tomatoes and cheese. (But they do that very well.) One of my favorite summer meals has turned out to be a version of the Big Salad I ate on a daily basis in NYC. Atop fresh and peppery arugula, comes fast-cooked strips of thin beef and shaved parmigiano cheese. If you’re lucky there’s also a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar. It’s the perfect mix of hot and cold, crisp and tender, sweet and salty. Mmm. [Read more...]
MY COOKING CONFIDENCE TOOK A BEATING this week. First, Phoebe and I prepared Italian Style Pasta & Cheese Cups for a post-play date lunch yesterday. There was a pan-melting incident but sadly that wasn’t the worst of our lunch woes. Sufficed to say the only people who ate said cups were me, the other mom and Phoebe, eating champ that she is. One of the other kids put it up to his mouth but to say he took a bite would be saying too much. The other two refused to even go that far. Oh dear.
A PORTABLE LUNCH DOESN’T GET MUCH BETTER than this. With a play date coming up, Phoebe and I set out to make lunch for her and a play pal but there were strings attached. It had to withstand a trip across Rome via stroller. That’s where this new recipe came in. Continuing on my Sneaky Chef kick, I changed a few things from her Mac-n-Cheese Lunchbox Muffins and came up with something great. Though, in full disclosure, not everyone thought so. Only one of the four kids in attendance ate one, and you can guess which one it was when I say, yay! It was Phoebe, who shockingly employed not one by two of my usual “try-it” tactics to persuade her dining companion–a fellow toddler with the picky eating habits only a little guy his age can do so well– to try the cups and green beans. (Am I a glutton or what?) Oh well. Two moms and one toddler ate well. It could be worse, and sometimes is.
WE TOOK A TRIP to the Le Marche region of Italy this spring…and it was delicious. Our hosts were a young couple from the States, transplanted to the Italian countryside where they run La Tavola Marche, a beautifully restored villa turned B&B for food lovers.
During our stay I took a cooking lesson from Jason, a classically trained French chef, who showed me a handful of Italian dishes designed to delight any age group. Now, I cook a lot and consider myself fairly skilled but when I step inside a professional kitchen, something happens. Suddenly I no longer possess the skills to dice an onion and find myself asking silly questions, “Wait, am I using this measuring cup right?” Anyway, aside from my obvious culinary confidence problems, our afternoon together was a total treat, literally and figuratively.
Despite his French background he cooks local fare, prepared the local way, exclusively. When I asked Jason how he learned these recipes his answer was fascinating, and heartening to my ex-pat ears. He and his wife Ashley were something of a novelty when they first arrived in the countryside, he said. Young and foreign, they became a popular pair to invite for dinner. He’d ask if he could come early to help and along the way learned dozens of local recipes and techniques. “Now when people are preparing something special, they actually call me to see if I’d like to come over and learn how to do it.” (Note: No one has ever asked me if I wanted to learn anything in Rome, but I digress.)
His first piece of advice to me was about the ingredients. “Something happened when I started making only regional dishes using what’s in season now,” he explained. “Everything got really simple and basic. You don’t have to do as much with the food because it’s all so fresh and vibrant.” I’d heard this idea dozens of times and though I wasn’t exactly skeptical, I wondered if it would be boring. Um, no. It was divine.
With those delicious dishes as inspiration, here are:
5 Italian foods kids love
2. PIZZA. But not delivery. Try it the Italian way with a thin crust (even better, make it whole wheat or kamut) and pile on the veggies. In our house this means yellow and red peppers, tomatoes, onions (really) and if you’ve got meat holdouts, just sprinkle on a little peperoni or turkey sausage. Use meat as an ingredient instead of the main course.
3. PASTA. Handmade is the thing around here but honestly, it takes ages and I’d prefer to serve whole wheat pasta anyway. That said, kids will eat pasta with just about anything on top, from plain butter to Parmesan cheese to red sauce. More on this in another post…
4. STUFFED TOMATOES. Most little guys like tomatoes so why not pack it full of the good stuff, meaning, the good-for-you stuff? We used rice but I’d try barley or even quinoa mixed with a little marinara sauce, cheese and herbs.
5. ROASTED VEGGIES. If your kids are reluctant to get up close and personal with a carrot, try this. Cut up a bunch of root or larger veggies (anything: potatoes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini, even cauliflower) into large pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and put in a hot oven, 425, for about 35-40 minutes. Turn once. To make this dish even more kid-friendly, add a liberal sprinkle of breadcrumbs plus more oil on top. Suddenly veggies seem more like an Italian version of french fries.
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