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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: 5 Stars Dinner at Home… But Will the Kids Eat It?

Are you a foodie? Are you a foodie and a parent? Do your kids share your passion for food? Or do they give you a hard time?

I am a foodie and a picky eater in a choosy finicky, or conscious eating way. Since we got married, I got my husband all excited about food too. Our kids, however, are a different story. We have a one-year-old girl who is willing to try anything, almost, but changes her mind about what she likes and dislikes quite often. And we have a kindergartener who challenges us more.

I always try to cook family friendly food (hence the name and essence of my blog) that we will all like. I compromise a lot between what I really love to cook and eat and what kids usually prefer (we all know what THAT is). I really go a long way to make them happy but I draw the line when it comes to junk food. We have never ordered pizza or any other take-out and we never set foot, (or car), at any of the junk fast food places (Well, not willingly. Oh, how I hate those kiddies birthday parties at Chuck E Cheese). Once a month I might prepare an upgraded pizza (see recipe here) or a Mac and Cheese but then I use real wonderful artisanal cheeses.

My son can be a picky eater even when it comes to dessert. He always prefers a candy (from Halloween and birthday parties… ) over a fresh home-baked cake. Can you believe it?! (Click here to see the cakes). On one hand, this kid can tell the difference between goat cheese, feta, parmesan, Gouda, Swiss, Brousin, mozzarella, cheddar… and of course, a cheese stick. On the other hand, he is a typical 5 years-old. After a few years of trying different strategies with the kid, I have decided – enough. This is not really working anyway and I’m getting bored with the food that we eat. We’re going back to what mommy likes to cook and eat. So OK, no chilies and no Bobby Flay food yet, but a few weeks ago I cooked dinner and the menu was:

Young onion tart with cantal, applewood-smoked bacon, and Herb salad
From “Sunday Suppers at Lacques” cookbook

Butternut squash, butter lettuce, arugula and apple salad
Inspired by Ina Garten’s recipe from her new cookbook “Back to Basics”

It was heavenly.

Why this menu?

The choice of the menu was affected by our decision to eat less meat and chicken following a few posts I wrote about the cruel conditions under which animals are raised. (No, we’re not becoming vegetarians, just eating a smaller amount of animals and less frequently. If you care about conscious eating, see my second blog Good Food and Bad Food”)

I knew the menu will be a tricky one with the kids. However, I decided to make it anyway because I was very curious about the recipes and I fell in love with “Sunday Suppers at Lacques” cookbook (there’s a short review at the end of the post). The food was so amazingly delicious. And this is an understatement. Really. It was like a 5 stars restaurant dinner but only at home. (And by “5 stars” I mean in flavor, not in labor-intensive preparations). The baby devoured the tart. She had crumbs all over her face and in her beautiful and funny hair. The kindergartener? He, surprisingly, ate the onions on the tart. The onions! He never eats onions. He declares a ban on onions, and onions, you know, are the base for many many dishes. He ate it and said that it was good! Then I told him: “you know, those are onions”. His answer: “no, this is a new kind of chicken”.

Since we loved the tart and salad so much, I wanted to make them again. Tonight I have recreated this dinner to show you: 1) the challenges foodie parents face with young kids at home, 2) how amazingly delicious these dishes are, 3) how fantastically simple and easy it can be to cook a 5 stars dinner at home, and, of course, 4) the funny comments and reactions from the kids’ point of view.

The menu:
* Onion tart with gruyere, applewood-smoked bacon, and Herb salad
* Butternut squash, butter lettuce, arugula and apple salad
* Good wine (not for the kids) – Meadow 2007, Ross Andrew winery, Oregon (Something local that the guy at the grocery store recommended with my menu. Thanks, Bruce! It is a lovely wine.)
* Home-made cinnamon ice cream (you have been so good to read this long post up to this point, so I give you a bonus – dessert. Actually, we always have dessert on the weekend, remember the cakes?)

The Recipes:

Young Onion Tart with Cantal, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, and Herb Salad
Don’t skip making the herb salad. It will be a huge huge mistake. It is so unique and to die for.
Slightly adapted from Suzanne Goin, “Sunday Suppers at Lucques”
Serves 6-8

1 sheet frozen all-butter puff pastry (I used two 8*9-inch sheets)
1 extra-large egg yolk
½-pound sliced applewood-smoked bacon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups sliced onions, red and white
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
½ cup whole milk ricotta, drained if wet
¼ cup crème fraiche
1/3 pound Cantal, Gruyère, or Comté cheese, thinly sliced

½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
¼ cup tarragon leaves
¼ cup chervil sprigs
¼ cup 1/2-inch-snipped chives
A drizzle super-good extra virgin olive oil
½ lemon, for juicing
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Defrost the puff pastry slightly and unroll it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a paring knife to score a 1/4-inch border around the edge of the pastry.

Stack the bacon slices in two piles, then cut crosswise into 3/8-inch rectangles or lardons.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and allow to heat another minute. Add the bacon, and sauté over medium high heat 4 to 5 minutes, until slightly crisp but still tender. Reduce the heat to low, and toss in the young onions, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir together a minute or two, until the onions are just wilted. Toss in the onion tops, and remove to a baking sheet or platter lined with paper towels to soak the fat, and to cool a bit.

Place the ricotta, egg yolk, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in abowl and whisk until smooth. Gently fold in the crème fraîche and season with 1/8 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper. Spread the ricotta mixture on the puff pastry within the scored border. Lay the Cantal over the ricotta, and arrange the bacon-onion mixture on top.

Bake the tart 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet once, until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Lift up the edge of the tart and peek underneath to make sure the crust is cooked through. (If you underbake the tart, it will be soggy.)

Toss the herbs in a small bowl with salt, pepper, a drizzle of super-good olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Cut tart to wedges and serve with herb salad.

Butternut squash, butter lettuce, arugula and apple salad
Inspired by Ina Garten’s recipe from her new cookbook “Back to Basics”
Serves 4-6

1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and cut in 3/4-inch dice
Good olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sliced shallot
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces baby arugula
½ head butter lettuce, torn into 2 bite-size pieces
1 apple, thinly sliced
1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted
3 tablespoons dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place the squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender.

To make the vinaigrette, mix the cider vinegar, shallot, and mustard in a small bowl. Whisk in ¼ cup olive oil, salt, and black pepper.
Place the arugula and butter lettuce in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash and apple. Add the cranberries and walnuts. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten, and toss well.

Cinnamon Ice Cream
Make this at least 1 day ahead just to be on the safe side that the ice cream has the right consistency.
Slightly adapted from Suzanne Goin, “Sunday Suppers at Lucques”
Makes 1 quart

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 cinnamon sticks
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 extra-large egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract*
1 teaspoon hazelnuts extract*
Pinch ground cinnamon for serving*

Place the milk, cream, cinnamon sticks, and ground cinnamon in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat, cover, and let the flavors infuse about 30 minutes.

Bring mixture back to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl. Whisk a few tablespoons of warm cream mixture into the yolks to temper them. Slowly, add another ¼ cup or so of the warm cream, whisking to incorporate. At this point, you can add the rest of the cream mixture in a slow steady steam, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the pot and return to the stove.

Cook the custard over medium heat 6 to 8 minute, stirring with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. The custard will thicken, and when it’s done will coat the back of the spatula. Off the heat, add the vanilla and hazelnut extracts and mix. Strain (in a fine mesh sieve) and chill at least 2 hours in the refrigerator. The base should be very cold before you churn it. Process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon.

*My additions.

Kiddies comments and reactions:

Herb salad
I put some salad on my son’s plate. He immediately burst into tears. E.: “I don’t like salad. Take it out of my plate. I want a new plate”. Me: “OK, I’ll take it out”. E. :”no, I want a new plate”. Me: “I’ll wipe it clean”. E.: “you can’t wipe out the flavor”. Me: “relax already. Here, see? It’s all gone”.

R., that’s the baby, on the other hand, didn’t try it at all. The minute she saw it, she threw it away from her tray and onto the floor. E. finds it very amusing and laughs loudly. She was however, very interested in a long stem of chives.

Butternut squash salad
Me: “how about this salad? This lettuce taste very nice”. E.: “no, I don’t like salad”. Me: “OK, what about eating the ingredients separately but not the lettuce?” E.: “OK”.

R. tried to eat the lettuce but had a hard time chewing on it since she has only 2 tiny teeth. She made a funny face and spitted it out. Well, at least she tried. She ate the squash but can’t eat the berries and nuts (choking hazards).

Onion tart
E. eats the bacon on top of the tart, and then stops. Me: “why don’t you eat all the “pizza””? E.: “it has onions. I don’t like onions”. My husband: “you ate the onions last time and liked it”. E.: “No I didn’t. I don’t like onions”. Me: “OK, just take them out and put it on the side of your plate and finish eating it”. Then he takes a bite and me and my husband see the onion hanging from the side. There’s a moment of silence… he ate it! Didn’t say a word.

R. loves this tart. No complains on her part.

Ice cream
Me: “today we have home-made ice cream!” E. – “I want a candy on the ice cream because ice cream alone doesn’t taste good to me.” Me: “you need to choose – ice cream or candy”. E: “then candy”. At the end he chose a Scooby Doo push up Popsicle, leftover from his birthday party last spring. Me: “how can you choose a Scooby Doo over home-made ice cream?” E.: “I’ll eat ice cream another time”. Me: “so why don’t you eat the Scooby Doo another time and tonight you’ll eat ice cream?” E.: “because that is what I chose”.

R. – this is the first ice cream she had in her life! She loved it. She even managed to feed herself with a teaspoon for the first time.

Some photos taken by E. who likes to take pictures and do some food styling

For this kind of dinner, send the kids to someone else’s home, like grandma and grandpa, if you can. Open a bottle of good wine, dim the lights, and have a nice, quiet dinner at home with good adult conversation, because this is the best food. I tell ya. And young kids are just too… too young to appreciate it. One day I’m sure they will.

Good night... Bye bye...

The Cookbooks:

“Sunday Suppers at Lacques” by Suzanne Goin
I have heard about Lacques cookbook here and there, don’t remember exactly where… so I borrowed it from the library (that’s what I do before deciding if I am going to buy a book or not). There is something about that book that makes you fall in love with it immediately. I can’t quite tell what it is. I really love that it is arranged by seasons. (Already an excellent reason to love a cookbook). But there’s something beyond that. Could it be the simplicity of its sophistication or the sophistication of its simplicity? There’s something very earthy, rustic, yet terribly smart and chic about it. The recipes I have read seem to be pretty easy to make, the photos are gorgeous. Everyone should own a copy of this book.

“Back to Basics” by Ina Garten
The Barefoot Contessa… no need to elaborate what I love about her, like so many millions of people around the world. I thought that owning 4 of her cookbooks is enough but I just couldn’t resist buying the fifth one. It is just as good and beautiful as the previous ones.

Wow! You have made it this far! It is a loooong post. I admire you! I do.
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Thank you for reading! Nurit.

Thank you Foodbuzz!


George Erdosh said...

When it comes to feeding little ones, remember one thing: they have a very sensitive tasting and smelling organs and with strong-tasting foods (broccoli, e.g.) you quickly overwhelm them. Feed them much milder foods than you serve to adults. It's not until in their early 20s when spicy foods become appealing to them.

Check out my latest (Nov/08). It’s already getting great reviews:

Tried and True Recipes from a Caterer’s Kitchen—Secrets of Making Great Foods

On Amazon, etc.

Joie de vivre said...

Oh my goodness Nurit I am so proud of you. I loved everything! The songs with the slideshow were precious. I loved the running commentary with your son too. I also have a 5 yr. old boy. Although he is not quite as picky, today his comment after I told him I was making a fancy lunch of pork tenderloin was, "Pork is a dinner food. I want a sandwich." Ha ha! He ended up loving the pork though. I can't believe your son didn't even want to eat ice cream though!

Joie de vivre said...

I just had to re-read your post because it is so great! I love the pic of your baby throwing the salad off of her tray. Our dog was never a beggar until after the kids were born. After they started feeding themselves, he would just park himself right by their highchair. After he started taking food DIRECTLY from their hands, we had to put him in the crate during dinner. He is a fabulous cleaner upper though.

My crazy crazy life said...

First and foremost, let me tell you...your meal looks amazing and I want to make it for me and my hubby one night when we get the chance to farm out our 4 kids. Moving on, I LOVE this post! The video is hilarious! We also have a 1 year old and our floor looks like your floor after dinner. If baby D doesn't like what he's been given, over the side it goes. My kids are picky but in a good way. We used to be very much the grilled chicken and one gree veggie a night kind of people until I found my passion for food. Now my kids are so excited about everything new I make. (well except my 8 year old...the other day he asked me "mom, are we just going to eat normal tonight, I don't want to try something new"). My daughter though (11 years old), is so excited about food and recipes, she has started helping me in the kitchen ALOT! I love it. Thanks for this awesome post. Very inspiring.

Cakespy said...

Oh man, I wish I was one of the kids! :-) Everything looks amazing! What a great experience!

Salty Mouth said...

Your kids are adorable, and your one-year old daughter looks just like you!

The onion tart also looks divine. Will have to add it to my stack of recipes.

Keep the lovely posts coming!



Anonymous said...

This is too cute. How lovely to have unbiased taste testers! Great 24 post.

Nate-n-Annie said...

Congratulations on being chosen for a "24" dinner.

We share your frustrations with kids who are picky eaters. We try to create really yummy food for them but they prefer mac n cheese - and don't care if its the cheap stuff either. Sometimes you just want to cry.

mira said...

hey there, u did a wonderful job! totally fantastic, feast for the family eh? love the ice cream dear! :)

Nurit "1 family. friendly. food." said...

Thanks everyone for the great feedback!
As for the kids, they are not that bad. And I’m sure if we continue to give them good home cooked food they will appreciate and celebrate it one day.

Diana said...

What a great post! I'm so excited to cook with my future children. I'm sure I have many lofty expectations that won't be fulfilled, but I'm still looking forward to it. I understand about the eating less meat thing. I wrote a post on that last month after an episode of dirty jobs traumatized me to see how the pigs were treated. We're learning how to eat less meat now.