The Kids Cook Monday – “Going Old World”

If you listen to most chefs, they got started in the kitchen at a very early age, and normally in old world kitchens. That got me to thinking that tried and true methods of cooking are a great way for a child to play an active role in the kitchen.

The mortar and pestle!!  Wanting to keep it easy and simple the first time, we did pesto. I saw Michael Symon doing this on Iron Chef America and the results of the pesto were thicker and more fresh. Using the same ingredients as regular pesto, you simply replace the food processor or blender for the mortar and pestle. I found that working in small batches and tearing up the basil first made it a little easier for my child. Now you just let your child smash-up the pine nuts and basil, as you add the olive oil little by little. It’s done when you get a consistency that is appealing to you. Add a little garlic, salt and pepper, and finish with cheese.

Your child will be the main participant and you will get a great sauce for pesto or bread.




  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese or favorite type of cheese such as Parmesan Reggiano. I prefer Pecorino because of the subtle but noticeable saltiness of the cheese.

The Kids Cook Monday September 5, 2011 Tomato Tartare “Alessandra Takes On The French Laundry Cookbook”

After three months of no cooking, Alessandra and I are finally back in the kitchen together. At the beginning of the summer I ruptured my achiles tendon, requiring me to get surgery and be non-weight bearing for two months and with limited mobility for the remaining time. I am happy to report that this painful chapter is coming to a close and time to get back and do some fun activities in the kitchen.

The first recipe that we did was a tomato tartare and after looking through many recipes, we found one in the French Laundry cookbook. Strangely enough, this version was the most approachable, and the results were amazing. Salad of Haricots Verts, Tomato Tartare, and Chive oil on pg 64. I am not going to copy the recipe since it’s from a published book, but there are quite a few recipes that many people can do from this book.

The first step is place the x marked tomatoes in hot boiling water until the skin loosens up and place the tomatoes in an ice bath. After I peeled the tomatoes, seeded and cut them, Alessandra then got them ready for the oven. She placed a sprig of thyme on each tomato, sprinkled some salt and pepper, and then drizzled some olive oil onto the tomatoes. After baking at 250 degrees for 1:45 minutes we pulled them out of the oven and let them cool in the refrigerator drizzled with the oil from the pan. Discard the thyme sprigs.

The next step is to blanch green beans in a big boiling pot of water that has been heavily salted. Cook the beans until done and the color of the beans turn a vibrant green. Quickly place the beans in a bowl of ice water. We can now make the cream vinegar sauce and coat the green beans until needed. Finely chop the tomatoes into a very fine dice, and add balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, shallots or green onions, and chives.

Now we are ready to plate. Alessandra did one of the plates all by herself with just words of advice. She scooped out the tomato tartare into a ring mold and made it nice and even. Afterwards she grabbed some of the green beans from the sauce and placed them on the tartare, and then covered it with a small handful of arugula. The recipe asks for frisee, but I went with arugula for personal taste reasons. The result was superb and a great way to use summer tomatoes. For time sake we didn’t do the tomato powder or the chive oil but next time we will. It was so good I will want this for myself many times over before the heat of the summer is gone. Alessandra loved the cream and vinegar sauce, and I must say I could use it as a winning salad dressing in its own right.

I just loved how Alessandra wanted to get back into the kitchen with me and I cannot wait to share more time with her in the near future. Thank you sweetie for making our first cooking adventure in a 1/4 year a success.

Here is the closeup view of the tartare.