I love gnocchi and when I saw this recipe in Thomas Keller’s French Laundry cookbook I wanted to give it a try. The strange thing, it’s incredibly easy to make and it’s a good recipe to let your kids cook with you. Here is the list of ingredients you will need, and it’s important to note that all of these ingredients are common pantry staples.
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.
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.
I apologize for the long delay in writing for The Kids Cook Monday. A rather eventful couple of months, but hopefully things will calm down soon. I am happy to report that our attempt to cure mangalitsa loin was very successful. In my prior post I talked about how Alessandra and I made Guanciale, and we also wanted to make lomo, or cured pork loin. The result was amazing and it is surprisingly easy and quite easy for Alessandra to help out.
She was able to coat the meat with the cure using plastic gloves and there is very little that can go wrong. As long as the meat is evenly covered this is a stress free step of the curing process, but it really allowed her involvement. We repeated after 7 days for the remaining cure. For a curing chamber, I used our wine refrigerator and kept a bowl of heavily salted water in the bottom to create the humidity and I fanned fresh air into the refrigerator twice a day.
After the two stages of curing, I rinsed off the meat and patted them dry. Now it’s time to hang the lomo to air dry for 45-60 days. I tied each section up like a roast, weighed and took notes of each section, and then hung them to dry. The rule of thumb is to allow the meat to dry out, losing a 1/3 of its weight. In the end you get a perfectly colored slice of cured meat that is great for lunch or cheese and crackers. This wasn’t really something that Alessandra likes at this time, but she had fun looking at the meat through the window. Now we just got to get back into our routine of cooking together. I miss her in the kitchen!!
Below is the recipe that I used to cure the loin, and I must say the cure smells so good.
|Lomo (Cured Pork Loin)
Chef Justin Everett of El Dorado Kitchen—Sonoma, CA
Adapted by StarChefs.com
5 pounds pork loin
60 grams turbinado sugar
9 grams pink salt
9 grams toasted Tellicherry black peppercorns
9 grams toasted fennel seeds
9 grams toasted coriander
45 grams Kosher salt
7 grams sweet paprika
3 cloves chopped garlic
3 grams thyme leaves
3 grams cayenne pepper
When we feed our daughter, protein is one of the biggest challenges to have her eat. Alessandra doesn’t like eating chicken very much but we found one of the foods she does like, pork tenderloin. After watching an episode of Alton Brown‘s Good Eats, he demonstrated the benefits and the better tasting pork tenderloin. He was right, and we love to eat pork tenderloin over chicken, including Alessandra. Pork tenderloin is easy to find, but preferably, you can find the cut of pork in the meat section instead of packaged in a vacuum sealed bag with water. This cut is equally high in lean protein but has a better texture.
To prepare the tenderloin have your child salt and pepper the pork according to your tastes and prepare a frying pan on medium high heat with a little oil. Sear each side of the pork tenderloin to brown, and then keep turning the tenderloin to get an internal temperature of 145 degrees. After a short rest, the tenderloin is ready to eat. You can also cook the tenderloin in the oven after you sear it on all sides. Again, when it hits 145 degrees let the pork rest for 5 minutes and serve.
Serve with some rice and vegetables for a well-rounded dinner.
A great side story is when Alessandra was able to see live mangalitsa pigs and was able to pet and feed them. We are fortunate to have access to fresh pork, and it was a privilege to have a farm to table meal.
My daughter hasn’t been in the mood to cook lately, but she was proud to make her own guanciale, a form of bacon using the cheek of the pig. In the past year we have been buying more and more protein straight from the farm, and making our own bacon is one of the things we do with the meat. It’s unbelievably easy, but it does take about two to four weeks from start to finish. In the end you will get a piece of bacon that is completely organic and great tasting. Below are pictures of the hanging stage and the result. This project is so kid friendly and you can find a great link and recipe here:
Alessandra had a fun time mixing the curing ingredients and rubbing it on the meat. She then quickly washed her hands very well and we placed them in the refrigerator for about 9 days. After that stage, we rinsed off the salt mixture, and patted them down with a paper towel and hung them in the wine refrigerator for two weeks. Ideal conditions are 60 degrees F, and about 70% humidity, but 60% or higher will still work. It was always cute and fun to watch her say “we’re making bacon!”, or turning on the curing refrigerator light on so she could see them hanging to dry. You can do longer, but for the first piece we tried it after 2 weeks. Some people hang the curing meat in the kitchen, but my wife frowned upon it. Since this refrigerator is next to our dining table, she was able to look at it every day and help me fan the bacon with fresh air using a handheld fan. Then the day came, and I cut thin slices using my chef’s knife. It was very good and since it was home cured it didn’t take long to cook. The basic premise of curing is to take moisture out of the meat, and the salt mixture will eliminate any bacteria from growing. It’s worked since the days of Egypt. We plan to use the guanciale for carbonara, and whenever we need bacon.
Today, my daughter and I were super tired. A busy day in the kitchen for mother’s day and a long Monday , left us exhausted before we even started to cook. Luckily, it only took us 10 minutes to cook dinner and we were able to include all of the major food groups.
We cooked asian style short ribs with rice and vegetables. If you get the thinly cut ribs you can cook them very quickly in a frying pan. On Sunday I cooked this dish using a fry pan and on Monday I cooked the ribs sous-vide for 11 hours at 135 degrees and then finished them in a frying pan to get some color. Either way produces good results.
1-4 lbs of short ribs
1/8 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup rice vinegar
Place all the ingredients in a zip lock bag and close tightly. Shake up the ribs in the bag and let them marinate for a couple of minutes. (Great place for the little ones to help).
Once you pull the ribs out of the bag, keep the liquid to coat the ribs as they cook. Over medium-high heat cook the meat on a slightly oiled pan. Add some of the marinade to the ribs, and turn them over. Add another dose of marinade. Cook until done, and salt and pepper to your liking.
We used last nights rice, steamed some vegetables while cooking the meat, and it was ready to eat in about 10 minutes.
What did mom get for homemade brunch? Alessandra helped me shop for the groceries, taste test, and do some of the cooking for mother’s day.
First: First dish was an egg mousse with smoke salmon.
Second: Poached Egg with Asparagus Tips, Crab, and Egg Yolk Drops
Not pictured: Home cured bacon and a lot of positive mother day wishes.
Most people would never realize that I am half-Vietnamese, and when I cook, people would gather that I am from European heritage. Growing up we had a lot of Vietnamese food on special occasions but normal American food during the week. As I grew up and learned to cook, I wanted to cook French food. To this day I will still cook food with an European twist. I never felt the need to cook Vietnamese food since my mom does such a great job and she makes enough to feed the entire Silicon Valley.
Through Twitter, I ran into a young Vietnamese couple that have a blog devoted to authentic Vietnamese cooking. It really inspired me to start cooking more Vietnamese food since I do like to eat it. At the same time I also want to teach my daughter different styles of cooking. My daughter is Vietnamese, El Salvadoran, Mexican, and Caucasian. She can learn so much of her ethnic background through the different styles of cooking.
The first recipe that we tried is relatively easy, but it does require patience. Here is the recipe from Hong and Kim: http://ravenouscouple.blogspot.com/2009/10/banh-it-tran-recipe-sticky-rice.html You can follow them on Facebook or on Twitter (@ravenouscouple)
I really enjoyed making these dumplings and I plan to make them again for future dinner parties and for lunches during the week.
- The dough is critical. Don’t add too much water because you will think it’s not coming together, but it does.
- Keep your hands well floured to prevent the dough to sticking to your hands. I used latex gloves and rubbed my hands together with flour.
- Use a small spoon to place the filling in the bun. You will need both hands to wrap the dough around the filling and you don’t want any of the filling on the outside.
- After the wrapping the dumpling around the filling, I coated the dumpling with a little flour and rolled them in my hand to get a consistent roundness.
- Use pork belly, jowl(cheek), or shoulder for the pork. Leaner cuts may dry out.
- Do not over marinate the meat or shrimp. A little goes a long way and you can easily blow out the ingredients if you use too much.
If you want your children to help, the dough process is a great place for them. The dough is extremely pliable and kids can get crazy with it without fear of getting sick. No eggs or ingredients that would be subject to salmonella. To be honest, the package of flour is so cheap, buy an extra package and mix in the water. Split it evenly among the kids and let them play away with the play-do like flour. For Alessandra, she helped me mix the dough and make one dumpling. Next time, I will have her make a couple of dumplings. Perfection is not a requirement as long as she enjoys the process and is proud of what she does.
For the sauce, it’s 1 part soy sauce, 1 part rice vinegar, and a dash of sesame oil. You can mix in a little green onion, or if you want some heat, thinly slice a small seeded Serrano chile.
It felt really good to cook Vietnamese and I plan to do more cooking this weekend. It’s very inexpensive to cook, it’s enjoyable, and it allows my daughter and I to spend time together while learning about an ethnic dish.
My daughter makes me laugh, and at the same time, she inspires me. One of her latest joke’spirations was that she loves calling our kitchen and dining table the restaurant, and I am the “Cooker”. I wish I could record a video of her exaggerated voice ladeled with youthful enthusiasm. At the same time it got me to thinking, “let’s pretend our kitchen is a restaurant, and let’s make eating at home just as special as eating out.” My daughter’s food requirements are fairly consistent, so I created a menu that had four choices that were fairly easy to do in a short amount of time.
We showed the guest of honor her menu while she sat at the table and her four choices of what to have for dinner. She felt special to make her own choice of what she wanted for dinner. For this menu we had miso soup, mac and cheese, cappellini, and short ribs. Every item is home made with no sacrificing of food quality. Alessandra choose Mac & Cheese with the snap peas, and the great thing about this recipe allows for a young child to help.
The following is the recipe used for Alessandra.
55 grams good quality cheddar cheese, cut into small pieces.
25 grams gruyere cheese, cut into small chunks
pecorino romano or parmesan cheese for sprinkling
50 grams milk separated by two 25 grams amounts
bread crumbs (optional)
90 grams of elbow pasta
For the child, let them cut up the cheddar cheese and gruyere into little pieces, but keep them separated. Precision is not needed since we are melting the cheeses into a sauce and Alessandra really loves this step. Children can also add the milk to the pot (under supervision). Start salted water to boil on high and begin cooking the pasta in a hot boiling pot of water. Meanwhile, in a non-stick pan place the cheddar cheese and 25 grams of milk on medium-low heat. Once the mixture is fully melted and mixed, we can then add the gruyere into the mix and stir constantly until the cheese is fully cooked through. Add the remaining milk, and occasionaly stir into the cheese sauce to fully incorporate. You are done after the mixture reduces by a third, keep warm. Total time less than 10-15 minutes.
Once the pasta is almost fully cooked, drain from the hot water. You have two choices to finish this dish, bake or stove top. Option one, you can pour the cheese sauce on the pasta, add bread crumbs, mix well, and spread evenly in a Pyrex baking dish. Broil in the oven at 350 for about 5 – 10 minutes to finish. Option two, is to pour the cheese sauce on the hot pasta, stir, and then serve. Making sure that the pasta sauce is evenly coated on the macaroni.
This version will have texture, taste, and richness you don’t find in store-bought mixes. Plus, it was a big hit at “the restaurant”.
Side benefit, it will make going out to eat easier since the children are getting a restaurant experience at home.
Genetics is a funny thing. My sweet tooth was definitely passed down to my daughter Alessandra as we both love ice cream and sweets. We don’t eat it very often, but we do like it a lot. Over the weekend we purchased an ice cream maker to make our very own ice cream at home for fun and for control of the ingredients. After making two types of ice cream, I can say that this was the best $50 I spent in a long time. It’s so easy, and the best part is the ice cream tastes very good and you can adjust how much sugar or other ingredients you put into the ice cream.
The first batch was vanilla ice cream, using a recipe from Avec Eric’s (Eric Ripert) cookbook. The flavor of a real vanilla bean is amazing. This recipe is a very rich custard based ice cream, but the sugar is quite low. Only 10 tablespoons of sugar, far less than many other recipes. Here is the best part, you can subtract the sugar content to your desire. Nobody is going to stop you, and that is the beauty of cooking at home. This was our test batch, and it was the best vanilla ice cream I have ever had. Using only milk, powdered non-fat instant milk, one vanilla bean, a little cream, egg yolks, and some sugar it was great. We froze the ice cream after we pulled it from the ice cream maker and enjoyed several hours later.
Next project was something a little healthier and something specifically for Alessandra. She likes strawberry yogurt so we planned to make a strawberry frozen yogurt using a David Lebovitz recipe. You can find the recipe here:
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt – David Lebovitz
About 1 quart (1l)
French yogurt is astoundingly good and I suggest you use a good-quality, whole milk or Greek-style yogurt for best results.
1 pound (450g) strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2/3 cup (130g) sugar
1 cup (240g) plain whole milk yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring every so often.
Transfer the strawberries and their juice to a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and fresh lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is smooth. If you wish, press mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds.
Chill for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Very easy to make, and you can adjust the sugar to your taste. This was our first batch using the recipe so we stayed true to it, and it’s very good. (In the next batch I am going to reduce the sugar by 25% to see how a low sugar version tastes). The fresh strawberries make it so good and it really makes a difference. We did strain the yogurt and strawberry mix to take out the seeds to resemble ice cream.
After she cut the strawberries she lost some interest in cooking this evening. I think a tough day at school for Alessandra made for a tired afternoon. Plus, how many 4 year olds want to cook on a weekday? Never-the-less, she wanted to keep on going. she poured the sugar on the strawberries and stirred with a determined grip, and then shook the bowl to blend the sugar and strawberries together to coat the fruit. Alessandra came back after the mixture rested, and saw the lovely strawberry juice she helped create.
When we blended the yogurt, lemon juice, and strawberries in food processor she came alive. The cyclone of strawberries was mesmerizing for her, and she just cracked up with an honest laugh. Watching her blend the strawberry yogurt together was so cute and I never get tired of her being excited and having fun. Afterwards, she mentioned that “she was happy because she was cooking”. The numerous tastes of strawberry didn’t hurt either. 🙂 A great couple of days in the kitchen with Alessandra.
The Budding Cook