Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Popeye, The Rock Tour, and Pesto

How to Get Your Kid to Eat Greens, Plans A-C

Plan A: The Popeye Argument. Although I love Popeye, I had to put this argument on the shelf after my usually mild-mannered son charged, fists swinging, shouting "I biffs 'em and boffs 'em" (from his favorite Popeye song) at an unsuspecting little girl strolling through the College Mall with her parents.

Plan B: The Rock Tour Strategy. This one worked for me. When Jonah was a tiny toddler, he spent a big chunk of time on tour, eating out in every kind of restaurant, and as a result he always ate his greens: sushi coated in fish eggs with a big side of spinach goma-ae; mounds of Ethiopian collard greens; spicy black bean and spinach burritos; salty collards from interstate standby, The Cracker Barrel. And he was two years old. The thing about this strategy is that although you don't have to actually go on a rock tour, or join the circus or whatever, you DO have to start when your kid is very young.

Plan C: The Pesto Approach. Teach your kid how to make pesto; let them experiment and find their favorite combinations. If he or she hates basil, it need not be involved (I don't think it's helpful to be purist about this - pesto just means anything that's been pounded into a paste). Using this flexible recipe, Henry has produced some excellent blends, including a spinach-heavy one that I hereby dub "Popeye Pesto."


2 well-packed cups basil, parsley, spinach, arugula, cilantro, or a combination, leaves only

1/3 cup olive oil

1/2 cup pine nuts, walnuts, brazil nuts (really good), sunflower seeds, or other seeds or nuts

3-4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.

1/2-1 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese (or skip the cheese, it'll still be delicious; just add a few extra nuts or seeds and a little more salt)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1-4 tablespoons of water, depending on desired consistency

optional: pinch black pepper, dried herbs, cayenne

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Pulse until blended.

Serve with pasta, potatoes, rice, fish, soup (especially minestrone), crudités or bread. Super good on sandwiches (just add less water).

Plans D and up forthcoming.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Marinara Sauce

As a young adult, I was weirdly afraid to attempt homemade spaghetti sauce, assumed it was a mysterious day-long process, unattainable to a novice cook. When I did finally try to make a basic tomato sauce I couldn't believe how simple and tasty it was, so much better than the jarred stuff, and it didn't take all day. A perfectly good marinara sauce can be prepared in the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta.

I taught this recipe to Henry, who at 13 is certainly not afraid of spaghetti sauce; after one lesson he insisted he had it down.

Marinara Sauce

1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes

4 medium garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in sauce pan, add garlic and sauté one minute.

Add tomatoes, salt, oregano and thyme.

Bring to a simmer and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes.

A couple of weeks after our first lesson, I was short on time but wanted to make lasagne. I asked Henry if he could make the sauce while I cooked the pasta and prepped the cheese. He did! In a flash, lasagne team lovesmith had this ready to go in the oven:

I'm thinking that having a live-in saucier-in-training is going to be a major boon.