new food

Tacos

Lisa’s post recently about calzone pizza tacos got me thinking about tacos, of course, but also about how even though our kids are growing older and somewhat less picky, the slightest change can sometimes mean the difference between a happy meal and a table fraught with conflict.

Her kids ate the calzones, though not without a lot of discussion. I had a different experience recently when I laid out a dinner with crispy taco shells instead of our regular tortillas. I didn’t think much of it, really. Same ingredients, same shape, different texture. If I had stopped to think about it, I probably would have braced myself because most of the time around here change is Not Good.

But I got lucky. My kids were thrilled. They were in raptures. I was the Best. Mom. Ever. (Even though Tony did the cooking; sorry, Tony). And Eli ate four of them, stuffed with brown rice, pinto beans, guacamole and shredded jack cheese — the same ingredients with which he fills his quesadillas — suddenly transformed by their crispy new jacket. For one night, change was good, and I relished the feeling.

The bottomless pot

A few weeks ago, I made a very large pot of red sauce, the kind of red sauce that you can ladle over spaghetti, or spoon lovingly over baked ziti, or lace in between layers of noodles for lasagna. I did many of the things you can do with red sauce, and I still had some left over.  It came to the point where one more dish of pasta just wasn’t going to cut it, not even with my pasta-loving offspring, and it just seemed too little and too late to freeze the remainder. I had pizza dough, though, and it was a cold, damp night.  Something tiny inside me whispered calzone, and I had a vision of a brick oven, and golden mound of dough stuffed with melted cheese and savory red sauce, and  a leafy green salad, a fire, a glass of wine, and I got to work.

More

Learning to Eat: Fish

by Caroline

If you’re spending a sunny day on a small boat in the Mediterranean and your captain leaves briefly, in an even smaller boat, to do some fishing, then you’ll have a conversation with your vegetarian children about fresh food, trying new things, being polite to one’s hosts, and eating the best of what a place has to offer.

It’s a conversation you have often, though you have never done it in a bathing suit, rocking gently on the waves.

When the captain returns with his catch, you remind the kids about their great uncle and a lake in the Adirondack Mountains and some small bites of fish, many summers ago. They don’t quite remember, but they believe you. One boy looks away while the captain prepares the fish but the other watches closely:

The first boy is not too happy that the gangplank/diving board has become part of the kitchen:

But he is mollified when he sees how much else is available to eat:

And his younger brother eats with gusto, having learned to eat fish:

Up for debate

by Lisa

Two days ago, my fifth grader left for school declaring, “Time to face global climate change!”  It’s been 85, 90 degrees here. In October.  By 4 pm, our house, with it’s western facing wall of windows, is a hot box.  We’re steamed out of the kitchen. I’m certainly not cooking, and we’re certainly not eating in there.  Also, there have been the debates. And baseball. Which = a lot of TV dinners. More

Good for the soul food

by Lisa

Let’s just say there was a storm. It might have been a terrible rain storm, with high winds, and dark skies, and cold slashing rain that I watched, miserably, through the kitchen’s glass wall.  It might have been a squall between the kids, a tornadic escalation of he said/she said spinning destruction through the house. It might have been a tempest between me and my son, or me and my daughter over what’s (not) for dinner, or homework, or cleaning a room, or doing a chore, or feeding the cat.  It was all of that, or some of that, and more. It was a soul-killing storm.

I struggled to bale myself out of the misery and cook dinner. Inspired by Joan, Pietro’s wife, and the chicken Milanese we love, I dredged fresh fish in flour, then beaten egg, then fresh bread crumbs. I fried it in a pool of limpid oil.  It turned golden brown, exactly, miraculously, as it was supposed to.  The skies hadn’t cleared, but dinner was done.

And then, we entered the eye of the storm.  Hungry and exhausted the kids came to the counter. We ate. It was delicious: fragrant, moist, crackling pieces of fish. Sweet cornbread. Tender, lemony greens. More fresh, hot fish.

And then, too soon, we were spun out of that silent, still place, back into the terrible squall.

Dinner did not save us. But it gave me a pale ray of hope. Which is, I suppose, the thing our soul most needs. That, and sometimes, a good new recipe.

Fresh Fried Red Snapper

  • 1 lb fresh Red Snapper filet (not previously frozen)
  • 2-3 eggs, beaten
  • flour for dredging
  • 2-3 slices whole wheat bread, processed into fine crumbs
  • pinch salt
  • canola oil for frying
  1. Carefully check the fish filets for bones, and with a pair of tweezers, remove each bone completely.
  2. Cut the fish into nugget-sized pieces. Where possible, cut along the natural lines of the filet.
  3. Set out 3 bowls, large enough to accommodate the fish. Fill one with flour, one with the beaten eggs, and one with fresh bread crumbs.
  4. Add up to a teaspoon of salt to the flour.
  5. Pour the oil about 3/4 inch deep in a frying pan and turn on heat to medium high.
  6. When the oil is hot, dredge each piece of fish in flour, then coat completely in egg, then cover in bread crumbs.
  7. Fry the fish until one side is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Then turn and fry on second side.  Be careful not to crowd the pan.
  8. Drain briefly on a paper towel covered plate.
  9. Serve immediately, with lemon wedges, aioli, sauteed greens, cornbread.