I bought this board book for my daughter called, My Foodie ABC. She is out of the board-book age, but this one is not your typical baby book. Instead of the usual suspects of apples, bananas, and strawberries, you get a range of foodie terms that are far less known. In fact, some of the terms would likely be unfamilar to parents.
Let’s see – I wonder how many parents could explain the terms: alfajores, opah, and xuxu to their children. Sure, you might know that opah is a fish, but can you describe it? Admittedly, those are some of the difficult words, but the point is that the book exposes kids to new foodie terms and gives them a glimpse into other food cultures.
Another nice feature of the book is that it teaches how to pronounce the words, so you as a parent won’t be left struggling with unknown pronunciation. The illustrations are also fun and will surely appeal to the littlest of kids. With that said, I’d probably hesitate to teach a really young child the word for ‘kobe beef’ before learning the word for ‘cow’. That might cause some confusion.
Here is a list of the food items covered in the book if you are interested: alfajores, bento box, chanterelles, dragon fruit, empanadas, farmers’ market, gourmet, habanero chile, ice cream, jicama, kobe beef, locavore, Meyer lemon, nopales, opah, pomegranate, quinoa, radicchio, saffron, taco truck, udon, vegetarian, weisswurst, xuxu, yucca, and zest.
This is definitely an informative book that is good for parents and kids. So if you are looking to expand the family’s foodie vocab, this book would be a great buy. It costs about $9 on Amazon.
And in the near future, there will even be disposable My Foodie ABC Placemats that will pair activities with letters of the alphabet and foodie facts. The placemats will sell for around $10 are are available for pre-order from Amazon.
One additional note is that the author, Puck, is not Wolfgang Puck. One Amazon reviewer confuses this point. The author has written several children’s books that teach counting, but he is not the world-famous chef.
The video below is of two young kids (5 and 9) cooking up a recipe from the Alinea Cookbook. Co-owner of Alinea and also co-author of the cookbook, Nick Kokonas, puts his two children to work on the Pheasant with Shallots, Cider and Burning Oak Leaves recipe. It’s pretty fun to watch, and you get to see the kids making a cider gel, plucking oak tree branches, and ultimately eating the hot skewered pheasant balls. I like when one boy says that the dish they are preparing is only medium-ish in difficulty. Sure it is, kid.
If you aren’t familiar with the restaurant Alinea (pronounced uh-lin-ee-uh), it is one of the best restaurants in the United States, and its owner and head chef, Grant Achatz, is one of the most celebrated chefs in America. The food is – to say the least – fabulously creative but also not that easy to prepare. I’ve never tried making one of his recipes myself, but I did eat at the restaurant a year ago and loved it. You can read about my experience here. While there, I also had the oak branch pheasant balls that the kids are preparing in the video.
The pheasant dish is one of Chef Achatz’ most well known, and it was even featured on Martha Stewart recently. It’s not the most difficult of his dishes to make, but it is a memorable one. Chef Achatz likes to integrate meaningful aromas into his food, and for the oak skewers, the leaves are ignited to give off the smell of burning Autumn leaves while you eat your bite of pheasant. It’s quite creative and pleasing.
If you or your kids are interested in learning how to cook from the Alinea cookbook, there are websites dedicated to preparing Chef Achatz’ recipes. Alinea at Home is a good one, and on that site there is a step-by-step tutorial on the pheasant skewer recipe. Alineaphile is another good site for guidance.
And if you are ever inspired to go to the actual restaurant in Chicago, just be aware that it is very very good and also extremely pricey. The cookbook, however, will cost you about $40.
I was struck by how the book, The Geometry of Pasta, by Jacob Kenedy reminded me of the kids’ books that feature black on white images. Young children are often mesmerized by contrasting black and white images, and there are several titles for sale on Amazon. I recently purchased Look, Look! for my new baby on the way, and I might try this pasta book out too. Granted, the subtleties of pasta shapes might not be as captivating to a young child as black-and-white flowers, fish, cats and cars, but it is worth a try.
With that said, The Geometry of Pasta cookbook would be a great addition to any cookbook collection. It has an elegant look with great graphic design. Also, the book jacket opens up into a nice poster of various pasta shapes that can be used as a pasta learning tool for the kids. You can see an image of the poster here.
If you are interested, you can check out The Geometry of Pasta website to get a better idea of what’s in the book. They have different pages with pasta shapes, recipes from the book, and the video below. The video is rather interesting, and I love the stark shapes and minimalist instruction — though it does go rather quickly at times.
The creative design of the book was done by co-author Caz Hildebrand of Here Design, and the technical drawings were done by Lisa Vandy, who is the Creative Partner at Now Ware. Lisa Vandy has designed similarly styled products for the Hairy Bikers to include this neat tea towel. There is also apparently a similar tea towel for the Geometry of Pasta that is soon to be sold. I really like the idea of these black-and-white tea towels, but I must say that I prefer the Hairy Biker one. It has more recognizable kitchen objects on it.
Of course, I can’t find the towel available in the US, but maybe I will look into having it shipped from the UK. The book can be purchased from Amazon for $16.50.
I’ve been trolling the internet looking for some good content on parents cooking with kids, and I came upon the blog, My Daddy Cooks. It’s a fabulous site and what makes it so good is that it is a video blog so you get to see a kid actually cooking. It is easy to read about tips or recipe advice for cooking with children, but seeing the little ones in action is so much better and more inspirational.
The author, Nick Coffer, and his son, Archie, take on a wide range of dishes, and not only are the videos cute to watch, you can really sense how much fun they are having — mistakes and all. The videos are inspiring in many ways. Nick’s patience and gentle guidance are perfect, and the fact they are cooking in a micro kitchen (and filming) is amazing. In small kitchens, kids are often a bit more in the way and under foot, but Archie gets moved around in his chair like a large pepper grinder in what seems to be a seamless and effortless production — though I am sure that isn’t always the case.
The recipe I just watched (embedded below) was for Mediterranean baked fish with tomatoes and olives. It looks like a tasty dish and simple, and Nick even lets his son add the salt and olive oil and handle the raw fish. Handing over the salt was a ballsy move, and Archie even recounts a previous effort that ended up with way too much salt. The whole video keeps you smiling, and it is a great contribution to cooking with kids.
Nick Coffer is also coming out with a cookbook in the spring of 2011 called My Daddy Cooks: 100 Recipes for the Whole Family. Amazon lists the book, but there is no selling price or release date specified as of yet. Until that time, Nick’s videos are always available and definitely worth checking out. Good job Nick and Archie.
From PBS Kitchen Explorers comes this wonderful article about raising kids to love food. Eating habits are a big enough challenge for parents, but the next step of learning to cook is an excellent skill and can provide for quality family time. Aviva Goldfarb interviews J.M. Hirsch, who is the Associated Press food editor, about how he has involved his child in cooking. The article provides a lot of examples on how to include kids in cooking and provides great suggestions. Hirsch even gave a knife to his two-year-old, but explains how he created rules to ensure safety. Basically, when using a knife the child must only use one hand and keep the other hand by his side. Any breach of the rule means that knife privileges are lost. That’s a good idea for kids starting to use a knife regardless of age.
Some of the advice in the article includes ideas about kitchen games, having kids make spice rubs on their own, introducing kids to smells early on, and embracing the kitchen mess. You can also check out J.M. Hirsch’s cooking blog for his recipes and videos, and he also has a book out called High Flavor, Low Labor: Reinventing Weeknight Cooking. The book gets good marks on Amazon and looks like a great reference for the parent who likes to cook but has limited time. There is also a video on Amazon of Hirsch actually putting his kid to work on a spice rub. I like the idea of putting selected spices that work together in a plastic tub so the kid can smell and combine with minimal guidance to come up with flavorful mixes.
Even if you as a parent aren’t comfortable with such mixtures or know what spices go together, there are some good books out there that provide guidance. Herbs & Spices by Jill Norman is a good reference and has a chapter on herb mixtures. Also, The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg has a lot of useful tables that even break things down into different ethnic cuisine flavors. Both are good books on herbs, spices, and other flavors.
A new book by Matthew Locricchio aimed at adolescent (teen) cooks is out called Teen Cuisine. It just came out, so there aren’t any reviews on Amazon yet, but the book looks interesting.
Unlike other cookbooks for kids, this one doesn’t just produce simplified fare and classics — it also offers a variety of intriguing and challenging recipes that break out of the mold a bit. For instance tofu and quinoa are included in recipes, and instead of just simple soups a gazpacho is included. The book also teaches three different types of pizza dough, and there are also recipes for salsa, a chick pea puree, and sesame sauce — not normal dishes for younger cooks.
All in all, if a young cook was interested in learning to cook, I think this book would go a long way towards building an appreciation for different flavors, ingredients, and techniques. I will update this post once I am able to check out the book in more detail, but it seems promising at first glance.
The book sells for about $16 at Amazon and is recommended for kids 12 and older. You can also check out Locricchio’s website at cookbooksandkids.com if you want to read more reviews or look into other books by the author.
I know ice cream season is largely over, but I’ve continued experimenting with ice cream flavors and see no need to stop. I have been trying various savory ingredients to make my ice cream, and they have come out really nice. I first made avocado ice cream and then moved on to sweet corn. Both were very tasty and the savory flavors at first seemed a bit odd, but they quickly grew on me.
Recently, I purchased The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, which is really a wonderful reference. The book covers ice creams and sorbets among other delights, but it really does a good job of inspiring ice cream making. I like to make my own ice cream for my child and even though the avocado flavor wasn’t a hit with her, the peanut butter ice cream is sure to be. I love it, and this is coming from a person who hates peanut butter. Yes, I have hated peanut butter since childhood and have never even had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Lebovitz notes in his book that the peanut butter ice cream is so easy that kids can mostly put it together on their own without the help of parents. The ingredients are simply 3/4 cup of smooth peanut butter, 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 2/3 cups half-and-half, a pinch of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract. Just puree everything together, chill for an hour, and then freeze in your favorite ice cream maker.
I can’t imagine that a kid would not like this ice cream (unless they have allergies of course), but there are many other interesting recipes to choose from in the book too. How about pear-pecorino, basil, or even goat cheese ice cream? And I think I might even try sweet potato ice cream for Thanksgiving. This book makes ice cream fun, and I definitely recommend it. The book will run you about $13 at Amazon.
Last month I read the book An Edge in the Kitchen by Chad Ward. I’ve heard a lot of good reviews about this book, so I made it one of my first steps in an effort to improve my knife sharpening skills. But how did the book stand up to its high praise?
Well, it is definitely a worthwhile read if you are into kitchen knives or want to dive into the cutlery world a bit more. The book is essentially an expansion of a 2003 eGullet Society tutorial authored by Ward covering knife maintenance and sharpening. Here is the link to that piece.
An Edge in the Kitchen is a very good resource and does a wonderful job when providing advice on knives and sharpening equipment. It is also good at explaining the different styles of knives, types of blade steel, and highlighting the differences between European and Japanese cutlery. I also like how the book debunks several knife myths. Basically, this is a great place to start if you want to learn about sharpening knives.
With that said, the book is not a perfect product. One main flaw is that it is rather poorly organized, illustrated, and laid out. For instance, the knife skills instruction is needlessly repeated in two parts of the book, and the overview of sharpening systems is at the very end but would have been better placed earlier in the book. Even the page margins are funky leaving many pages with a strange emptiness with text squeezed in at the spine.
Other than that, I also found the book a little clumsy. The knife skills section — though informative — felt awkwardly included. I know that buying, using, and maintaining knives seems like a logical combination, but in my opinion, the skills section broke up the flow of the book. I wish the author had kept the book focused on the equipment more and hadn’t tried to address the grander topic of knife skills.
Despite these minor drawbacks, I still found the book useful and I would highly recommend buying it. It is a solid reference for knife sharpening and a good buyer’s guide for knives and accessores. With this book, you will no doubt have all the requisite information to ensure that you have sharp, well-maintained knives for your kitchen.
Fine Cooking featured the cookbook How to Roast a Lamb by Michael Psilakis in the Dec/Jan issue. Psilakis is an American chef of Greek heritage out of New York City, and his contemporary takes on Greek food have made him a rising star in New American cuisine. He has operated several restaurants in New York City, but his restaurant Anthos is one of only two Greek restaurants with a Michelin star, and in 2008 Psilakis was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine and Chef of the Year by Bon Appetit.
Psilakis is a self-taught cook, and this cookbook is his first. In it he blends personal essays with beautiful photographs along with contemporary takes on Greek food. Many of the recipes are rather complex and call for a lot of ingredients, but at 304 pages thick there are still a lot of dishes that are accessible to the average cook. If anything, it will inspire people to cook more Greek food.
The cookbook, despite its title, is not just about lamb, but I was initially attracted to it because of the lamb dishes. My local CSA is now offering lamb to its members, so I will be stocking up on my lamb cuts of meat this week and want some guidance for a great holiday lamb dish. I can’t wait.
You can purchase How to Roast a Lamb at Amazon.com for $18.90.
After failing at my first attempt at making mozzarella cheese, I succeeded the second time around. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my less-than-satisfactory effort, so I made some changes and all worked out fine. Basically, the last time I felt that the microwave step of heating the cheese to get it all stretchy, along with the firmness of the cheese curds were the big problems. So here is what I did differently.
First of all, since temperature is important, I boiled some water and re-calibrated my thermometers, then picked which thermometer was best. It turns out the thermometer that came in the cheesemaking kit was completely off, almost ten degrees lower than the boiling point at 212 degrees. I can’t imagine anyone would have an easy time making cheese with that thermometer.
The next thing I changed is I let the curds and whey cook to a higher temperature than recommended by a few degrees, and then let the mixture sit twice as long. This ensured that my curds were nice and firm.
After the curds set, I cut them up with a knife, stirred them a bit, and reheated the mixture to the higher temp for the waterbath, all according to the recipe. I sided with using the hot waterbath method instead of the microwave, and that helped a lot. Last time, the microwave unevenly heated the cheese curds, and they ended up breaking down into a ricotta-like texture. The hot waterbath, even though a bit more time consuming, worked great for getting the mozzarella all stretchy so it could be kneaded and formed properly. It was a lot more forgiving than a microwave.
I also divided the curds into two batches so if I messed up one time, I could still have a second attempt. Both batches turned out, but it was good to have a back-up plan. For flavoring, I added thyme, freshly ground pepper, and salt.
So I am on my way to completing my top 10 cooking goals for 2010. One of those goals was making cheese, and though I will not stop with just mozzarella, I probably won’t be going crazy with home cheesemaking any time soon. I will, however, be ordering the book: Home Cheese Making (shown above) to plan out my longer term cheese projects, but the next attempt will just be a simple ricotta cheese. A while back I made some Italian gnudi (boiled ravioli stuffing) from a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis, and in that recipe it calls for ricotta. I think I will make some fresh cheese and try that instead.