Eat Local: Kids Cook, And So Can You!
by Linda Slezak
In these days of opening a ready-made box of ingredients to prepare a meal, it seems that adults don’t have the confidence or know-how to cook a simple meal.
One of my great joys these days is teaching kids to cook. I do this through a Slow Food program called “Chefs to Schools.”
These East End schools have “edible school gardens,” also sponsored by Slow Food and the children learn to grow vegetables with the help of master gardeners and their teachers.
The kids take great pride in their gardens. It’s exciting when the carrot tops appear, kale, lettuces and herbs poke through the soil. Gathering the vegetables they grew, they can name each variety – “this one is swiss chard, this one is bib lettuce, this is kale.” I’m talking about first graders here. Children are so much more competent than we give them credit to be.
Any kid (or adult) can make a salad. A favorite is Waldorf Salad, a simple mix of chopped apples, celery, shredded carrots and raisins and walnuts. Then pour on a simple dressing made of mayonnaise thinned with some apple cider.
In making this or any other dish with kids, it is important to supervise their use of knives and graters. I was pretty surprised when I asked the class of second graders about this and most said they never even held a knife. Then I remembered that kids today are the “chicken fingers” generation. But don’t get me started on that.
Another objective of teaching cooking to kids is that it also doubles as a science lesson and a math lesson. In preparing a recipe, you need to measure ingredients, and often use such rising agents as baking soda and yeast.
Try making a simple pizza dough – flour, water and yeast. It’s so fun to wait a few hours then see how much the dough has risen. Punch it down and let it rise again. Another fun experiment is making salad dressing. If you pour oil and water into a glass, you’ll see the oil rise to the top. That’s because oil molecules are bigger and lighter than water molecules.
To make a basic vinaigrette dressing, you can add an emulsifier such as egg yolk or mustard to the vinegar and oil mix to help to bind the ingredients.
Store-bought dressings contain ingredients you would never use if making your own. A popular brand of pricey dressing listed the following ingredients in this order: Sugar, water, red wine vinegar, canola oil, salt, spices garlic puree xantham gum.
See below for an easy and tasty recipe for a Raspberry Vinaigrette using fresh ingredients. It’s so easy, there’s really no reason to buy bottled dressing. The two recipes below make good use of local raspberries that are now in season.
Other berries can be substituted. Best of all, these recipes have just a few ingredients and just a few steps. Easier than recipe boxes:
This recipe will make enough dressing for a salad for four. For a larger salad, double the ingredients.
2 ½ TBLS red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil (grapeseed oil is good also)
2 heaping TBLS raspberries
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt, pepper to taste
Whisk the vinegar and oil in a small bowl under well blended.
Mash the raspberries with the back of a spoon until pureed.
Whisk in the raspberries and Dijon to form a smooth emulsion. Use immediately or refrigerate.
A delicious summertime dessert. You’ll need a food processor such as Cuisinart and an egg beater or standing beater with a bowl.
2 cups raspberries
½ cup sugar
1 TBLS lemon juice
1 ½ tsp. Knox gelatin
¼ cup water
1 cup heavy cream
1. Puree berries in the processor, add in sugar and lemon juice.
2. Pour ¼ cup water into a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Let stand for 1 minute.
3. Stir over low heat for 1 minute then stir in the pureed raspberries.
4. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
5. Pour mixture into a beater bowl and beat on high until foamy. Beat in the cream for 2 minutes more.
6. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Linda Slezak is a longtime member of Slow Food East End. She has a certificate from SCC School of Culinary Arts and has taught cooking classes for adults.As a Chefs to Schools instructor, she teaches cooking to children in our local schools.