Posts Tagged ‘children’

Children’s dinner | Cowboy food

6 July 2011

I take no credit for this meal, which is Thomas’s creation. He makes lentils with a fried egg and calls it “cowboy food,” because apparently cowboys ate beans and eggs; so naturally, lentils and eggs… In any case it’s a great meal, a brilliant name, and I have fallen for it, too.

I have decided to write about the easy, quick, weeknight dinners I prepare for my children, and it seemed fitting to start with “cowboy food,” which is an uncontested favorite. The other day as Balthasar asked what I was preparing and I replied “something with egg” (I hadn’t yet made up my mind), completely unprompted – and somewhat surprisingly as we haven’t had lentils for a while – he cheerfully exclaimed “cowboy food!”

I had mentioned cowboy food before in connection with a two-step lentil recipe. This is the quick version of lentils – the whole meal takes only about 35 minutes to prepare, and most of that is the lentils simmering away by themselves.

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Two cups make a lot of lentils, but it’s always great to have lentil leftovers. They can easily be reheated, or made into a salad.

2 cups green lentils (preferably Castelluccio or du Puy)

1 small onion

Some vegetables: for example 1/2 bulb fennel, one or two stalks celery, a carrot

A few sprigs of flat-leaved parsley

2 bay leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Very good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice to serve

1 egg per person

***

The lentils

Pick through the lentils to look for small stone intruders that must be discarded. To wash the lentils, cover with cold water and drain in a fine mesh sieve.

Peel and cut into large chunks the onion and the vegetables.

Place lentils into a large saucepan with 4 cups (double the volume) water. Add the vegetable chunks, the parsley, and the bay leaves, bring to a boil and let simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes. Remove from heat when the lentils are done to your liking – I like them al dente, with a bit of bite.

Discard the sprigs of parsley, bay leaves, and vegetable chunks. Season the lentils with salt, pepper, good olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste and adjust.

The eggs

**It’s better to cook the eggs once the lentils are ready, because while the lentils are just as delicious warm, the egg should be eaten straight off the pan.**

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan. Once hot, crack the eggs into the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Fry until the white is set but the yellow still runny. Serve over the lentils.

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Related posts

Lentils

Finger food | Leek and manchego frittata

Lentil and fennel salad with parsley

 

Finger food | Leek and manchego frittata

16 June 2011

Louise is now 15 months, she walks around like an independent little person, and she eats what her older brothers eat. The days of puréeing are already over, and as such my days of “baby food” posts. But since the children usually eat separately, especially during the week, this will be the transition into the world of children’s dinners.

As much as I oppose the concept of children’s food, in particular as it implies anything yellow and battered, I do believe in adult meals. This means that our children have dinner together, earlier, and go to bed at eight. It’s not about a different kind of food, it’s about timing. Ideally, children’s dinners should be easily prepared on a weeknight with homework and soccer and a toddler who really should be in bed by seven puttering about resignedly.

So as a bridge away from baby food here is the ultimate anytime any-age family meal – frittata.

It is ideal because it basically consists of staples and anything else that happens to be in the kitchen: eggs; an onion or leftover leek, garlic; cheese (gruyère, manchego, parmesan, ricotta, mozzarella); perhaps diced ham, pancetta, or some smoked salmon; peas, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, potatoes; herbs…

The possibilities are endless, and the result not only very tasty but a full meal in one dish that the children always like.

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This quantity makes a lunch frittata perfect for one adult and one toddler. Adjust the quantities as desired. I usually count 2 eggs per adult, 1 per (young) child, plus an extra one overall “for the pan.”

2 leeks

Olive oil

A small knob of butter

1 clove garlic

3 eggs

Manchego cheese, a piece approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) cube

Pepper

***

Preheat broiler (grill), or oven to 425°F (220°C).

Trim leeks on either side and remove one or two layers of the tougher dark green outer leaves. Wash off excess grit under running water. Slice the leeks into slices 1/2 or 1/4 inch (1 or 1/2 cm) thick. Wash well in cold water to remove any persistent dirt, and strain.

Thinly slice the garlic clove. Thinly grate the manchego.

In an ovenproof skillet, heat a little olive oil and small knob of butter, enough to comfortably coat the pan once the butter has melted. Add the leek and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until it softens and becomes translucent but before it gets brown. Add the thinly sliced garlic and cook for just another minute.

Meanwhile, break the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Add the cheese and a little pepper if desired (manchego is very salty so no additional salt is required).

Stir the cooked leeks and garlic into the eggs, just enough to combine, then return the egg/vegetable mixture to the pan (there should be enough oil left but if not, add a dash).

Cook on the stove over low heat, loosening the eggs at the sides with a spatula from time to time (don’t go anywhere, this will just take a few minutes).

When you can see the eggs starting to set underneath, but the top is still quite runny, place the pan in the hot oven. Leave it for barely a minute, just enough for the top of the frittata to set but no longer.

Cut into wedges (or cubes) and serve with a large green salad.

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Related posts

Finger food | Carrots

Children’s dinner | Cowboy food

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Crêpes!

3 February 2011

It feels wrong to write “crêpes” without an exclamation mark.

Because when you have grown up in France, crêpes invariably elicit a tingling sensation of irrepressible excitement. Crêpes were the rare summer treat sold in the van by the beach after a long hot hazy day. They were, on occasion, devoured at a boisterous restaurant with sticky tables and wooden benches. And, sometimes, crêpes were made at home. And, most probably, one of those times was February 2nd.

Today is La Chandeleur (Candlemas), which is technically a Christian festival that celebrates the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, but to most French men, women, and children, it is just “Crêpes Day” (Crêpes”!” Day). Every year we celebrate La Chandeleur, and if for me the thrill of crêpes may have abated somewhat, my children need those memories, too.

Usually February comes so fast that I end up haphazardly making a batch from a random recipe found online, or a very distant recollection of 12 eggs, 1 kilo flour, 1 liter milk, and some beer.

Until yesterday. I was asked to make a heap of crêpes for school, so I thought I would put the task to good use and test a few recipes. The best flour/egg/milk ratio I found was the Crêpes de Jeanne-Marie from La Bonne cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange. They are tasty enough to be eaten plain, though everyone knows that the real purpose of crêpes is the garnish: lemon and sugar, blueberry jam, walnuts and honey, banana chocolate, orange marmalade, apples and caramel, flambée with Grand Marnier…

***

Inspired by Les crêpes de Jeanne-Marie from La Bonne cuisine de Madame E. Saint-Ange

4 Tbsps (55 g) butter

2 cups (250 g) flour

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

6 eggs

1 3/4  cups (400 ml) milk

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 Tbsps rum

Zest from 1 lemon

Butter or clarified butter = ghee* or coconut oil for cooking

***

Melt the butter and remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, mix the flour with the sugar and salt and make a well in the mixture. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring them into the flour with circular movements. Pour in the milk little by little, whisking continuously to obtain a smooth batter. Add melted butter, vanilla, rum, lemon zest, and stir well.

Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.

When ready to make the crêpes, remove the batter from the refrigerator. The batter should be nice and runny, and at this stage will probably require a little more liquid. Add water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, until the perfect consistency is achieved. **The best way to check the consistency is to make one crêpe and decide whether it is thin enough. Most people agree that the first crêpe never turns out perfectly anyway – the pan isn’t hot enough – so it can easily be sacrificed as a test.**

To cook the crêpes: Heat a non-stick skillet until it is piping hot (a drop of batter poured onto the pan should sizzle) then lower the heat to medium. Grease the skillet with a paper towel dabbed with butter (or clarified butter or coconut oil – there should only be a faint layer of fat in the pan). Holding the skillet in one hand, pour a ladle of batter with the other, turning the skillet quickly in a round motion to cover the base with a thin and even layer of batter (if there is too much batter, pour it back into the bowl, if there isn’t enough, quickly add a little). As soon as the surface of the crêpe is dry (barely a minute or two depending on the heat), lift it with a spatula and turn it around (or flip the crêpe by tossing it, if you feel so inclined). Barely another minute and the crêpe is ready. Repeat, stirring the batter lightly with the ladle from the bottom up between each crêpe.

The best way to keep crêpes warm is to place them on a plate over a pan of simmering water, covered with another large plate or lid. They will not dry out that way.

Garnish with the filling of choice — classic sugar and lemon, or jam, chocolate, apple sauce, etc. — then roll or fold the crêpes to eat!

*Madame E. Saint-Ange suggests using clarified butter, which is a great idea since without the milk solids, the butter doesn’t burn as quickly. To clarify butter, melt  in a small saucepan and continue to cook until the milk solids have risen to the surface and attached at the bottom. Skim off top layer and pour the clear butter without the solids into a clean bowl. Keeps well covered in the refrigerator.


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