With May being National Barbecue Month and me being more carnivorous than a cat, I had every intention today of churning out a panegyric (that word is one of four things I remember from college) to all things meaty and smoky. But yesterday’s announcement of the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants got me to thinking about some of the […]
Recent Posts By Robin Bashinsky
There are few things in life more satisfying than spending time with my daughter in the kitchen. Which is a good thing since I’m afforded plenty of it, as 10-minute solo projects frequently threaten the half-hour mark with the addition of my little “helper.” And that’s not her fault, but Dad’s. No, she’s not ready for Iron Chef as far […]
Most people that know me would call me (among other things) a “foodie.” Not to say that I’m a food snob or such, but I’d wager that I do spend a greater part of my day than your average American thinking about my next meal. And this is no-more-so true than when travelling. Now, before we had kids, my wife […]
There is an inherent difficulty in accurately rating experiences which are subject to individual taste, such as art, movies, or music (see: Chuck Klostermann that). But having grown up as a college football nut (Roll Tide!) during the 1980s (i.e. back when Letterman was irreverent and on NBC and when the previous night’s Top Ten List was the subject of […]
…That is the question I’ve been asking myself for the past several years as more and more professional chefs have come to swear by this relatively new—it has been practiced in its current form since about the mid-1970s—cooking technique/process. And with the release and subsequent publicity surrounding Nathan Myhrvold’s monstrous 6-volume treatment of modern cookery, Modernist Cuisine, it’s a question […]
Like many working families, my wife and I struggle putting a healthy, well-balanced meal on the table on a nightly basis what with the time constraints of work hours for us and homework/extra-curricular activities for the kids. As a matter of fact, I imagine that most weeknights, we dedicate about a 1/2-hour to the production and consumption of dinner. Pretty pathetic I know, but that’s what obsessive little-league parents do. Put off the things that matter around the house and basically transform their lives into a shuttle-service for their kids for months on end.
And given the fact that we have picky eater kids, we either prepare them their own meal or we spend dinner in a Mexican standoff seeing who will blink first if we try to get them to eat the “grown-up” meal (i.e. the one that includes green vegetables). And really, no one has the stomach for that on a nightly basis. I mean as much a I want my kids to enjoy a variety of delicious and healthy foods, I also want them to not see the dinner table as a place of misery and despair. So, that said, given the fact that I’ve resolved to eat more green vegetables, I’ve spent the last month adding a few 5-minute-or-less vegetable sides to our weekly rotation that work within our busy lifestyle.
1) Sautéed spinach with garlic and chili flakes- easy breezy. Put some sliced garlic and red pepper flakes in a pan with some nice olive oil and crank the heat to high. When the garlic starts to sizzle add your spinach and toss around until wilted. Salt and pepper and a dash of sherry vinegar and get it on the plate.
2) Lemony asparagus- Trim the ends off your asparagus, put them in a sauté pan with about a 1/3-inch of water and some butter and salt and pepper. Again, crank the heat to high, and by the time the water evaporates (about 3-4) minutes, you’ve got perfectly cooked asparagus. Add a squeeze of lemon and you’re good to go.
3) Soy-glazed green beans- Now having gone to culinary school, I never thought I’d be buying pre-trimmed green beans, but desperate times…Just like the asparagus, in the 3-4 minutes it takes for your water to evaporate, your veggies will end up perfectly cooked. Once their done, you hit them with a mixture of roughly equal parts soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sweet-chili sauce (a tablespoon of each should do) and let that cook to a nice syrupy glaze.
And the great thing about all of these is that not only are they quick, easy, and low-impact on your kitchen as far as prep space and number of dishes used, they tend to pair well with different meals from across the spectrum.
And variety being the spice of life and all, I’d be interested to hear of any other go-to speed veggie dishes out there if you’ve got any.
Operation Green Bean
OK. Every now and again I devise a parenting plan or strategy that is so original and outside-of-the-box that its sheer brilliance blinds me to the fact that it is inevitably doomed to failure. And the latest one was in regards to getting my picky-eater kids to eat a green vegetable. Any green vegetable. One.
Now having worked in professional kitchens for over a decade, I’ve cooked 99% of the produce available at your standard grocery store. So drawing on my experience and knowledge of the various tastes and textures that a cook can tease out of veggies, I determined that the simple haricot vert (French green bean) was going to be my best shot at success. It’s crisp (my kids hate soft food), and it has a relatively mild flavor (next to something like, say, asparagus or brussel sprouts).
So my plan was this: knowing that resistance would be high, I was going to break them down with a long-term strategy spread out over a few weeks by preparing them in ways that would be increasingly pleasing to a youthful palate. First they’d be simply blanched (which I anticipated would be ugly). Next I would sauté them in bacon fat with bits of crispy bacon (my son’s favorite food). And finally, I would present them tempura-fried (who doesn’t like fried food, come on). So there it was: Operation Green Bean.
(Aside: Let me just say that despite the fact that I would classify both of my kids as pretty picky at the table, my daughter is probably a little more adventurous insofar as while she has a limited diet, different tastes and textures don’t necessarily bother/revolt her the way that they do my son. So with that in mind, I was expecting more success with her in this endeavor than with the boy.)
Phase 1: (Blanch and) Shock and Awe
For this, I just cooked them in a bit of salted water and served them unadulterated on the plate. I figured it would be good to get an honest reaction, but it would also set a pretty low bar in terms of my kids’ expectations so that later incarnations would seem a bit more tantalizing.
Result: My son—tears welling in his eyes—asked everyone to leave the table, because he didn’t want us to see him throw up. We did, and he did.
Phase 2: Everything’s Better With Bacon
Now like I said, my kid’s are in the upper percentiles on the picky eater scale, but as members of the human race, they do love bacon. So here we played on that fact and sautéed our little haricots verts in some rendered bacon fat and served them interspersed with crumbled bits of bacon.
Result: Positive yardage. Everyone got to stay at the table, no tears were shed, and with the help of plenty of milk, a green bean apiece was successfully consumed.
Phase 3: If at First You Don’t Succeed…Fry and Fry Again
My final roll of the dice. Tempura battered green beans. And not some delicate, glassy tempura like you would get at a fine Japanese restaurant, but rather I went thick. Like something you might see at Long John Silvers. And then double fried.
Result: Remember what I said about my daughter? The first words out of her mouth were these: “Actually not that bad. Cap, you should try it.” To which he responded, “I don’t like the way they smell, and I don’t like the look of them.” He choked down a couple, made some gagging noises, and chugged a glass of milk. And in one fell swoop that was it. Not just for him, but for her. She wouldn’t have anything more to do with them. Furthermore, she bristled at any reminder that mere moments before she had expressed any sort of enjoyment for fear of looking bad in front of big bro.
So there it was, a glimmer of hope squashed not by anything intrinsic to a green bean itself, but by an ancient force more powerful than any plan of mine could foretell: sibling rivalry. This isn’t over, yet, though. Next time I’ll be prepared with another time tested strategy: Divide and Conquer.
There’s been a lot of chatter this month around Cooking Light about vegetables and vegetarianism. Now back in the late 80s, I went vegetarian for about 3 years, a decision which in Alabama was met with the kind of reaction one might get if one showed up at a cotillion ball with Ulysses S. Grant’s great-great-great granddaughter or announced that […]