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Growing Up Gourmet: January 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

"Inevitable" Change for School Lunch

After much ado about converting the White House lawn to an organic garden; a sustainable foodie outcry for a new breed of White House chef, led by Alice Waters; and a call among devoted fans for Michael Pollan to lead our nation as Secretary of Agriculture, it is safe to say that one week into the President's new term, little talk of our food supply has graced the lips of Washington's movers and shakers.

Or has it?

Though Mr. Obama may be spending much of his time working out bailouts, sending George Mitchell to the Middle East, and questioning Sidwell-Friends' response to the snow, he did have some time to give the green light to bringing Sam Kass, the 28 year-old chef who cooked for the Obamas in Chicago and founded Inevitable Table, into the White House kitchen.

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama indicated that Kass is passionate about local, sustainable, healthy food. A good sign for anyone dining at the White House -- and for our nation as a whole. It's a little too early to predict what effect Kass' cooking and philosophy may have on American school children. But there is promise. As reported on several New York Times blogs today, including The Caucus and Tara Parker-Pope's Well , Mr. Kass is committed to re-thinking what the National School Lunch Program serves up. (Few veggies, a lot of fat, and a hefty dose of HFCS.) The full text of a recent talk Kass lead about school lunch reform is available here.

Mr. Kass, you and I have got a lot in common -- with the same first names, the same age, a similar passion for eating and cooking, and an equal devotion to changing the way we feed America's children. The new presidency is all about hope. And boy have I got high hopes for you.

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Growing Up Gourmet Goes to Print

I'm excited to share that Growing Up Gourmet will be appearing on a regular basis in our local paper, the Santa Monica Daily Press.

You can check out my new column every other Thursday on the food page.

In fact, you can read it online too, at the SMDP's new user-friendly website.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Love Bites... and tastes so good

Join Kitchen Kid and Harper Lane for a fun and delicious workshop! We'll be decorating chef hats and cooking up Valentine's treats!

Who: Curious young cooks of all ages
What: Valentine's Day Cooking Workshop
When: After the Farmers' Market on Sunday, February 8 at 12 noon
Where: Harper Lane, the adorable children's boutique at 2665 Main Street, Santa Monica
Why: Forget conversation hearts and doily cards, this Valentine's Day your littlest chef will win your heart with Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries and Luv-Bunny Snacks.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

If You Build It...

If the youth vote for President-elect Obama, and the enthusiasm his powerful election generated among young people, is any indication of how kids will be motivated and influenced by the 44th president, I feel good about the future.

If President-elect Obama accepts the call to lead by example (see video below), plants the nation's most important organic vegetable garden on the White House Lawn, and the children of America clamor to till the soil, water seedlings, and pick tomatoes from their own school and backyard gardens, I feel REALLY good about the future. (And the future of our citizens' health and the country's food supply.)

Back in October, in response to Michael Pollan's now famous article, Farmer In Chief, I wrote about the brilliant idea to turn the White House Front Lawn into a sustainable fruit and vegetable garden, and give school children on their annual field trip to the Capitol the chance to till the Presidential soil.

It looks like this idea really has, (sorry) germinated.

As described on -- the website soliciting the top ten ideas for change to submit to the president:

Thousands of Americans and people from the around the world are asking the Obamas to lead by example on climate change, health policy, economic self-reliance, food security, and energy independence by replanting an organic food garden at the White House with the produce going to the First Kitchen and to local food pantries.
The many successes(1) of the first Victory Garden movement were the result of effective public policy, bold leadership(2) at a time of national crisis, and the commitment of millions of citizens who were ready to roll up their sleeves for the greater good. There' s no better, more symbolic place for launching a new National Victory Garden Program than at the White House, "America’s House". There's no better, more urgent time(3) than now. And there's NOTHING that can beat the fresh taste of locally-grown, home-cooked foods.
(1) Victory Gardens (behind homes, schools, in vacant urban lots, etc.) produced 40% of the nation’s produce at their peak, helped conserve food and natural resources at a time of crisis, resulted in the highest consumption rates of fruits and vegetables our nation has seen, and helped keep millions of Americans physically fit and active.
(2) First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden on the White House lawn in 1943 over the objections of the USDA, inspiring millions by her example.
(3) The UN estimates that 1 billion people will go hungry in 2009 while climate scientists predict this year will be one the five warmest years on record.

So please cast your vote for Victory Garden 2.0 today here:
Learn more about the movement here:
And certainly don't miss the video which might turn you, and Mr. Obama, into a green thumb.

This Lawn is Your Lawn from roger doiron on Vimeo.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Dexter v. the "Other" 4-Year Old

Before you get too excited about New York Times' dining editor Pete Wells' new magazine column, "Cooking with Dexter" -- the culinary adventure of his 4-year old foodie son -- be sure to read Larissa Phillips' fabulously funny and dead-on response, available on her blog, Mothership Meals and Satellite Saucers.

An honest reminder that Growing Up Gourmet isn't always as easy as it sounds.

(But nevertheless, worth trying... Larissa's son allegedly ate arugula last night.)


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Extreme Pantry Makeover

Once again, Mark Bittman hit a home run with his article in yesterday's New York Times. The champion of minimalism in the kitchen, the father of "less is more", Bittman gives the kitchen a clean and healthy makeover for 2009. With his "hot" or "not" list, Mark is officially the Joan Rivers of the pantry.

And he's right. There is a lot of room for improvement in the American pantry. On his "out" list: That green shaker of "cheese". The overly processed "bread" crumbs. Minute rice and Aunt Jemima. Out. Out. And out. For quick and satisfying meals, Bittman promotes using frozen veggies, homemade dressings, hunks of bacon, quality nuts, and dried fruits. I'm proud to report these are ingredients that shine in most of my family's weeknight dinners.

But what about the canned beans and organic boxed chicken stock he suggests we do away with...except, he notes, in emergencies. These two ingredients caused much controversy among the 250+ reader comments that were posted of the NYT site. While I do soak dried beans overnight (easy, yes) and cook-up batches of stock with leftover veggies and chicken, the ready-to-go pantry staples are shortcuts I -- and many excellent family cooks -- have come to rely on. (note photo!) They taste good, provide comparable nutrients, and require little more effort than lifting them from the grocery store shelf into your shopping cart.

Forget earthquakes. Forget terrorist strikes. As far as I'm concerned, when you've got a hungry 7-year old exhausted from a soccer game, or a growing teenage boy scrounging for a snack, you've got yourself the very emergency Mr. Bittman must be talking about! Indeed, a well stocked pantry or fridge can be the source of culinary inspiration. But it can also be a solution to a busy weeknight -- a source of nutritious staples (alongside the frozen peas Bittman touts) that you know, undoubtedly, will be there. Regardless of whether you soaked any beans last night, froze any vegetable broth, or stopped at the greengrocer for fresh-picked peas.

And speaking of quick dinners and canned beans, why not try the "Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Cabbage Slaw" that appeared in Bon Appetit's column, "Fast, Easy, Fresh" this month. In fact, it's a perfect recipe to start your New Year's Resolution of cooking with your family one night each week. Thanks to the canned organic black beans, my carnivorous husband really loved helping make this quick, tasty, and meatless taco.
You can cook up the recipe here.

(photo courtesy

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Nadda Frittata: a culinary road map for leftovers

I'm not quite sure what it was I made for dinner the night before we left for Christmas vacation. In the past, clean-out-the-fridge night, as my family knows it, usually features pasta or pizza dough on the main stage. But not this night. No, this particular night I very much wanted our 1-dish supper to be something egg-straordinary. To use up some leftover potatoes, a piece of pork, some languishing spinach, I was craving the creamy, rich, protein-dense platform of eggs. The problem, however, was the discovery --- half-way through my creative cookery, and with a successfully emptied fridge --- that we had just 3 eggs. Thus, dinner was not quite quiche, certainly no tart, and only vaguely frittata-esque. It was, however, amazingly and surprisingly, delicious.

I told the story -- and offered the "recipe" -- to my friend Beth. She's a fine cook, when cooking means following clearly defined steps and utilizing explicitly listed ingredients. (Which, you will soon see, neither of which my recipe provides.) "WHATever did you do? Go to the store for more eggs? Get take-out?" wondered Beth. She was horrified by the idea of cooking without a recipe, of cooking without all the integral ingredients pre-accounted for in a grocery cart days beforehand, and most of all, of beginning to cook without -gasp- having any idea what the outcome might be. Truth be told, I rarely follow recipes. And while I don't always know exactly what I'm making when I enter the kitchen, I usually have a pretty good idea by the time a pan is heated. But this "Nadda Frittata" as my family dubbed it, was truly a case of some destiny-deprived leftovers quickly tossed together in a desperate attempt for reincarnation. Until that is, it was presented on a plate. And eaten. Every. Last. Bite.

While I don't recommended cooking by the seat of your apron every night, I think we all have a lot to learn from such renegade methods. Discovery. Trial and error. Mistakes from which to learn. Curiosity. Surprises. Risks. These are the kind of experiences we encourage our children to have when they are at school, when they are making friends, when they are finding themselves in the real world. Yet so often parents describe their own kitchen experiences with precisely the kind of anxiety we don't want our children to confront. Stressed. Ruined. Boring. Same-old, same-old. Fear of failure. Lack of trust. Self-consciousness.

Sure, I could have gone to the corner store and gotten a dozen eggs. Or decided that spinach, pork, a mere 3 eggs, heavy cream, cheese, and potatoes might not exactly comprise a family dinner. In fact, I could have given up all together and picked up for the phone and dialed Thai take-out.

But I believe in kitchen adventures. Like any adventure, there are good times and bad, twists and turns, unknowns and uncertains. But the spirit of the adventure is what cooking -- and eating -- is all about. A while back in Food and Wine, famed chef and cookbook author Daniel Patterson wondered, "Do recipes make you a better cook?" Though I read the article nearly 3 years ago, his metaphor of recipes as culinary road maps still resonantes with me daily, and I implore you to read the article in its entirety.

"Good cooks rely on recipes – to a point… [they] make mistakes all the time. They take wrong turns and end up in strange places. Their attention sharpens as they try to figure out where they are and how they got there. Eventually they either reach their original destination, or discover that wherever they stumbled into is really the best place to be. Sometimes it’s important to get lost…. The journey is what a recipe is all about."
Anyhow, on this particular journey, I got lucky. The nadda frittata was light, airy, comforting, and delicious. So delicious, in fact, I suggest you try it the next time you're faced with some stray leftovers and a little need for culinary adventure.
Nadda Frittata
Of course, in attempts to clean out our entire fridge, these are the ingredients I used. I'm sure the next time I make nadda frittata a whole new set of ingredients will fill our plates. So please use this recipe as a culinary road map and adjust for your fridge's leftovers. One further note: the airy but rich flavor of this recipe no doubt came from the heavy cream. I would have probably used milk -- had we any -- but can say the addition of cream was worth every calorie and certainly worth keeping.
1. 2. 3.

In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, saute a few cups of fresh baby spinach with a little olive oil. Remove as it begins to wilt and set aside. Heat leftover (pre-cooked) potatoes and onions in pan. Top with sauteed spinach. Add additional leftovers, such as sliced pork tenderloin. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, some heavy cream, a dash of nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over pan mixture. Top with cheese. I honestly can't remember what I used. Mozzarella maybe? Get in frittata mode: stir lightly with a spatula until the eggs begin to set on top. Transfer pan to broiler... in full disclosure I think mine just went into a very hot oven. When eggs are just still fluffy and just set, and the top is ever so lightly browned, remove from oven. Slice and serve straight away.

This nadda frittata would sure be good with some peasant bread, or a cup of tomato soup. Or even, if you're lucky, a salad of crisp greens. But assuming you enter this kitchen adventure on leftover night, as I did, you'll be perfectly content letting nadda frittata fly solo on your plate.

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