LittleJudeonFood

One kid's adventures in gastronomy


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It’s all about the bluebies

The other day, Mama took me blueberry picking. By now you realize that she keeps a pretty close eye on what I eat, and I think you know she tries to purchase foods that are local and organic—when they make sense. Blueberries are consistently among the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” of fruits and veggies with the most pesticides, but because Mama doesn’t always want to pay $6 for a pint of organic berries, we often skip them. For this reason, she was overjoyed to find the organic fruit farm just a short drive from our house. And it turned out to be a fun afternoon activity with yours truly.

I enjoyed picking the bluebies…

I couldn’t believe how little the bushes were! I walked right up to them, bucket in hand, and just started picking (and eating). It was like when we picked the wild raspberries: from the bush and into my mouth.

…almost as much as I enjoyed eating them.

The berries were warm from the sun. Mama reminded me, often, to pick just the blue ones—not the purple ones, and not the green ones. We saw all kinds of big caterpillars on the leaves. The farmer, when he came over to snack from a bush, told us they sure love blueberries. Much like Sal in that famed story, I did wander off from time to time, and Mama had to chase me up and down the rows. But we managed to fill her bucket (for some reason, mine remained empty), and I played with the two farm dogs roaming the property. We picked nearly 5 pounds (but they didn’t weigh me!), all for $12.

Er, this is my bucket. That’s Mama’s in the background.

When we got home, Mama spent a lot of time washing the berries and fending me off from eating them by the handfuls. They had a lot of grass clippings—and bugs!—on them. I helped her de-stem them, too. (That’s a very good task to give someone my age…until said someone starts snacking on them, stems and all.) Because most of our haul was intended for the freezer, Mama spread the berries on a towel-lined cookie sheet so they could dry. (This is why you can buy frozen berries that are separate and perfect, rather than in clumps—they’re individually quick frozen.) You spread them out on a sheet, make sure they’re relatively dry, then pop the sheet in the freezer. Once frozen, you can put them in storage bags or containers. We got 3 sheets of bluebies.

This is how you dry the washed bluebies before freezing them.

As they were drying, Mama asked what we should make, and I agreed that muffins sounded good. I’ve never made a recipe quite like this one before. Mama melted the butter in a saucepan and added the other wet ingredients to it before adding them to the dry. Weird, huh? Usually, you’d use oil in a two-stage recipe, she told me, but we like butter! It’s been a while since I’ve baked anything, and Mama was impressed with how far I’ve come. I poured all the dry ingredients into the bowl without spilling—the mess came later when I whisked it like a dervish.

You can’t see it here, but my belly is COVERED in flour!

Once everything was combined, I added the bluebies to the batter, then helped Mama fold them in. She explained that if we stirred them too vigorously, they would crush and stain the batter blue. Not that it would affect the taste any, but we wouldn’t have those lovely whole berries to sink our teeth into later on.

This was my last chance to eat bluebies before they were mixed in.

She showed me how quickly you can make a crumb topping, and I helped sprinkle it on top of each muffin. Into the oven they went, and off I went to play. I was experiencing some sort of natural berry high and had a lot of energy.

Check me out!

But not too much to keep Mama from giving me half a muffin once it cooled a bit. (She thinks I didn’t notice she ate the other half.)

YOU try eating just half of one.

Regardless, there were so many bluebies in it! The muffin itself wasn’t very sweet, but the bluebies made up for that. And they were good and crumbly in my hand.

After a long day of picking the bluebies and washing the bluebies and making the bluebie muffins, I finally get to eat one!

Mama said she wants to go picking again next weekend to stock up for the winter. I hope we do!

Love, Jude

Bursting Bluebie Muffins with Crumb Topping

6 Tbsp unsalted butter (or canola oil, then skip the saucepan direction)
1/3 cup buttermilk (or milk)
2 eggs (or 4–5 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or 1 1/2 cups all-purpose total)
1/2 cup sugar (or brown)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup blueberries

For topping:

handful of whole-wheat flour
spoonful of brown sugar
spoonful of finely chopped walnuts (optional)
a few pats of butter

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter or spray 12 muffin cups (or use paper liners, if that’s your thing). Melt the butter over low heat, then whisk in the milk, eggs, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (minus the blueberries), whisking to incorporate. Add the wet to the dry, stir until just combined, then gently fold in the blueberries. Top with the topping ingredients, mashed to combine. Bake for 17-20 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center of one muffin comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then, if you didn’t use papers, run a knife around the edges to loosen. Transfer to a rack to cool or eat!


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Can you spot the pun?

I used to eat beets. A lot. Mostly they were pureed, sometimes mixed with apples and carrots. I’d make a real mess out of them, that’s for sure! But when we got some beets from my friend Walter’s farm, Mama decided to try something that the whole family could enjoy. Yet, she wanted something fast, and if you know anything about beets, you know that they take time to prepare. There’s boiling them until soft, and there’s roasting them until soft. So what to do?

Grate ’em! If given her druthers, Mama would rather use a mandoline than a box grater any day, and it was probably because of this attitude that she knicked her thumb knuckle on it. So let me warn you now: be careful! Anyway, grating the beets (after peeling them) turned them into small enough pieces that could be cooked in a skillet…to which she added butter, the grated beets, the zest and juice of 1 lime, then some salt and pepper. Aside from the afore-mentioned grated knuckle, it was an easy dish to fix and tasted quite yummy. The tart lime contrasted with the sweet beets, and the slight creaminess of the butter played off the tiny bit of saltiness. And we all had pink pee!

Mama paired these beets with organic, whole-wheat farfalle pasta (that’s the kind shaped like bow-ties, but if you really want to know why they’re called farfalle, it’s because that’s the Italian word for “butterflies”), dressed in the leftover kale pesto that she brought back to life with a bit of the pasta cooking liquid. Papa grilled a simple salt-and-pepper pork chop to share with me, and dinner was done!

I wish I could say I ate more than my requisite one bite of pasta and chop…but I was feeling pretty beet after the long day I’d had picking blueberries and making muffins (stay tuned).

Love, Jude


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It’s an Acquired Taste

Not everyone enjoys curry, but I do. Mama cooks her version of Indian food, and she and Papa once took me out for Indian. But I’ve found I really like it in a soup. Mama made a soup that she packed up for the freezer, and it never even made it there. Just look at me devouring it:

I pulled my chair over to the counter and dived right in. The soup wasn’t even warm, but I couldn’t stop eating it.

Mama tells me that even though curry comes in a spice jar, it isn’t actually a spice that grows as curry. It’s a blend of different ingredients, and people all over India and other parts of Asia have their own way of making it, as it is passed down from generation to generation. Some blends are hot, some are sweet. Some are orange, some are yellow, and some are green. Sometimes the whole spices (such as coriander and cumin) are toasted in a dry pan to enhance their flavor before they are ground into a powder.

We don’t make our own curry, but we could. And maybe we will! What I like about the idea of making a curry powder, is that we can’t really go wrong. We’ll add a little of this and a lot of that until we like the taste we’ve developed. Here are some individual spices that could go into a curry:

  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Mustard
  • Garlic
  • Fenugreek
  • Fennel seed
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Red chili
  • Poppy seeds

Alas, I cannot give you the soup recipe, but Mama said that in addition to curry, it had turmeric and some cayenne, along with red lentils (because they cook quicker), onion, carrots, fresh lime juice, and cilantro. She cooked them in a pot, and once the lentils and vegetables were soft, she pureed it. The soup was creamy a flavorful, but not overly pungent. And I really liked the color.

I ate this soup for dinner and again for lunch the next day (out of a bowl, sitting at the table). And you know I’m not a big fan of leftovers. If anyone makes their own curry, please feel free to post your recipe here, as I’d sure like to try it.

Love, Jude


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A note of thanks

Mama is very big on thank-you notes, so she enouraged me to take a moment to thank everyone who’s been reading about my adventures in the kitchen. Thank you for reading my posts–and thank you for liking them, commenting on them, sharing them with friends. I really did start this blog just for fun, but it’s been heart warming to know that there are those of you who’ve been following me and interested in what I eat (or not). As I continue to broaden my palate and expand my culinary acumen, I’ll keep the stories coming.

My favorite part about having cereal is the milk you can drink right out of the bowl…except I can’t really wait until all my cereal is gone before I tip back the bowl.

Love, Jude


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This is how Mama procrastinates

Mama had a mess of heirloom tomatoes ripening on the counter and more kale in the fridge than she knew what to do with. Even I can’t eat that many kale chips. So she decided to make a tomato tart with kale pesto.

You can use beefsteaks or romas…but why would you want to?

The first thing she did was lop off the top of a head of garlic. She laid it in foil, drizzled it with olive oil, scrunched it all up, then put it in the oven for about half an hour. Just until the garlic softened and started becoming golden. She told me this is a really yummy thing to spread over crostini, which she said I’ve actually eaten before, but my baby memory isn’t recalling that.

A drizzle of oil transforms garlic into something YUM.

Meanwhile, Mama made the crust. She explained to me that she doesn’t generally like making crust in the food processor because then she has to clean the darn thing, but since she would be making pesto with it anyway, she figured why not? To the processor, she added her flour, oats, and salt. Then she added her butter and processed it just until little clumps formed.

This is how you want your butter cut in to the flour, whether it’s by hand or machine.

She said you don’t want to process the butter so much that it melts–the cold butter is what makes for a flakey crust. Then she added the ice-cold water and processed it again just until large clumps formed and began pulling from the side. She tested the dough by squeezing a bit in her hand, and she saw that it held together. You don’t want to process it into a smooth ball, otherwise you’ve overdeveloped something called gluten, and your crust will be tough.

This is how you your dough should look when it’s ready. See the squished clump in the top left?

Once she had the crust chilling in the fridge, Mama moved on to the pesto. Ordinarily, Mama makes a pretty traditional pesto, which she first ate, ironically enough, at a friend’s mother’s house in Bad Bramstedt, Germany, back in the ’90s. When you use basil or other fresh green like arugula, you can make the pesto fresh from the garden. When you use something hardier, like kale, it’s better to first blanch the greens. Mama generously salted her boiling water (and I stayed far away from the burner) and blanched the kale for a minute or two, in batches. She then ran the cooked kale under cold water (she said she’s cheating because she really should be putting it in an ice bath…but there are only so many dishes she wants out of the cupboards at any given time). The kale went into the food processor, to which she added olive oil, more salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice, toasted pine nuts (you don’t have to toast them–they just develop a nicer flavor), some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and the roasted garlic. When the cloves were cool enough to handle, a gentle squeeze popped them right out of their papery skins! She whirred the ingredients in the processor and stopped to taste. I reached in and grabbed a chunk of the pesto to try for myself. I was not happy with it. But neither was Mama! She added more lemon and more salt.

A tart is so pretty and sophisticated (like myself), but Mama had so many tomatoes that she decided to turn this into a deep-dish pie. I sampled many of the tomatoes to be sure of their ripeness, which is rather strange considering that I rarely eat raw tomatoes.

If I see something sitting on the counter, I’m going to eat it!

Then Mama rolled out the dough. I took my bitten tomatoes and stamped them on the dough to make pretty patterns. She showed me how to wrap the dough around the rolling pin to lay it into the pie pan easier. There was really a lot of dough, so Mama trimmed the edges and was sure to have leftovers. Then she spread some pesto along the bottom of the pie. She neatly layered some sliced tomatoes, then sprinkled some mozzarella on top.

I like the pretty colors of the heirloom tomatoes.

She explained that if this were a shallow tart, she’d be done, but she continued with two more layers in the same manner. (The leftover pesto she put in the fridge for pasta, but it would also freeze fine.) She put the whole thing in the oven until the top was brown, about 30 minutes, then grated some asiago cheese on top. She could’ve put it back in the oven for another minute or so, but she didn’t.

I had a few bites, which tricksy Mama was trading off for bites of the crust, which I really enjoyed. She kept telling me that if it were horrible she wouldn’t be bartering, but I’m not so sure. I hear this pie tastes good cold, too. Guess  I’ll find out for lunch tomorrow.

Love, Jude

Heirloom Tomato & Kale–Roasted Garlic Pesto Tart

Roasted Garlic

1 head garlic
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Pastry Crust (or, Pâte Brisée if you’re really interested)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you can substitute whole-wheat, if you like)
1/3–1/2 cup ground rolled oats (optional)
1 tsp sea salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
1/3 cup ice water

Pesto

1 large bunch kale, ribs removed and torn into rough pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil (about 2 swirls around the food processor)
Juice of a lemon (or more, to taste)
Kosher salt (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (a few grinds)
2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts (toasting optional)
3 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Tart

1–2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes (however many you need, depending on size & variety)
1–1½ cups shredded mozzarella
Freshly grated asiago cheese

To roast the garlic: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Trim the tops off the garlic bulb, place it (cut side up) in the center of a square of foil, drizzle with the olive oil, seal the top of the foil, then place the bundle in the center of the oven. Roast until the garlic is soft and fragrant, and slightly brown, about 30 minutes. (You can certainly make the pesto with regular ol’ garlic, too, without the roasting.)

For the pastry crust: Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor. (Mama already had ground oats, but if you don’t have them, grind them in the processor first.) Give it a few pulses to distribute. Add the butter and pulse about 10 times, just until the butter and flour begins to form pea-sized lumps throughout. With the machine running, add the water in a stream and process just until the dough starts to clump. Turn it out onto your counter, give it a few quick kneads to bring it all together, flatten it into a disk, and wrap it in plastic. Refrigerate for half an hour.

For the pesto: To blanch the kale, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, if necessary, add the kale to the water and stir to submerge. Boil for 1–2 minutes, until the kale is bright green. Transfer with a slotted spoon or tongs to a bowl of ice water (or to a colander that you’ll then run under cold water in the sink). If using toasted pine nuts, toast them in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes, shaking every so often, just until fragrant. You can also put them on a piece of foil or on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven, since it’s on. As soon as you smell them, they’re done! Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until pasty. You might need to add a little more oil—you can even add some of the blanching water. Taste and adjust seasonings. (Mama notes that all these amounts are approximate.)

To finish the tart: Slice the tomatoes—about as thick as you would a sandwich tomato. Set aside. Take the pastry crust out of the fridge and remove the wrap. Generously flour a surface, then gently roll the dough. Lay into pie or tart pan, then trim the edges, fluting if desired. Spread a layer of pesto along the bottom. Arrange slices of tomato to cover, then sprinkle with mozzarella. Repeat layers, if desired, ending with cheese. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Shave additional cheese on top, then pop back in the oven until melted and browned, a few minutes more.


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And Now, a Word about Safety

Well, it finally happened. I burned myself. Mama doesn’t ususally let me so close to the pan when we cook, but I’ve been wowwing everyone with my big-boyness of late, and I guess she thought if we were very careful, I would be fine. She and Papa are always saying the stove is hot, but whenever I put my hands on the burners, they never are. Or they say the grill is hot, and when I go touch it anyway, it never is. Yesterday morning, Mama brought my hand near the pan so I could feel the heat and told me it was very hot and not to touch it. I think she felt satisfied that this time I knew it was hot, and I think I did understand that because I did a pretty good job scooping pancake batter into the pan, then tossing blueberries on the pancakes when they started getting bubbly.

We had done about half the batch when—and I don’t know what came over me—I tossed in some blueberries with my left hand and grabbed the pan with my right. I think I might’ve been trying to bring it closer, but I don’t know for sure. Or I just forgot how hot it was, so caught up was I in my task. Mama tells me it seemed like I held onto that pan for a full second before I registered the pain and let go. She rushed me to the sink, where she ran soothing cool water over my fingers; it made me feel better enough to interrupt my crying and eat the blueberries I was still holding.

But my fingers sure smarted. They were red and shiny. I managed to eat my breakfast then go off to play with my books, all left-handed. Mama finally thought to give me something for the pain, and then she called my doctor, who advised her, since the burn was on my hand, to take me to a place called the E.R. I walked into the hospital on my own, and because it has a special E.R. just for kids, Mama didn’t even have time in the waiting room to get a book out of her bag for me. We went to a room just for us, where I stood on the bed (to be weighed), and a friendly man gave my leg a hug (to take my blood pressure) and put a funny red-light band-aid on my finger (to take my pulse?). The other nurse asked Mama where I was burned, and she said, “The hand that’s currently clutching my shirt.” And it was true. My hand hardly hurt anymore, and I was using it like normal.

I wasn’t scared at all! I read a little Frog & Toad, chewed on my train, and felt a lot better. The pain meds might’ve helped.

We read books, played with trains, watched the ambulances come and go outside my window, and danced a polka while we waited for the doctor. It turns out that only my index finger, the very tip of my thumb, and just a wee part of my middle finger got burned. It was my index finger that concerned the doctor, since there was a possibility of it blistering. She decided that even though there were no blisters, because I was using my hand so much, it might be best to wrap it up. She told Mama that they’re very proactive about burns now, especially if they’re on the face, genitals, or hands.

So the nice nurse came back, put something goopy on my fingers and wrapped it up with gauze. Mama tried to convince me that it looked like a dinosaur hand and that we could have fun with it. I wasn’t buying it. You’re not seeing a picture of it because it wasn’t on my hand long enough. C’est la vie.

We were actually at the hospital quite a while, so we missed lunch. Mama took me to one of her favorite places to eat: a burrito joint where she says she ate at least once a week when I was growing inside her. There are two things she loves best about the place: its smoked tofu and its fish tacos. This was my third time going where Mama actually ordered something for me, instead of giving me bites of her food. You know I can be a picky eater, but I have to tell you, I love the food here. I can eat almost an entire beef taco or cheese quesadilla by myself. And I like dipping their homemade tortilla chips in the different salsas. (Yesterday they had pineapple-mango.) Neither of us know what it is about the place, why we like it so much. Its food is superfresh and locally sourced when possible; it’s reasonably priced and fast. The music they play is pretty cool, too.

I liked dipping my quesadilla in the salsa and was ready for a nap afterward.

So what did we all learn from this experience? Let’s review:

1. If Mama says something is hot, do not touch it. I wanted her to hold me while she cooked my eggs today, and when she told me the pan was very hot, I didn’t even reach for the spoon to stir them. I now know that hot means hot.

2. Mama should not be letting me near the stove, no matter how careful she thinks we’re being. (The same goes for using knives around little fingers.) She knew this but thought I might be ready to assist her. I’m not even 2 yet, so we should really be sticking to mixing cakes and scones. No matter how fast you think you’ll be able to react, it’s really hard to anticipate a kid reaching out and grabbing something he wants. It’s okay, though. She’s still my mama, and I love her. And if my finger ends up a crooked little hook of its former self, leaving me unable to operate as a right-hander, I’ll be able to lord it over her when I’m 16 and she won’t give me the car keys.

3. When you go to the E.R., you later get to eat at the best place on earth.

Love, Jude


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Peter Piper Picked a Peck of ….

Pickles!

Last night, Papa was eating some pulled bbq turkey, when he said he really wanted a pickle. Mama and I, conveniently enough, had been to my friend Walter’s house earlier in the evening, from where we emerged with two very handsome cucumbers. This morning, Mama set about the very easy task of turning them into pickles. She notes that to put them up for the winter would require time she just doesn’t have, so these are perfect for snacking on right now. (Or, at least tomorrow. You have to give them a day. Geez. Be patient.)

Recipes abound online for making pickles, using everything from cauiflower to green beans to zucchini. Mama’s not sure what the precise pickling ratios are, but for our purposes (again, the cucs are going right into the fridge and not on a pantry shelf), she’s okay with that. She started with clean jars and added some mustard seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, a bay leaf, and some fresh sprigs of dill to each. You can throw in some whole cloves of garlic—she remembers trying to fish it out of the jar when she was a kid—some chili pepper flakes, or juniper berries. She thinly sliced the cucumbers and put them in the jars. She cautioned against stuffing them in—you want to give them room to breathe. Then she topped the 2 jars with 4 cups distilled white vinegar with 1/3 cup sugar and 5 teaspoons kosher salt dissolved in it, put the lids on, then stuck them in the fridge. And that’s it! Give them a day to do their thing, but then they’ll keep for a couple months.

I can’t wait to try these pickles tomorrow!

Love, Jude


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I’ve been promoted…

…to “Kale Chip.” You might recall that last summer my cousins began calling me “Kale Puff,” in reference to my snack of choice (in lieu of sugary, o-shaped, or fake-cheese snacks). While I’ve been a bit turned off to green foods of late, I feel the need to come clean on something. This morning, I climbed up onto the counter (I have been getting taller and stronger!), took down the container of freshly made kale chips, and proceeded to eat them. For breakfast. Go past “moo-moo milk” and yogurt, and head directly to greens.

I’m holding a chip in one hand, eating one with the other, and getting ready to feed my fleet of trucks.

I can’t explain it. Perhaps it’s their slight crunch. Perhaps it’s their saltiness (Mama can be a bit heavy handed with the stuff). Perhaps it’s because I can munch and munch until I stuff a pretty big leaf in my mouth. Perhaps it’s because these chips were made with kale from my friend Walter’s organic farm. (In fact, he helps his mama harvest the kale; she tells us it just keeps growing and growing.) Or maybe I just really like kale. There are worse things for a kid to like, you know.

Love, Jude

Supereasy Kale Chips

1 bunch of kale, torn from the ribs into manageable pieces
Olive oil spray (not the kind that comes in an aerosol can)
Sea or kosher salt

There are tons of places you can look to find a recipe that suits you, but this just happens to be how Mama made the chips last night. Preheat your oven to 300°F. Lay a sheet of foil, if desired, onto a baking sheet and spread out the torn kale. It’s okay if the pieces overlap—they’ll still dry out. Spray the leaves with the olive oil, then sprinkle liberally with the salt. Bake, checking on them periodically, until crispy, about 10–15 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature until gone.

Note: Mama said to tear your kale into uniform pieces, as bigger pieces won’t dry out as much as smaller pieces. I should also point out that I didn’t like the pieces with even the small veins in them—I kept chewing and chewing, and eventually I had to spit out a little kale blob. If that sounds gross to you, think of how Mama felt when I put it in her hand!