LittleJudeonFood

One kid's adventures in gastronomy


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Redirect your child’s behavior…

…and you can put dinner together pretty quickly. Or so I’m told.

Mama occupied me with a can of chickpeas.

peeling chickpeas/littlejudeonfood.com

She showed me how to squeeze their little tails to pop them out of their skins. (I ate as many as I popped.)

squeeze the little tail/littlejudeonfood.com

Meanwhile, having been inspired by a recipe, she set to work on a dinner that involved rapini, or broccoli rabe. Not to be confused with broccolini (broccoli’s slender cousin), rapini is more leafy than broccolini. It also shares family lineage with turnips. Who knew?

rapini/littlejudeonfood.com

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What prompted the can of chickpeas was my reluctance to pull the silk off several ears of corn. Have you seen how much silk gets trapped between the kernels? I was in no mood to pluck more than a few strands, so Mama passed the task to Papa and set me up with chickpeas.

All the while, the grill was preheating. When the corn was clean, Mama slathered olive oil on her palms, then rubbed them all over the corn. These Papa placed directly on the grill grates. He sprinkled kosher salt over them, then closed the lid. Every few minutes, one of them went out to turn the ears. Mama said she wanted “a good char” on them. At one point, she called us out to hear them popping!

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Mama set some spaghetti to cooking while she prepared the rapini portion in another large pot. The house smelled good with the sizzling garlic and lemon. By the time I was done with the chickpeas (Papa helped near the end), everything was done. The corn was brought to the table, the rapini-lemon-cannellini bean mixture was tossed with the pasta, and we were ready to pig out.

dinner's ready/littlejudeonfood.com

Except, I had eaten all those chickpeas. Still, I tried a bean. And a rapini floret—it was bitter! I did eat my corn, though. What’s not to like about corn on the cob? Luckily, none of the kernels popped in my mouth.

corn eater/littlejudeonfood.comAs I declared, “Good dinner, Mama!” It was made so quickly, and we were done with it so early, that I was able to play a long time before I had my bath. No distraction required.

Love, Jude

Char-Grilled Corn on the Cob

Peeled ears of corn
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt (and ground black pepper, if desired)
Butter and/or grated Parmesan cheese, to serve, if desired

Preheat the grill. (Mama set it to about medium heat, and the temp gauge said it was around 400°F.) Using tongs, smear a paper towel with oil, and rub the grates. Spread about a teaspoon of olive oil between your palms, then run them around the ears of corn. (They don’t need to be heavily coated, but use more oil if necessary.) Sprinkle with salt (and pepper, if desired). Set ears directly on grill grates then close the lid.

Every few minutes, turn the ears. A char is desirable. Grill for about 10 minutes (you’ll start to hear the kernels pop). Remove to a plate and serve as is, or with butter and Parmesan.


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Fa la la falafel

Mama made a quick dinner tonight of something called falafels. It’s basically a spicy chickpea patty that’s fried. I liked the outside because it was crispy, but Mama wouldn’t let me do that to all of them. She made a cucumber yogurt sauce with mint and dill and garlic–it was too spicy in my belly! Good thing she had some chicken at the ready, otherwise I might not have had much of a dinner tonight.
Love, Jude

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Mama thought serving it in a wrap (which I call a “tamale”) would get me to eat it.


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I “Heart” Indian Food

Mama makes something she calls a one-pot Indian dish. It’s really simple, and I’ve mentioned it before because we have it about once a month. She starts with onions, cooked in oil, then adds whatever she finds in the fridge, beginning with garlic and ginger, curry powder, cardamom, some veggie stock, and coconut milk; she often adds home-canned tomatoes, chickpeas, peas, spinach, and basmati rice. This is always a “what’s-in-the-fridge” sort of dinner, but if Mama’s planning ahead, she might buy some paneer (Indian cheese) from an Indian market beforehand, and I really like that. Anyway, before you know it, the house smells so good and warm and inviting.

But before she even does that, she gets to making naan. Naan? you ask. Naan is a leavened bread–that means, it uses something (in this case, yeast) to rise. What’s funny about that is that naan doesn’t rise like the other breads we’ve made; it’s actually a flatbread.

Mama’s recipe is super simple to make and pretty good to eat. (I told her so myself.) And if you make the dough before you start the rest of your dinner, it’ll be ready to put in the oven by the time you’re just about ready to eat.

3 pieces of naan, all shiny from the melted ghee

3 pieces of naan, all shiny from the melted ghee

But Mama didn’t stop at naan. She made me a mango lassi. (I helped press the button on the hand blender.) I’ve had one of these drinks before, but I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved it tonight. It’s really similar to a smoothie, except I had it with dinner! I sported a lassi mustache through most of the meal. The drink was refreshing and cooling, as Mama made the dinner a wee bit spicy. (I like spicy, though.)

I'm saving this lassi for later.

I’m saving this lassi for later.

All in all, this was a great dinner. I wouldn’t mind having it more than once a month–and the lassi, maybe every night.

Love, Jude

Naan

1 tsp active dry yeast
3/4 c warm water (105–110°, hot enough to hold your finger in it without scalding)
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp veg oil or melted coconut oil
Pinch baking soda
2 1/2 Tbsp plain yogurt (or 2 Tbsp milk with a tsp. of lemon juice)

Preaheat oven to 500°. Dissolve the yeast in the water. Use a whisk to be sure it’s all dissolved and slightly foamy.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, oil, soda, and yogurt. Add the yeast mixture and stir to combine, until smooth. Oil your hands and coat the dough ball. Set on a sprayed baking sheet and allow to double in size, 30-60 minutes. (Mama covers it with a light towel to keep the draft off.)

Divide the dough into 6 and roll out each piece on a floured surface–roll into more of an oval, rather than a circle (you know, like naan!). These don’t have to be perfect, remember. Wet your hands and flip the dough between them (so it stretches a bit). Put directly on a clean pizza stone on the bottom (or bottom rack) of oven, working in batches if necessary. (Mama feels a regular baking sheet that’s been preheated would also work, too.) Bake 4 to 6 minutes–keep an eye on them to bake them to your desired puffiness. (They’ll crisp up and brown the longer they’re in there.)

Remove from oven with tongs and immediately brush with melted butter. (If you want to get fancy, brown the butter for more of a ghee-like taste. And if you really want to get fancy, clarify that butter to make your own ghee.)

Mama’s Mango Lassi

1 ripe mango, peeled and cubed
Couple big tablespoons yogurt (plain, vanilla, or “banilla”)
About 1/4 cup canned coconut milk
Enough milk to thin [or swap out this and the canned coconut milk for coconut milk in a carton]
Few dashes of cardamom

Place all the ingredients in a blender and whir until smooth and creamy. (May also use a hand blender.) It should be thin enough that you can drink it with a straw, but not runny.


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What’s with all the green?

You might recall that I used to eat a lot of spinach, in the form of something we called “gruel.” But now that I’m beyond all that baby food, Mama serves me sautéed spinach and kale, and I notice she puts herbs in everything. I am no longer such a fan.

Mama had some leftover halibut from fish tacos, so she decided fish cakes would make for a good dinner. Papa peeled and boiled the potatoes, and Mama raided the garden for the mint and parsley. The cakes came together pretty quickly, so Mama decided on her favorite chickpea salad as an accompaniment.

While Mama’s a proponent of cooking beans, she feels this is only something a person who has her act together can do, and Mama is not one of those people. She doesn’t have various pots of beans and grains cooking and all her vegetables cut for the week ahead on a Sunday. She just doesn’t. So when it comes to a superfast side dish (or sometimes, in Mama’s case, a main dish), she likes being able to reach into her cupboard and pull out a can of beans. Just drain, rinse, and serve. Now, I’ve been slow to come to chickpeas (though I like to say “chick-pea”), but I very recently ate half a can all on my own. So Mama felt pretty confident I’d share her gusto for garbanzo salad.

Not so much. I couldn’t find one that was just a plain old chickpea. All that basil and parsley. Doesn’t she get that toddlers have a clinical aversion to green showing up on non-green foods? As for the fish cakes, I took my obligatory one bite, but that was enough for me. I liked the crispy fried part okay, but it still tasted fishy—and there was all that greenery. I ended up sharing it with the dog. The green I didn’t mind was the avocado I ended up eating for dinner.

Love, Jude

Herbed Chickpea Salad

1 can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
Handful of fresh parsley, minced
Handful of fresh basil, minced
1–2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of ½ lemon (or more, to taste)
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
Drizzle of olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

As you can see, this is a pretty loose recipe. Mama just does it all to taste. Start with a little of an ingredient and add more. Remember, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away!