One kid's adventures in gastronomy


Lazy Sunday

It used to be that I ate an egg for breakfast every morning. Then it was smoothies. And now it’s oatmeal. Because my oatmeal takes about half an hour to cook, Mama usually makes a big batch one day so that it’s ready for me to eat on the other days. She tried something new today, though: baked oatmeal.

A friend of Mama’s told her about a delicious oatmeal she made with bananas and blueberries and she shared the recipe. Because I was still sleeping when Mama made it, I can only report on how delicious it is. But Mama said it was supereasy. It was sweet from maple syrup and the fruit, and very hearty. We agree that we might try it without walnuts next time, and this morning Mama dolloped some banana yogurt on it for me. What a treat!

Mama says if you want to make this the night before, you can pull together the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry in another, but don’t mix them, or the oats will absorb all the liquid before it has a chance to bake in the morning. Sorry, not much of a shortcut here, but just think of how yummy the house smelled as it baked while Mama was wrangling yours truly. And I can eat it for breakfast tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…

I really REALLY like oatmeal, and this one is fantastic.

I really REALLY like oatmeal, and this one is fantastic.

Then for lunch, we made an old standby: egg salad. I helped Mama crack and peel the boiled eggs, then I mashed them with a fork. After we mixed together the mayo, mustard, vinegar (which I tasted straight from the bottle), dill, salt, and capers, we did something very important: we tasted it to see whether it needed anything. “More capers!” I said. (It’s true. I really did.) So Mama obliged, and we ate the egg salad on toasted English muffins. Well, I ate most of mine. But I picked out all the capers.

Yes, I'm still in my jammies. The title of this post is "Lazy Sunday" for a reason.

Yes, I’m still in my jammies. The title of this post is “Lazy Sunday” for a reason.

Love, Jude


How do YOU pad thai?

Papa announced that he had a hankering for pad thai. Now, normally he and Mama would just order in Chinese, but for some reason, they decided to make it themselves.

If there were a signature dish to Thailand, this would be it. There are oodles of variations on it, but your basic components include rice noodles, tofu and/or shrimp, cooked egg, fish sauce, chilies, garlic, bean sprouts, cilantro, lime, and crushed peanuts—all done in the same wok. Often there’s carrot, scallion, basil, and tamarind in some form, as well.

Mama said I could be in charge of the noodles, but as they required being steeped in boiling water, she thought better of it, so off I went to play with my trains. Papa was in charge of chopping, while Mama made the sauce and got everything ready to go. When you stir-fry, you’re cooking over very high heat, so it goes quickly. If you start cooking, then stop to chop your garlic or mince your chilies, what’s in the wok will probably already be burned before you’re done. So get your mise en place together.

The first step is to cook your egg, as a kind of tiny, very flat omelet. First you lightly beat your egg, then when it hits the hot oil in the pan, you continue to beat it for about a minute before it starts to set. Once it’s cooked, remove it from the pan, slice it into thin strips, then add more oil to the wok. From there, you start to quickly cook your protein (cut into small pieces if it’s not tofu or shrimp); then remove it from the pan and then add your veggies. Follow with your sauce and your noodles, mixing it all up. Add back the egg and protein, and keep mixing everything. You want your noodles to absorb the yummy sauce and begin to fry a little bit. Then top with crushed peanuts and raw sprouts. Serve with wedges of lime.

You don’t have to use a wok, but the deep sides of the pan sure help to keep all the noodly goodness in one place.

Mama had the back of her mind on alternate dinners for me, so sure she was that I wouldn’t eat the pad thai. But since she opted to go without the chilies, there was nothing about this I didn’t like. Those springy noodles were great, and I really liked the egg! The crunch of peanut was nice, too. But you know… I felt it needed more lime. So I said so. “I need lime.” And the reward for my fledgling sentence was more lime. Mama also served a cucumber-soy-ginger salad on the side. I had one salty bite, but I preferred the pad thai. What can I say? I’m a simple guy.

Next to tastiness, these noodles were just plain fun to eat.

Love, Jude


J’adore soufflés

By now, it’s no secret that I love eggs. I’ll take them any way I can get them. But Mama says people are a little afraid of soufflés because they have a reputation for being temperamental [insert joke about soufflés being like Mama here]. Kidding aside, Mama showed me that there’s nothing to fear about this puffy little delicacy whose name comes from the French word for  “blow.” I blow on my food when it’s hot, and just yesterday I blew my first bubbles outside, so I’m excited to learn how to make these.

First, Mama said we have to make a “roo.” We’ve made this before by melting butter in a saucepan, then whisking in flour until it’s all cooked and bubbly. Then we add milk. Mama says some people say to use cold milk, while others say to use hot milk. She “splits the difference” by using milk that’s been taken out of the fridge for a little while, “just to take the chill off.” Once the milk’s added to the saucepan, we stir and stir until it thickens. (Well, Mama took care of the stirring because it was very hot.) She said this is what’s called a béchamel, but it looked like a white sauce to me.

When butter's all foamy, add the flour all at once and start whisking.

When butter’s all foamy, add the flour all at once and start whisking.

This is how the white sauce will look once all the floury clumps are worked in to the milk.

This is how the white sauce will look once all the floury clumps are worked in to the milk.

This next part is where it starts to get a little scary. You have to separate your eggs. I don’t quite understand how sometimes I can crack the eggs and roll them around and the shell comes off, and other times, Mama cracks the egg and out comes a runny gloppy mess. But this is one of those times when Mama has to crack the eggs. She notes that the whites must be meticulously free of yolk, and because she doesn’t take her own advice to separate the eggs one at a time over a small bowl (and then dumping each white into a larger bowl), she creates an opportunity to show me how to remove errant yolk from the white: use the shell to scoop it out!

Now Mama sets aside the bowl of whites and sets the bowl of yolks on a damp dishcloth—she explains that it’s to keep the bowl from sliding when she “tempers” the yolks.  (I thought this must be why soufflés are considered temperamental, but Mama says it’s how you bring hot and cold liquids together without ruining them.) She whisks the yolks to break them up, and then she pours a little of the hot white sauce into them, whisking the whole time. She adds a bit more sauce, still whisking, and keeps at this until all the sauce is in the yolks. Now you have your soufflé base. Mama says this is the time to add any flavors—crumbled cooked bacon, puréed or small-dice cooked veggies, cheese, fruit, finely ground nuts, chocolate—but we’re keeping it plain today.

Mama notes that here’s a good place to stop, if you have to. If you’re making soufflés for breakfast the next day or for dessert later on, this is where you should stop, put everything in the fridge, then take it out about a half an hour before you want to resume cooking—to “take the chill off.” That’s when you should turn on your oven, too. But before finishing the recipe, there’s one more thing to be done: prepare the ramekins. I didn’t know these could be used in the oven or for food other than mine. Mama always used to feed me from these…until I discovered that they break into so many pieces when they hit the floor. (I’m just learning about gravity, you know.) Brush melted butter all around the inside of each ramekin (or other small ovenproof dish), then dust each with either parmesan cheese (if savory) or sugar (if sweet). (Mama thinks finely chopped nuts might work, too.) This step, Mama says, gives the soufflé something to grab onto as it climbs up the ramekin. Mama set the prepared ramekins on a baking sheet.

These are sugared.

These are sugared.

Next, Mama turned her attention to the egg whites. She plugged in the mixer and began to beat them until they formed soft peaks.

See how the "peak" flops over?

See how the “peak” flops over?

Then she folded the whites into the yolk mixture, being careful to not overmix—she explained that if she stirred too vigorously, she could deflate the whites, which would not bode well for the soufflés. Mama says that as soon as the whites are folded in, it’s time to pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins. Fill them nearly to the top (most ramekins have an inner rim that’s a good marking spot). She sprinkled a bit more parmesan on top and popped them in the oven.

Then we waited. Mama said we may not open the oven to check on them, otherwise they’ll deflat like a balloon. So when the time was up, we turned on the oven light to take a peek. Those soufflés had puffed up like my grandma’s hairdo and were golden brown. Mama called them gorgeous. The real test was taking them out of the oven… and they held! They stayed puffy until we dug in. They were eggy, and they tasted as soft and fluffy as they looked. I could eat these all day.

Love, Jude

Basic Soufflés

2 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup whole milk or half-and-half
4 eggs, separated
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)
Melted butter (about 2 Tbsp)
Grated parmesan cheese (or sugar, if making a dessert soufflé) (about 2 Tbsp)

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Brush six 6-ounce ramekins with melted butter, then dust with parmesan cheese (or sugar). Set aside on a baking sheet. Over medium heat, melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan, then add the flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until the flour is incorporated and the mixture begins to bubble, 1–2 minutes. Slowly add the milk and continue to whisk, working out any clumps. Then whisk occasionally until the mixture is hot and begins to thicken, 5–10 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil. Remove from heat and add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Whisking constantly, pour a small amount of the milk mixture into the yolks. Add a bit more milk, continuing to whisk. Then add the remaining milk mixture to the bowl and whisk thoroughly. If adding flavors or cheese, do so now.

Beat the egg whites with a hand mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Then immediately and carefully fold in to the yolk mixture in three additions. Immediately pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins, up until the inner line. Wipe the rims of any errant mixture. Sprinkle with additional parmesan, if desired.

Bake for 17–18 minutes in the center of the oven, until puffed and golden. The centers should look set and firm. Resist the urge to open the oven to check on them, but when you do take them out, a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Serve immediately.

Yield: 6 soufflés

Note: Mama says it’s not a bad idea to add an additional yolk to the base if you’re going to be adding a lot of stuff to the soufflé; the extra yolk will make the base stronger. Try adding up to ½ cup shredded cheese and either ½ cup vegetable puree or 1/3 cup small-diced cooked vegetables or crumbled cooked bacon to the base (before folding in the egg whites). Some ideas: butternut squash-gruyere-paprika; onion-roasted pepper-rosemary-spinach; artichoke-red pepper-gruyere-thyme; red pepper-fennel-onion; or try blue cheese-walnuts by substituting finely ground walnuts for the parmesan cheese.

Variation: To make a chocolaty soufflé, whisk in 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1/2 cup sugar to the finished white sauce. After the mixture is tempered into the egg yolks, add 1 tsp vanilla extract. Add 1/4 cup sugar to the egg whites as they’re being whipped to soft peaks. Proceed with the rest of the recipe, but be sure to sugar your ramekins.

Soufflés will fall a little bit (cracking the tops) once they're taken out of the oven, but they really should remain fairly puffy.

Soufflés will fall a little bit (cracking the tops) once they’re taken out of the oven, but they really should remain fairly puffy.


Cockroaches of the Ocean

That’s what Mama calls lobsters. Having never seen an ocean or a cockroach, I wouldn’t know. (I wonder if they look like any of my bathtub sea creatures?) But having come in to some cooked lobster meat, Mama decided to use it for both dinner and breakfast.

Mama told me she’s not too crazy about the stuff, even though she spent a couple years living in an area known for its lobster. Papa loves it, though, and it was he who suggested she save some for breakfast.

Lobster salad it was for dinner. I don’t think I’ve seen Mama whip up something so fast. It came together quicker than egg salad. Mama and Papa seemed to really like it, but I thought it tasted like a pacifier (and I never liked those either). I ate the avocado and had some roasted red pepper soup for dinner instead.

For breakfast… don’t even get me started. It’s no secret I like eggs. But what Mama did to them today is unforgivable. She sautéed diced shallots and chopped tomatoes in butter, poured in a mixture of milk and eggs, and when it was nearly cooked, she added the chopped lobster meat. She finished it with chopped parsley and salt and pepper. She put that plate before me on my high chair tray, and I just shook my head. Mama thought she could coax me into eating it by saying, “Look, it’s just egg.” But even that little bite tasted like the chewy crustacean interloper.

I think I’m starting to understand what a cockroach is—it’s a destroyer of all that is good.

Love, Jude

Lobster Salad
(Amounts are approximate and subjective to taste—but you get the idea)

1–2 cups cooked lobster meat (thawed from frozen is fine), chopped
1 small stalk celery, finely diced
¼ red onion (or 1 shallot), finely diced (you don’t want as much onion as you have celery)
Zest from 1/3 lemon (add a squeeze of juice, if you like)
1–2 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Healthy pinch of kosher salt
Few grinds of black pepper
About 4 Tbsp mayo
Kaiser roll, or other favorite bread product
Sliced avocado

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Adjust seasonings to taste. The filling should hold together without being gloppy or wet. Serve on a roll (toasted, if you wish) with slices of avocado.

Yield: 2–4 sandwiches, depending on how much you stuff ’em


It’s all Greek to me

So… I started daycare this week. And because of that, I haven’t had a lot of time to blog, even though I’ve been eating all kinds of new foods. (I even napped today for 2 hours!) But since there’s so much to tell, I think I’ll just keep tonight simple and write about the spanikopita Mama made.

First, let me tell you that I’m down with spinach. Not everyone is. Even Mama and Papa can only handle it in small quantities. Mama had me eating it when I was quite young, in something she and Papa called “gruel.” She tells me it was steamed organic baby spinach, steamed organic pears, and a mango all pureed together until smooth. Sometimes she let me watch as the blender whirred it up, but mostly, she just gave me the good stuff. I think I must have eaten at least a little bit of gruel every day for a while there. So anyway, Mama wanted to make something that I was sure to eat, but also something that she and Papa would like, too.

She sauteed some scallions (isn’t that a funny word?), then added bunches and bunches of baby spinach, and covered it to cook it all down. In a separate bowl, she combined eggs, very fragrant dill, and lots and lots of feta cheese. I love feta; it’s so salty. While the spinach cooked, Mama took out the phyllo dough. I’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s dough, but it’s very thin—I could almost see right through it. Mama brushed a pie plate with olive oil, laid a sheet of dough in it, then added another sheet. She brushed it again, laid down another sheet. And then another. When the spinach was cooked—it sure shrinks!—she carefully added it to the eggs. You have to keep stirring it, Mama pointed out, otherwise the eggs will scramble. She poured the egg-spinach mixture into the pie plate, then started adding layers of phyllo again, carefully brushing each with olive oil before adding the next. (Melted butter is also acceptable, she noted, as is laying out the sheets of phyllo and rolling it up with the spinach like a log, rather than putting it in a pie plate.) She baked the spinach pie until it was golden, and the kitchen smelled so good.

I loved the egg in this. It really held the spinach in place and gave the whole thing a lovely custardlike texture. And of course eggs and feta go together better than peas and carrots, in my opinion. The phyllo wasn’t my favorite part (Mama felt it could’ve used butter rather than oil), but altogether, I ate two pieces! I even ate the steamed green beans that Mama served with it (and threw only one on the floor).

First naps, now dinner. I don’t know… this daycare thing is having quite an effect on me.

Love, Jude


Call me Cool Hand Jude

Ever since I was about 9 months old, I’ve eaten a farm-fresh egg for breakfast. It started out as a soft-boiled egg yolk, and now it’s a nice scrambled egg that I can feed myself. Sometimes Mama puts cheese on it, sometimes even salsa (¿huevos rancheros, anyone?). Mama’s eggs are my favorite because she makes them soft and fluffy. She says the secret is taking them out of the pan before they’re fully cooked.

This morning I didn’t feel like eating my egg (though the dog sure appreciated it), so Mama decided on eggs for lunch. And this time, she did something I’ve never seen before. She put them in a pot of water and put them on the stove. Once the water started boiling, she turned off the heat, covered the pot, and let them sit about 10 minutes. Then she ran the eggs under cold water in the sink.

Then Mama showed me how to crack ’em: She knocked one on the counter, rolled it under her palm, then peeled the shell right off! Needless to say, I was hooked on this whole cracking business. We peeled four eggs, and then Mama mashed them with a fork. She added some mayonnaise (she told me I was too young for the homemade kind) and Dijon mustard, a splash of vinegar, salt, pepper, and capers. She had her “egg salad” on toast, but I liked it right off the spoon. Good show, Mama.

Love, Jude

I love eggs so much I couldn’t wait for them to be mashed.

Egg Salad*

4 hard-boiled eggs, mashed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Splash of vinegar
Salt & pepper, to taste
Capers (optional)
Dill (optional)

Mix the eggs, mayo, mustard, vinegar, and salt and pepper in a bowl and mash until well combined. Stir in the capers and/or dill, if using. Serve on bread or toast.

*Note: These amounts are approximate. Start small and taste as you go! The result should be creamy and hold together.