Chat Leftovers: Help for a Culinary Kid
Yes, another Wednesday is upon us, and with it another fabulous Free Range chat with the Food section staff. Join us at 1 in the usual place to ask questions, swap ideas and maybe win a free book in our weekly giveaway.
When we close up shop at 2, we’ve always got a pile of leftover questions in front of us. Here’s one we couldn’t get to last time:
I have an 11-year-old who loves to cook. Wednesdays are her cooking night, and all I do is sit in the kitchen while she works, so I’m there to answer questions and help out if she asks. I’m not even supposed to ask if she wants help! Tonight she’s making roghan josh (she even started marinating the lamb last night!); last week it was a chicken curry; the week before, stuffed pasta shells. But she has trouble pairing things. She knows that rice goes with curry but isn’t sure what vegetable she should pair with it, or if green beans work with pasta, and if so, what kinds of herbs/spices should go in the beans.
Can you think of a good cookbook to help her learn good food "matching"? She really doesn’t need a kids-version book; she's already used my "660 Curries," "Joy of Cooking" and "Bon Appetit Cookbook."
Congratulations on having a budding young cook in the house. I know plenty of parents who would love to be in your shoes.
I think two kinds of books would work well for her. (And check the “Comments” section at the end of this post, in case readers have ideas of their own.)
First, cookbooks that present recipes grouped into complete meals instead of categories (soups, salads, etc.) can give useful ideas about food pairing. For your daughter, I’d recommend “Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook Menus: Fifty-two Meals You Can Make in Under an Hour.” It was published in 1988, and a paperback version followed a few years later; both are still easily found. The book presents dozens of meal menus, each involving four or more courses. Here’s one meal: Pan-Cooked Trout With Tomatoes and Herbs, Boiled Potatoes With Green Olive Oil, Two-Bean Saute, Red and White Grapefruit Sections With Cointreau. (Your daughter can skip the Cointreau.) Another: Veal Scallopini With Sage, Pasta With Tomato-Lemon Sauce, Baby Vegetables With Ricotta Cheese, Red Oakleaf Salad With Capers, Blackberry Sorbet With Fresh Blackberries. By now you might be suspecting that Martha’s claim of “under an hour” for each complete meal is stretching it, and you’d be right. They’re not even close! But your daughter could pick one main course and only one or two of the sides, and still absorb the main points of the flavor lesson.
More advanced than Martha’s book are two other of my faves, “Julia Child & Company” and “Julia Child & More Company.” They came out in the late 1970s and were published later in paperback. These involve menus intended for company and can be quite challenging, but again, your daughter wouldn’t have to make every dish. Sometimes just reading what goes with what gives inspiration enough.
Second, books focusing on ingredients can be helpful, and one impressively thorough one is “The Flavor Bible,” by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, whom you might recognize as former Washington Post wine columnists. The bulk of this book is a terrific list of hundreds of ingredients with exhaustive pairings for each of them. For the curry-vegetable match your daughter was wondering about, the book suggests potatoes, fennel, mushrooms, tomatoes and zucchini, among others. For the green beans, pasta is NOT listed, but more than 75 other foods (including herbs, oils and vinegars) are. The book also tells you what flavor profiles are compatible with each food and, sometimes, which flavor pairings you should avoid.
Books aside, the best source of education might be her own taste buds. As she cooks more, as she samples more new foods, as she eats restaurant meals and sees how the pros do it, she’s bound to hone those instincts that tell a cook what’s going to work well and what isn’t. Learning by eating! What could be more fun than that?
-- Jane Touzalin
Posted by: cf07 | September 9, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: ArlingtonSMP | September 9, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: mariebmorris | September 9, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: k1omal | September 9, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.