Sick of hearing "yucky" when you set food in front of your offspring? Then you might need What Chefs Feed Their Kids (Lyons Press, $24.95) by Fanae Aaron, a mom who's been through all that and much more.
If you don't have kids, you still could use this book. And if you hate kids, you might want it too -- the recipes are that worthwhile. They're not cutesy, simplistic ideas that chefs think might appeal to kids, like a spinster aunt telling you how to raise your brood. Instead, the 75 recipes come from the trenches, where chefs worked to get their own kids to eat instead of mashing stuff on their plates into inedible messes, spitting out "disgusting" items, eating just one thing or nothing all.
Aaron, who lives in the Hollywood Hills, used the chefs' tips in dealing with her son Cody, now almost 6. She says: "All their stories and clever insights helped me through the rough patches when it was tricky to get Cody to the dinner table and when there to start eating. Their recipes have become Cody's favorite dishes. It made me a better parent and it made Cody a great eater."
"It really was a labor of love," she continues. "I'm not a writer or a chef, I just thought it was a great topic to explore and then to put out there."
Aaron chose chefs from across the country, making it a point to include different cooking styles and ethnic foods. There are three from Los Angeles: Piero Selvaggio of Valentino, Josiah Citrin of Mélisse and Joan McNamara of Joan's on Third.
Selvaggio's recipe for scrambled eggs with kale is in the first chapter, which deals with ages 0 to 1. Yes, 0 -- "A baby first experiences flavor in the womb," Aaron writes. McNamara's macaroni and cheese is in the next chapter, for ages 1 to 2 ½. Her curried chickpea salad appears in chapter three, for ages 2 ½ to 5.
The following chapter covers ages 5 to 8. Citrin weighs in with two recipes in the final chapter, for ages 8 to 11. They are potato chip-crusted chicken tenders and kalbi steak, which he says is the favorite meal in his household. The last recipe is McNamara's lemon bars, which she stored in the freezer to bring out when her kids had friends over.
Glancing through, you'll see recipes for wild greens soup with noodles, lemongrass chicken curry (That's in the first chapter -- who says really small fry don't like tasty food?), whole-grain sesame scallion pancakes with tofu, turkey meatballs with orecchiette pasta and tomato sauce, spring pea risotto with barley, chicken cassoulet and, among the sweets, yogurt panna cotta, warm roasted nectarines and sugar cookies.
It's enough to make you long to be a kid again, with parents putting food like this on the table.
Josiah Citrin's Potato Chip-crusted Chicken Tenders
From: What Chefs Feed Their Kids
Hawaiian or other light-colored nonsalted potato chips
1 egg white
3 chicken breasts
Lemon wedges or Mayonnaise Sauce (recipe below)
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grind up the potato chips by spreading them out on a cutting board and rolling over them with a rolling pin until they are finely ground. Consider placing them in a large, sealable plastic bag to keep the crumbs contained.
2. Place the egg white in a bowl (save the yolk for the Mayonnaise Sauce).
3. Cover each chicken breast with plastic wrap and pound it down with the smooth side of a meat mallet so it is a consistent thickness. Cut the "cutlets" into tenders and brush on the egg white.
4. Coat the chicken pieces well with the ground potato chips and bake on a foil-lined baking sheet until crispy, about 15 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the chicken pieces.
5. Squeeze lemon on top or serve with Mayonnaise Sauce.
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ lemon, juiced
1 cup olive oil (do not use extra-virgin, it will become bitter)
Water as necessary
1 ripe Roma tomato, diced
1. Combine the egg yolk with the mustard and lemon juice in a bowl big enough to whisk all the ingredients together.
2. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk together until the sauce gets thick, adding drops of water if it gets too thick. Continue adding the oil in small quantities and whisking until thick and blended.
3. Mix in the diced tomato.
Note: Citrin says, "If you're concerned about the fat in the potato chips, try cornflakes or coat only one side -- cook crusted side down first."
Instead of making the mayo sauce from scratch, he says, you can add the Dijon mustard and lemon juice "to a big dollop of jarred mayonnaise."