Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Cooking with a toddler

Jamie Oliver is sort of my hero, throwing together gorgeous meals in half an hour. The husband gifted me with one of his cookbooks for Christmas, and I’ve been enjoying making some of the recipes (though invariably missing an ingredient or three). In his organized kitchen filled with useful gadgets and without tiny people underfoot, J.O. can whip up a main dish, three sides and a dessert in 30 minutes. Here is how it works for me:

Meal: Trapani-style rigatoni, griddled endive salad, arugula & parmesan salad, ciabatta, limoncello kinda trifle. (I didn’t even bother with the endive salad or the dessert; maybe if we had company over, but I’m not normally that ambitious)

Ingredients, in case you’d like to try this out:

1 lb dry rigatoni
2 oz parmesan cheese (how the hell much is that, anyway?)
¾ cup whole skinned almonds
2 cloves garlic
1-2 fresh red chiles
2 large bunches of fresh basil
4 anchovy fillets in oil
3 cups grape or cherry tomatoes
Arugula salad
5 oz arugula (J.O. calls for prewashed, but I think that stuff is a rip-off)
2 oz parmesan cheese
½ lemon
1 ciabatta load
1 heaping teaspoon dried thyme
Also need
olive oil
salt & pepper
Try not to break your neck while cooking
This is what you are supposed to do (and what actually happened):

Begin: Prepare all of the ingredients (dump out shopping bags on counter. Give toddler keys because he’s been clamoring for them since you returned from the store). Boil a pot of water. Put the oven on 350F (or somewhere in the middle of the dial if it’s in C and you are like me and too lazy to convert this properly). Get out your food processor (or, in my case, the blender. Then search entire kitchen and living room for top to blender, which child has hidden under the couch).

Ciabatta: Pour some olive oil over the top, then rub in the dried thyme, sprinkle on some salt and place in the oven. (Make sure toddler is engrossed in activity far from oven while opening the door).

Pasta: Put in the boiling water and cook. You can read the directions on the pasta package if you need to. (Then retrieve keys from toddler, who is trying to use them to remove screws from the furniture, and redirect him to draw on the balcony tiles with chalk instead).

Arugula salad: Put the lettuce in a bowl, shave over the parmesan, then whisk up 3 tablespoons olive oil with juice from the ½ lemon, plus salt and pepper for dressing. (This also would have gone faster if I could find the citrus reamer. This one was eventually located in the toy box).
To be extra amazing, first harvest all of your ingredients yourself
Pasta: Put the parmesan, almonds, garlic and chiles into the food processor (then retrieve the chalk from child’s mouth, and offer instead some pots and a wooden spoon for drumming practice) and blend into tiny bits. (Stop to comfort the child, who has started crying in the corner because he is scared of the blender). While the machine is running, add the basil, anchovies, 2/3 of the tomatoes, and some olive oil. (Turn on the blender in short bursts while singing and attempting to reassure the child that the blender is not scary). It should all blend up to a thick paste. (This might work in a food processor, but is very difficult in a blender, necessitating lots of blender-shaking reminiscent of working at Jamba Juice, and prolonging the unhappiness of the child). Drain the pasta (which you have forgotten about and is now very well cooked) and return it to the pot, chop the rest of the tomatoes in half, and then throw the paste and the tomatoes (those that the child has not demanded, then chewed and spit on the floor) and a little of the reserved pasta water into the pasta and stir it all up.

You’re then supposed to put the pasta into a nice bowl with some lovely remaining basil and a few tomatoes for attractiveness, before bringing it to the table. But that means more dishes, so I think you can skip that part. So just throw the pot of pasta, the salad, and the bread on the table (which hopefully has not burned to a crisp. Remember it will be hot so don’t just grab it out of the oven). At this point you’re supposed to have enough time remaining that you can whip up another salad featuring cooked endive and a fancy dessert and still be done in 30 minutes (but in reality, it’s already been 37 minutes, and you are busy redirecting the child, who is intent on getting into the oven to see what other treasures await).

Eat up! It’s delicious.


  1. I think you need a food processor. I recommend the cuisinart.

    1. Yes! One perk of moving back to the US: I will be reunited with all of my 110-V appliances wasting away in storage!

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