I've been interested in Laurie David ever since I read an article about her in Outside Magazine eight years ago. Okay, so a confession is at that point I thought/hoped she was a real live version of the fictional character portrayed on Curb Your Enthusiasm (read: she's not).
Anyhow, I eventually learned to love her for her great environmentalist work, and when I heard she wrote a book about family dinner, I was intrigued to find out more. The book is called The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time.
Short verdict: it's excellent! (see also: this more in-depth HuffPo review). I've had the book out from the library for the past few months and have loved so much that I renewed it as many times as possible. I've carried it with me to kids' lessons and doctor visits. I reluctantly returned it to the library this morning and headed straight over to my local bookshop to order a copy. Reader, it isn't normal for me to buy myself new cookbooks, but this one is that good.
This book offers so much more than just recipes; it gives inspiring little anecdotes from writers, scholars, celebrities, and chefs like Maya Angelou and Mario Batali, and it has great topics like how we really should be using our microwaves (to reheat homecooked food!) and tips for setting a calm mood at dinner. Whenever I pick up the book, I find myself scribbling notes and reminders to myself on my pad.
I tested three recipes before reviewing the book; one vegetarian, one soup, and one fish. I liked them all, but two stood out as worthy of sharing with you. I altered them both to make them more our style, and I suggest you do the same with any recipe you try out. I see recipes as more suggestions than rules.
First up is the vegetarian dish, which I'm calling "resolution salad" because it fits in well for those of us who eschew white food in the New Year. I swapped dried cranberries (often sugar-laden) with fresh pomegranate seeds, a winter favorite in our home. A note about this recipe's kid-friendliness: my kids liked this salad on the third offering, and by offering I mean I sat down in front of them when they were hungry and started eating it without mentioning anything to them. It's a winning method of converting picky kids!
serves 4 grownups (big bowls)
2 c. farro (could substitute wheat berries, bulgar wheat)
seeds from 1 pomegranate (seeding directions here)
1/2 c. light oil (grapeseed, sunflower, or even olive)
zest & juice of 2 oranges and 1 lemon
salt (about 1-2 tsp.) & pepper to taste
1 c. defrosted edamame
1 c. toasted pecans (optional)
1 c. crumbled feta cheese (optional)
1/2 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbs. finely chopped green onions, chives, or shallots
- Cook farro according to package directions (my pkg. says: boil in about 8 cups of water uncovered for 20-25 minutes). Drain, rinse, and let cool.
- Shake up or whisk together the oil, juice, and salt & pepper. Add pomegranate seeds, oil mixture, and zest to the farro. Let the salad sit for a few hours.
- Add edamame, nuts, cheese, parsley, and green onions. It can stay in the fridge for up to a week, but if it's in our house it will be gone in 2-3 days!
Next up is the soup, which I altered to make in my crockpot using already cooked kielbasa instead of on the stove using fresh Italian sausage. It lowered the prep time from about 30 minutes to 10. And it's delicious! I think their addition of toasted breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese was brilliant. This recipe didn't photograph well now that my external flash is broken, so I apologize in advance to would-be pinners.
1/4 c. olive oil
1 c. breadcrumbs (I used day-old rye bread that I crumbled, processed, and let dry)
3 sage leaves, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 c. grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
1 medium onion, sliced
1 smoked kilebasa, cut in half and into 1/4 in. half-moon slices
1 bay leaf
1 sprig rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp. dried rosemary)
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 bag of dried white beans, soaked and cooked (or 3 15 oz. cans)
2 c. chicken stock
salt & pepper to taste
juice of 1 lemon or 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
handful of chopped parsley
- In a small skillet, saute oil, breadcrumbs, sage, garlic, and cheese until fragrant and toasted.
- Add breadcrumb mixture to crockpot and saute onion in same skillet with a bit more oil or rendered bacon fat.
- Add onions to the crockpot along with the ingredients listed through chicken stock. Cook on high for 3 hours.
- Season with salt and pepper and add lemon juice or vinegar and parsley.
The third recipe I tried was the Soy Good Maple-Glazed Salmon with Edamame Succotash. I prefer my own orange and ginger-glazed fish recipe because it is still slightly sweet but not as sugary sweet as this one. But I will say her addition of 2 Tbs. of fish sauce and some chili flakes was brilliant. The edamame succotash can be bought frozen at Trader Joe's, and I love their choice to saute it with butter, onion, garlic and ginger to meld the flavors that are in the fish marinade.
Next up, I am most excited about trying pho in a teapot, just as soon as I find myself a new teapot that doesn't pour all over the table.