Mar 052013

This is not me.
Do you see a can opener?

At first it might seem ironic that I should be writing a post about cooking, because I don’t like to cook. I debated for a while the wisdom of me, of all people, writing about food. So many of our friends are knowledgeable about food and wine and are excellent cooks – compared to them I’m a philistine in an epicurean land.

But then I thought, surely there must be other people like me out there. People who look at the pictures accompanying “simple” recipes and blanch at the elaborate display with colorful garnish and reams of text claiming this will only take an effortless 20 minutes.

It has never taken 20 minutes.

Effortless for me involves a deft flourish of the can opener or a swift stroke to open that box of mac and cheese with nary a paper cut.

However we have children and I don’t think it’s wise to raise them on a diet of Oodles of Noodles. Merran has been trying for years to get me to cook. She has generously provided me with all kinds of books, crock-pot cooking, cooking for children, even cook books written for children. It’s all too much.

Despite all this, I do have a recipe for garlic soup that we reverse engineered from a Mexican restaurant on Hudson St. in New York that I regularly slave over. Or used to, it’s not much of a step up from instant ramen and we quickly discovered that kids and garlic result in an unsavory aroma.

I’m also pretty handy with scratch waffles and/or pancakes and once, when low on flour figured out how to make a pretty good crepe. Unfortunately I can’t claim gourmand status from pancakes since they’re pretty much just flower and eggs.

I can make paste too.

There was something of a turning point last year when I heard an interview with a relative of Chef Boiardi (aka Boyardee, of canned pasta fame) who gave an old family recipe for penne rigate, which is basically just pasta with a broccoli sauce. The way she described it the recipe sounded actually simple and when I tried it I discovered that, not only could I make it but the kids actually liked it.

Oh, did I mention a large part of the challenge is making stuff the kids will actually eat? Add to this the fact that our son has been a vegetarian for several years now and our options become pretty limited. With the triumph of the penne rigate I began to branch out and now I have a sort of regular culinary repertoire that is gradually expanding at a painfully slow rate. Some of the items it includes:

Pasta with Broccoli
I couldn’t keep the penne rigate name because I don’t always use penne and I’ve modified the ingredients significantly to better match our kids’ palates.

Taco Night
All vegetarian with fairly strict rules around the application of cheese. When they’re not in the mood for tacos it becomes, “let’s mash it into a quasi nacho platter”.

Baked Fish
I’ve embraced dredging with a passion.

Chicken and Quinoa/Rice
For our son the meat is typically substituted with sautéed tofu or nut loaf. Yum!

I’ll be adding the actual recipes in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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