Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Getting a Teen to Cook: An Idiot's Guide

Awesome Stepkid R. and I were excited to give our "Inaugural Love Food Dinner" a try this weekend.

A little background. For those of you who've just joined us, you might want to read about our Love Food Discussion here. I'd urge you to do so if only for the comments section, where my amazing, thoughtful readers give insight and sage advice on the art of food seduction.

Anyways, I've been toying with sample menus for weeks, running them by Awesome Stepkid R. We considered, batted ideas back-and-forth, and have several dinners that we are gung-ho to test drive for you!

This weekend was the first, and the easiest, of those dinners. And there is no lack of irony here that our first dinner comes gratis of none other than Rachael Ray herself. I know, I wanted to gag, too.

However, this month's issue of Everyday With Rachael Ray magazine had a recipe for Halibut Saltimbocca with Lemon Butter Orzo. This recipe had potential for several reasons:

a) it was found in the 30 Minute Meal section of the magazine, which meant it wasn't overly complicated.
b) halibut is a very mild, inoffensive-tasting fish, so even people who are ambivalent about seafood could eat this easily.
c) said seafood is wrapped in Italian bacon, and let's face it, bacon is the bomb.
d) the lemon orzo is made at the same time as the fish, which is pretty handy.

Now on it's own, I wouldn't call this dish a MEAL. There is a glaring lack of veg in this recipe. Thus, I decided to heed the advice of several wise readers who indicated that a beautiful salad was something women appreciate.

I decided on a romaine, orange segment, red onion and toasted walnut salad. I went to the store, bought all of the ingredients, and burst through the door, excited to get crackin'.

And then I saw it.

It. The Buzzkill. The thing that was going to make my previously affable, willing teenager into a reluctant--if not outright sullen--sous chef.

While I was meandering through the market, squeezing oranges and sniffing halibut,weighing which oil to buy for the viniagrette... my Loving Husband had the brilliant idea to unpack and assemble his latest toy: Guitar Hero: Rock Band 2.

I came through the door and was nearly rendered deaf by the raucous, infectious hook of Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Out. I entered the room, arms full, and spied all three children and Loving Husband rocking out, hooting and guffawing, all obviously smitten.

Well, shit. Learning how to supreme an orange really cannot compare to mastering Pearl Jam's Alive, can it?

So I put the groceries away, pouted a bit, and figured that Inaugural Love Food Dinner was toast. I got to work on supreme-ing my orange segments, scowling over the bowl as Miss D. channeled her inner Pat Benatar.

And then, engrossed in my sulk, I was startled--jolted--by a sudden touch on the back from my husband. So jolted that my very sharp paring knife, which a minute ago was meticulously segmenting tender orange from white pith, slipped and segmented my finger.

In retrospect, the amount of blood was quite impressive. For a while there, an ER visit seemed imminent, but a few kitchen towels later, we decided we were okay. Except. Open wound+Citrus juice? Yeah.

I was in horrible pain. Not only did it sting like a bitch, it throbbed.

I do have the good fortune, however, to know lots of folks in the medical profession, so while I howled, hubs was on the phone trolling for quality painkillers. Thankfully, a nearby friend's husband was coming off back surgery, so while Loving Husband got in the car to score me pharmaceuticals, I walked (okay limped) Roshan through dinner prep.

The Reluctant Sous Chef cooked the whole darn dinner. And he did a fantastic job, too. He stepped up, was SO game, and so calm and, well, Awesome about the whole thing. He even did the cleanup, too.

I know.

Verdict: The salad was my favorite part of the meal. I ate through a slight haze, however. Everything was delicious, actually, but it wasn't our Love Meal, we decided. This was a meal we'd make any night of the week, but maybe not for that special one evening. The search, my friends, continues.

Halibut Saltimbocca with Lemon Butter Orzo
serves 4

salt and pepper
1/2 pound orzo pasta
4 halibut fillets (about 6 oz each)
4 leaves fresh sage
4 slices proscuitto di Parma
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 tablespoons butter, cut einto small pieces
Juice of 1 lemon, plus 2 teaspoons grated peel
**I added a little flat-leaf parsley...the dish was too white without it

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and return to the pot.

While the pasta is working, season the halibut with salt and pepper. Top each fillet with a sage leaf and wrap with a piece of proscuitto. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the EVOO, 1 turn of the pan, over medium heat. Add the fish and cook, turning once, until the fish is firm and the proscuitto is crisp, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the butter, lemon juice, parsley (if using) and lemon peel to the pasta and toss. Serve with the fish.

Romaine, Orange, Red Onion and Toasted Walnut Salad
serves 4

2 cups romaine lettuce, torn
3 oranges, supremed
1/2 cup very thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted

juice from segmented oranges
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Peel oranges. Cut segments away from the white pith over a bowl. Reserve juice. Toss lettuce, orange segments, red onion and walnuts in a bowl.

Combine reserved juice, champagne vinegar, walnut oil, salt and pepper. Whisk. Pour over salad, toss.


  1. I think blood adds that extra special sumin sumin to a meal! LOL!

  2. I see. So the way to get a teen to cook dinner (and even clean up) is to injure myself and squeeze some citrus juice into it. Got it. Thanks for the tip! ;0)

    What a beautiful meal! I do love that bacon!

  3. Ouch! How's the finger today?
    All of R's GFs are going to love you!

  4. Ouch indeed! While it may not be THE meal you're looking for, it does look tasty.

    As for dish ideas...hmmm. Things that the husband made in the beginning of our courtship included: bruschetta, ziti (with sauce-making part of the fun), stuffed mushrooms, catfish, and risotto.

  5. Aw what a cute story - really saw it unfold in my imagination. So sorry to hear about your finger - but at least the troops came to the rescue when you needed them - and although it wasn't quite how you imagined dinner materialising...your sous chef got stuck in and showed he cared more about you than the Guitar Hero game in the end and made a splendid dinner! So, although the finger cut was an arse, it's small sacrifice brought everyone together in the end! xxx

  6. I am so glad you're ok...that is so easy to do. My husband winces everytime I pick up my large chopping knife...rightly so. I'm so glad you tried this....Guitar Hero is a nasty nemesis.

  7. It's always nice when foodies try out recipes they see on magazines.

  8. Mmmm. That sounds so good.
    I'm sorry about the pint of blood you lost, but I'm impressed that any child could be torn away from something as cool as Guitar Hero.

  9. I hope your finger gets better! I love that salad, yum!

  10. Well, TKW, you know what they say...


    Whether it be via a meal or a broken heart. Hope your finger is feeling better!

  11. I adore you. Poor wonderful baby. At least you got a salad and a little high out of it...

  12. Dooooonnnnn'ttt. Don't post about major wounds. Can't take it.

    What a lovely tale of family fun with the game and then a lovely endpoint that allowed you and Stepkid R. to continue as planned. that would be a perfect story minus the severing of living tissues and disgorging of all your damned heme all over the kitchen. Ugh. Sorry, man.

    They say most accidents in the kitchen happen with dull knives because people have to muscle them too hard. So the new warning is to keep knives sharp AND overestimate husbands so they can't sneak up on your and be all thoughtful about "time for your planned project" announcements.

  13. Naptime: you get a TKW Booker prize for the phrase: disgorging all of your damned heme all over the kitchen.

    Even in your nausea, you sparkle. D.F. Wallace would be proud of that little turn of phrase. Hope you're still shopping out that novel of yours.

  14. I think that recipe sounds good, but has bad karma. I'm not touching it!

    I hope the throbbing has gone down to a dull ache :( Speedy healing to you...

  15. Ooh, citrus and knife wounds are NOT a good combo! Nothing like learning by doing, though, so Awesome Stepkid R. probably learned more than if you'd been helping. I know I"m really bad about taking over a dish instead of instructing the person who is trying to learn!

  16. I laughed several times reading this. Love the search for painkillers and the Guitar Hero scene. Thankfully, my son doesn't know about Guitar Hero yet. (the day will come, though).

  17. When I had kids I decided they needed to learn how to do two things: their own laundry and to cook at least two dishes by the time they were 13. That way they would always have clean undies and never starve. I sympathize with you and at least he did it, yea! and you still have all your fingers, yea!

  18. Oh man!! Looks like he ended up doing a great job, though. But yeah, hard to compete w/ some guitar hero...even me, diskliker of video games, likes guitar hero!! Hope your fingers healing up well :D

  19. I've been gaging to get on and read what you have been up to. Great to see you are as lively as eva! Bugger about the wound but lovin' the drugs. Congrats to Stepkid. R fab job with the everyday dinner, can't wait to see what his love meal will be.
    Feel better soon

  20. Hope your owie is ok. xoxo

    (I know that wasn't the point of the story...the point of the story was the reluctant chef becoming the star chef -- and cleaner upper, wow! kudos to all of that -- but of course I had to zero in on the My Friend Is Hurt part.)