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January, 2011

Simple Sides: Vine Sweet Mini Peppers

By Dennis Linden

This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with two uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe options centered around one seasonal fresh produce item that a child can contribute to the family meal
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Cookin with the Kids Image

While many of these recipes may seem very basic, this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will lay the culinary foundation necessary to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their confidence in the kitchen grows. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where help might be especially needed.

The competing schedules of today’s busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can even be great fun. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your kids will build memories that remain in all of your hearts forever
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Colorful and sweet, mini peppers are the perfect kids’ ingredient on which to base a cooking lesson. Sweet peppers are an excellent source of vitamins C and A. Here are two very simple recipes that your kitchen helpers can have fun with, learning how to make a tasty appetizer and a healthy salad.

RECIPE I

Not only are mini peppers easily handled by small hands, they are almost entirely seedless, which makes prepping a whole platter of appetizers go very quickly. The one task that the supervising adult may want to do is slicing the whole peppers in half. You can do this while the kids mix up the filling. An older child, who has been taught the safe use of a knife, might be able to do the job; however these delicious little bites look best if half the calyx and stem remaining intact on each pepper half. Part of the culinary lesson emphasis for this recipe is that presentation is very important when making an appetizer. So it is probably best to provide your kitchen crew with pre-sliced peppers to work with. A small measuring spoon (¼ tsp) works great to prepare each half for stuffing by scraping out the few seeds and interior ridges. If you have a couple of sous chefs, assign one to scrape and the other to fill each pepper. Tip: reverse assignments halfway through the process to combat any short culinary attention spans of your little helpers!

RECIPE II

Whenever your children make a salad, they are honing skills that will be used for the rest of their lives. It’s always a two-part lesson: the ingredient mix and a dressing to match. This particular salad is a study in simplicity of components that creates a complexity in taste. Another great lesson for your aspiring chefs: do not judge a dish by the length of its ingredient list! Again, there is a little knife work involved, but the slicing is something that an older child should be capable of accomplishing with supervision. Use the same ¼ teaspoon to remove the few seeds in each pepper. Even your smallest sous chef can be put to work separating the shallot slices into rings, mixing the two dressing ingredients together and layering the pepper slices on each salad serving. Experience has taught that the “salt and pepper to taste” is best left to adult hands!

Recipe I
Stuffed Vine Sweet Mini Peppers
Yield: 30

Stuffed Vine Sweet Mini Peppers
Ingredients

30 Vine Sweet Mini Peppers
7 oz. feta cheese
¼ cup fresh Basil
¼ cup fresh Rosemary
¼ cup Melissa’s Dried Red Tomatoes 3 oz. pkg. (Note: not Sun Dried Roma Tomatoes packed in oil)

What the kids can do:
1. Carefully remove the seeds (there aren’t too many).
2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the feta, basil, rosemary and dried tomatoes.
3. Pulse until evenly chopped (the mixture should be very fine).
4. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
5. Use a small spoon to stuff the feta mixture in the peppers.
6. Place completed peppers on the prepared baking sheet.
7. Transfer the cooked peppers to a serving dish and serve hot or cold.

What the supervising adult should do:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Slice the peppers from stem to tip on one side, leaving the stem intact.
3. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until peppers are just starting to soften.

Recipe II Sweet Mini Pepper and Baby Spinach Salad
Sweet Mini Pepper and Baby Spinach Salad
Serves: 4

Ingredients
6 cups baby spinach
4 shallots, sliced and separated into rings
20 Vine Sweet Mini Peppers, sliced in rounds

Salad Dressing:
6 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

What the kids can do:
1. Measure out and place washed spinach in a bowl.
2. Trim both ends of each shallot, slice into rounds, separate out into rings and add to spinach.
3. Trim peppers on both ends; use a small measuring spoon to scrape out the seeds.
4. Cut peppers into rings.
5. Toss spinach and shallots with olive oil
6. Drizzle on lime juice and then the red wine vinegar,
7. After the salt and pepper have been added to toss again.
8. Arrange pepper rings over arugula and enjoy!

What supervising adult should do:
1. Supervise the slicing of both the peppers and shallots.
2. Do the honors of adding the salt & pepper to taste.