Cookin' with the Kids
Simple Sides: Apple Harvest Salad
By Dennis Linden
Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a 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 become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.
Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic -- this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. 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 children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
Across the country, especially in northern states from Maine to the Pacific Northwest, September brings the first pick of new-crop apples to retail stands in sales promotion volume. The Gala is the first varietal to be ready for market as this variety’s sugars start to mature in late August, but fully peaks in optimum flavor and freshness throughout September. Here’s a tasty salad recipe that takes advantage of this crunchy sweet bounty while also teaching young kitchen helpers that a salad can be much more that a bowl of leafy greens—in fact, a salad can have no lettuces at all!
This dish has two separate parts to its recipe—a dressing and the salad itself—so it is a good dish to prepare if you have two helpers who can each take on one of the components. There is no cooking and very little knife work to either part, so a child of almost any age can be involved in the prep. While the recipe is really just two simple and straightforward ingredient mixes that are then combined into one tasty dish, the process contains several basic culinary lessons for the beginner.
Melissa’s pre-cooked, ready-to-eat Steamed Garbanzo Beans and Shelled Edamame are both great kid-friendly ingredients when it comes to the challenge of keeping a young sous chef focused on the joy of cooking (to steal a phrase) without getting bogged down in mundane prep tasks. If you are successful in perking interest in the culinary arts, there will be plenty of future kitchen time spent stirring a pot of chickpeas soaking or shelling a pile of soy beans by hand. However, at an age when attention spans can wane if the “action” lulls, it is best to keep the procedures in a recipe simple and moving right along. Save the lesson on soaking beans for 24 hours for another time!
The multiple roles that the lime plays in this recipe as both a flavoring and protective, provides one of those opportunities to demonstrate to your kids how to use the unique characteristics of this fresh ingredient beyond its tangy-tart flavor. To do this, have your helpers dice up an extra half of an apple and set it aside, before the rest of the apples are coated with lime juice. To demonstrate why this coating is necessary, set a spoonful or two of the lime-treated apples next to the untreated pieces. It won’t take long for the browning of the untreated apples to begin, while the lime-coated pieces remain bright and fresh looking. Explain to your sous chefs that the lime juice in the avocado dressing is also multi-tasking; adding a flavorful tang while also preventing that grey-black discoloration that avocadoes turn once exposed to air.
BTW, while on the subject of the avocado—that heart-healthy fruit packed with high levels of monounsaturated fat (the good kind)—you might want to double or even triple the ingredient measurements of this scrumptiously tasty dressing. Firstly, the creaminess factor can be adjusted in this salad by adding in more dressing. Secondly, making a dressing from scratch seems like such a simple thing to the seasoned gourmet, but for the novice cook it is an accomplishment that builds kitchen confidence quickly. Plus this is a good versatile dressing to teach your kids as it will work in with any number of salad recipes. As a side dish for the family dinner, this salad pairs wonderfully with pork or chicken. Any leftovers are the makings of a quick and deliciously healthy standalone lunch plate. Enjoy!
Apple Edamame-Garbanzo Salad with Avocado-Lime Dressing
1 ripe Haas Avocado, skin and seed removed
3 tablespoons Fresh Lime Juice
1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
4 large Fresh Basil Leaves, rough chopped
1 Gala Apple, diced
1 tablespoon Lime Juice
1 package Steamed Garbanzos Beans
1 package Shelled Edamame
½ tablespoons Olive Oil
¼ teaspoon Ground Cumin
¼ teaspoon Ground Ginger
Salt and Pepper to taste
4-5 Basil Leaves, cut into strips (garnish)
What the kids can do:
Prepare dressing by placing all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, mix until creamy smooth.
Place the diced apple pieces in a small bowl, add lime and stir to coat.
Combine edamame, garbanzos and apples in a large mixing bowl. Add oil, ginger and cumin, mix together thoroughly, season to taste with salt and pepper. Finally, add 3 tablespoons of avocado-lime dressing to the bowl and toss to coat. (For a creamier salad, add more dressing) Transfer to salad bowl, garnish with basil, serve family style.
What the supervising adult should do:
The only knife work required is the dicing of the apples, the slicing the basil into strip and seeding of the avocado. If your helpers are too young, the adult in the room should prep these items. Do not skip the garnish as being superfluous for a family meal. While the basil certainly adds to the flavor profile of the dish, as all garnishes should, your helpers should also be taught that eye appeal is an important ingredient to any dish!