Cookin with the Kids
Simple Sides: Apricot Soup?
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 a child basic culinary skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever. “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing” – Julia Child.
One of the best ways to perk a child’s interest into wanting to help out in the kitchen is by choosing recipes that combine interesting ingredients. Here’s an unusual soup formula that will definitely capture the attention of any kid as soon as he or she spots the package of Melissa’s dried apricots amongst the components of this dish! In fact, it might be fun to simply lay out all of the ingredients for this recipe (except the stock, of course) and then ask your young helpers to guess what’s on the menu! Chances are that a soup will not be predicted, providing any novice cook who is intimidated by the kitchen with a tasty example of how cooking really has no rules beyond coming up with a flavorful dish. Like, whoever heard of apricot soup?
Actually the pairing of this soup’s two main ingredients is a natural since both lentils and apricots have been staple crops and a part of the cuisines of the Near East, North Africa and Eastern Mediterranean regions for centuries. But the only thing that your young sous chefs will be focused on is that a very favorite dried fruit is going to be made into a soup somehow!
The knife work required for this recipe is very rudimentary and minimal; in fact, this might be a great opportunity to introduce a child to the blade since only an onion and a few tomatoes need chopping up. Of course, only the adult in the room can judge when his or her child is “ready” for slicing and dicing. Granted, it’s a passage, like riding a two-wheeler for the first time…guide them in the same manner. And celebrate this culinary milepost. After all, we all had to make that first slice, literally!
Needless to say, Melissa’s Steamed Lentils really speed up the soup-making process. You could start this recipe by cooking up a batch of raw lentils, but what you might gain in lentils you will surely lose in kitchen crew attention span or the lack thereof. Instead, opt for Melissa’s pre-cooked Steamed Lentils and save about 45 minutes in preparation time as well as hold the focus of young, wandering minds!
The finishing step in this recipe is also an important culinary lesson for the novice about a dish’s texture that should not be skipped. Though a bit thick, the soup could probably be served with no complaints right after blending in the lemon juice in the directions, so pause the prep at that point to allow your kitchen helpers to taste-test the mixture. Now continue the process by running only half the soup through a food processor per the instructions, return that portion to the soup pot and ask your helpers to judge the altogether different consistency of the soup for themselves. This is the perfect warming dish for the whole family on those blustery days of April showers. Don’t forget the buttered bread! Enjoy!
For two other delicious ways to use Melissa’s Steamed Lentils -- see this month’s GUEST CHEF and LOW CARB KITCHEN blogs.
Apricot Lentil Soup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 TBS Melissa’s Minced Garlic
1 package Melissa’s dried apricots
2 packages Melissa’s Steamed Lentils
5 cups Chicken Stock or Broth
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons Melissa’s lemon juice
Sauté onion, garlic, and apricots in olive oil until fragrant.
Add lentils and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, add in the tomatoes, cumin, thyme, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off flame and stir in lemon juice.
Transfer just half the soup to a blender and puree.
Return the puréed mixture to the soup pot, mix thoroughly and serve hot -- with black bread slathered with creamy butter!