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Simple Sides: BBQ Support

By Dennis Linden

Take advantage of the season’s soft fruit harvest.
Image of LA King Mascot with Kids
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. The dishes will be centered around seasonal fresh produce item and easy enough to prepare so that a child of any age can help in contributing to the family meal. 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 judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention 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 children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.

In anticipation of moving the family kitchen outdoors for the summer grilling season, here are two recipes that keep your sous chefs involved, and takes advantage of the season’s soft fruit harvest. While open flames and kids do not mix, that is not to say that when the backyard BBQ is fired up that the grilling king of the household could not use a little culinary help. These two recipes use summer fruit that will complement chicken, pork or fish and give kids a culinary role in this very American family tradition. In fact, if differing summer fruits are used in each of these recipes instead of the nectarines, the recipes can still be prepared by the kids for the same meal!

Recipe I lesson plan - Nectarine Couscous Salad
Nectarines are a personal favorite summer fruit, though this recipe could be made using peaches, mangoes or papayas just as deliciously. Let your kitchen crew decide what fresh fruit to use; ingredient decision-making takes practice. Melissa’s Couscous has been pre-steamed and dried for quick, magic-like, cooking that will amaze your helpers. Meaning, when the tiny granules of durum wheat are first combined with the boiling water or broth, it does not look like there will be enough to feed the whole family. However, take the pot off the flame and leave it be for 5 minutes, covered. The couscous will swell (magically) to more than double its volume and no doubt elicit a few surprised “wows” from the kids.
Image of Couscous
Couscous has a pretty neutral flavor on its own, so focus your helpers on the task of whisking up the simple and tasty dressing. To fully appreciate what a difference a dressing makes, everyone should taste the couscous right out of the pot before the dressing, or any of the other ingredients, have been added. In fact, getting your aspiring chefs into the habit of tasting a dish at every stage of the preparation will not only help develop a young palate, but also instill a better understanding of how each additional ingredient builds a dish into a combination of flavors.

The spinach, green onions and chick peas all add nutrition, color, flavor and texture to this light and refreshing salad that the kids can help make all grilling season long. Try swapping in different soft fruit varieties, as the summer’s harvests will provide lots of juicy, fresh choices!

Recipe II lesson plan – Summer Fruit Salsa
This recipe gets your young chefs directly involved with what is being grilled on the barby without going near the flames. In fact, there is no cooking at all; just a simple mix of a favorite summer fruit with a few supporting vegetables and seasonings. Actually the most difficult part of this recipe is to convince the family grilling king (you know who you are) to put his secret sauce and ego away in favor of collaborating with the kids, using this salsa instead. Young faces beaming with pride for having helped with the BBQ is reason enough, but you know how kings are about their kingdoms.

There is some slicing and dicing to this one that will require close supervision by an older child who has some cutting experience. If you have a second, younger sous chef, then divide the preparation roles into “cutter” and “measurer”. The real fun and point of this very tasty salsa is the culinary partnership that is formed between the family grilling king (or queen) and the kids, in an area of the backyard that has been really off limits. Again, use this salsa on chicken, pork or a white fish like halibut; be sure to give that kitchen crew high praise with your first bites, to bring on those beaming faces! These are memories that will last long after the summer season is over and the barby has been covered until next year. Enjoy!
Image of Nectarine and Chickpea Couscous Salad
Recipe I
Nectarine and Chickpea Couscous Salad
Serves 4

1¼ cups Water
1 cup Couscous, uncooked
1½ cups Nectarines, rough chopped (about 3 medium)
1 cup Spinach, coarsely chopped
½ cup Green Onions, thinly sliced
1 can Chickpeas, drained (15.5 -ounce)

2 Tablespoons Lime Juice
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoons Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Syrup
½ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
½ teaspoon Ground Coriander

What the kids can do:
Measure out and prepare all ingredients.
Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in couscous.
Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes.
Fluff with a fork; cool.
Combine all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and stir well with a whisk.
In a large bowl, combine couscous, chopped nectarines, spinach, onions, and chickpeas.
Add dressing and toss well.

What the supervising adult should do:
Your kitchen helper can perform most of this recipe with only overview supervision. You should handle the hot pot of couscous; though let the kids stir in the uncooked grain and uncover the lid just for the wow factor (and cooking lesson) on how much this grain increases in size after being taken off the stovetop.
Image of Nectarine Ginger Salsa
Recipe II
Nectarine Ginger Salsa
Yield: 4 Servings

2½ cups Nectarines, chopped
½ cup Yellow Onion, chopped
¼ cup Golden Raisins
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
1 teaspoon Ginger, peeled, minced
¼ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon Pepper

What the kids can do (under adult supervision):
Prepare and measure out all ingredients.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
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