Simple Sides: Carrots & Grapes
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.
With the month of September comes the sweetest of grape varieties, the Muscato™. This grape has a high natural sugar content that kids will love. Here’s a simple recipe that demonstrates to your kitchen helpers how grapes can also be served on a plate with delicious results and little fuss. In fact, this slaw recipe takes about as much time to make as it does to chill before serving! The five simple components work with and against each other flavor wise. The sweet grapes, carrots and raisins are countered by the tang of both the fresh parsley and a lemony-tart dressing. The dish provides a delicious opportunity to teach your young chefs the basics of making a slaw using some fun and colorful ingredients.
Definitely try to get red Muscato™ grapes for this one because of their aforementioned sweet flavor; however, this slaw could be a year-round family favorite using regular red seedless or any color seedless grape, for that matter. Also try to use Greek instead of regular yogurt; the Greek style yogurt is richer, denser and has a sharper taste, which is needed to balance the overall flavor of this dish.
There is a little bit of knife work required in this recipe. The grapes do have to be sliced in half and the shallot needs dicing; the adult in the room may have to do both if the kids are too young. Grating the carrots can be done by a child under close supervision and separating the parsley leaves from their stems is a task suited for the youngest of sous chefs. As always, the measuring out of all ingredients provides a practical application to those school arithmetic lessons. However, no one will need a lesson in how to enjoy this tasty side dish. Enjoy!
Carrot, Grape and Raisin Slaw
Serves 6 to 8
½ cup Low or Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
2 tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
1½ teaspoons Shallots, finely chopped
1 pound Carrots, grated
1 cup Seedless Red or Sweet Muscato™ Grapes, sliced in half
1 cup Raisins
1 cup Flat-Leaf Italian Parsley leaves, separated from the stems
Salt and Pepper, to taste
What the kids can do
Measure out one cup of raisins.
Separate parsley leaves from stems and measure out.
Slice grapes in half and measure out.
Measure out the ½ cup yogurt.
Juice the lemon and chop the shallot, then measure out both.
Whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, shallot to make the dressing.
In a large bowl combine all ingredients.
Gently mix until all ingredients are coated with dressing evenly.
What the supervising adult should do
The is a relatively simple recipe that the kids can accomplish themselves. The knife work required is very basic, though you may have to provide the pre-sliced ingredients if your kitchen helpers are not old enough. Definitely do the seasoning with S & P once the ingredients have all been tossed together. This dish is best served slightly chilled.