Simple Sides: Holiday 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 kids will build memories in all of your hearts forever.
Here’s a whimsically tasty salad of holiday colors, made from all fresh ingredients that will demonstrate to your kitchen helpers that a salad can be a whole lot more than just a bowl of leaf lettuce tossed with dressing. In fact this festive salad could be your young chefs’ contribution to a holiday family get-together. Since the flavors in this salad are maximized with an overnight chill in the ‘fridge anyway, this is the perfect recipe to make with your kitchen helpers the day before the event. Preparing this recipe ahead of time not only allows for an unrushed culinary lesson, but the ‘fridge time will improve the flavor of the dish. In fact, have your sous chefs taste this salad both before and after an overnight chill for a great lesson in how some flavors improve with a little patience.
Using Melissa’s Steamed Baby Beets makes it possible for kids to work with this tasty and nutritious root vegetable without fear of staining the kitchen and themselves a bright, rosy red. Our Steamed Baby Beets are ready-to-eat right out of the package. In this recipe the staining factor is minimized as it calls for just a quick rinse, then a careful transfer to the food processor without ever having to handle the beets directly. However, it would still be prudent to outfit your young sous chefs with aprons and gloves before they try to work with even these pre-cooked beets. Adult supervision is mandatory with this ingredient.
Tangerines, on the other hand, are totally kid friendly. A child of any age can easily peel and separate the segments. The white pith should also be removed as much as possible, though perfection is not necessary. While it is a good culinary lesson for your helpers to appreciate and strive for a clean look to a dish and its separate components, do not make this task five-star restaurant tedious. Attention to presentation is an acquired focus that will come as culinary confidence and passion develops. This time of year, produce stands are brimming with a wellspring of tangerine varieties at promotional prices, like Pixies, Clementines, Satsumas, Gold Nuggets, just to name a few. Let the kids choose!
Like most of the recipes that appear in the feature, this salad is a simple, all-in-one-bowl formula that is more focused on instilling a basic culinary foundation. The “dressing” for this recipe, for instance, is just a part of the ingredient mix rather than a separate set of ingredients, measured precisely before being added to the “salad proper”. There will be plenty of salads in your young helpers future that will introduce the art of emulsion techniques – for now, they just need to learn the essential ingredients. Enjoy the holidays and process of preparing a meal together.
Ginger, Beets & Tangerines Salad
3 packages Melissa’s Steamed Baby Beets
1½ cups Melissa’s Belgian Style Leeks, chopped
2 Tangerines, peeled and segmented
4 tablespoons Raisins, soaked for 10 minutes
3 tablespoons Pine Nuts
3 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1 tablespoon Ginger Root, finely grated
¼ teaspoon Salt
Black Pepper, to taste
What the kids can do:
Remove beets from packages and rinse thoroughly, let drain thoroughly.
Place beets in food processor; just 2 or 3 quick turns using PULSE setting, for bite-size pieces. This will have to be done in batches.
Peel and separate tangerines into segments; clean white pith off as much as possible.
Chop leeks, soak raisins and grate ginger.
Place beets and tangerine segments in a large bowl, then add leeks, ginger, raisins (drained), pine nuts, olive oil, vinegar, and salt. Mix thoroughly.
What the supervising adult should do:
Be on beet watch! Melissa’s Steamed Beets takes most of the handling out of the equation; still, kids will be kids! Aprons-gloves-close supervision cannot be overemphasized with this ingredient or prepare for a dye-tie session. The only knife work is the chopping of the leeks; if your helpers are too small for this task, provide then with this ingredient already chopped or simply buy Melissa’s Cleaned & Sliced Leeks, which are pre-cut. This dish can be served immediately at room temperature, but is much better if chilled for at least an hour and BEST if stored covered in the fridge overnight.