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Simple Sides: Tangerines

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 centered around one seasonal fresh produce item that a child can contribute 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 decide the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where help 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 your children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your kids will build memories that remain in all of your hearts forever.
Image of Organic Tangerines
Here are two extremely simple recipes that are packed with basic cooking techniques that your young helpers will definitely carry with them as they grow up and into their own kitchens. Both recipes use the flavor of tangerine juice, rather than fruit in its whole form, to demonstrate that these little bundles of flavor can be a lot more than just an easy-to-peel hand fruit.

Recipe I
Here’s a tasty dish that will teach your kids how to make fluffy and flavorful rice by simply substituting the water, usually listed on the rice package, for broth and tangerine juice. Even your youngest sous chef, armed with a very dull (safe) knife, could do the only knife work in this recipe of thin-slicing the green onions tops. The other few ingredients in this one only need measuring and mixing into the finished rice. This is a wonderfully basic recipe that can be used to get a young child interested in cooking. In fact, the only task that should be done by the adult in the room is the actual stovetop tending to the cooking rice. The results are a yummy side dish that your youngest will be able to take all the credit for at the family table!

Recipe II
The concepts of reduction and emulsion are the culinary lessons of this recipe. To demonstrate the reason for cooking down two cups of juice into a concentrate, conduct a “before” and “after” boiling taste test of the juice; assign and supervise your oldest kitchen helper to tend and stir the juice as it reduces in volume and thickens in consistency. In this case, it is a good thing to watch a pot boil!

Teaching your young chefs how to make mayo -- or aioli by adding minced garlic -- is certainly a life lesson that will never be forgotten. Homemade mayonnaise is so superior over store-bought that there is no comparison; adding natural tangerine flavor makes it doubly good. The key to the process mayo making is the other take home message of this recipe, developing some culinary patience. Specifically, when the recipe calls for just a few drops of oil to start the emulsion process, it means just that - a few drops, increasing very gradually to a constant but slow drizzle for as long as it takes and, most importantly, not hurrying this process. Since some kids are at a fidgety stage of their own development, it is suggested that this pouring of the oil be supervised closely. This is another yummy dish that belies its very simple ingredient list. Happy peeling!

Recipe I
Tangerine Rice
Serves 4

1½ cup Chicken Broth
1 cup Tangerine Juice
1 cup Long-Grain Brown Rice
¼ cup Pine Nuts
½ cup Dried Cranberries
½ cup Green Onion Tops, sliced thin
Salt to taste

What kids can do:
  1. Squeeze the juice and strain to remove pulp.
  2. Measure out all ingredients.
  3. Combine, broth, tangerine juice and rice in a medium-sized saucepan.
  4. Simmer on low heat, covered, until all liquid is absorbed, about 40 minutes.
  5. Stir in pine nuts, dried cranberries and onion tops.
  6. Season with salt to taste.
What supervising adult should do:
  1. Supervise an older child with the knife work of slicing the tangerines for juicing, as well as the green onion tops. When the rice is ready, pour the hot rice into a large bowl and let the kids mix the rest of the ingredients into the bowl. Serve family style in a serving dish.
Recipe II
Roasted Asparagus with Tangerine Mayo
Serves 4

2 cups Tangerine Juice, freshly squeezed
2 Tangerines
1 cup Pure Olive Oil
1 pound Asparagus
2ounces Balsamic Vinegar
Sea salt and Ground Pepper, to taste

What the kids can do:
  1. Juice the tangerines and strain all pulp.
  2. Put the juice in a small nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil.
  3. Cook until reduced to ½ cup and let cool to room temperature.
  4. Trim one inch off bottom of asparagus.
  5. Spread the asparagus out on a roasting sheet, generously coat with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  6. Peel and segment the two tangerines, removing all the white pith, chill in refrigerator.
  7. Combine the reduced juice, egg yolk, and salt and pepper to taste in a blender or food processor and mix well.
  8. With the machine running, add the olive oil very slowly; at first by drops and then, as mixture emulsifies, in a thin, steady stream until all the oil is incorporated.
  9. Refrigerate until needed.
  10. Place asparagus on a serving platter, top with mayo and garnish with tangerine segments.
What the supervising adult should do:
  1. The only knife work in this recipe is slicing the tangerines in half for juicing and trimming the asparagus; both easy jobs for an older child at your discretion. Once the kids have prepared the asparagus in step #4, roast at 400° until they just begin to brown slightly. Definitely oversee the pouring of the olive oil – it needs to be done very slowly.
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