A nutrition researcher at the U of M was on MPR today talking about childhood obesity. She introduced a relatively new term, which identifies an issue facing adolescent populations today. “Food illiteracy”. She told a story about a 9 year old boy to whom she was providing dinner. She placed a baked potato in front of the kid.
“What’s that” The child asked, totally ignorant of the relationship between the brown crusty thing on his plate and his favorite side dish which comes in waffle, shoe string, steak, seasoned, and chili cheese variety.
I confess, I didn’t actually hear the program first hand. I was walking back from the gym, watching a squirrel greedily dig up a hidden stash of acorns, and marvelling about how similar his stare down resembled that of a park junky. The phone buzzing in my pocket caught me off guard. I hit the green button.
“Oh hi” I said. In an era of caller ID there is no need for formalities.
“Do you realize that some kids don’t even know what a potato looks like?” Christina launched right into her reason for calling.
“I am not surprised” I said, remembering my experience working with the Minneapolis high school kids on a farm.
“Will you go and pick some basil for me?” I once asked a kid.
“Whazzit look like?” he replied, puzzled.
“Well, um, it’s green and..” Words failed me. The baggy clothed student cocked his head to the side and rolled his eyes and said.
“howm I supposed to find that. It’s ALL green out dere!”
“Okay I’ll come with you” I said, slightly bitter because I did not want to leave the stove. We shuffled out into the field, and I felt my bitterness fade as I watched the kid bend down and pick the leaves I pointed to. He brought them to his nose and sniffed a little.
“Damn, that smells goooood” he said (I didn’t want to break the moment to scold him for swearing, so I let it slide). We filled our basket with basil, and went back into the kitchen. He clutched a sprig of basil in his hand for the entire rest of the day, wafting it in front of his friends, braving the risk of being taunted, and teaching them how to read in the language of food.
B is for basil and burdock
Peel and shred (using the shredder attachment on a food processor makes this process easy)
3 burdock root pieces (about 1 foot long)
5 large sweet carrots
In a large frying pan, heat
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil (or just use 2 Tbsp toasted sesame if you love the flavor)
add the shredded burdock and carrot and
4 cloves of minced garlic
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp mirin
cook for about 15 min on medium to high heat, stirring constantly. Turn the heat off and add 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds and 1 tsp rice vinegar
This is a slightly different version of the traditional Japanese dish, I am told that the Japanese do not use vinegar and add a bit of sugar to their recipe.
Basil and citrus honey mustard dressing on chopped romaine
In a large salad bowl, whisk
the juice from 1 lemon
the juice from 1/2 orange
2 tsp honey
2 tsp grey poupon Dijon mustard (I considered using wasabi, but I couldn’t find any in my cupboard)
1 1/2 tsp french basil
1/2 tsp ume plum vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped leeks
When the dressing is thoroughly mixed, add about 1/2 a large bunch of chopped romaine lettuce. Season with salt and pepper (and orange zest if you want to get fancy)
Rinse and pat with a paper towel until it is EXTREMELY dry 12 oz of salmon (assuming 2 very hungry people are eating this dinner) Now, here is my salmon trick. Coat the bottom of your frying pan with olive oil, and heat the pan until it is really hot, almost smoking. Place the whole fish face down in the oil and immediately shuffle the pan a little so it doesn’t stick. It is really important that the fish is dry, because otherwise the oil will pop up and burn you (and you get a better brown that way). Cook for about 1 min, then flip to the skin side and do the same thing. Remove from the pan and place into a baking dish. Squeeze the juice from 1 orange on top. Add the whites from 2 leeks, some salt, pepper, and orange zest. Shake about 1/2 tsp of soy sauce on top. Sprinkle lightly with brown sugar (as though it were salt). Bake at 350 for about 15 min (or 12-18 min, less if you prefer it pink, more if you like it a little well).
Christina’s vote: I would consider doing time for this dinner.