Cook with the family!
Breakfast or Dinner
Chopping, whisking, frying, baking or sautéing...In my own family, both my brother and brother-in-law are devoted and conscientious cooks, and recently they have begun inviting their sons to pull on an apron, pull out a pan and experiment with Dad. My husband is charming on certain holidays when he decides to make us shirred eggs - and what a perfectionist! He pulls his creation out of the oven beautifully cooked, golden yellow and bathed in butter.
Now the whole point is that it really is quite fun watching the prep but also partaking - mutual effort which then brings you to the table for mutual enjoyment. French toast is a fun choice for family breakfast. For a family of four, start with sliced pieces of your favourite bread, (especially a thick country white or perhaps cinnamon raisin) a bowl of six eggs with a good splash of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a smidgen of sugar. Little hands may break the eggs into the bowl; others may whisk the swirling yellow mixture. All the little hands will want to dip the bread into the egg mixture for a soaking, then sturdy adult hands can turn on the stove, choose a large frying pan, melt some butter and begin to gently fry the mushy bread - about a minute or so per side. Heat your maple syrup a little; then it's off to the table and you have a delicious sweet feast slathered in that golden elixir.
So what about dinner time? When I realized that I had to learn to cook, I turned to Jamie Oliver for his fun and clear recipes. There is one in particular that is extremely simple, delicious and certainly amusing for the little contributing hands of the family. This is a spaghetti dinner that serves three or four and it comes from one of the original books called Happy Days With The Naked Chef. The recipe is titled "Spaghetti with Sweet Cherry Tomatoes, Marjoram and Extra Virgin Olive Oil." (By the way, the 'naked' refers to Oliver's approach to cooking : stripped back, that is, fresh and uncomplicated, so he states)
At the end of a busy day most families have little time to concoct something time-consuming. So begin by filling a large pasta pot with water and add a small handful of salt. The fun part now begins. Slice about 15 cherry tomatoes in half and dump them into a large bowl. Add two good handfuls of either fresh marjoram or basil leaves, discarding the stems. Add 6-8 glugs of olive oil (a glug is equivalent to about a tablespoon), a smashed or very finely sliced garlic clove, and 1 tablespoon of red or white wine vinegar. Grind some salt and pepper to your liking. Now ask those little hands if they are washed and lower them into the bowl to begin a gentle mish-mash massage of the contents. Don't slaughter the tomatoes but get them squished and mixed with the herbs and oil. When the water comes to a roiling boil, add in one pound of spaghetti, give a quick stir so as not to stick, and leave it to boil uncovered for about 7-9 minutes. Drain the water and flip the wet noodles into the big tomato bowl, mix and serve. THAT'S IT!
The last point to make is that these same ingredients, if all heaped into a blender or Cuisinart, will produce a thick mush. Pour this mush into the big bowl, add the spaghetti and you'll have almost created a second recipe. I did this once because I was too lazy to slice each tomato and had the Cuisinart staring me down. I need a chemist to explain how precisely the same ingredients change flavour in bulk form versus mulch form.
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