|Kyra's Law: kale is a vegetable only eaten raw. On a hammock. Otherwise it's poison.|
In the late spring, we three dinner co-op chefs met recently to check in, make sure everyone was feeling good with the food and to taste-test the fancy artisanal bitters one of them had recently brought home (verdict: mmmmmmmmm...)
It's been three years of cooking together and while we have kept the ground rules loose, we have come to recognize that there are a few secrets to success in terms of cooking for both adults and young kids worth sharing:
- Dinners where you can build your own dish are always the most popular, like falafel, fish tacos, fajitas, thai lettuce wraps, that sort of thing.
- When possible, we keep ingredients separate. Kids are weird. But if they will eat the bolognese if it's three inches away from the pasta, then I will deliver sauce and pasta in two different containers. No big deal.
- It seems like across all our families, kids will be most receptive to veggies when they are raw. That doesn't mean we don't go ahead and cook them into whatever dish is planned, but we tend to get creative with salads and veggie side dishes.
- We all agreed that while no one likes everything, having this variety put before them is turning our kids (and us) into very flexible, and increasingly adventurous eaters and that's a huge bonus to an already wonderful life-simplifier.
With that, we clinked cocktails and decided to go with a month of themed dinners. Each of us would cook one cuisine. I chose Greek. The others have gone with French and Italian, respectively. This menu is the first of four Greek-themed menus and features lamb and fava, a traditional pureed dish of the Aegean Islands (particularly Santorini) made with split peas and rich with olive oil.
Lamb Sausage, Fava and Greek Salad
The lamb sausage recipe is definitely greek-inspired but I found it in a Bon Appetit column written by one of my favorite food bloggers, Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. It's delicious, simple and the essence of Greek flavor minus martyring yourself for six hours in the kitchen. Fava is a split pea dish of the Cyclades, nourishing and deeply delicious and for the life of me, I cannot understand why more people don't know about it. I would have been among them if it wasn't for my stepmother who hails from Samos and makes a mean fava. As for the Greek salad, I provide no recipe but just chop tomatoes, cucumbers with sliced sweet peppers and onions, crumble in feta, and drown in olive oil. All of this, of course, begs for a loaf of crusty bread.
(serves 12, adapted from this February 2008 Bon Appetit recipe)
- 4 1/2 pounds cup ground lamb shoulder
- 6 large garlic cloves, pressed
- 3 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Place lamb in large bowl. Sprinkle garlic and salt over. Gently toss lamb to blend. Combine feta and mint in small bowl.
- Divide lamb into 36 equal mounds. Using damp hands, shape each into ball. Working with 1 ball at a time, poke thumb into center to make hole. Press 1 teaspoon feta-mint filling into hole. Pinch hole closed, then press ball between palms to flatten into 3/4-inch-thick disk. Repeat with remaining lamb and feta-mint filling. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer to baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate).
- Preheat oven to 250°F. Heat olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, cook lamb sausages until browned on both sides and cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium. Transfer sausages to rimmed baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm. Serve hot.
(serves 12, recipe adapted from The Olive and the Caper)
The key to this dish is the tastiest olive oil you can get your hands on. Otherwise, you can customize the toppings to suit your interest but I will encourage the use of a briny topping to balance the earthiness of the split peas. My personal favorite is capers.
6 cups yellow split peas
2 large onions, peeled
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons olive oil
6 quarts water
2 teaspoons salt
- Rinse the peas under cold water in a colander, drain and add to a large pot. Add the onion (whole), garlic and water.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer briskly, uncovered, until the peas are almost tender and much of the water is gone, about an hour.
- Partially cover the pot, reduce heat to a gentler simmer and continue cooking until the peas stir into almost a puree. The texture should be like think porridge.
- Top with a generous drizzle of olive oil and any of the toppings below. You can customize the toppings to suit your tastes but I strongly encourage the use of a briny or pickled topping to balance the earthiness of the split peas. My personal favorite is capers.
pickled red onions