Earlier this year, we committed to cooking more, ordering in less, and feeding our entire family (Little Lady included) from a single menu. It had started to seem incongruous, absurd even, that we were eating takeout chicken tikka for supper while our kid dined on organic asparagus risotto that we’d painstakingly prepared. The Little Lady’s rosy pink cheeks and shining eyes glowed with health while we looked, well, a tad puffy and depleted. There was no reason why we couldn’t use the time we dedicated to cooking our child’s meals to prepare a wholesome, homemade meal the entire family could enjoy.
There have been some real successes thus far: watching the Little Lady devour Moroccan vegetable tajine (with turmeric!), seeing her satisfied grin as she realizes we’re eating the same thing!, and just last night, hearing her screeching hungrily for a second serving of…herb pesto?! We can’t believe it either. It helps that our kid is culinarily adventurous — the only food she’s ever refused is Greek yogurt — and that right now she’s eager to try just about anything she sees mommy doing. (That’s another conversation entirely. Shudder.) Until the Little Lady develops a toddler’s desire for independence and control (and hot dogs), we plan to make the most of this sweet spot for shared family suppers.
Last night’s menu? Summer ratatouille (modifying this recipe from The Kitchn because the Hus-b is bratty about eggplant) and simple grilled chicken marinated in homemade herb pesto (using this recipe from Bon Appétit sans pine nuts because — guess who? — the Hus-b is also bratty about pine nuts). Ratatouille makes for a brilliant family supper because the prep time is minimal, the vegetables can be cooked down to a softness appropriate for infant table food, and the leftovers freeze and reheat beautifully. (This is one of those dishes you should *always* double and stock in your freezer.)
Fresh herbs going bad in the fridge is a personal pet peeve, so after buying a slew of herbs to make green goddess dressing last weekend, we had a feeling that pesto was going to happen soon, too. So we were delighted to find a recipe that incorporated basil, Italian parsley and tarragon — it used up most of our stash and was a pleasant riff on this customarily basil-centric dish. The recipe doesn’t call for it, but be sure to quickly blanch your basil so the pesto turns out a vibrant, lovely green. We used a small amount of pesto to marinate our chicken and garnish the dish (as well as for bagel dipping per the Little Lady’s ardent demands), and stored the remainder in our refrigerator with a thin surface layer of olive oil which prevents the pesto from turning an unsightly brown. Fresh pesto is an extraordinarily useful item to have on hand: toss it with some warm pasta and grilled vegetables (another kid-friendly dish), whisk it into some white wine vinegar and olive oil for a fresh salad dressing, or top crostini with goat cheese and a dollop of pesto for an effortless appetizer.
Still have some chopped herbs left on your cutting block? Please don’t throw them out or doom them to the back corner of your crisper; make compound butter! Just soften a stick of butter, dump it into a bowl and mix in the chopped herbs (we use our hands). Shape the compound butter into a log using a length of parchment paper, twist off the ends and refrigerate. That’s it. Now you have a herbaceous butter ideal for coating roast chicken, topping a fish filet en papillote, or buttering some seriously fabulous herbed garlic bread.
We’re feeling so emboldened by the success of these homemade family meals that we decided to join a CSA! Our first delivery of produce from Eatwell Farm arrives next week and we are totally ready to crack into it. There’s a certain amount of pressure associated with receiving this massive crate of produce and not wanting it to rot miserably in our fridge, but with our entire family on board, I think we may just be up to the task.