Every child, teenager and young adult should be taught how to cook. Period.
It empowers them, allows them to lead healthier lives, and makes them more resourceful, independent, and appreciative, not to mention even more popular with their friends.
If you can cook a meal for yourself, no matter how simple, you have a leg up on life.
I know some of my most cherished memories still revolve around stirring up scrambled eggs in a frying pan with my Dad when I could barely peer over the stovetop; and thumbing through cookbooks with my older brother to figure out which cookie recipe we would try out as he baby-sat me during summer afternoons.
Carolyn Federman of Berkeley knows the power and importance of such a life skill. She is the founder of the Charlie Cart Project, a nonprofit that provides resources for food education in schools through the use of a mobile kitchen. She previously led efforts by Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyard Project and consulted on program development for the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation.
Her new cookbook, “New Favorites for New Cooks: 50 Delicious Recipes for Kids to Make” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, will inspire you to get in the kitchen with your kids, nieces or nephews to get cooking.
These are recipes easy enough to do together, but what I appreciate is that they are not necessarily dumbed down for the plainest or pickiest palate. Instead they have enough interesting flavor combinations to keep adults interested, too. That’s evident in recipes such as “Brown Sugar Polenta’’ for breakfast, “Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce,’’ “Old-Fashioned Ginger Ale,’’ and “Piece-of-Cake Lemon Cake.’’
“Pan-Fried Flatbreads with Spiced Butter’’ is sure to please everyone in your household. Kids will love kneading the soft dough. It’s a rather sticky dough, though, so if you have a Silpat mat, use it with a little flour strewn over it.
The dough is divided into balls that get flattened before being fried in a pan, where they puff up here and there as they cook.
They taste a little like pita bread. The spiced butter is what makes them special. A blend of soft butter stirred up with turmeric, cumin and paprika, it’s smoky, earthy and just a little spicy, but not so much as to turn off the little eaters in the house. Spread it on thick over a warm flatbread and prepare to enjoy a most flavorful bite.
The wee ones are sure to get a big kick, making it themselves, too.
Pan-Fried Flatbreads with Spiced Butter
(Makes 10 flatbreads)
For the spiced butter:
¼ cup unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika or chile powder
For the flatbread:
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup whole-wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon sugar
¾ cup water
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon olive oil
To make the spiced butter: Cut the butter into small cubes and set them in a bowl on the counter to soften.
In a second bowl, combine the salt, turmeric, cumin, and paprika and mix until they are blended. Mix the spices into the softened butter with a small spoon.
To make the flatbread: In a medium bowl, whisk together the 1 cup all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, sugar, and ½ teaspoon salt. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water, yogurt, and olive oil. Mix in the wet ingredients with a wooden spoon, then, with clean hands, bring the dough together and form it into a ball.
Dust ½ teaspoon all-purpose flour over a cutting board. Put the dough on the cutting board and knead it for 2 minutes. (Work your bread muscles! Press firmly with the heel of your hand into the dough, pushing it away from you.) If the dough sticks to your hands, lightly dust your hands with flour. When the dough is smooth, put it back in the bowl, cover it with a damp clean kitchen towel and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Break off a golf ball-size piece of the dough and roll it into a ball. On a clean cutting board, use a rolling pin to flatten the ball to about a 1/8-inch thickness – about as thick as a quarter. Rotate the bread a half turn after each roll to keep the shape round. If the dough sticks, dust the rolling pin with a pinch of flour. Repeat with the rest of the dough. As the breads are rolled out, set them onto the prepared baking sheet, side by side.
Heat an ungreased griddle to 350 degrees (or a heavy skillet to high). Drop a bead of water in the pan; if the water sizzles and evaporates (disappears), the pan is ready.
Using a spatula, add the breads two or three at a time and cook until a few brown spots appear and small bubbles of air form in the dough,, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a large plate and, once all the breads are fried, turn off the stove.
Serve the flatbreads warm, with a generous smear of spiced butter and an extra sprinkle of salt.
From “New Favorites for New Cooks’’ by Carolyn Federman
Another Dish With Flavored Butter: Broiled Fish with Lemon Curry Butter