Tough economic times may have stalled your dreams of traveling, but that doesn't mean you can't take a gastronomical journey around the world-- in your own kitchen.
Cooking teaches kids a lot about math, science, nutrition, following directions, creativity, and, with a few diverse recipes, it can give them first-hand experience with cultures they never knew existed!
The Around the World Cookbook by Abigail Johnson Dodge offers a smorgasbord (that's Swedish for “sandwich table”) of recipes from places near and far, as well as tips and tricks for a kid's first foray into cooking.
Parents may be surprised to learn that their child is pretty adept in the kitchen, with just a little bit of training. Think separating egg whites is beyond your little chef's capabilities? Let your child give prepping a shot, with some of Johnson's kid-friendly suggestions:
Tender-skinned fruit or vegetables (like peaches or zucchini)
- Rinse under cold tap water.
- Pat dry with paper towels
Tough-skinned fruit and vegetables (like potatoes or melons)
- Rinse under cold tap water and use a vegetable brush to gently rub the skin.
- Let dry and peel or slice as directed.
- Arrange the fruit in a colander.
- Pass the colander under cold tap water several times to rinse fruit. Let fruit drain in colander.
- Spread on paper towels and let dry.
- Arrange the greens or herbs in a colander.
- Pass the colander under cold tap water several times to rinse.
- Roll up in a paper towel and gently squeeze dry.
- Holding the egg in one hand, tap the shell against the edge of a bowl. The shell will crack slightly.
- Using both hands, hold the egg over the bowl, cracked side down. Gently pull apart the shell. The yolk and the white will fall into the bowl.
- Use one half of the shell to scoop out any shell pieces.
- Be extra sure that your bowl is very, very clean. Rinse your bowl with warm water and a splash of white vinegar. (Don’t worry, you won’t taste the vinegar!) Pour the liquid out. Dry well with a paper towel.
- Holding the egg in one hand, tap the shell against the edge of a bowl.
- Hold the egg over the bowl, cracked side UP. Gently pull apart the shell, letting the whites fall into the clean bowl.
- When all the white has fallen away from the yolk, discard the yolk and shells. Repeat with remaining eggs. (Do not let any of the yolk drip into the whites or they won’t beat up properly.)
Measuring dry ingredients
- Hold a measuring spoon or a dry-measure cup firmlyin one hand.
- Lightly spoon ingredient into cup—do NOT pack down.
- Run a knife over the rim to level off the top.
- Place cup on a level countertop.
- Pour liquid into measuring cup.
- Bend down to check measuring line at eye level.
Now, let the adventure begin, with these recipes: from bouncing New Orleans, to Bohemian Paris, to the breezy tropics.
This classic Louisiana dish is a lot like Spanish paella. Some think that its name comes from the Spanish word jamon (ham), because the recipe often includes ham. Others think it came from the Creole words jhamba (gift) and laya (rice).
Makes 6 Servings
- Cutting board
- Large skillet with a lid
- Wooden spoon
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about ½ pound/225 g), cut in half to make 4 pieces
- 2 links (½ pound/225 g) andouille sausage, cut into ½-inch (1.25-cm) coins
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 (14½-ounce) can diced tomatoes (NOT drained)
- 1 cup frozen sliced okra
- 6 ounces (170 g) raw jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Heat the oil in the large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Using the tongs, turn the chicken and cook until browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Move the chicken to a plate and set aside.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add the sausage, onion, pepper, and celery. Cook, stirring frequently, until just tender, about 4 minutes.
- Add the rice, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and thyme to the skillet. Season with pepper. Stir until blended.
- Add the tomatoes and their juice and 1 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil. Stir frequently, scraping up any brown bits from the skillet.
- Add the chicken and reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer until the rice is barely tender, about 15 minutes.Carefully remove the lid. Scatter the okra and the shrimp over the top. Put the lid back on.
- Simmer until the rice is tender and the shrimp is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and carefully remove the lid. Gently toss the mixture to combine. Serve hot.
Creole vs. Cajun?
Louisiana is known for two distinct cultures: Cajun and Creole. Cajun comes from the word Acadian, which refers to the French Canadians who fled Canada when the British and French went to war. Many Cajuns ended up in rural Louisiana, and Cajun cooking is “country” food: hearty one-pot meals made from local ingredients. It’s often mixed with rice to feed more people. Creoles are descended from French and Spanish settlers who moved to New Orleans. Creole food combines local ingredients with classic French cooking styles. Both Cajun and Creole cooking use the “holy trinity” of bell pepper, onion, and celery.
A classic French Croque Monsieur (or “Mister Crunch”) is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich topped with a French cream sauce called béchamel. You can also add sliced tomatoes or use other types of cheese like blue cheese, Brie, or cheddar.
Makes 4 Servings
- Small saucepan
- Large skillet
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 5½ teaspoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Pinch of ground nutmeg
- Salt and pepper
- 8 slices sandwich bread
- 8 slices Gruyère cheese
- 8 slices baked ham
- Make the sauce: Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour. Cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is bubbling but not browned, about 2 minutes.
- Pour in the milk. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is boiling. Continue whisking and boil 2 minutes. Move the pan from the heat. Whisk in the mustard and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
- Make the sandwiches: Spread a bread slice with about 2 tablespoons sauce. On top of the sauce, arrange a slice of cheese, 2 slices of ham, and another slice of cheese. Spread 2 tablespoons more sauce and top with another slice of bread. Repeat to make 3 more sandwiches.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the skillet over low heat. Add 2 sandwiches. Cook until the bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Use a spatula to turn each sandwich and cook until the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes.
- Move the sandwiches to a plate. Press down gently on each and cut in half. Repeat with remaining butter and sandwiches. Serve right away.
This is just like the “Monsieur,” but each sandwich is served with a fried egg on top. To fry an egg, put 1 tablespoon butter in a small nonstick skillet and set over medium-low heat. While the butter is melting, crack the egg into a ramekin or small cup. When the butter is melted, pour the egg into the center of the skillet. Cook until the egg is white and the yolk jiggles slightly. Using a spatula, lift the egg from the pan and arrange on top of the Croque Monsieur.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Makes 4 Servings
“Jerk” refers to a Jamaican seasoning mix that’s rubbed on meat, chicken, seafood, or veggies before grilling. Its sweet and spicy flavor comes from spices such as cinnamon and allspice. The heat comes from Scotch bonnet peppers, which are among the hottest chiles in the world. In this version, we use cayenne—it’s just as tasty (and a little easier to find).
- Cutting board
- Broiler pan
- Aluminum foil
- Medium bowl
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- ¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1⁄8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound/450 g)
- To serve: Mango Salsa
- Arrange the oven rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the broiler to high. Line the broiler pan with foil.
- In the medium bowl, stir together the oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, thyme, allspice, and cayenne. Add the chicken breasts to the bowl, and toss to coat.
- Arrange the chicken on the prepared pan. Scrape any remaining spices from the bowl onto the chicken.
- Broil 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and set on the cooling rack.
- Using tongs, turn the chicken over. Return the pan to the oven and broil until the chicken is browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Using pot holders, remove the pan from the oven. Serve hot with the Mango Salsa.
Fruit salsas are popular in the West Indies, because fruits like mango and pineapple grow so well there. Carefully cut 2 large mangoes in half, around the pit. Scoop out the flesh and cut up into small pieces. In a medium bowl, combine the mango with ¼ cup diced red bell pepper, ¼ cup diced red onion, ¼ cup chopped cilantro, 1 teaspoon minced jalapeño, 1 tablespoon lime juice, salt, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until serving.