If you’d like to know what’s going on in the world of new foods, look no further than the cafeteria at Martin Luther King Junior High School in Berkeley, California, whose menus go way beyond the classic chicken tenders and pizza. You will see items such as raita and quinoa, which kids love but parents may not even know how to pronounce. Try out a few of these so-called “new-age” foods. They might be popping up at your child’s school sooner than you think.
- Quinoa. Pronounced “KEEN-wah,” this edible seed with a nutty flavor from South America is sometimes mistaken for a grain. It is kid-friendly in two ways because it cooks fast and contains no gluten. Quick Recipe: Bring 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water to a boil, reduce heat, simmer covered for 20 minutes. Season with a splash of lemon juice.
- Kale. Popular for its high levels of antioxidants, fiber and vitamins, this European cabbage has dark, crinkled leaves and a peppery flavor. Quick Recipe: Cut into half-inch pieces, steam for 5 minutes, toss with pasta, olive oil and feta cheese.
- Seitan. This Asian meat substitute is made from wheat gluten rather than the more familiar tofu, made from soybeans. Quick Recipe: Brush slices of seitan with olive oil, grill over moderate heat for no more than 5 minutes on each side, brush with barbeque sauce.
- Kim chi (kim chee). This spicy veggie dish is a staple of Korean cuisine. It can also be used as a salad, appetizer or vegetarian filling for flat breads such as tortillas and pita. Quick Recipe: A flavorful but unfermented variation of kim chi from the White House vegetable garden: Wash and slice one small head of Napa cabbage, add half a cup of salt, mix and refrigerate overnight. Rinse the leaves and squeeze out excess moisture. Add 1 teaspoon each minced fresh ginger and garlic. Thinly slice 1 radish, 2 scallions and 2 Thai chilis (or substitute 2 tablespoons chili powder) and add. Mix all ingredients, place in an airtight jar and store in the refrigerator.
- Tempeh. This high-protein meat substitute is like a grainy, stiffer version of tofu, made with whole soybeans. It’s been around in Indonesia for centuries. Quick Recipe: Slice up some tempeh and marinate in a sauce of your choice for a few hours, up to a day. Bake it and use it as a meat substitute in whatever you want, such as spaghetti.
- Edamame. Widely used in Asia as a healthy snack, these green soybeans in the pod provide the triple benefit of protein, fiber and micronutrients. Quick Recipe: Boil edamame pods in a pot of water for 5 minutes, drain in a colander, place in a bowl and toss with low-salt soy sauce, lemon juice and sesame oil.
- Raita. Often served with spicy dishes in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, these cool cucumbers in yogurt can be used as a sauce or dip. Quick Recipe: Peel and remove seeds from a cucumber. Place the finely diced cucumber on paper towels, lightly salt and drain for half an hour. Stir the cucumber into a cup of plain, low-fat yogurt, preferably thick, Greek-style. Season with cumin and chopped mint or cilantro.
- Tahini. Looking for a delicious snack with no cholesterol? This Middle Eastern paste made from ground sesame seeds is great whirred in the food processor with a can of chick peas and spread on crackers or pita bread. Quick Recipe: Roast 1 cup of sesame seeds on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool seeds then whir in food processor with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, depending on desired consistency.
- Almond Milk. This lactose-free, cholesterol-free alternative to dairy has long been known in Europe and the Middle East. Quick Recipe: Soak 1 cup of shelled raw almonds in 3 cups water overnight, then whir in a food processor or blender. Strain milk through cheesecloth. Use the almond pulp in cereal, cookies, etc.
- Hawaiian Barbeque. Also called “plate lunch,” this take-out food, already popular in Hawaii and Asia, provides an opportunity to sample items from Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean cuisines. Quick Recipe: Serve a scoop of rice with saimin (soft wheat noodles) and Asian-inspired entrees such as beef teriyaki and chicken katsu (boneless chicken fried in bread crumbs).
- Nut Butters. Just about any nut can be ground into a paste and mixed with oil until it’s spreadable. This idea originated in South America and Africa. The with-it kid is just as interested in almond, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia or walnut butter as good old peanut butter. Quick Recipe: Whir 1 cup of cashews in the food processor with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 30 seconds. Scrape bowl then whir for another 60 to 90 seconds, adding oil 1 teaspoon at a time until smooth.
- Strata. If you have some leftover bread that needs to be refreshed, this American comfort food is the way to go. The result is a savory casserole made with layers of bread and cheese in an egg and milk custard that is a surefire kid-pleaser. Quick Recipe: Cut 6 slices of bread into cubes and place them in an oiled casserole. Sprinkle with 4 ounces of shredded cheese. Add a custard made of 2 cups milk and 4 eggs beaten together and seasoned with half a teaspoon of dry mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 cup of diced cooked chicken, broccoli or other vegetables. Refrigerate overnight. Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
These recipes are quick and kid-friendly. Invite your child into the kitchen to help you make these delicious, healthy foods from around the world. Even young children can learn about fractions as well as cooking by measuring ingredients. Fundamentals like washing fresh vegetables before use, regulating temperature so oil doesn’t get too hot, and safe storage of food after it’s cooked can be learned as part of the pleasant experience of getting to know the world through its tasty foods.