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Cooking with Kids: A World Tour

French Onion soup (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

We live in a new reality. A pandemic has invaded our normal.

The calendar’s blank. No meetings. No outings with friends. Even doctors’ appointments have mostly been rescheduled.

We’re home. Parents are working from home and kids are learning from home. And we’re cooking at home more than ever.

We’re also being entertained at home. We’ve had home movies and television for a long time, but now musicians are doing concerts on YouTube and Facebook. Many museums and art galleries can be viewed online.

For a fun and educational indoor activity with your whole family, why not choose a country to explore. You can do this all virtually. Do a short history and geography lesson. Listen to their music. Find a singer, songwriter or composer from this country. Who are their sports heroes? Do they have famous artists or dancers? Watch a movie or read a book about the country. Learn a few words from their language. And (because after all this is a cooking column) prepare a meal together and enjoy it.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Italy is easy — we have so much Italian food to choose from! Cook a homemade pizza ‘from scratch’ or make spaghetti. Or pasta with pesto. Or minestrone soup. Learn some Roman myths. Listen to Italian opera. Search out art by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo or other painters from the Italian Renaissance. Read William Steig’s Pete’s a Pizza with the little ones.

Want to visit France? Make crepes for breakfast or ratatouille for supper. Watch the 2007 Disney film Ratatouille. For older kids, watch the movie Julie and Julia and learn about French chef Julia Child and French cuisine. Visit the Louvre Museum online.

Go farther east. India? Pair Midsummer Mayhem (grade level 3 – 7) by Rajani Larocca with Indian food like curry or dhal. Korea? Picture books about Korean food include Bee Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park, Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin, and No kimchee for me by Aram Kim. You can even learn some Korean words in My First Book of Korean Words: An ABC Rhyming Book by Kyubyong Park. Prepare some of the foods in these books.

Go south to Latin America. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo is a young adult novel with lots of Latin cuisine mixed in. Visit Columbia. Listen to music by Carlos Vives, read books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and make Colombian eggs –Huevos Pericos y Calentado.

There are so many ethnic foods you can learn to prepare. Japanese sushi. Korean kimchi. Asian stir-fry. Chinese dumplings. Middle-Eastern Falafel, Glumpki – Stuffed cabbage with all its central European variations from Romania north to Germany, Poland and Russia. Wiener schnitzel from Germany. Shepard’s pie from Ireland or Scotland.

Or do various breads: French baguette, Middle-Eastern pita, Indian naan or chapatti, Mexican tortillas. Or soups: Chinese won-ton soup, French Onion, Italian minestrone, Ukrainian borscht, Scotch broth, Irish stew, Greek avgolemono, Spanish gazpacho, Vietnamese Pho.

Huevos Pericos y Calentado

(Scrambled Eggs with Tomato and Scallions)

This quick and easy dish is one of the most popular holiday breakfasts in Colombia. It is often made for birthdays, Christmas, Easter, and other special days. Serve it with coffee and hot chocolate and toast or arepas.

I have seen similar recipes in cookbooks, one called David’s Tomato Breakfast from the 1970s cookbook, Grow it and cook it by French-American author Jacqueline Heriteau. That recipe adds bacon and garlic but omits scallions.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

4 tablespoons chopped scallions (about 1 or 2 scallions)

4 eggs

Salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Preparation:

1. In a medium non-stick skillet heat the oil over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and scallions and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl beat the eggs and salt. Pour the eggs in the skillet with the tomato mixture and cook over medium heat, without stirring, until mixture begins to set.

3. Stir twice or until the eggs mix with the tomato and scallions for about 2 minutes or until the eggs are the consistency you like.

4. Transfer to a serving plate. In Colombia, these are served with arepa, a type of unleavened maize bread, and hot chocolate or coffee.

Serves 4.

Soupe a l’Oignon (French Onion Soup)

(Recipe provided by Anne Sterling of the Left Bank Cafe and professor at Paul Smith’s College)

“At the Left Bank Cafe we cook the onions separately so that either beef or vegetable broth can be added. The trick to a rich flavor is to caramelize the onions by cooking over a high enough heat in a heavy pot to release the sweetness and brown them well. (The onion mixture can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.)”

Ingredients:

One medium yellow onion per person (peeled and cut into medium slices)

Olive oil

Salt (kosher or sea salt)

Freshly ground pepper

Thyme (fresh or dried)

½ cup dry white wine per serving

1 cup of broth per serving (beef or vegetable or simply water)

1 slice of bread per serving

½ cup grated cheese per serving (¼ lb) – (preferably Gruyere of another Swiss-type cheese)

Directions:

Pour enough oil in the bottom of a heavy pot to cover the bottom.

Add the onions and season lightly with (good) salt, pepper and thyme.

Allow the onions to stick a little and brown then stir and continue to cook over medium high heat until evenly dark golden brown.

Dissolve the “onion-y goodness” that is on the bottom of the pot with white wine and simmer until the wine is absorbed into the onions.

Add broth, season to taste and bring to a simmer.

Fill the crocks with the hot soup, add a slice of French baguette and top with cheese.

Place under the broiler until the cheese is brown and bubbly. If you do not have oven proof crocks to melt the cheese under the broiler, a “tartine” of cheese on bread can be toasted under the broiler separately then set on top of a cup or bowl of steaming onion broth.

Bon Appetit!

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. Find her on Facebook at Words are my world or contact her via email at yvonawrite@yahoo.com.

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