Burning Down the House: Eat Fresh Foods

Gold, Rozanne and her All-Star Team. Eat Fresh Food: Awesome Recipes for Teen Chefs. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.

This month, J.K., 14, made recipes from Eat Fresh Food by Rozanne Gold and her All-Star Team, or, as Gold explains in the cookbook’s introduction, her team of “happy sous-chefs ranging in age from nine to nineteen.”

J.K. has been making recipes from this cookbook for the last couple of years, but it really only got my attention in June when she made a Father’s Day dinner featuring four dishes plus a drink, all from this book.

Family members had given her and her brother various cookbooks for kids over the years, but this was the first one geared to teens. While J.K. doesn’t feel the need to now try out a whole bunch of cookbooks for teens, she does recommend Eat Fresh Food. What she likes about it are the “artsy photos” of the food and that “all the recipes are really thorough, yet simple to make – and they were all good.”

I like the little circle emblazoned on the cover that says: “Cook this book!” (I’m not sure how many teens will get the Abbie Hoffman reference.) I like the photos, too, though I prefer the photos of the face-less kids, maybe because of the artsy factor or because this allows for more possibilities of who they might be. For example: five kids shown from the elbows down, wearing white chef shirts and baggy pants holding cooking implements; seven hands holding ground-up herbs and spices; a pair of hands chopping rosemary; a hand holding a hunk of bread with sweet carrot jam; and many photos of hands chopping, slicing, and dicing.

Another thing I liked about Eat Fresh Food is the menu suggestions for various holidays and other occasions. A couple of the menus which sounded good to me were New Year’s Breakfast (“Pink Flamingo” Yogurt Smoothie, Ultra-Thin Breakfast Crepes with Fresh Blueberry Syrup, Grape-and-Pignoli Breakfast Cake, and Mulled Red Cider) and Picnic in the Park (Juicy Red Gazpacho, Guacamole with Jicama Pick-up Sticks, Tuna-Pasta Nicoise with Sweet Peas, Overnight Vegetable Tabbouleh, Olive Oil-Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Watermelon Lemonade). I know these recipes are great because J.K. has made some of them. 

All four of us liked every selection J.K. made for the Father’s Day Feast. She started us off with Irene’s Agua Fresca, a delicious Mexican cantaloupe drink that was so good I couldn’t believe we were getting to drink it in our own backyard.

Next up was Very Fresh Vegetable Soup, about which J.K. commented, “This is so, so healthy. It might actually taste good. I don’t normally like healthy things.” She also noted that “there’s no butter or oil in it. This is like the healthiest thing you could have other than plain vegetables.” The soup also contained a bunch of “things we don’t normally have,” such as butternut squash, parsnips, and fennel.

Next was salad, more technically known as “Spring “Create Your Own Seasonal ‘House’ Salad”. The salad page has four recipes, one for each season; each begins with six ounces of mixed baby lettuces or mesclun as a base, “enough dressing to just coat” (the cookbook also provides recipes), and salt and pepper. Along with adding the desired specified seasonal ingredients, “you can turn any of your ‘house’ salads into a main course by adding strips of juicy grilled chicken, fresh seared tuna, or steamed or roasted vegetables.”

The official Spring Salad recipe calls for “quartered strawberries; grilled asparagus; spring onions; thinly sliced fennel; quickly-cooked sugar snaps; julienned snow peas; watercress; Vidalia onions; and chives.” J.K.’s simpler version had strawberries, mixed greens, and chives, and was great, with the strawberries being the key delicious feature. 

J.K. commanded us to “relax and tell anecdotes” while she sautéed the fish for the Great Fish Tacos. (She had already gotten everything else ready to go.)

Though the fish tacos (cabbage, tomatoes, avocado, lime, and fish coated with spices) were both beautiful and delicious, J.K. thought they would have been better with soft corn tortillas because the hard crunchy ones were “insanely painful” with her braces. The rest of us didn’t mind.

Having run out of suitable anecdotes, we concluded our meal with Fresh and Spicy Cherry Ices, a cherry sorbet made with five-spice powder and lemon juice, which had just the right sweetness. J.K. thought it tasted like plums.

Normally after such a long meal (or after any meal, really), Ollie, our bearded dragon, would have chimed in with some cranky comment regarding the contents. For the Father’s Day feast, having acted as J.K.’s sous-chef, Ollie had already insulted the cook to her heart’s content. At the meal itself, like the rest of us, she now found herself pleasantly satisfied.