I cant control what kind of junk my 2-year-old, Sean, eats at day care or at his grandmothers house. But Im determined to make sure he eats greens at home.
Thats where a love for vegetables was imprinted on my sister, brother, and me by my mother and Mollie Katzen, one of the founders of the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, N.Y., and the author of several cookbooks, including a classic called The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.
The EBF, published in 1982, literally puts vegetables on a pedestal. The title comes from a dish in which cooked broccoli is embedded in a casserole of brown rice. The presentation looks like a verdant forest and makes these crucifers look and taste like something out of a fairly tale. We gobbled it up.
Fast-forward 25 years and you have this generations answer to Mollie Katzen: Jessica Seinfeld. Seinfelds cooking credentials begin and end with her being Jerry Seinfelds wife.
Jessica Seinfelds cookbook, Deceptively Delicious, assumes that all kids despise vegetables and that moms need to be sneaky if they want to get them in their diets. Her recipes suggest hiding cauliflower puree in mozzarella sticks, spinach puree in pizza and brownies, and pumpkin and squash puree in chocolate chip cupcakes. If that sounds like a mammoth amount of worknot to mention unpalatableyou are correct.
I spent last Sunday making Seinfelds chocolate chip cookies with chickpeas, and Sean rejected them right out of the oven by smashing one onto the table. Heres the head-scratcher, though: This kid loves chickpeas! He eats them like raisins, and he loves Katzens chickpea stew. What he doesnt like is chickpeas in his dessert.
And thats where Seinfelds book misses the mark. If you teach kids that foods like spinach and broccoli are so yucky they need to pulverized and hidden in cookies and cupcakes, they are never going to eat them. If you celebrate veggies in their glorious naked state, theyll learn to love them.
Heres Sean doing his nightly ritual: tossing salad and eating most of it with his fingers. Its fun for him and gratifying for me. I hope Mollie Katzen would be proud.