Wednesday, October 21, 2009

apples and eaters

One of the many treats of the season is apple cider. I buy it from the farmer's markets and drink it on the spot. If I neglect to drink it I find it begins to get fizzy within days, which is quite wonderful because it means there are no preservatives and it is ALL NATURAL! Love that sour sweet taste. Don't really love the fizzies. So I buy small containers and use it up quick.

Deborah Madison, the goddess of all things natural in cooking has a fantastic recipe for winter squash braised in apple cider. It was an instant winner in my kitchen when I first tried it a few years ago. This is a recipe which I think would freeze well and it is a very very very wonderful addition to the Thanksgiving table.
A skill I picked up in kindergarten; I love to collect Fall leaves and make arrangements.

One of my friends has very rightly scolded me about my last post where I discounted children from the head count of sophisticated eaters at my holiday table. If you can get your kids to eat everything presented to them, well more power to you. I for one, encourage everyone to try. Healthy eating habits are so important to develop. In that spirit I am going to add one extra leek to the baking dish this year and cut it into eleven pieces and place a piece on each child's plate. Hopefully at least one of them will look up at me and smile.
Butternut squash growing from a hanging vine at Liberty Sunset Garden Center in Red Hook, Brooklyn

Butternut Squash Braised in Apple Cider
-adapted from the recipe in Deborah Madison's book Local Flavors
1 Tbs. Butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 cups apple cider

melt butter and oil in a saute pan, add squash and cook, stirring to coat all the squash with the butter and oil for about 5 minutes, till the squash begins to soften. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes until the squash is tender. Uncover and allow the  cider to reduce a bit so you are left with a glaze.

serve immediately or allow to come to room temp and freeze.

serves 8 very mature children

Well, you can always try my m.o. Put the leeks on everyone's plate, and all of the picky eaters who try it get a star. It works in my house. I bribe my children to try new food. I, personally, never had an issue trying new foods. In the 70's, before sushi was "fashionable", I was eating it at age 11 at Hatsuhana in NYC - the first popular restaurant at which to enjoy sushi.  It was pretty much the only "in" place to go at the time. My parents never forced it on me. They just introduced me to "interesting" and "different" cuisine at an early age. I can remember ordering mussels as a main course at age 8 or 9 at an Italian restaurant. Preparing myself a plate of chopped raw onion, roasted red peppers, and anchovies at the same age (as I saw my father do). I can only hope for such adventurous palates for my children. To date, they are extremely picky about what makes it onto their plate.

So, I came up with a plan. I stuck a chart to each child's bedroom door entitled "new foods I've tried". Everytime they try something new, I write down what it was, and they get a sticker. We set a goal each time of 10 new stickers. When they reach this point, they receive a pre-decided upon treat of their choice. It works like a charm. I always tell them the same thing - "I don't care if you never eat this again in your entire life - so long as you've tried it".  That's all I can ask for.

Holidays always provide great opportunities to get children to try something new. Take Yom Kippur. I got both my children to try smoked salmon for the first time this year.  One loved it, the other not so much. This Thanksgiving, I will be sure to have my children try leeks and squash! By the way - this year they fell in love with apple cider!

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