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For time-stressed parents - and everyone else
Joe Yonan, The Washington Post
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When Curtis Stone’s son, Hudson, was born three years ago, the chef faced the same dilemma so many other enthusiastic cooks do when they become parents. “It can quickly become a chore,” he told me in an interview recently, “and what you used to love is suddenly replaced by, ‘Oh, my God, I’ve got to get that done within the next 12 1/2 minutes?”
Stone knows the crisis point well. And he knows which way he wants parents to go. “You either embrace cooking and say, ‘Well, it’s just got to be a part of our life, and we'll make it as fun and interesting as we can,' or you go in the other direction, which a lot of people do, and say, ‘Okay, we start getting a lot more takeout,' which is unfortunate.”
Ever since he made a TV career out of accosting strangers in the supermarket and persuading them to let him follow them home for a dinner-making lesson in TLC’s “Take Home Chef,” Stone has tried to make cooking feel like anything but a bore. With his broad smile and Australian accent, the Melbourne-born chef and culinary-competition-show host is particularly well suited for the job. His new book, “Good Food, Good Life,” preaches the cook-yourself-happy gospel, too.
Stone isn’t vegetarian, nor is the book, but there are plenty of plant-centric recipes scattered throughout it, most of them in the chapters for “light meals” and sides. And many of the recipes take inspiration from his California garden – not only as a source of fresh, seasonal produce, but also as a way to make sure Hudson doesn’t grow up with dreaded picky-eater syndrome.
“I quickly learned how important it was to show a young guy, new to the world, where his food comes from,” he said. “It’s lots of fun watching him learn what nature does. You plant something, and then you have to care for it, and then eventually, you get the chance to pull that carrot out of the ground. It’s just ridiculously exciting to him. Then you bring it inside, and you turn it into something.”
I don’t have kids, so I haven’t reached the cooking crisis that Stone describes. For me, it’s still a joy, even at the end of a long workday – in no small part thanks to the pleasure I get from using my own garden’s produce. But especially as the summer heats up, we’re all looking for anything that can remind us what big payoffs (including joy) can result from the smallest efforts in the kitchen.
For parents, I offer one particular recipe in Stone’s book that caught my eye. Its filling is little more than sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado and red onion, layered in flatbreads that have been slathered with a brilliantly simple combination of feta and Greek yogurt. The chef’s smart touch: torn mint leaves and lemon zest and juice.
I can imagine all sorts of ways young hands would enjoy getting involved in the ingredient-growing, preparation and/or consumption of this sandwich. But I can tell you from experience that grown-ups will love making – and devouring – it, too.
Veggie Flatbread Sandwich With Feta-Yogurt Spread
MAKE AHEAD: The feta-yogurt spread can be refrigerated for 5 days before using.
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup plain whole Greek yogurt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 store-bought flatbreads or naan, warmed
1/4 English (seedless) cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 large, ripe tomato, sliced
Flesh of 1 ripe avocado, sliced
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely torn
Combine the feta and yogurt in a food processor; puree until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a small bowl; season lightly with pepper. Spread the mixture over each flatbread.
Arrange the cucumber, onion, tomato and avocado slices over one half of each flatbread. Season lightly with salt and pepper, then top with the mint.
Finely grate some lemon zest over each portion, then cut the lemon in half and squeeze some of its juice (to taste) over each one.
Fold over to form a sandwich; use toothpicks as needed to hold the bread in place. Cut the sandwiches in half if desired, and serve.
Nutrition per serving: 440 calories, 17 g protein, 47 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, 9 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, 990 mg sodium, 4 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar
Adapted from Good Food, Good Life, by Curtis Stone (Ballantine Books, 2015).