My daughters used to complain about having to eat dinner together as a family. They would say things like “Nobody else’s parents make them do it!”
But I was adamant, even when they rolled their eyes at anything I said or wouldn’t talk or said stuff like “oh there’s Mom again trying to make conversation.”
It all went away eventually and, well at least my daughters have both told me how much they appreciated eating dinner as a family, and that their friends who never “had to” (as if it were some form of punishment) were the unlucky ones.
They are both married, with children of their own and they have family dinner.
I say, good for them! And especially their kids.
All of this to say I found it fascinating that a cousin of mine (second cousin once removed actually), Jenny Rosenstrach, a cookbook author, has a blog entirely devoted to: Family Dinner! It’s called, appropriately enough, Dinner: A Love Story. Check it out for some warm, humorous, engaging stories about eating dinner with your children (and all sorts of other family oriented notes).
I didn’t grow up knowing Jenny. Life took some unusual turns and we met as adults, married, with children, except I am more like in her mother’s generation. But her family and mine apparently had more in common than some genes.
Like eating family dinner.
Which is the subject of her new book: Dinner: A Love Story. It has lots of recipes, but it’s much more than that. It describes the value of family dinner, and even more than that, lots of tips on how to get it done at various stages of your life and your children’s lives and despite schedules.
I caught up with Jenny the other night when she gave a talk and food demo at the Stamford JCC, near where I live. Of course I wanted to be there.
The “tip” she demonstrated that night was “deconstructing dinner.” That is, serve dinner as separated ingredients so your children can pick and choose the ones they like, but they also get used to seeing other new ingredients that they might try, or recognize it the next time they see it at the table and maybe try it then. And so on. There’s a whole chapter on that in the book.
She demonstrated with this recipe:
For the Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
squeeze of fresh lemon or lime
1/2 cup olive oil
For the Salmon:
1 salmon fillet (about one pound)
salt and pepper
4 potatoes (Yukon Gold, red or blue if you can find them) peeled and quartered
2 ears of corn
Hanfdul of thin green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
5-6 scallions (white and green parts) chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
To make the vinaigrette: in a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, sugar, lemon juice and oil and set aside.
Make the salmon: Sprinkle the salmon with sat and pepper. Roast in a foil-lined baking dish for 15 minutes. (if you prefer to grill the fish, brush with a mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of honey and cook over medium coals 4-5 minutes on each side).
Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until a knife slices through them with no resistance, about 12 minutes. Using a slotted spoon remove the potatoes to a large serving bowl. Add the corn to the same pot of water. Boil for 4 minutes. Remove to a cutting board, allow to cool, slice off the kernels and add to the serving bowl. Add beans to the same pot of water and cook for 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the serving bowl. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions and cilantro to the bowl. Cut the salmon into chunks and add to the bowl. Toss with the vinaigrette and serve. OR, serve it in its individual components “so the kids can pick what they like before any green specks or offensive sauces get mixed in.” Makes 4 servings