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Food & Spirits

Kids’ Kitchen: 3 Chef-Approved Italian Recipes To Try With Your Family At Home

In the bustling kitchen of FIG Restaurant, Executive Chef Jason Prendergast is used to hearing things like “yes, chef” amid the sounds of sizzling pans and chopping knives. At home, however, “why” and “how” are much more common refrains from his sous chefs — his children Aden, 9, and Adisen, 6.

Like many of us, Prendergast has been spending more time than usual in his kitchen at home, and he’s been using this time to foster his kids’ cooking curiosities. And while there’s certainly extra patience required (even for a professional chef), it’s also been the perfect opportunity to teach them more about what happens between farm and table.

“It’s different, because you’re taking your time and explaining it to the kids, versus at work [the cooks] understand your method and cooking techniques,” he says. “But now that we’re not in so much of a rush, it’s more relaxing — [we’re not] coming home from work at night and trying to get the kids to do their homework and get them in the bath.”

The chance to slow down, mix up dinnertime routines, and enjoy the simple pleasures of cooking together has been a silver lining for Prendergast during this time, as well as for Fairmont Miramar Food & Beverage Director Linda Fusco, who’s been getting together with Prendergast for work. “I just really enjoy being around kids [especially] when it comes to cooking, and I especially enjoy watching chef with them because I get to see a whole different side of him,” she says.

Cooking with kids also encourages you to keep things simple and “focus on the basics of just creating beautiful food,” adds Fusco — whether you’re a professional chef or not.

Take this Italian-inspired, meatless Monday menu of garlic bread, pasta Pomodoro, and Italian soda “mocktails,” for example. The pair came up with it specifically to cook with kids, and each recipe is deliciously uncomplicated and chock-full of fresh, local flavors. Using simple, whole ingredients also offers the opportunity to start conversations about where food comes from, which both Prendergast and Fusco agree is an important part of teaching kids about cooking. (In fact, Prendergast has even been having his kids help with their backyard summer garden, and he’d normally bring his kids to the Santa Monica Downtown Farmers Market to meet the growers and ask questions.)

In the kitchen, you can encourage kids to help out with basic cooking tasks like stirring, rinsing, and seasoning — and throughout the process, you’ll probably see their own chef personalities come out. For example, “Aden prefers making beverages and puréeing stuff in the blender, and Adi enjoys the simple act of just hanging out in the kitchen and doing videos of daddy,” says Prendergast.

Ready to try it for yourself? Invite your kids to put on their imaginary chef’s hats — and not-so-imaginary aprons — for an evening of learning and connecting in the kitchen, and watch the recipes come together below.

Garlic Bread & Pasta Pomodoro

Chef Prendergast used several ingredients (including garlic and tomatoes) from Beylik Farms to demonstrate these recipes. If markets are open and it’s advisable where you live, try to find fresh, locally sourced ingredients to really bring out the flavors in each dish.

Garlic Bread:

  • 1 baguette, split
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or grated
  • 1 stick softened, unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp parmesan, grated
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
2. Smear onto baguette evenly.
3. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.
4. Enjoy!

Pasta Pomodoro:

  • 2 baskets of cherry tomatoes, washed & stemmed
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp blend oil (neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola, combined with a bit of olive oil for flavor)
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • A pinch of red chili flakes
  • 8-10 basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Package of spaghetti noodles, cooked
  • 1/3 cup reserved pasta water

1. Heat the blend oil in a pan. Add garlic & let brown slightly.
2. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and chili flakes.
3. Simmer 8-10 minutes to allow tomatoes to cook down. Add extra virgin olive oil, pasta water, basil, and cooked pasta. Toss to combine and finish with grated parmesan.
4. Enjoy!

Italian Soda With Raspberry Syrup, Two Ways

“I think people overthink drinks in general — they think they need to pull out a premade soda or a juice, and they forget that they can have fun things, whether or not they’re alcoholic,” says Fusco (whose first love in the business was bartending). “They can make a lot of beautiful things with the basic ingredients in their fridge, so that’s kind of fun for me to show people.” Take a look in your own fridge — you may just have everything you need already for the Italian Sodas below.

Version one:

  • Club soda
  • Flavored syrup (such as raspberry syrup, recipe below)
  • Herbs of choice (such as mint or basil)

1. Fill a glass with ice, then pour in the flavored syrup till the glass is about ¼ full. 
2. Add the club soda till the glass is about ¾ full.
3. Add the herbs, then top off the glass with a bit more club soda.
4. Stir and serve.

Version two:

  • Ginger ale
  • Flavored syrup (such as raspberry syrup, recipe below)
  • 1-2 tbsp cream

1. Fill a glass with ice, then pour in the flavored syrup till the glass is about ¼ full. 
2. Add about 1-2 tbsp cream.
3. Add the ginger ale till the glass is about ¾ full.
4. Pour the entire glass into the base of a cocktail shaker (or into another glass), then back into your glass. Repeat as needed to gently mix the ingredients.
5. Top off your glass with a bit more ginger ale and serve.

Raspberry syrup:

  • Small bag of frozen raspberries
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 cup sugar

1. In a medium saucepan, add the bag of frozen raspberries. Add the honey and heat until raspberries are warmed through and can easily be mashed.
2. Mash raspberries and strain through a fine sieve to create a syrup. Set aside.
3. Heat two cups of water until it comes to a soft boil. Mix in one cup of sugar and one cup of the raspberry syrup until well combined. Cool in the refrigerator and store for up to five days.

You can mix and match the ingredients from both versions based on your preferences, using more syrup and ginger ale for a sweeter Italian soda. And if you want to stick with Adisen and Aden’s advice? Go for version two (East Coast-style) — it’s a fancy-feeling sweet treat that rivals even the best cocktail.

Explore more cooking tutorials, at-home workouts, and soothing views on the Fairmont Miramar’s Instagram page. We hope they offer you comfort, entertainment, and peace during this time.

Featured Photo: jeffreyw via Wikimedia Commons / CC BY

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