Try­ing to feed a picky kid? We might have what you need

Merced Sun-Star - - Livingston Chronicle - BY YOTAM OT­TOLENGHI

Plenty of food de­bates were go­ing on in our house dur­ing the re­cent lock­down. Un­like in nor­mal times, when the kids were pre­sented with their din­ner, no ques­tions asked, we found time to play restau­rant (while badly miss­ing the real thing) and dis­cuss the next day’s menu in de­tail.

Like many boys his age, our youngest son, Flynn, who is 4, would present a wish list of items that were ex­clu­sively carby and wholly white. Dough­boy, as we like to call him, would ask for naked bread to start, fol­lowed by “pasta with noth­ing,” then plain pota­toes and, to fin­ish, a slice of cake, ide­ally served with left­over pan­cakes from break­fast.

As I was cook­ing one of his bread-cen­tered meals, I was gig­gling to my­self, think­ing of some clas­sic carb-on-carb ex­tremes, such as the chip butty, a Bri­tish phe­nom­e­non. It’s, es­sen­tially, two slices of but­tered white bread with a moun­tain of fries in between them. Or, I sup­pose equally bizarre to an out­sider, the pitas I had grow­ing up in Is­rael, stuffed with shawarma and salad, and then topped with lots of potato chips and an op­tional spoon­ful of fried pita crou­tons for crunch.

Sat­is­fy­ing Flynn’s starchy needs also made me think of maaqouda, a North African sta­ple. These are lit­tle fried mashed potato cakes or frit­ters, of­ten sold on the street, ei­ther on their own or stuffed into bread with harissa or tomato sauce. I had the sand­wich ver­sion a few times in Tu­nisia and Morocco and never felt a carb over­load. The se­cret lies in a fine bal­ance of tex­tures – a lit­tle doughy, not at all dry, with a tiny bit of crunch – and a clear un­der­ly­ing fla­vor that holds ev­ery­thing to­gether.

Recre­at­ing tra­di­tional maaqouda was a lunch plan I had one day, be­fore I quickly back­tracked af­ter re­al­iz­ing that Flynn may not be get­ting all the nu­tri­ents he ac­tu­ally needs – hor­rific scenes of scurvy came to mind – if I stick strictly to his dream menu. In­stead, I made a large baked ver­sion, into which I added in­gre­di­ents I had on hand: cheese, herbs, spring onion and lots of frozen peas. I slid the mix into hot oil be­fore it went into the oven, which kept some of the fried ef­fect on the out­side.

My com­pro­mise ver­sion of maaqouda was, gen­er­ally, very well re­ceived and be­came a blue­print for fu­ture meals, where I folded in dif­fer­ent in­gre­di­ents I wanted to use up. (Spinach worked well, as did roasted pep­per and corn.)

Flynn, how­ever, wasn’t to­tally im­pressed. “Too many peas,” he ex­claimed.

He did in­sist, though, on hav­ing the left­overs stuffed into a sand­wich that evening, with some ketchup, which kind of worked.

AN­DREW SCRIVANI NYT

Spring onion and cheese potato cake can be made two ways.

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