|What self-described foodie would ever admit to being a crabby cook from time-to-time?
Do you see me raising my hand?
Even as a working food professional there are times when the thought of having to deal with the peculiar eaters in my family can send me over the edge.
I'm glad to know that I'm not alone.
Actress and author Jessica Harper knows all about being a crabby cook. In The Crabby Cook Cookbook, she shares her experiences and provides solutions in the form of good solid recipes that should win over the pickiest eater.
The best part of this book is the way she infuses humor throughout. You'll be too busy laughing at Jessica's own trials in the kitchen and her personal cast of characters to freak out that your three year old is only eating "white foods" at the moment.
How do you know if you're a crabby cook? Jessica offers a simple test with six statements. If you answer yes to any of them you ARE NOT a crabby cook. On the other hand, if you find yourself snorting at the mere thought of them then you indeed rank among the Secret Society of Crabby Cooks. Here's an example:
"If a family member doesn't care for what I've prepared for dinner, I thank them for their feedback and offer them an alternative entree"
I nearly fell out of my chair on that one. Thank them for their feedback!? I'm usually the one giving feedback and it generally falls somewhere in the eat-it-or-starve category...
Eleven chapters of snarky delights include recipes like Dog-proof Caprese Salad and No Patience Coconut Cookies.
With this book you are now free to relish your crabbiness. Indeed, celebrate it! You will no longer be ashamed, especially when you see the smiles on your loved ones' faces after tasting one of these tried-and-true recipes. And that's something that is bound to make mealtime a little less crabby for everyone.
Dreamy Veggie Pasta
Recipe from The Crabby Cook Cookbook: Recipes and Rants by Jessica Harper (Workman, 2010)During their white food years, I researched and finally discovered how to present vegetables to my picky children in a way they found appealing. It turns out, if you shape 'em like pasta, flavor 'em like pasta, and mix 'em with pasta, the kids will eat their vegetables.
For this recipe revelation, I gave myself major points. I was suddenly able to feed the children previously forbidden foods like cabbage, onions, and zucchini, with their complete compliance. I got to gloat because of my nutritional triumph, and they got to gloat because their firm resistance to other vegetable recipes had paid off. Now, some of you may be thinking, Excuse me, but would Ms. Genius like to explain why there are so many damn ingredients in this recipe? I hear you. But this is another Miracle Food: more than six ingredients, yes, and a fair amount of choppage, but it's worth it because the payoff is so big. It's a one-dish meal, everybody likes it, and it's nutrient-loaded. So try it, and then call me. We'll get together for a group gloat.
- 2 medium-size zucchini
- Kosher salt
- 2 carrots
- 1/2 head green cabbage, preferably Savoy
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 12 ounces spaghetti or linguine, broken in half
- 1 cup pine nuts, toasted (see Note)
1. Trim the ends off the zucchini, cut the zucchini into 2-inch chunks, and then grate them in a food processor fitted with the shredding blade. Sprinkle the grated zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, place it in a colander, and set it aside.
2. Peel the carrots, cut them into chunks, and shred them in the food processor. Set the carrots aside.
3. Cut the cabbage into chunks, and then into strips, using the slicing blade in the food processor. Set the cabbage aside.
4. Melt the butter in the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the onion and cook until it is very soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
5. While the onion is cooking, set a large pot of salted water over high heat (for the pasta).
6. Add the garlic to the onion and cook for 1 minute. Add the cabbage and the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 5 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini to extract any liquid, add it to the skillet, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
7. Add the broth, cover the skillet, and let the veggies cook for 5 minutes. Then add the cream and cook, stirring, until the sauce starts to thicken, about 2 minutes. Stir in the parsley and basil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and pepper to taste. Stir in 1/3 cup of the cheese, cover the skillet, and remove it from the heat.
8. Cook the spaghetti in the boiling water until it is al dente (just tender), about 10 minutes.
9. Drain the pasta and return it to the pasta pot. Add the vegetable mixture, combine well, and serve with the remaining grated cheese and the pine nuts on the side.
Note: To toast pine nuts, place them on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven and toast them, stirring them once or twice, until they are golden and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, though. I literally always have to throw out the first batch because I've gotten distracted and forgot about them until I heard the smoke alarm.
Variations: You can go a little wild with this, especially if your family is not veggiphobic. You can add green peas or shelled edamame, fresh corn kernels or chickpeas or sliced red peppers or mushrooms or . . . whatever vegetables your family tolerates. You can also add cooked chicken or shrimp, or a little chopped ham. I'm usually way too crabby to add more ingredients than are already listed, but if you're feeling exceptionally calm, or have had a martini, go for it.
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.