Cooking With Kids: Cobb Salad
When you think of cooking with kids, you might shy away from knives, ovens and stoves and maybe just stick to sandwiches. I fully understand why you may follow that tactic and respect your decision. However, when I cook with my girls, I want the opportunity to not only spend quality time with them, but also to teach them new skills that will serve them well in the kitchen (and beyond) for the rest of their lives. It might sound just the slightest bit hokey, but positive cooking experiences early in life can lead to confidence that isn't confined to just the kitchen.
Saying that, I am very careful especially when it comes to working with knives or being around a hot stove. I start them off with butter knives and after showing them how to handle a paring knife, I monitor every cut they make. My nine year old is still using the butter knife, but my eleven year old is now working with sharper knives and I don't take my eyes off her. When either of them is near the stove, I constantly remind them the stove is hot, can be dangerous and to be careful. (Disclaimer - This is what I'm doing with my kids but you must decide for yourself if you think your children are capable of handling kitchen knives, kitchen equipment or being around a hot stove.)
So, for a hearty salad meal, I like to make a great Cobb Salad with my daughters. It's truly an American invention, devised, like so many great recipes, on the fly at the Brown Derby in Los Angeles back in 1937. I'm sure most of you have had at least a variation on this salad: cooked chicken, mixed greens, avocado, hard-cooked eggs and bacon, all dressed with a simple vinaigrette.
The great thing about the Cobb Salad is that there are so many preparation techniques that the more difficult tasks could be left to older children while younger children will still have plenty to do to help. Before I go into all the different skills, let's take a quick look at the recipe. And after reading it, I hope you can see the potential for fun with this salad. There is no reason in the world that you can't add other ingredients. Tailor it to your family's tastes. It might not be a traditional Cobb Salad, but if your family likes olives or broccoli, add some. If they like tuna, use that instead of, or in addition to, the chicken. Use goat cheese or even a mild cheddar in place of the Roquefort. Use this as a template for all sorts of composed salad possibilities.
At the end of the day, what we're looking at is a procedure to a) encourage family time, learning and fun in the kitchen, b) get healthy food into your family, and c) show your kids that making a salad is far from intimidating"”just dice up some ingredients, put them on some greens and make a simple vinaigrette.
I hope this Cobb Salad idea encourages you to cook with your kids. I guarantee that everyone will have a great time and that there will be a whole lot of vegetable eating going on!