In my professional life as a chef and on television in Iron Chef America, my style is to use what’s at hand and run with whatever ingredients are in front of me. In my own kitchen, I do the same thing, putting together meals as we try to keep our two one-year-olds, Nash and Thatcher, amused, while seven-year-old Zoran is banging on his drum set and three-year-old Caje races from room to room at top speed. When you have four boys under age seven, the competitions on Iron Chef seem calm and quiet compared with making dinner at home!
Like a lot of cooks, I have dishes that I cook over and over again, because my family loves them. But just because something is a classic doesn’t mean I make it the same way every time. In my book Classics with a Twist, I start with my favorites and show you how to add an exciting flavor to make a meal stand out without a lot of extra effort. I want all my dinners to be healthy and delicious, a time when we get to sit down together, and I certainly can’t spend the whole day cooking.
Here are three “twisted” classic family dishes from Cora:
When I was growing up, my typical lunch on a cold or rainy Saturday was grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Now, instead of serving the sandwiches whole, I cut them into croutons, mound them on a big platter, and let people spoon as many croutons into their soup as they like. (If you’re serving this to kids, you may want to halve the amount of garlic and leave out the jalapeño.)
In Spanish, rajar means “to cut,” and rajas are finely cut or sliced vegetables, usually bell peppers, onions and chiles. The more kinds of fresh peppers you throw into your rajas, the better. Just aim for a pound and a half total. (And leave out the chiles for little tastebuds.)
The only thing better than peanut butter is peanut butter and chocolate. Salted cocktail peanuts give these cookies a punch of flavor and a satisfying crunch. Peanutters are easy, kid-friendly and great for bringing the children into the kitchen for a little hands-on experience. If you’re making these for grown-ups, try it with chopped dark chocolate instead of the milk and semisweet chocolate.
Excerpted from Cat Cora’s Classics with a Twist by Cat Cora. Copyright ©2010 by Cat Cora. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Want to know how Cat Cora handles her picky eaters? Check out My Life as an Iron Chef Mom