Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Baby Gourmet

It has not escaped my attention that most of the pictures I use here were taken in my kitchen. Our days are varied, but Odd Toddler and I always manage to spend time together in the kitchen, whether he is helping me unload the dishwasher, taste-testing everything I make, or just playing with a big stack of pans. He has made me proud with his willingness to try any food, and especially with the pleasure he takes in eating. If I hold out a spoon, he comes running, mouth open. He will sample whatever I am making, and then he always rewards me with a big smile and a hearty "Mmmmm." I love it.

We went to Earth Fare today, my absolutely favorite grocery store around here, but one in which I step foot no more than once a month. I could go broke there. Everything is organic and the selection of cheeses and produce is to die for. I have gone up to the deli counter many times to ask the cooks for help with making substitutions in a recipe, or just for general advice about a specific dish. This has often resulted in three of four of them coming out from behind the counter to read the entire recipe and to ALL give me tips. In a pinch, I have even called them on the phone.

Now that I am much more confident with cooking, and since I wasn't in a hurry (for once), I strolled slowly around the store, noticing things I hadn't seen before and which I wasn't even sure were available around here. I was particularly excited to see walnut oil, an ingredient that has popped up in more than one recipe now in Cooking For Mr. Latte, New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser's collection of columns that I am currently reading (for a hilarious blog about her, go here). I had been paging right past those recipes, mildly irritated that she calls for so many things that would send me bouncing from store to store in my often fruitless searches for ingredients. I intend to backtrack now in the book to find her recipe for walnut cake.

I pointed out endless items to Odd Toddler today. "Whole wheat couscous," I would say. "Mmmmmm," he would respond. There were samples of aged gouda at the cheese counter. I took a small bite, savoring the delicious pungency of the cheese, and then popped the rest of it into Odd Toddler's open mouth. He closed his eyes, "Mmmmm" he said, rubbing his belly. I'm pretty sure I kissed my little gourmet 12 times while we were there, tickled to death that he has as much fun with food as I do.

I have always wanted to try the deli items or their salad bar, but have been either too cheap or in too big of a hurry. Today was a beautiful exception. I perused the choices for a few minutes, sure that I would get a small portion of tabbouleh, but also craving some sort of a sandwich. I leaned towards the spinach pie for a minute or two, but then my eye was caught by the hummus wrap. I nearly drooled while I place my order. With a Gerolsteiner (a sparkling, sharp-tasting, mineral water that my German friends turned me on to) and a chocolate mint cookie bar to round out the meal, I relished every bite of my purely decadent lunch.

Most of the hummuses I've tried have been pasty, with a slight oily sheen and a coarse texture. I have only tried making hummus once, and the result was much the same, only less tasty. The hummus wrap, with thick crunchy slices of cucumber and carrot, nestled on a cloud of romaine and sprouts, was just oozing with the lightest, creamiest, dreamiest, fluffiest hummus I've had the pleasure of tasting. I tried describing it to The Carnivore, and he reminded me that a friend of mine is taking some free cooking classes at Earth Fare and he suggested I join her. I had been tempted before, but now I'm convinced. I will be RAIDING their website tonight to see if I can find the recipe for that hummus.

The tabbouleh was a disappointment at the first bite, not as vinegary as I tend to make it, but it grew on me quickly. The flavors were much more delicate than I am used to in tabbouleh, and it took a few bites before I could fully appreciate it. The grains were nearly smothered by chopped fresh parsley, more than I ever would have dared to use, but it worked perfectly. Parsley is so often used only as a garnish if its fresh, and overcooked when used in soups and pastas. The grassy taste of the herb, just this side of bitter, was enhanced by the olive oil and the juicy, flavorful chopped tomatoes in the dish. Now I want that recipe too.

Odd Toddler helped me eat everything, of course, and the tabbouleh was his favorite. I felt I would pop with pride over my adventurous little foodie son, until we got home and he popped a piece of dog food in his mouth and said, "Mmmmm!"


Cindy said...

That boy cracks me up. Love, Big Mama

Claudia said...

Did I see an exclamation point?

devin (Cindy's friend) said...

Yes! Yes! An exclamation point!! I feel better.