Daddy/Daughter Dinner Day391
with Jonathan Garcia
Full disclosure: I am by no means an experienced cook. I grow more self-conscious each weekday as my Savory co-workers compare their Pinterest-worthy leftovers during lunch.
“What did you bring today?”
“Oh, just honey garlic chicken with paprika-roasted potatoes. You?”
“I made a veggie omelette with our Brooklyn Everything Bagel Blend and flaky sea salt. What about you, Jonathan?”
“Uh, I went to Wendy’s…”
My saintly wife Barbara does 99 percent of the cooking at home for our two daughters and me. I’m responsible for dinner once a week, but in the hustle and bustle of life I often get away with dining out or ordering in. However, I do find the colorful, fragrant spices I encounter at Savory pretty inspiring, so when my daughters asked me what I wanted for Father’s Day this year, I told them I wanted their help in cooking a three-course meal.
I knew going into this that choosing the recipes was going to be a challenge. My wife and I were living in South Korea when we were pregnant with our older daughter, Grace, now 8 years old. I’m convinced our high-vegetable/low-dairy diet there affected Grace’s palate, as she despises cheese and I have to bargain with her to touch any meat on her plate.
Faith is my 4-year-old. She’s the opposite of Grace. She loves cheese like her mom and runs from broccoli.
Luckily, it seems both girls are more interested in helping make food than they are in eating it, so their excitement level was high as we perused Savory Spice’s 1,000+ recipes online. After some passionate debate and compromise, we settled on Mediterranean Spiced Cucumber Medallions for our appetizer (because they love cucumbers), Tomato & Toasted Onion Pizza for our entree (because they love pizza) and Hibiscus-Lavender Gelée for dessert (because it’s fun to say “gelée”).
We started with the dessert in order for the gelatin to have enough time to set. We accidentally broke a glass bowl right away, but that’s supposed to be good luck, right? I took a photo of the girls before starting the Hibiscus-Lavender Simple Syrup and in the photo I noticed a bright pink warning sticker on the hibiscus packaging. It explained that the flower petals can cause allergic reactions in those with nut allergies, which of course Faith has. I have no idea how I missed the warning prior to that, but I was glad I caught it. Pink stickers: saving lives.
We proceeded with a lavender-only syrup, mixed in the gelatin, added the berries and let it chill.
As Faith worked on an aioli, Grace worked on the pizza spread and I started the cucumber medallions. The cheese/yogurt topping for the cucumbers came looser than the mixture in Savory’s recipe photo, I think because I added too much yogurt. The topping poured onto the cucumbers instead of landing in perfect dollops, and I think Grace saw the disappointment on my face because she started singing a song about how it’s OK to make mistakes. I’m not sure where she learned the song from, but I decided to take her advice. I declared victory and moved on.
It was late by the time we finished broiling the pizza in our oven, so I had the girls put on their pajamas while my wife Barbara and I plated everything. We all enjoyed the cucumbers, though Faith thought they were a little too spicy (she also thinks toothpaste is spicy). The pizza was the biggest hit – Barbara said it was the best homemade pizza ever, which had the girls cheering. True to form, Grace picked the bacon crisps off of her pizza, though she explained that she planned on eating them separately. I was relieved—not even she can resist the allure of bacon, apparently.
We made the gelée in a single glass so that we could all share. It turned out a little perfumey due to the strong lavender flavor, but Barbara and I appreciated the taste when paired with the tart berries set at the top.
All in all, I’d say it was a successful Father’s Day gift: the girls and I had fun and managed to make a flavorful three-course meal with only minimal assistance from Mom. Plus, I even had leftovers for work the next day! Cooking, as I learned, can be fun—and it’s not difficult at all to garner big smiles with a little help in the kitchen. While I may not be a culinary master (yet), sometimes it’s about the journey and not the destination. I can’t think of two better companions than Grace and Faith.