Thursday, June 24, 2010

Broccoli Rabe Loving Children... and caterpillars!

"I used to think that food came out of boxes bags and jars
but then I learned it really comes from gardens and from farms.
It also comes from water like the oceans and the seas
and journeys to our tables where we say bon appetit."
- Bon Appetit by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer
Last week, the children went out to the garden to harvest their Broccoli Rabe. Broccoli Rabe is a relative of the turnip; a nutty, pungent herb with spiked green leaves, small broccoli buds, and pretty yellow flowers that are edible. It is also a great source of vitamins C, A, K, and fiber. Sound like an unlikely favorite vegetable for preschooler noshing? Perhaps...

but there is a simple solution for broccoli's bad rap... empenadas!

The children began by going out to the garden and harvesting the broccoli rabe. Then, during the independent work period, many of them helped with the mise en place...

They love carefully washing any vegetables which can benefit from drying off with a twirl in the salad spinner. However, cleaning the broccoli rabe proved to be a particularly interesting task when one of the children discovered this tiny caterpillar feasting upon our fresh produce.

I must admit that the children's love and concern for arthropods won out over their gardening accumen... after the children gathered around to excitedly look at the caterpillar and allow it to crawl across their hands and an extended chorus of "Isn't he cute," they immediately rushed out to the garden with the skill and urgency of a surgeon to carefully relocate their ravenous visitor back into their garden where they actually hoped he would continue devouring more broccoli rabe! Perhaps we have Eric Carle to thank for this? Somewhere in our garden crawls both a very hungry, and a rather lucky, caterpillar!

Other children busied themselves with scrubbing potatoes,

and carefully peeling potatoes.

We steamed the potatoes and sauteed them with onions, broccoli from our CSA share, and the broccoli rabe from the garden. When the vegetables were ready, they children prepared a simple pate brisee and carefully rolled out their dough until it was about 1/8 of an inch thick and cut it into rounds.

Then they spooned in the potatoes, broccoli, and broccoli rabe filling and sealed the edges until they had created their own beautiful little vegetable pockets.

Empanadas are particularly great to make with children because there are multiple jobs involved (rolling out the dough, preparing the filling, cleaning, peeling and chopping the ingredients) and everyone has to cooperate to produce a delicious final product. They are also very easy to make and once children get the idea of how to assemble/seal them, they are able to do it independently. Additionally, they are extremely versatile- you can make them with whatever happens to be on hand from your farm share or growing in your garden.

And, most importantly, they are delicious! The children recommend enjoying them al fresco and in the company of good friends.

Children's Garden Empanadas
Pate Brisee:
1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 T melted butter
2-2 1/2 T water
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Stir in butter and water until it forms a soft dough; knead briefly and allow to rest at room temperature.
4 medium potatoes
1/2 red onion
1 large head of broccoli
5 bunches broccoli rabe
1 tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste
Steam the potatoes until tender; saute vegetables and mix in spices. To assemble, roll dough to 1/8 an inch thick and cut into rounds. Place a spoonful of filling onto each round, dampen the edges and fold dough in half. Seal the edges with your fingers or the tines of a fork. Place them on a parchment covered baking sheet and bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes. Enjoy with friends!

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