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Kids should give peas a chance

Posted: Sunday, February 09, 2003

It's a daily nightmare that happens at dinner tables all over the nation. The parent prepares a meal, and the child refuses to eat it. If it doesn't come out of a box with a toy inside, Junior isn't interested.

If the food is green, forget about it. Kids aren't the only fussy eaters. There are a couple of people who sit a few desks away from me who want nothing to do with vegetables.

We all have a vegetable or two we won't eat. Me? I can't get near a brussels sprout. My wife doesn't like broccoli or green peas -- which just so happen to be two of my favorite things. (How come those questions are never included in those Cosmopolitan magazine compatibility tests?)

So how do you get a child to eat vegetables? You could strap the kid to his chair, facing away from the TV, and demand that he eat the vegetables to garner his freedom. I just wouldn't want to be around when this battle of wills takes place. My money would be on the middle-schooler every time.

You could go the government route and rationalize that the child is eating his/her vegetables when he/she smothers his/her tater tots in a puddle of ketchup.

Or you might try "hiding" the vegetables. Kids are famous for not liking cooked carrots. But a puree of carrots flavored with fresh ginger adds a sweetness that no kid will expect. (A recipe for Coriander Pork Tenderloin with Carrot-Ginger Sauce follows.) It's a quick preparation trick that will work wonders.

Another idea is to try to serve fresh rather than canned vegetables. Crunchy is better than mushy any day. I remember canned asparagus as yucky green sardine-looking things. Saut the fresh stalks, and the flavor snaps. If the fussy eater doesn't like one vegetable, try another.

Don't let him/her say "I don't like vegetables." Instead, make him/her be specific. The child may not like carrots or peas but lima beans may be his/her thing.

If the child is old enough to help in the kitchen, let him/her cut and dice the vegetable. This might make him/her feel as if the vegetable course is "theirs," and he/she will want to take part in his creation when it is served.

Let the child go grocery shopping with you. Instead of just dragging the poor thing up and down the aisles, get the child involved. Let him/her see that vegetables don't come naturally in a can or a frozen bag. Let him/her choose some stuff. Be prepared to research ways to prepare eggplant and artichokes.

As a parent, maybe you can take the initiative to learn to prepare vegetables in different ways. It may not be that the youngster doesn't like broccoli. It could be that he's sick of eating the same broccoli casserole you've made every Wednesday for the past five years. (Back when Catholics had to eat fish on Friday, my mom made noodles and tuna fish on a weekly basis. For years I thought I didn't like fish. Turns out I just hated noodles and tuna fish.)

You don't have to become a vegetarian, but buying a vegetarian cookbook will give you plenty of different preparation ideas.

Try grilling the vegetables for a different presentation and taste. Low-fat sauces make vegetables more appetizing. So does a healthy sprinkle of minced fresh herbs. Surprise them with a dash of fresh mint. They may even think they are eating candy. OK, probably not. But they'll like the mint nonetheless.

CORIANDER PORK

TENDERLOIN WITH

CARROT-GINGER SAUCE

1 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 cups water

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup whipping cream (not heavy cream)

1 tablespoon finely grated ginger

1/4 cup whole coriander seeds, ground

3 pounds pork tenderloin

2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine carrots, water and salt in a heavy medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until carrots are very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain; reserve cooking liquid. Transfer carrots to processor. Puree until smooth. Add cream and ginger and process to blend. Transfer puree to heavy small saucepan. Add enough reserved cooking liquid to puree to form consistency of thick sauce. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Warm before serving.)

Coarsely grind coriander. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Press coriander onto pork, coating completely. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in each of 2 heavy large non-stick skillets over medium heat. Add 1 pork tenderloin to each skillet.

Brown pork on all sides and cook until an instant read thermometer reads 155 degrees; about 25 minutes. Transfer pork to cutting board. Let rest for 5 minutes. Cut pork into 1-inch thick slices. Spoon sauce onto plates. Top pork and serve.

Yield: 6 servings.



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