Easter presents the perfect opportunity for families to feast together on a spring brunch, and maybe it's just the right occasion for kids to pick the menu to make with parents.
Because a very young population also watches the Food Network and yearns to cook sophisticated dishes, interesting cookbooks are coming their way. One is The Silver Spoon for Children by Amanda Grant (Phaidon Press, $19.95), a book adapted from The Silver Spoon, Italy's bestselling cookbook for more than 50 years.
From the book's 40 recipes, geared for cooks 8 and older, we've picked four that should delight everyone at your Easter brunch.
See below the story for explanations on cutting techniques.
Bruschetta (pronounced "broos-ketta") was originally invented as a way to use up stale bread by toasting it and adding a range of delicious toppings. The simplest one is made with juicy, ripe tomatoes, and many Italians would say it's the best. You could also try toppings such as mozzarella cheese, basil, ham or roasted vegetables.
Makes appetizers for 4
1 small rustic loaf or small baguette
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
8 ripe plum tomatoes
1 clove garlic
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)
A few fresh basil leaves (optional)
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Using a serrated knife (one with a jagged edge), use the claw-cutting technique to slice the bread into 8 slices. Try to cut the bread slightly diagonally so that the slices have an oval shape. You might want to ask an adult to cut it for you. Lay the bread flat on a baking tray. Using a spoon, drizzle 2 tablespoons of oil over all the slices -- it won't cover the bread, just drip over it in places.
2. Wearing your oven mitts, put the tray in the oven. After 10 minutes, take the tray out, carefully turn the bread over, then put back into the oven for another 10 minutes, until it's light golden and crisp. Take the bread out of the oven and rest the tray on a pan stand. Let cool slightly.
3. For the tomato topping, cut a ripe plum tomato in half lengthwise using the bridge technique. Put a tomato half on a cutting board, flat-side down. Again using the bridge technique, cut the tomato half into long thin strips, then move your fingers into the claw position and cut the long strips into little pieces (dicing). The diced tomatoes should be in tiny squares, but it doesn't matter if they are different sizes.
4. Peel the papery skin away from the garlic clove. Pick up a slice of toasted bread and rub both sides with the garlic. Do the same with the other slices.
5. Put the toasted bread on a big plate, divide the tomatoes among them, then drizzle with remaining olive oil. If you like, sprinkle some black pepper over the top, too, or fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces.
Prosciutto and melon
Prosciutto (pronounced "pro-shoo-toe") is a delicious kind of ham, and its salty flavor goes very well with the sweet melon in this popular appetizer, or antipasto. Choose small, ripe melons so that they are easy to cut. Cantaloupe and honeydew are the best, but any type is good. Cantaloupes are round, with pale green bumpy skin and delicious orange flesh. Honeydew melons are often bigger and slightly more oval, and have yellowy green skin and pale green flesh.
Makes 4 appetizers
2 small, ripe melons
8-12 slices of prosciutto (2 or 3 slices for each person)
1. Cut the melons in half using the bridge technique. You will need to almost saw through the fruit to cut it, so be careful as you go. You may need an adult to help.
2. Using a dessert spoon, scoop the seeds out of the melon and throw them away.
3. Using the bridge technique, cut the melon into quarters by cutting each melon half in half again. You can just serve the melon on its skin and eat it with a knife and fork, or you can use a spoon to scoop out the flesh. Alternatively, you can make the melon easier to eat by using the bridge technique to cut a crisscross pattern in its flesh, but without cutting all the way through the skin.
4. Put two pieces of melon onto each of four plates, followed by two or three slices of prosciutto. Try draping the prosciutto over the melon pieces. Serve with a knife and fork or a spoon.
Frittata is a type of omelet. It's delicious served hot or cold, making it a great lunch or picnic dish. You could also try adding other ingredients such as chopped ham or crumbled cheese instead of tuna.
6 large eggs
1 sprig fresh flatleaf parsley
2 tablespoons butter
1 (6-ounce) can of tuna in oil, drained
1. Using claw-cutting technique, trim roots from bottom and dark green leaves from top of scallion, then finely slice it.
2. Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk lightly with a fork.
3. Using scissors, snip parsley into small pieces and add to eggs. Turn the broiler on high.
4. Melt butter in a skillet and cook scallion gently over medium heat for 5 minutes, until soft. Add tuna and stir gently. Turn the heat up slightly and pour the egg mixture over the tuna and onion. Move the egg around in the skillet a few times to help it cook, then leave for 2-3 minutes, until the bottom of the frittata is cooked.
5. Wearing your oven mitts, put the pan under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the egg is cooked through and is golden and bubbly on top.
For the cake:
7 tablespoons sweet butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
2 large eggs
1/2 cup superfine sugar
Scant 1 cup confectioners' sugar
Scant 1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
For the frosting:
Scant 1 cup confectioners' sugar
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch cake pan. Set the pan on a piece of baking parchment and draw around it, then cut out the round and use it to line the bottom of the pan.
2. Using the bridge technique, cut the orange in half and then squeeze the juice into a pitcher. You'll need about 6 tablespoons of juice.
3. Put butter in a small pan and melt over gentle heat, or melt in a small bowl in the microwave. Let cool.
4. Crack eggs into a big bowl. Add sugars. Whisk until light and fluffy. Stir in the cooled, melted butter. Sift flour and baking powder onto egg mixture, pour over the orange juice, and carefully mix everything together. Pour the mixture into the cake pan.
5. Using oven mitts, put the pan in the oven and bake for 18 minutes. To see if the cake is cooked, poke a skewer or knife into the middle -- it should come out clean. If there is sticky cake mixture on the skewer, put the cake back into the oven for 3-4 minutes.
6. Using oven mitts, take the cake out of the oven. Let cool in the pan and then carefully turn the cake out onto a cooling rack so that it is right-way up.
7. To make the frosting, use the bridge technique to cut the orange in half and squeeze out the juice. Sift the confectioners' sugar into a bowl, add the orange juice, and mix. Poke a few holes in the cooled cake with a skewer or a fork and pour the frosting over the top of the cake -- it will run all over the cake into the holes, down the sides and onto the table.
Bridge cutting technique: Place the item on the cutting board. Hold the piece of food you want to cut by forming a bridge with your thumb on one side and your forefinger on the other. Hold the knife in your other hand with the blade facing down, guide the knife under the bridge, and cut through the food. For some soft items such as tomatoes, it may be easier to puncture the tomato skin with the point of the knife before cutting it.
Claw cutting technique: Place the item on the cutting board with its flat side facing down (often you will need to cut it in half first using the bridge technique). Shape the fingers of your left hand into a claw shape, tucking your thumb inside your fingers and tucking your fingertips in away from the blade. If you're left-handed, you need to make the claw with your right hand. Rest the claw on the item to be sliced. Holding the knife in your other hand, slice the item, moving the "clawed" fingers away as the knife gets closer.