Global Flavor

Chef and TV personality Emeril Lagasse kicks it up a notch to discuss experiencing the world through food and his new international cookbook for kids.
Feb 06, 2013

Ages

9-11

Emeril Lagasse's family-friendly cookbook, There's a Chef in My World!, is full of fresh recipes, fun facts, and Emeril's signature pizzazz. Here he talks about his culinary background and how you and your children can learn more about eating and preparing international dishes together. He believes that there are lots of recipes for learning — many of which begin with food.

 

Parent & Child: What childhood food memories do you have? How was food interesting, exciting, or meaningful to you when you were young?
Emeril Lagasse: Because my mom, who comes from a Portuguese background, and my dad, who is French-Canadian, both cooked, food was extremely important in the household. Simple dishes, but a lot of ethnic food like caldo verde (kale soup), or roasted pork and clams. I spent a lot of time with a Portuguese lady who was like my second mom. She was in the restaurant business, and still is, and I spent a lot of time in her kitchen as well, learning more about Portuguese cooking — so I have a lot of those memories. Of course, my first memory was about a vegetable stew I made with my mom. I think I was about 7 years old, and I can remember coming home from school and making it five days in a row until I got it right — meaning she was happy with the way it turned out. The right way was when it had the right amount of vegetables and the right amount of seasonings. I was so proud, and really that's start of how I got interested in food, and certainly interested in cooking.

 

P&C: Were your parents very active and enthusiastic cooks?
Lagasse: My parents were big cooks. They weren't gourmet cooks, they were just everyday, staple cooks making dishes that have been in the family for at least a couple of generations. They're both really good cooks — my mom's excellent, and even today they live a couple of doors down, and she and I always trade dishes. She'll say, "Come on, give me that secret, Emeril," and I'm like, "Aw, I'm not going to give you that secret, Mom, come on." And it's really funny. Over the years I've tried to include some of those great recipes in my books not only so I can share them with others, but so that I can have the recipes in print — I have the memories forever, and they won't go away.

 

P&C: What was your favorite food as a child?
Lagasse: Well, I liked chocolate, but I was allergic to it. I'd have to say that my mom's caldo verde was the best. And my dad used to make this meatloaf with Portuguese sausage in the center to give it a little spice. I remember it so well that I made it for Jay Leno a couple of years ago. I said, "This is my dad's meatloaf, and I wanted to share it with you." He went crazy for it.

 

P&C: Why do you think so many kids today are picky eaters, preferring "kids' food" like spaghetti or hot dogs, for example?
Lagasse: You know, I'm not actually seeing many of those kids. I'm seeing the palate of children changing. I'm seeing an educational aspect of it filtering in, and it really starts from the top. Like if someone on the top is going "Ew, we're having green beans tonight?" that attitude really filters down because kids are like sponges. And I'm not saying that my kids eat everything because I'm some chef, but they don't really know what chicken fingers are or what fast food is because that's not what they've been exposed to.

 

P&C: Why do you think it's important for children to try new foods and be exposed to international cuisine?
Lagasse: I think international foods are really influencing American culture now. You know, it's okay to eat tacos — tacos are great — and it's okay to have a spring roll, but hopefully you know where those foods come from. When writing my new book, I used a kids' survey to find out what international dishes they were familiar with by asking, "Hey, have you ever heard of this?" And they really didn't realize that many of the foods they eat are actually influences from another country. They just think their food is something mom or dad or grandpa made. Take the Toad in the Hole, for example. It's an English dish that has been around here for a long time, but nobody really knew where that came from.

 

I'm really so proud of this new book because, to me, it's really the first international recipe book I've done. And it's not only about recipes, reading, mathematics, measuring, and following directions, which are really important — this book goes on a kid's level to give them a little more history behind the food. We add the country flag, a paragraph about the food's origin, photographs of the different countries, and a Did You Know section. I'm extremely excited about it, obviously, and I'm looking forward to getting it out there so people can take it in, share it with their families, and then cook and eat together. Then the mission will be done.

 

P&C: How do you suggest parents introduce their children to international foods and get them involved in cooking them?
Lagasse: I think a great way to do this, since we're all so busy — let's be practical — is to set aside one meal period a day to get together as a family and eat a meal with some international dishes. You can learn about new foods, new cultures, new places. I think it's a great way to enhance the family table, which is the most important thing I'm trying to accomplish with my cookbooks — just to really get the table a little more exciting and get the family together. And hopefully, you'll also get to eat something that's really delicious.

 

P&C: Have you learned anything about cooking from children?
Lagasse: Absolutely! I'm astounded. Being around children, not just my kids, but running into them at the supermarket and on the street, or when kids come into Emeril Live, I'm always learning from them. I'm just amazed at where children's knowledge of food is today. I mean, when I was 12, I didn't know what a shiitake mushroom or edamame was. Really, it's unbelievable. And these kids are being introduced to Japanese, Thai, German, French food, and more by their parents, or friends of their parents. And it's really impressive to me because it was never like that before. Maybe you went to the local Chinese restaurant, or where I grew up on the East Coast you went to some Friday fish shack kind of place. And now, these kids are so knowledgeable about other cuisines, particularly Mexican, Italian, and Japanese.

 

P&C: Do you see any other particular cuisines becoming popular among kids and/or adults?
Lagasse: I think that the Mediterranean influences are going to get stronger in this country for a couple of reasons. As you probably know, Spain and Portugal are hot right now, particularly Spain. And that's because they have a great cuisine, and in order to have a great cuisine you have to have great ingredients. They've got hams, and they're doing unbelievable things with wine and produce.

 

I also think the Mediterranean influence will affect us more deeply because the American diet is going to have to change. We're going to consume better ingredients, and I see portions changing, getting smaller. Of course, there's a big organic craze right now, and we're seeing more great artisanal American cheeses being made with no chemicals or artificial binders. I've seen the poultry and game businesses getting better, too. If you take a walk in the grocery store, it's amazing to see the variety influencing our children. It used to be, "Oh! They got kiwi! So exotic!" And now, there's lychee and so much more. It's unbelievable, and the focus is definitely on quality and education about international foods — not just kids, but everybody.

 

P&C: Do you have any specific culinary instruments or ingredients that you most enjoy using or would like to see everyone use more?
Lagasse: I couldn't live without olive oil. I'm a big olive oil guy. Lately I've been on a kick with these high quality sea salts, not only the French but I've been turned onto this group from Hawaii where they have this array of salts that are just so clean — my wife and I are crazy about them. I think an important thing for the American people is that we have to have more seafood, more fish in our diets. I think there are cultures around America that eat meat and potatoes six times a week, and eventually that's exactly what you start looking like. Well, I shouldn't speak because I look like a meat and potato right now myself. But I recently did a poll, and I was astounded by what came back because people are still looking for creative chicken and salmon recipes, and people are interested in how to do different types of vegetables. People are sick of steamed broccoli, so I think that will have to change.

 

P&C: What projects are you working on now or will you be working on in the future?
Lagasse: I have no books on the burner, if you can believe it. For the last 10 months I've been extremely, extremely devoted to and focused on New Orleans — on rebuilding and getting our restaurants open. We have two out of three open, and I'm hoping to get Delmonico open too. So we're working on staffing and housing, which is an issue, but I've been really devoted to the city and our customers in the city. I'm doing whatever I can do to be a part of the rebuilding. On top of that, we have two restaurants on the drawing board — one for 2007 which will be on the Gulf Coast, believe it or not. I'm doing a tribute to the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast with a fish restaurant there, which is in the drawing stages right now. And we're going to do a third restaurant in Las Vegas. Other than that, which is a lot, we have another year or so to go with television. I'm looking forward to finishing this year, and I have about 90 shows to do for next year. And a lot of that, for me, is about kids and educating kids and getting them more inspired about eating.

 

Recipes

 

Portuguese Potato Dumpling Soup 
Mango Lassi
Shrimp and Veggie Summer Rolls
Asian Dipping Sauce

 

Portuguese Potato Dumpling Soup


What you need: 

 

Ingredients

  • 2 large baking potatoes (about 1¾ pounds)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 to 3 ounces diced ham, ground in a food processor to equal 1/3 cup
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ teaspoon ground freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 cup peeled, sliced carrots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Tools

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  • Small saucepan
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Food processor
  • Ricer
  • Small colander (optional)
  • Medium mixing bowl
  • Spoon or rubber spatula
  • Box grater
  • Small baking sheet
  • 2 small mixing bowls
  • paper towels
  • 6-quart soup pot or stockpot with lid
  • can opener (optional)
  • large nonstick skillet
  • ladle
  • plate (optional)
  • oven mitts or pot holders

What to do:

  1. Wash the potatoes and place in a small saucepan. Cover with cold water and 1 teaspoon of the salt and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 30 to 35 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Drain.
  2. Peel the potatoes while they are still warm. (Not too hot, or you might burn your hands.) Place the peeled potatoes in a ricer over a small bowl and push through. Alternatively, using the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula, mash the potatoes through the holes in a colander into a bowl set below it. You can mash the potatoes by hand, but the dumplings won't be as fluffy.
  3. Add the ham, Parmesan cheese, beaten eggs, butter, nutmeg, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt to the mashed potatoes. Mix well to combine.
  4. Line a small baking sheet with paper towels and place the flour in a small mixing bowl.
  5. Roll the potato mixture into little balls, about 2 rounded teaspoonfuls each. Toss each dumpling in the flour, shake off the excess, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Set aside.
  6. In a 6-quart soup pot or stockpot, combine the beef broth, chicken broth, water, onion, carrots, and parsley. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.
  7. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add one-third of the potato dumplings to the skillet, leaving enough room to turn them. Brown the dumplings on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes, until golden, and transfer with a ladle to a paper towel-lined plate or baking sheet. Continue to brown the remaining dumplings, using 2 tablespoons of oil for each batch.
  8. Heat the beef-chicken stock over medium-high heat until simmering. Using a ladle, carefully place the dumplings into the simmering stock. Simmer the dumplings for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately since the dumplings are fragile.

Mango Lassi


What you need:


Ingredients

  • 2 mangoes, peeled and cut into chunks (2½ to 3 cups cubed mango)
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ½ cup ice cubes
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1¼ teaspoons rose water
  • 1½ cups plain yogurt

Tools

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Cutting board
  • Paring knife
  • Juicer (optional)
  • Blender

What to do:

1. In a blender, combine all of the ingredients and process on high speed until very smooth and frothy, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

Shrimp and Veggie Summer Rolls


What you need:


Ingredients

  • 1 (3¼-ounce) package cellophane noodles
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion (green and white part)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic (about 2 small cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne
  • 20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 10 (8½-inch) round rice paper wrappers
  • 40 small fresh mint leaves
  • 40 small fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 romaine lettuce leaves, rinsed, patted dry, ribs removed, and torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded

Tools

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  • Paring knife
  • Box grater
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Paper towels
  • Medium saucepan
  • Slotted spoon
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Fine-mesh strainer
  • 9-inch shallow dish
  • clean, dry kitchen towel
  • large plate
  • oven mitts or pot holders
  • damp towels (optional)

What to do:

  1. Pour 2 cups hot water into a large mixing bowl and add the cellophane noodles. Soak the noodles until softened, about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain the excess water from the noodles and pat dry with paper towels. Cover and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine 4 cups water, the ginger, lemon halves, soy sauce, sugar, bay leaves, green onion, garlic, salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.
  3. Carefully add the shrimp to the boiling soy sauce mixture and boil for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the shrimp to stand in the hot mixture for 2 more minutes, until cooked through.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp from the cooking liquid and place in a small mixing bowl. When the shrimp are cool enough to handle, slice in half lengthwise. Using a fine-mesh strainer, strain and reserve ½ cup of the shrimp cooking liquid for the Asian Dipping Sauce.
  5. Fill a shallow dish (about 9 inches wide or larger) with warm water. Make sure it's not too hot or the rice paper will tear easily. Place a clean, dry kitchen towel next to the dish. Submerge 1 rice paper wrapper in the warm water and soak it until it is softened, about 30 seconds. Carefully remove the rice wrapper from the water and lay it flat on the towel. (Don't worry about drying the top of the rice paper; the excess water will help it to stick together better.)
  6. Place 1/3 cup of the soaked cellophane noodles on the rice paper, about 1 inch from the bottom. Leave about 1 inch on each side, too. Arrange 4 mint leaves and 4 cilantro leaves over the noodles. Layer 4 shrimp halves on top of the herbs. Place 3 to 4 bite-size pieces of lettuce over the shrimp, and pile about 2 tablespoons of shredded carrots on top.
  7. Pull the bottom inch of the rice paper over the filling and roll halfway up the rice paper. (Make sure that you wrap tightly, but be gentle so the wrapper doesn't tear.) Fold the sides over the filling and continue to roll up like an egg roll. Place the summer roll, seam side down, on a large plate and cover with a damp paper towel. Repeat the process with the remaining rice paper wrappers and filling.
  8. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce (below), or refrigerate, covered with damp towels, for up to 1 hour before serving.

Asian Dipping Sauce


What you need:


Ingredients

  • ½ cup reserved shrimp cooking liquid from Shrimp and Veggie Summer Rolls
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
  • ¼ cup sliced green onions (cut on the diagonal)

Tools

  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Cutting board
  • Chef's knife
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Whisk

What to do:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk until well blended.
  2. Set aside until needed and stir well before serving.

All recipes © 2006 by Emeril's Food of Love Productions LLC. Used by Permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

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