Wild Eats: Cooking with Llewyn – My Kitchen Sidekick

Wild Eats: Cooking with Llewyn – My Kitchen Sidekick

By Avery Peters

When I think springtime cooking, I think transitional cooking – a little bit of those last winter vegetables jazzed up with a touch of spring – just like this risotto I made recently. I love to make risottos because they’re so adaptable to various additions. In our family, we don’t like risotto to be too heavy, so we’ve started to add heaps of vegetables. It becomes a comforting meal in a bowl and it gets Llewyn to eat his greens. I usually have to hide them in some rice, pasta, soup, or in a smoothie. I’m getting pretty good at that.

This last risotto I made was with mushrooms (sautéed for at least 20 minutes), some of Taproot Farms’ first greenhouse arugula of the season (chopped very fine so Llewyn would eat it), Parmesan, and cubed and roasted butternut squash. The colours were so cheerful on a blustery March evening.

Llewyn is obsessed with helping me cook in the kitchen. I can’t do anything in the kitchen without him wanting to know what’s going on. At just about 2 years, he’s not ready to learn knife skills yet, and I’d rather not chop another one of my fingers while I attempt to divert chaos while I’m cooking. So we found this system that works: I do the prep work and once he gets up from his nap or home from daycare, we cook together. I either hold him on my hip (he’s getting a little big for this at 28 pounds!) or we use the tower that grandpa built him so he can safely stand at counter height.

Risotto is a perfect dish to cook together. We add the onions to the pot. Then, his favourite task is to add the salt. We do this at various stages in the cooking process and have a little bowl of salt by the stove. I hold it out for him and he pinches it between his fingers and looks excitedly into my eyes, “More?” as he waits for my cue. Once the onions and garlic sweat it out with the salt we add the rice and stir till they pop, and then cup by cup we add the broth, slowly stirring together (sometimes his stir is a bit more of a fling, but I use a deep pot).

Once it’s cooked, before we add the cheese, he likes to taste. We grab a spoonful of risotto together to taste for doneness (we want just a little bit of crunch at the centre of the grain). He looks at me as I gently blow it to make sure it’s not too hot for him. He grins a body-tensing grin. If this pleasure doesn’t change him from his food throwing ways at the table, I don’t know what will, but I do think that when he grows up he’ll be an even better cook than I am.