In Italy, Make Sure Your Silver Spoon Is a Measuring Spoon and Kid-Size

If The Silver Spoon cookbook is the bible of Italian cooking, then The Silver Spoon for Children is the Sunday school reader of Italian cooking for kids. The Silver Spoon for Children takes 40 recipes from the original The Silver Spoon, adapting them so they are very easy to read, follow and cook.

The recipes in this children's cookbook teach kids skills and techniques that can be used in the kitchen for a lifetime. It is the first children's cookbook I've seen that really takes the education component of cooking very seriously. "By following the recipes," it says, "you will practice some math (measuring, sharing), reading (the recipes as well as lots of fun bits of information along the way), geography (you will learn some interesting facts about Italy), and perhaps even art (you could try drawing the food you have cooked, just like Harriet has done for the recipes in this book)." Harriet Russell is the illustrator.

Each recipe is written over two pages so that each and every step is clearly defined and illustrated. There is one photograph included of the finished product and a small paragraph detailing some interesting historical facts about the dish or the region it came from in Italy. The illustrations are fun but very helpful, and even some of the historical facts have been drawn out.

The beginning of the book includes the sections Cooking the Italian Way, Cooking Safety, Equipment and Utensils, and Techniques. These sections are well-illustrated and -explained so that any child could understand and follow along with the pictures. The food sections include: Lunches and Snacks, Pastas and Pizza, Main Courses, and Desserts and Baking.

This is not your typical children's cookbook full of processed foods, open-and-dump methods or no-slicing-necessary recipes. This book really wants your child to turn on the oven and stove, use a cutting board and knife and use whole vegetables, fruits and meats to make the family a nutritious and delicious meal. There are recipes as simple as prosciutto and melon, spaghetti with tomato sauce and linguine with pesto, but then there are recipes for tuna frittata and green beans with tomato, pizza and pasta dough, ravioli Napoletana, risotto, polenta gnocchi, roast leg of lamb and marbled ring cake.

The Silver Spoon for Children has vegan, vegetarian and meat-eater recipes for the whole family. I've included a couple recipes below. While this is a fantastic book for kids, I can also see it being handy for the elderly who just need a little help remembering how to get around in a kitchen safely. I will be making the saffron risotto and stuffed peaches tonight with my nephew.

Baked Macaroni with Parmesan


For the béchamel sauce: 4 tbsp sweet butter ½ cup all-purpose flour 1 ¼ cups whole milk freshly ground black pepper

For the baked macaroni: 2 ¾ cups macaroni pasta 1 ounce Parmesan cheese 1 ounce Cheddar cheese

DIRECTIONS 1. Grate the Parmesan and Cheddar cheese. Set aside. 2. Put the butter in a small pan and melt over gentle heat. You don't want to overheat the butter or let it brown, as this will affect the color and flavor of the sauce. 3. As soon as the butter has melted, add the flour and cook the mixture over medium heat for 1 minute, stirring constantly to make a smooth, glossy paste. 4. Take off the heat, add about 4 tbsp of the milk, and stir until the milk is completely mixed in. The mixture will go very thick, so stir until it is smooth. 5. Put back on low heat, add a little more milk and stir again. Continue to add milk a little at a time until you have added half of the milk. 6. Swap your spatula or wooden spoon for a whisk and continue to add the rest of the milk. You can add more at a time now, as long as you keep whisking to help prevent the sauce from going lumpy. 7. Keep the pan on low heat and let the sauce cook very gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cooks. You will know it's ready when the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of your wooden spoon. 8. Turn on the oven to 400° F. Then bring a large pan of water to a boil and cook the macaroni. 9. Add the Parmesan and Cheddar to the béchamel sauce and season with a little freshly ground black pepper. 10. Pour half of the béchamel sauce over the macaroni and mix the macaroni and sauce together. 11. Spoon the macaroni into an oven-safe dish about 10 inches square. Spread the remaining béchamel sauce over the top of macaroni. 12. Place the dish onto a baking tray. Put it into the oven and cook for 20 minutes until it is golden brown and bubbling. Makes enough for 4.

Stuffed Peaches

Ingredients: 1 Tbl sweet butter 5 peaches 4 amaretti cookies 2 barnyard eggs 2 Tbl unsweetened cocoa powder 4 Tbl superfine sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Rub butter all over oven-proof dish. (Keep remaining butter for later) 2. Cut peaches in half and discard pits. Cut one of the peaches into a small dice and put into a bowl. 3. Scoop out the middle of each peach to make a larger hole. Put the scooped out flesh into bowl with diced peach. 4. Put cut peach halves into oven proof dish, cut side up. 5. Using your hands, crush the amaretti cookies and add to chopped peaches. 6. Separate eggs and add yolks to peach mixture along with cocoa. Mix well. 7. Divide mixture among the peach halves and pile it up into a dome shape. Dot each with remaining butter, bake for 1 hour. Serve hot or cold and with or without ice cream. Makes enough for 4

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