Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sushi & the Hungry Hound

Steve & his son Max taught a Family Class at
The Kids' Table in Sept. 2015
The Kids' Table turns 10 years old this month! February 17th, to be exact. It's hard to believe how far we've come and how much we've grown. We're so grateful to all the folks who have been with us along our journey - whether for a handful of classes or a handful of years! In honor of our anniversary, we've asked a few of our longtime friends to share their KT memories here. Our first guest blogger is Steve Dolinsky, ABC 7's Hungry Hound. He is in a unique position of having experienced The Kids' Table on many levels - as a parent, as a reporter, and as a guest instructor.

Food, and by that I mean the meals we serve our kids, has always been of paramount importance to me. As a professional food reporter for various outlets (TV, radio, print, podcast), I’ve always had the strong belief that the meals you serve your children shapes their minds, and potentially opens them up for experiencing new things. We never caved in to the chicken fingers/pizza/mac & cheese triumvirate, mainly because those items tend to be fast-food processed with high levels of sodium. Not that we’re health food nuts, but we didn’t love the idea that every lunch and dinner had to include cheese, pasta and breading. By the same token, we’re not the kind of parents who have the time to prepare elaborate dinners each night, as both of us work. I usually would bring home food from another world – India, China, Thailand – and just get my kids to try it. The alternative was to take them out so they could see for themselves all of the options that the city has to offer. By the time they were five and six years old, they had already tried dim sum, Thai curry and Indian biryani with a side of raita.

We are longtime Bucktown residents, and while so much of the development has occurred east of Damen along North Avenue, there have always been a few random businesses to the west, closer to Western. It’s there where I was walking one day almost 10 years ago and noticed a sign that said “The Kids' Table.” 
I was intrigued. 

I found out it was a business based on getting kids interested in cooking (and thus, eating) and it wasn’t just another birthday party excuse for pizzas. We signed up the kids immediately. I loved how their staff took care of everything, the wrangling to get them to wash their hands, guiding them through the easy and patient instructions; even the cleanup. It was a fun, expedient way to introduce kids to new ingredients and techniques (loved those little choppers instead of knives) that they weren’t really getting at home. They were also trying new things, which is important to me. We loved the classes so much that one year – I think for my daughter’s 9th or 10th birthday – we did a sushi-making class, where they kids were taught about maki rolls and how to use a bamboo mat. After the class (which was simply a warm-up), we took everyone to a sushi restaurant for the real thing. I still remember that party more than almost any other, since my daughter was so engaged in the process. She loved learning about new foods and then getting involved in the actual preparation, which I think enhanced the pleasure of seeing it all come together to be tasted and enjoyed. 

I wish more parents would expose their kids to this healthy, fun option in the city. Anything to get them out of the mac/chicken finger mindset. Happy Birthday, KT! Thanks for showing kids that healthy eating can be fun. Here's to another 10 amazing and delicious years.

The Kids' Table's feature on ABC 7's Hungry Hound back
in 2007 (and that's a much younger version of Steve's son, Max!)

Madeline's Maki

2 cups glutinous white rice (short grain, for sushi)
3 cups water
½ cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
¼ white sugar
Bamboo rolling mat (available at Asian markets)
4 to 5 sheets of nori (dried seaweed)
1 avocado, sliced thin
1 seedless cucumber, peeled, sliced into thin strips
½ pound smoked tofu or ahi tuna (sushi-grade)

Rinse the rice in a strainer or colander until the water runs clear. Combine with water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Rice should be tender and water should be absorbed. Cool until cool enough to handle.

In a small saucepan, combine the rice vinegar, oil, sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Cool, then stir into the cooked rice. When you pour this into the rice it will seem very wet. Keep stirring and the rice will dry as it cools.

Cover the bamboo roller with plastic wrap. Set a sheet of nori on top and then grab a ball of rice the size of a baseball. The rice will be sticky, so keep a small dish of water nearby, to keep your hands wet and lubricated. Push out the rice on the nori, all the way to the edges, keeping the thickness even. Start lining up the avocado, cucumber and tuna along the lower third of the rice sheet, so it’s about an inch thick, like a belt across the nori sheet.

Lifting from the bottom, start rolling over the filling, pressing the bottom edge into the other side of the filling; then continue rolling until finished. With a very sharp knife dipped in water, slice through the maki roll, forming six pieces. Serve with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi.

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