I think there comes a time in one’s life, probably many, when you have that moment as a dad. Most dad’s always try to encourage, teach, and drive teachable moments with their kids. I know I do. Whether it becomes learning to pump up a bike tire, to string a fishing pole, or heck, just try to be courteous to others. I am always striving for that encouragement. As you may or may not know, I am the ‘cook’ in the family. Chef, griller, smoker, what have you, I am the guy that is plating, serving, and for the most part cleaning up at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
My kids, I think, notice that. And to me, that is great.
Two weeks ago, my second child, eagerly asked if he could help me make a salad. I should back track a little bit and say that my lovely wife suggested that I make a salad for an upcoming party. “You know, that pasta salad you made that one time with cheese, and stuff?”. I like surprises, but don’t get me wrong…
So to both of their surprises, I said yes. Yes, you can help me with the salad, and yes, I would love to make a salad for the party. But what salad was it, that one with cheese?
Most of my creations are just that. Creations. Our backyard garden. Fresh herbs, and everything in between. Cheese? I remember one that I came up with cheese, and chunks of salami… but just cheese?
- 1 package cheese stuffed ravioli, cooked
- 1/2 lb your favorite pasta, cooked al dente
- 1 small head of brocoli, steamed for 3 minutes
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1/2 cup of sliced cherry tomatoes
- 1 orange bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup of fresh mozzarella cheese balls
- 1 cup of radicchio lettuce, diced
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- 2 tbsp dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp salt, more to taste
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper, more to taste
- 1 cup of colby jack cheese, cubed
- 1/4 cup of fresh basil, torn
Lets begin and get to the story a bit later.
Every time you cook, it is important you prepare all of your ingredients. If you have eager people that want to help, use them!
To a large bowl, add your vegetables. Drain your cooked pasta and add it to the bowl, and mix. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and let it come to room temperature.
In the meantime, make your dressing. To a mason jar, or sealed tight container, add your oil, salt and pepper, garlic, vinegar, and mustard. Shake this vigorously for about a minute until it looks like a nice, thick salad dressing.
Add the cheeses to the bowl, toss or mix, then add in your dressing. Mixing again.
My story continues…
“Can I do something for you Dad?”. A tear about came to my eye. It was one of those moments I had been waiting for. That moment. As I am not a mechanic, or tinkerer for the most part, I am a technologist, with a creative mind, and a hobby of cooking. That question simply got me.
I brought out a couple of knives, and began teaching him what I knew of knife skills. Fingers are precious, so curl them, and cut. Dice, and be precise. Take your time. He got it, and instantly took his time slicing and dicing.
Teachable moments. A moment and faint memory of cubes of cheese, and a lovely pasta salad that pleased many. I was won over by my nine year old son who began thinking of cooking and helping out in the kitchen. This pasta salad goes out to my lovely wife, and my son who is eager and willing to learn basic cooking skills. Enjoy.
What you end up with is a bowl of your backyard garden. Fresh and seasonal. The best part, well, probably two parts awesome; your kid wanting to cook with you and your wife wanting you to create something you never recall ever making. Maybe it was the cheese. Who knows.