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Fathers in the kitchen: For these families, dad is also the cook (recipes included!)

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Malcolm Seawell works as a criminal defense attorney in Denver, which means after a long day in the law office or courtroom he is ready to spend an evening catching up with his three young sons.

His favorite place to do that: the kitchen in their Cherry Hills Village home.

“I’ve been the cook in the family for as long as I’ve had the family,” says Seawell, who married Nicole Elias in 1999. “My wife doesn’t care to cook, but I really enjoy it. It’s a great way to spend time with my kids and bond with them, although it’s also something that simply needs to be done.”

With Father’s Day approaching on Sunday, it’s time to tip a toque to the men who wear the apron in the family. Some take on the task simply because they find it fulfilling or relaxing. Others do it by necessity, when their spouse’s work schedule is such that it prevents them from taking on the job.

Nearly all find it a great way to connect with their kids. Even teach them a thing or two involving pots and pans.

They are even being acknowledged with a television show — is there any greater sign of arrival in America? — coming this summer on The Food Network. Hosted by Jason Glover, it’s called, drumroll here, “Dads That Cook.” (You can check it out on Facebook at facebook.com/dadsthatcook.)

Seawell grew up in North Carolina, where he got his start in the kitchen. “The role model for my cooking was my mom,” he says. “Not that my dad was afraid of the kitchen, but it was really her room.”

Now he’s the cooking role model for his boys. The oldest, Will, is 11 and seems the most interested in picking up some skills at the stove. The younger two, Cole, 9, and Mac, 7, are more interested in just consuming the plates that land on the dining room table.

“They’re big on spaghetti and green chile, and they also like grilled asparagus,” Seawell says.

“They really like Mexican food nights. Last night we had fish tacos. And my middle son really likes my lemon chicken.”

Nicole works at home, so she gets to spend time with the boys when they come home from school. When the evening rolls around, it’s Dad’s turn.

“They like to spend time with me in the kitchen,” Seawell says. “It’s such a good basic thing to do, and really affords me time to bond with them. That time in the kitchen with my kids is as good as anything we do.

“Being boys, they eat a heck of a lot,” he says. “They’re always coming up to me and asking what’s for dinner, or suggesting something they want.”

Seawell’s wife handles the grocery shopping, putting an emphasis on fresh, unprocessed food. Seawell is fond of the grill, and prefers to cook from scratch, building meals from the ground up.

The family just returned from a trip to Yellowstone National Park, renting an RV and cooking on their own at campsites. The only downside: Their eldest son, now a Boy Scout, is finding that the camp food his troop chows down on isn’t up to par. “He might wind up being the troop cook,” Seawell says with a laugh.

Teaching time at the stove

Kyle Zeppelin isn’t the sole cook at home — his wife, Andra, is editor of Eater Denver, an online chronicle of the Mile High dining scene. “But I definitely handle my share of it,” he says.

They have one child, Lulu, who is nearly 5, and another on the way.

“She’s often in the kitchen when I’m cooking and gets exposed to a lot of food,” Zeppelin says. “We do a big breakfast program so she really likes that. We do pancakes and waffles from scratch, and so she’s learning about mixing ingredients and how they come together. She gets pretty excited about that.”

Zeppelin finds it a good way to combine lessons with a necessary task.

“It’s a big part of the time we spend at home,” he says. “Rather than having her off in another part of the house and not interacting with us, it’s a way to teach. We cook at home for health reasons, and there’s a lot more quality control.”

This dad’s a pro

Chef and restaurateur Frank Bonanno handles the cooking at home. No surprise there, though his wife, Jacqueline, is part of his growing assembly of restaurants, two of which are named for his sons, 11-year-old Luca (Luca d’Italia) and 9-year-old Marco, (Osteria Marco.)

“My kids both spend time in the kitchen and have pretty good knife skills as far as dicing and chopping,” Bonanno says.

For someone whose restaurants are all over the culinary map, though strongly rooted in Italy, it makes sense that his sons are omnivores.

“They’ll eat pretty much everything,” Bonanno says. “There’s nothing my kids don’t like. They’re into lobster, shrimp, calamari — and they love king crab legs.”

Luca, the oldest, is not a big red meat eater. “But he’ll take down a burger now and then,” Bonanno says.

The other night they made Juicy Lucys, a two-patty burger with cheese between the beef layers. Cheese enchiladas are also a big kid-pleaser, Bonanno has found. “They help me roll them up,” he says.

It’s also a way for kids to get a sense of where their food comes from.

“The kids will go out to our garden and pick a ton of arugula for a pasta dish I make, which they love,” Bonanno says. “They help me cut up the garlic and pick through the arugula leaves.

“It’s a wonderful time.”

William Porter: 303-954-1877, wporter@denverpost.com or twitter.com/williamporterdp

 

RECIPES BY DAD

Lulu’s Waffles

Kyle Zeppelin makes these for his 5-year-old daughter, Lulu. makes 4-5 large waffles.

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1½ cups whole milk

1/3 cup plain goat’s milk yogurt

2 small eggs

3½ tablespoons melted butter (plus more for brushing the waffle iron)

1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

Chopped pecans, optional

Powdered sugar, maple syrup, jam

Directions

Heat up the waffle iron to medium high heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, yogurt, eggs, melted butter, vanilla, and orange juice. Add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients and combine gently without over-stirring.

Brush waffle iron with more melted butter. Add batter to the waffle iron. Top with pecans, if using.

The waffle is ready when it is deeply golden brown. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with real maple syrup and seasonal jam.

 

Quinoa Vegetable Salad

Use whatever fresh veggies you have on hand for this hearty salad. From Malcolm Seawell, serves 4-6.

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup water

4 tablespoons avocado oil, olive oil or butter, divided

2 tablespoons crushed garlic

½ cup chopped onions

1 cup each diced asparagus, bell peppers and roma tomatoes

Sea salt and black pepper

Directions

In a medium pan, bring quinoa, chicken broth, water and 2 tablespoons oil or butter to boil. Cover and simmer until liquid evaporates, about 15 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes and fluff with fork.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil and sauté crushed garlic and onions until soft. Add diced asparagus, bell peppers and roma tomatoes for about 10 minutes or until veggies are just tender.

Add cooked quinoa and toss with sea salt and black pepper to taste.

 

Broiled Salmon

“This dish is also easily prepared over the grill, which is a delicious way of cooking the vegetables for the quinoa salad, too,” says Malcom Seawell. He serves the salmon with fruit salad and whole-grain bread. Serves 4.

Ingredients

1 large salmon fillet (about 1½ pounds)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon melted butter

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions

Rinse salmon fillet and pat dry with a paper towel.

Place fillet skin-side down in broiling pan lined with aluminum foil.

Combine olive oil, melted butter, salt, pepper, garlic, dill and lemon juice. Spread over fillet and rub in.

Broil on high about 6 inches from heat until salmon easily flakes with fork, about 10 minutes.

 

Juicy Lucy Burgers

From Frank Bonanno, makes 4 burgers.

Ingredients

1½ pounds ground beef (90 percent lean)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon ketchup

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

4 thick slices of cheddar cheese

2 teaspoons vegetable oil4 teaspoons butter, softened

4 hamburger buns

4 slices tomato

4 pieces romaine lettuce

4 slices white onion

Directions

Place ground beef in mixing bowl and add Worcestershire sauce, barbecue sauce, ketchup, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Divide the beef mixture into eight even-sized balls and press them into patties. Lay four of the patties on a clean kitchen work surface and place a slice of cheese onto each patty. Top each patty with another patty so the cheese is sandwiched between the two. Using your fingers, press the edges of the patties together so the cheese is encased in the hamburger.

Get a large skillet very hot, add vegetable oil and patties. Cook until golden brown on each side, until cheese begins to melt out.

While burgers are cooking, spread soft butter onto the hamburger buns and toast until butter melts and buns become crisp.

Place the burgers on the buns and top with tomato, lettuce and onion. Serve with your favorite condiments (I like mayo, ketchup and mustard).

 

Frank Bonanno’s Sunday Pasta

Serves 4.

Ingredients

4 quarts water

5 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 pound spaghetti noodles

½ cups extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon chile flakes (optional)

3 tablespoons butter

4 cups fresh arugula

1 teaspoon ground pepper

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

In a large pot, bring water and 4 teaspoons kosher salt to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to directions on the box or until pasta is al dente.

While pasta is cooking, put large sauté pan on medium heat and add olive oil. Don’t let it smoke.

Add garlic and cook until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add chile flakes (if using). Remove pan from heat, add butter, arugula, remaining salt and pepper.

When pasta is done, drain and transfer to sauté pan. Toss the pasta and wilt the arugula slightly. Sprinkle in Parmesan cheese and divide between four bowls to serve.

By William Porter
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