Cook | For picky eaters, plain foods with a dash of delicious

After moving from San Francisco to Oakland a few months ago, my family is living in a little time warp. The synagogue we’re joining is the synagogue I grew up in. The elementary school my older daughter is attending is the one I attended. I drove through Oakland last week and saw that my favorite doughnut shop is still kicking. More on that at Hanukkah.

The food we serve, though, that’s different. My girls are picky eaters and my skills don’t come close to my mother’s. She always got us to eat our meals. I don’t know how. My kids, they eat nothing. The little one eats sometimes, but not around her sister. We have to wait for the nights when the big one has a sleepover to get her sister to eat anything with texture.

Classic Jewish food isn’t big on texture, so you’d think we’d be OK. Gefilte fish, matzah balls, kugel. All easy to chew and kid-friendly. Fun to fantasize that these creations were the result of haggard Jewish parents not wanting a fight. More likely, the recipes came about because using starch to stretch out a protein is a smart way to economize.

With fall comes a new Jewish year and new opportunities. I’m embracing texture and vowing to help develop my children’s palates with just a dash of the sophistication my mother lavished on me. These recipes are plain but delicious, and they work beautifully together.


Plain-ish Grilled Fish

Serves 42 lbs. yellowfin tuna or halibut

3 Tbs. olive oil

1½ tsp. mild chile powder

½ tsp. cumin

1 pinch ground clove

2 pinches cinnamon

Plenty of fresh black pepper

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbs. lemon juice

4 lemon wedgesPlace fish in a pie plate or other medium-size baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and turn to coat. In a small bowl, mix together chile powder, cumin, clove and cinnamon. Sprinkle fish with spice mixture. Crack black pepper over the top. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to 2 hours. Sprinkle with salt and lemon juice. Preheat grill. When hot, grill fish skin-side up for 2 minutes. Flip, and grill skin-side down for 6-8 minutes until cooked through. Serve with lemon wedges.


Grilled Broccoli with Lemon

Serves 4

2 crowns broccoli, broken into florets

2 Tbs. olive oil

½ tsp. salt

Plenty of fresh black pepper

2 tsp. lemon juice

2 Tbs. grated Parmesan

Steam broccoli 4-5 minutes until bright green. Transfer to glass bowl, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat 5-6 minutes, turning halfway through. Toss with lemon juice and Parmesan.


No Stuff In It Quinoa

Serves 41 cup quinoa

1½ cups water

1 tsp. granulated garlic

½ tsp. salt

3 Tbs. olive oil, divided

1 Tbs. lemon juice

3 Tbs. grated ParmesanCombine quinoa and water in a saucepan. Add garlic, salt and 1 Tbs. of the olive oil, and cook according to package directions, or until spiral tail emerges from the grain. Drain any excess liquid. In a bowl, combine cooked quinoa with remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil, lemon juice and Parmesan.


Strawberry-Banana Milkshakes

Serves 41 banana, cut in pieces

1 cup frozen strawberries

2 cups vanilla ice cream

1/4 cup orange juice (plus 2-3 Tbs. to make

blending easier, if necessary)

Combine all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth.

Josie A.G. Shapiro won the 2013 Man-O-Manischewitz Cookoff and is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.” Her website is

Josie A.G. Shapiro

Josie A.G. Shapiro won the 2013 Man-O-Manischewitz Cookoff and is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.”