Welcome to Eat Your Food!, our biweekly column of real meals made for real kids by Nick Evans.
Sometimes the most important element of dinner with kids is to put on a show. This recipe is great because it introduces kids to what can be a tough protein—salmon—but it also shows them a fun piece of kitchen equipment that they may not see often: a bamboo steamer! BE AMAZED!
My kids are used to me cooking dinner in pots and pans, so they were very intrigued when I busted out a wooden cylinder and started putting food in it. (“Will there be a fire?” “Can we call the Fire Department?”) You also get the added benefit of giving them a physics lesson (Water=> Steam=> HOT!).
The result is a meal that is surprisingly easy to make. You just toss the stuff in the steamer, season it, steam it, and dinner is done in about 15 minutes. Serve the fish and veggies with your favorite steamed rice.
KIDS AND FLAVORS
In my experience, the best way to develop well-rounded eaters is to just expose kids to a variety of flavors over and over and over again. This teaches them that there are not any terrible consequences to trying something new and it gives their palate a chance to learn to love new flavors. Or eventually reject them randomly outright, as kids are wont to do.
So, salmon is tough. After all, it has an actual flavor and when many kids think of fish, they are most likely familiar with fish sticks, which are very mild. There are more approachable fish varieties that you could use here, but salmon is also delicious and I love it, so I’ll be damned if I don’t cook with it because I’m afraid my kids won’t eat it.
(I’m very afraid my kids won’t eat it.)
Skip ahead to the report card to find out if they ate it on this particular day!
COOKING IN A BAMBOO STEAMER
If you don’t have a bamboo steamer, you should look into it. It’s a relatively cheap kitchen tool and you can cook a wide variety of things in it.
There are a couple of tricks: make sure you season the food well, for starters. You must put the food that needs more heat on the bottom (in this case the veggies), and the food that needs more gentle heat on the top (salmon).
No Steamer? If you don’t have a steamer, you can absolutely roast this dinner as well. I would roast the bok choy and red pepper first for 5 minutes tossed with a little olive oil at 400°F. Then add the salmon to the sheet pan and continue to roast until it’s just cooked through, maybe 10-12 minutes, depending on thickness of the salmon.
The DAD ADD: Spicy Maple Sauce!
This is your new favorite sauce. Trust me. It’s only four ingredients and cooks down in a few minutes. I love it on salmon, which can hold up to its big flavors. It would overpower less meaty fish varieties.
The recipe for this sauce is purposefully more than you need for a few pieces of salmon because I want you to put this sauce in your pantry and figure out other fun things to put it on. Wings? Pork chop? Sandwiches? Scrambled eggs? (Spoiler: Scrambled eggs.)
The REPORT CARD
This is how this meal went, which I tried to capture in the photograph above. My son immediately tried the fish! WIN! My daughter immediately wondered why I was on the other side of the table and climbed over to me, knocking over plates and whatever was in her way.
After settling down, I noticed there was some fish missing from her plate and asked her if she had tried it. It turns out she had tried, a few minutes ago, and it was still in her mouth. She spit it out, which made my son laugh. Hilarity ensued.
But, they tried the fish, they tried the bok choy, they ate a metric ton of buttered rice. Gummy worms were eaten for dessert. I’ll take it.