Emily and her daughter Olivia

Emily Mazo-Rizzi is an American who has been living in Paris since 1999, where she was initially working as an […]

  • 1
  • May 5, 2015
Easy Peanut Sauce

Nothing gets my culinary self as excited as finding a recipe that’s versatile, effortless, and uses ingredients I usually keep […]

  • 25
  • April 28, 2015
Miso Glazed Flank Steak

I only ever buy meat from Mathieu, my butcher of choice at the organic greenmarket on Saturday mornings. I used […]

  • 52
  • April 8, 2015
Fresh garlic

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Springtime Pot-au-feu

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Black Sesame Panna Cotta

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Parents Who Cook: Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Emily Mazo-Rizzi is an American who has been living in Paris since 1999, where she was initially working as an Internet project manager. She then went back to the United States for a year to train as a Pilates instructor, and has been teaching Pilates in Paris since 2010. She is married to a Frenchman, Bruno, and food and cooking have always been a central part of their life together.

I have known Emily for ten years, ever since she first got in touch as a reader of Chocolate & Zucchini, and over this decade she has become my very own Pilates teacher and a cherished friend. Her (adorable) daughter Olivia was born a few months after my own son Milan, so we have shared many a parenting conversation, and I have been so inspired by her way of involving Olivia in the kitchen that I knew I had to have her as a guest of my Parents Who Cook series. She was kind enough to accept my invitation, and I hope you enjoy reading about her approach. Thank you Emily!

clotilde

Can you tell us a few words about your daughter? Her age, name, and temperament?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Olivia is two and a half as I write. She is easygoing, observant, calm, curious, sweet, loves to move and loves to laugh. She adores cooking with us. She’s hesitant about trying new foods and shy about meeting new people, but ends up trying and warming up.

clotilde

Did having a child change the way you cook?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Most definitely. In fact I think there is not a single aspect of my life that hasn’t changed since having a child! My husband Bruno and I used to spend well over an hour cooking dinner together each night. Our meals were not necessarily elaborate but we had two or three different things on our plates, or a starter and main course. Now we tend to have one-dish meals or one hot dish and one cold — usually some kind of a salad.

I am a Pilates instructor and work two evenings a week, so Bruno prepares meals on those evenings. The other nights I usually start preparing our meal while Olivia eats, then he takes over while I give her a bath. We haven’t gotten organized enough yet to eat early and together on weeknights, but that will be our goal for next fall.

clotilde

Do you remember what it was like to cook with a newborn? Any tips or saving grace for new parents going through that phase?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Part of my nesting in preparing for Olivia’s arrival was making tomato sauce. She was born in October so we had good tomatoes from our farmer at the greenmarket until then. Bruno would laugh at me because we’d buy one or two kilos of tomatoes a week, and I’d cook them up into sauce and freeze them. It reassured me to know that when our baby was born we’d at least have homemade tomato sauce to put on pasta or make some sautéed veggies more interesting. We also made and froze a lot of chicken broth for risottos, soups, sauces. I think preparing your own food in advance is a great way to be ready for the baby’s birth.

Then when the baby arrived there was more take-out than we’ve ever had before or since. Bruno proudly donned his role as hunter-gatherer and headed out into cold, usually rainy, and then snowy Paris to come back with simple things to prepare. We love our greens so there were always vegetables. We also tried to make extra so there would be leftovers for the next day.

In the US, friends and family bring food to new parents. I wish that were the case in Paris! I think if I have another child I will be more forward and tell our friends coming to meet the baby: “Please don’t bring us any more baby presents; please bring us dinner!” A few American friends did and we were so grateful.

Olivia making cinnamon cookies

Olivia making cinnamon cookies

clotilde

Over time, have you developed staple dishes or strategies that make it possible to prepare a meal and keep the kid happy at the same time?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

We try to prepare Olivia’s food in advance; it started when she was a baby. On Sunday, we’d go to the greenmarket and use our fresh produce to concoct industrial quantities of apple sauce or other fruit compotes, puréed carrots, potatoes, zucchini, etc. Just like another parent featured in this column, Tamami Haga, we also freeze everything flat in zip-lock bags. We have a small freezer so it helps to save space. (Be sure to label and date everything!)

As Olivia has moved beyond purées, we’ve continued to prepare food for her in advance and freeze it. It’s amazing how many things freeze really well. She loves Clotilde’s roasted cauliflower minus the fish sauce; I just made a batch for her last night. Now that she’s older, we also try to make extra of what we have for dinner and she’ll eat it the next night. For her starch we have a wide variety of pasta, rice, and grains on hand. I also cook, purée and freeze potatoes and sweet potatoes. I add vegetables to everything, for example: mashed potatoes AND zucchini, mashed sweet potato AND Hokkaido squash, omelet with spinach or Swiss chard, etc.

Olivia was in her baby seat in the kitchen with us at a pretty young age, so she’s used to it. As she got older she would play with toys or draw while we cooked. I kept special toys in the kitchen just for the high chair. Now, she eats while we cook our meal and she helps cook her own.

Olivia rolling out the dough for cinnamon cookies

Olivia rolling out the dough for cinnamon cookies

clotilde

Have you found ways to involve your daughter in the cooking process?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Olivia began cooking with us just before she turned two. I started by having her make cookies with me on a Saturday morning when we didn’t have any time constraints. She helped me measure: scooping ingredients, pressing the buttons on the scale. Then she pressed the buttons on the food processor. She loves watching it go! Then cutting the cookies into shapes, placing them on the tray. At some point I “sacrificed” some dough and let her play with it. When our product was complete she gave an enthusiastic “Woooow!” and was delighted to taste!

Now we try to give her any task she can manage. Putting salt in the pot before we pour in the boiling water for pasta or a grain. Deveining spinach is a great sorting game; washing it is a lot of fun! She takes the frozen food out of bags and discovers the cold and wet feeling. She helps cut butter to put on her quinoa, bulgur, or other grain. We’re teaching her to pour carefully, stir, beat, and even cut. She enjoys brushing olive oil and vegetables to grill. Bruno has her put her hand on his when he cuts soft things like avocado or beet, and she knows to “puuuush”, she truly guides the movement. When I cut she says, “Watch your fingers, Mommy!” She takes things out of the fridge and puts them away upon request.

I think it works for us because she has come to understand that the kitchen is an important place for our family. We’ve taught her that cooking is a privilege and she knows that if she doesn’t follow instructions she loses the privilege. She has been very upset when that has happened, so it happens rarely.

Olivia manning the gas stove (!)

Olivia manning the gas stove (!)

clotilde

As someone who’s passionate about food, can you talk about the joys and challenges of feeding your child, and how you go about teaching her to be a happy, adventurous eater?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

We were so incredibly excited for Olivia to try solid food, we thought she would open her mouth, taste, swallow and ask for more. We were sorely disappointed. Puréed carrots were at first some bizarre form of torture. This initial experience was indicative of the ups and downs of the whole process of teaching a child about food. As young children try foods for the first time, it’s important to stay calm and not feel offended when your child rejects the dish you just spent hours preparing. Freeze the leftovers and then try and try again! I can’t remember where I heard or read a pediatrician say a child has to try a food thirty times before determining that he or she really and truly does not like it!

Olivia is resistant to trying new things. We ask her to taste one bite, sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t, and then we don’t make her finish it if she doesn’t want to. We do know, however, that even though she resists trying, she usually ends up eating the thing and liking it.

We tend to be more strict at home about having her eat all or most of her meal before moving on to yogurt or fruit. When we’re out at restaurants or with friends, we offer her a bit of everything and don’t make a big deal if she doesn’t eat a well-rounded meal. Learning to choose your battles is another key to parenting in general, and to happy meals.

Like so many things children learn by example. We see mealtime as a fun, relaxing and pleasant time to eat delicious foods, try new foods and be together as a family. We feed her things we eat ourselves and always encourage her to taste. She wants to do what we do, she wants to eat what we eat. We even feed her things we don’t like — beets and sheep’s milk yogurt for example — and she loves them. Maybe we have to try them thirty times too!

Olivia

May 2015 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month in 2015, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, with a food-related picture and a calendar of the current month.

The desktop calendar is available in two versions: a US-friendly version that features Sunday as the first day of the week, and a French version (shown above) that complies with international standards, featuring Monday as the first day of the week.

Our calendar for May is a photo of happy strawberries, grown in actual soil and picked ripe, which means they are as flavorsome and fragrant as they are fragile: this kind of strawberry is necessarily local and is best eaten within a day or two of purchase, but that’s rarely a problem at my house. If you’re seeking inspiration, check out these strawberry recipes.

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

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Easy Peanut Sauce

Nothing gets my culinary self as excited as finding a recipe that’s versatile, effortless, and uses ingredients I usually keep on hand at all times. And this peanut sauce, submitted to the Food52 site by Phoebe Lapine, is one such discovery.

It calls for all pantry items, among which I count the fresh ginger and garlic: I always have a chunk of the former in my fridge (where it keeps for weeks and weeks) and a head of the latter (preferably pink) on my counter. Only the lime juice requires a bit of foresight on my part, but it’s optional (it was a commenter’s suggestion, one I absolutely agree with) and lemon juice can also do in a pinch.

It is also the easiest thing to make: all you need is a small mixer or blender to whizz together the ingredients, thin the mixture with a little bit of water, and there you have it, a boldly flavorsome peanut sauce that you can:

  • Toss with some noodles, perhaps adding some minced scallions, grated carrots, and cilantro for color and vitamins,
  • Dollop onto a bowl of brown rice with some mushrooms and sweet potatoes,
  • Use as a dip for crudités (think sticks of carrot, cucumber, or kohlrabi, radishes of any color…),
  • Serve as a sauce alongside grilled skewers of (organic) chicken, (sustainable) fish, or (ethically sourced) shrimp,
  • Drizzle over a plate of steamed or roasted vegetables (think broccoli, green beans, bok choy, any kind of leafy green)…

And the best part is, you can make this sauce ahead of time — say, on the weekend — and keep it in the fridge for a couple of weeks, ready to roll whenever you need to put together a quickie meal or a satisfying snack.

Join the conversation!

Have I convinced you to adopt peanut sauce into your repertoire, if it isn’t in there already? And how are you most tempted to use it?

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Vegan Chocolate Banana Muffins

Experience has twice shown that I am not the kind of person who, when pregnant, cooks up big batches of soup and lasagna in advance of the birth to stash away in her freezer for times of sleep-deprived need.

For one thing, my freezer is Paris-kitchen-tiny and already packed with chicken carcasses for stock and chopped onions and stalks of lemongrass. But also, it would require more organizational skills than I seem to possess and I was scrambling to prepare our regular dinners as it was, so there wasn’t much time or energy left for post-birth meal planning.

I did have room in that shoebox-sized freezer for a half-dozen chocolate banana muffins that I was overjoyed to find when I returned from the maternité with an infant and a wolf’s appetite.

However, it may tell you something about my priorities to know that Mika’s arrival didn’t catch me completely unprepared: I did have room in that shoebox-sized freezer for a half-dozen chocolate banana muffins that I was overjoyed to find when I returned from the maternité with an infant and a wolf’s appetite.

The recipe for these vegan muffins is based on this winning vegan coconut banana bread, which I modified to skip the grated coconut, add coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate, and bake in muffin form, with a sprinkle of unrefined sugar so the top part is extra extra desirable.

The texture of these muffins is astoundingly satisfying, moist and tender and chocolate-chunky, the flavors are big and bold, and they are pretty easy to put together, so they are an ideal baking project if you’re pressed for time and energy but mighty hungry.

Join the conversation!

Are you the sort of cook who would prepare well in advance of big events, such as a birth or a scheduled medical procedure? What sort of dish or treat would you make ahead then?

Banana Chocolate Muffins

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Miso Glazed Flank Steak

I only ever buy meat from Mathieu, my butcher of choice at the organic greenmarket on Saturday mornings. I used to stop by every week and get enough for two meals or so, but the line is so long these days — word must have gotten out that his stuff is good — that I had to change my strategy: I go less frequently, buy a little more, and freeze the extra. (On the weeks that I don’t buy meat, I get eggs directly from Mathieu’s wife, Laure, who stands at the register, thus skipping the line. This is accepted practice and can be done without feeling wrathful gazes flare up your back.)

My favorite items to get are duck breasts, which I rub with spices and roast, pork tenderloin, boudins blancs, and andouillettes (chitterlings sausage), all of which freeze very well. And every once in a while, when I’m in the mood for red meat, I get slices of bavette (flank steak) or merlan (a lesser-known, tender cut from the inner thigh) to have for lunch when I get back from the market.

Because this is very flavorsome meat, I usually cook it in the simplest of ways, by just searing it in a grill pan. But the other day I decided to try something a little different and marinated the meat in a paste-like, miso-based marinade. It was so quickly assembled and yielded such savory results it may well become a Saturday lunch staple around here.

If you take a look at the ingredients’ list for the marinade, you’ll notice that I used fresh turmeric, found at the organic store. The skin was a little wrinkled, but it was the first time I’d seen any for sale, so I jumped at the opportunity anyway. As the young man who rung up my purchases remarked, the rhizomes look like cut fingers (he’s lucky it’s my kind of humor). They can be peeled, grated, and used much like ginger, and just like ginger, the fresh stuff has little to do with its dried and ground persona, which I’ve always thought tasted a bit musty. The one caveat is that fresh turmeric is a powerful tincture that will, if you’re not careful, stain your countertop, hands, sleeves, food processor, left cheek, and favorite napkin with highlighter yellow, near indelible blotches. Just thought you might like to know.

Fresh turmeric

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