September 29, 2010
As tomato season comes to a close, I’ve been savoring my last caprese salads made with thick slices of heirloom tomatoes layered with fresh mozzarella and sprinkled with fleur de sel and olive oil. Every time I make one, I offer bites to the Hungry Boy who refuses. And every time I’m astonished. How can any sane human being refuse this? I chalk it up to his mixed feelings about raw tomato, common among children his age, and focus on there being more for me.
But something different happened the other day. I’ve been feeding the Hungry Baby raw tomato for a while now. (I’m determined to raise a toddler who will appreciate the perfection of summer tomatoes.) Knowing that it wouldn’t be an issue for him, I began cubing his portion of our caprese salad. Suddenly, the Hungry Boy was intrigued.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“My FAVORITE salad ever,” I replied.
“What’s in it?”
I took advantage of what I knew was an opportunity and threw in some extra nutrition. “CHEESE,” I said in my most excited voice, “tomatoes and avocado,” I finished quickly.
I’d finished dressing the Hungry Baby’s salad (I added a dash of vinegar to sate his appetite for sour) and handed it over. One by one, the little one gobbled pieces of cheese, tomato and avocado. The Hungry Boy gave in.
“Can I have some?”
And sure enough, he ate it up. All of it.
I know that this can be explained, in part, by a sibling dynamic. But I think that something else was at play: sometimes a simple change in presentation does the trick. This is why sandwiches shaped like trains works for a lot of kids. Cubing caprese salad instead of trying to serve (intimidating) slabs of raw tomato may not be as cute, but it’s different and makes the salad seem manageable.
So manageable, that I packed some in the Hungry Boy’s lunchbox the next day. Full disclosure: he didn’t eat all of it (he doesn’t eat all of anything in his lunchbox), but he ate a bunch and claimed to like it.
And, added bonus, cubed caprese means that you can use cherry tomatoes, the only good fresh tomatoes available in winter. While not exactly the same, it can certainly sustain you until next summer when we can return to thick slices of gorgeous yellow, green, red and orange tomatoes.
One last thing… the avocado… really tasty! It’s a nice addition that gives great texture, flavor and nutrition. Try it!
Lunchbox Caprese Salad
(can be adapted for kids 6+ mos)*
cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on their size*
fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes*
avocado, cut into small cubes*
white wine or balsamic vinegar, optional
1. Toss all ingredients together until cheese and veggies are well dressed.
*Note: While all of these ingredients are safe for children 6+ mos, they can be hard to mash. For your beginner eaters, pull out the avocado (either before or after you’ve dressed the salad—that’s up to you) and mash. Once your baby is eating finger foods, pass them a bowl. Of course, just be sure to cut cheese and veggies into age appropriate bite-sizes.