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Resurrecting The Family Dinner

"Top Chef" offers time saving tips for busy parents
October 6, 2008 10:12:43 AM PDT
Today, less than half of American families eat dinner together. With the balance between a busy work schedule and home life a delicate one, it has become a virtual race against time to fit in all these commitments. Something has to give, and, unfortunately, all too often that has been the family dinner. But rather than picking up the phone to order costly takeout, busy parents should consider the endless array of delicious and time-saving dishes out there that involve little preparation, allowing more time to be spent with family. Consider this:
  • According to a recent survey conducted, 88 percent of families believe it is very or extremely important to eat together.
  • The top three barriers to not eating together include conflicting schedules, work schedule and kids' activities.
  • During these hectic times, more than half of Americans (58 percent) said they spend 30 minutes or less preparing dinner.
Former Top Chef contestant Antonia Lofaso says it's easy to make kid-friendly side dishes that compliment any main course.

Chef Antonia is currently Executive Chef at the popular Los Angeles restaurant, Foxtail. Prior to that, she worked for executive chef Lee Hefter at Spago restaurant for six years. A single mother living in Los Angeles with her 7-year-old daughter, Xea, Antonia comes from an Italian background and says fresh linguine with white truffles is her favorite thing to cook. She always has aged balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil on hand; root beer floats with her daughter are her favorite indulgence.

Chef Antonia Lofaso's Side Dishes

Chopped Salad

  • 1 large head of romaine lettuce
  • 2 cups string beans
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 cup evoo
  • 1/4 dijon mustard
  • Salt/pepper/sugar
Procedure: rough chop all romaine lettuce and place in large salad bowl. Small dice about half inch thick all tomatoes. Drain and rinse garbanzo beans and add to salad mixture. Cut raw string beans 1/4 inch and add to salad mixture.

Dressing: in a small mixing bowl add lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic. Slowly stream in evoo and season with salt/pepper/sugar to taste. Pour dressing over greens and toss together.

Asparagus Gratin

  • 2 heads of asparagus white or green
  • 2 cups bread crumbs(seasoned)
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
  • EVOO

Procedure: bring a sauce pot with 8 cups of water to a boil and season with salt. Trim asparagus, peeling may be necessary depending on the skin. Place all asparagus in boiling water for about 3 minutes, strain and place in an ice bath to stop the immediate cooking process (blanch). Dry asparagus and place on a flat baking sheet with all the tips facing the same way. Mix the parmesan and bread crumbs together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture on the base of the asparagus leaving the tips exposed. Sprinkle with a little evoo and place under the broiler until golden brown.

Whole Wheat Garlic Bread:

  • 1 large whole wheat baguette
  • 1cup butter
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped fine
  • 1tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp parmesan
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley
Procedure: soften butter and mix garlic, parsley, paprika and parmesan cheese together. Cut baguette in half lengthwise and spread butter mixture across generously. Put under the broiler until golden brown and bubbly.

5 Items To Always Have On-Hand:

  • Finishing oil
  • Aged Balsamic
  • Fleur de sel (sea salt)
  • Fresh herbs (tarragon and basil)
  • Chocolate (bittersweet and variety of other chocolate to be on-hand)

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