- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2006

If you’re attending a family gathering on Memorial Day, why not let the children prepare the appetizers?

In our family, children have always loved the grazing part of any social gathering, and dipping vegetables into something yummy is a good way to get them to eat vegetables.

This miso-almond dip is also a lot of fun to make. Once it’s in the bowl, even the most veggie phobic will scoop it up with broccoli (lightly steamed until just tender, then chilled), baby carrots, celery sticks, raw green beans, colorful bell pepper strips and snow peas. It’s also good spread on crackers.

When I first served this dip, already prepared, to a group of preschoolers, they recoiled in horror at the brown color and ambiguous identity. A few days later, I brought in the unassembled ingredients, including the almonds and a blender to make almond butter, and this time the experience was totally different. Tasting one component at a time, the same children were enthralled. It was a real food literacy lesson.

Here are some pointers if this is going to be a do-together project for you and your children: Mixing the thick sauce can be challenging for small children. Use a large enough bowl to allow for some movement and tell your youngest chef to mix it by pushing it. “Mash down to the bowl” is a good way to describe the action.

Children can push the buttons on the blender — it may be easiest for them to use their thumbs. However, removing the almond butter from the blender is an adult-only job. It must be made very clear that children should never touch the blade.

Miso-almond dip

1 cup (4 ounces) slivered almonds, lightly toasted

4 shakes salt (from a not-too-fast salt shaker)

1 to 2 tablespoons canola, peanut or soy oil

1 small clove garlic, crushed, optional

3 tablespoons shiro miso or a similar light variety (see note)

6 tablespoons apple juice, divided (see note)

Colorful assortment of dipping vegetables and crackers

Place almonds in a blender with salt, 1 tablespoon oil and crushed garlic, if using. Blend to make a smooth paste, adding another tablespoon of oil, if necessary.

Transfer to a medium-size bowl. Add miso and half the apple juice. Mash and stir slowly until smooth. Mix in remaining apple juice. Serve at room temperature with a colorful assortment of dipping vegetables and crackers. Makes 3 to 4 servings but is easily multiplied.

Note: Miso is a salty paste made from fermented soybeans and grains. You can find many different varieties of miso in natural food groceries and Asian markets and in some regular American supermarkets. For this recipe, use either the shiro or mellow white varieties, which are mildest in flavor. This recipe works best if the apple juice is warmed a bit first on the stove or in the microwave.


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