Very few people can tell tales of dining at the White House. We may imagine the security checks, the pomp and circumstance, and the access to the most powerful people in the world, but it’s a tough invitation to snag.
Those who can dine out on their 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue experience include Hinsdale’s 12-year-old Jonah Schaik and his mother, Madelyn, who attended the Kids’ State Dinner hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama last summer. Given that the event was for kids between the ages of 8 and 12, it was actually a luncheon featuring some of the winning recipes.
Jonah’s Pesto Pasta recipe was chosen as the Illinois winner in The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. He was announced in the manner of a state dignitary arriving at a State Dinner and faced a press line, where journalists and White House Chef Sam Kass conducted interviews and snapped photographs of the 54 winners.
Jonah, who is one of four brothers, devised his recipe to be delicious for the whole family, including his brother with food allergies.
Jonah recommends growing your own basil as the weather grows warmer over the coming months. He likes to serve this with a strawberry-banana smoothie made with coconut milk and orange juice.
No word yet on whether or not The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge will call for entries again this year, but Madelyn says that her other boys are hard at work on their own dishes. If the contest opens again this May, the Schaik family is ready to create their own kind of delicious White House dynasty.
A Hinsdale Family’s Favorite
For the pesto:
4 cups loosely packed
5 ounces frozen chopped
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
freshly ground black
For the pasta:
1 pound whole-wheat
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground turkey
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly
ground black pepper
2 (14-ounce) cans
low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
½ onion, cut into small
½ red bell pepper, cut
into small dice
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup fresh basil leaves,
¼ teaspoon dried red
freshly grated Parmesan
Make the pesto: In a blender or food processor, combine the basil, spinach, garlic, and olive oil. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Make the pasta: In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
While the pasta is boiling, cook the turkey: In a large, deep skillet over moderate heat, warm the olive oil. Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until just starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer the meat to a plate and reserve.
In the same large skillet over low heat, warm 3 tablespoons of the chicken broth. Add the onions
and bell pepper, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add the basil and the dried red pepper, and return the cooked turkey to the pan. Add the remaining chicken broth, and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the pesto to the pasta. Stir well to combine, adding the reserved pasta cooking liquid as necessary to loosen the pesto. Add the turkey sauce to the pasta and cook over low heat, stirring to combine, until heated through. Serve hot, with freshly grated Parmesan cheese on the side. Serves six.
– Michelle Crowe // Photography by Madelyn Schaik