Family Dinner

Eden Grinshpan On Getting Your Kids To Love Fish Eyeballs (Yes, Really!)

The Food Network star shares a delish (non-fish eyeball) recipe and confesses how often she cooks buttery noodles.

Whether you know her from her Cooking Channel show, Eden Eats, or as the host of Top Chef Canada, Eden Grinshpan is quickly becoming a household name — particularly if you live in a household of food lovers. She’s immensely likable on Instagram, too, where she manages to make working motherhood look downright joyful. Sun-soaked, food-filled snippets of her with her husband, Ido, and their two little girls — Romi (1) and Ayv (5) — watering their vegetable garden at home in Toronto or dancing on a Tuscan hilltop in gauzy white dresses are dizzyingly bright, invitingly warm and happy. Eden seems to radiate an enthusiasm for life — as so many food-loving people do — that’s completely inspiring. It took all of 30 seconds of scrolling around on her Instagram account for my brain to hop on the could this be me? train.

Could I, too, drink a spritz with my husband on the Italian Riviera and frolic lovingly with him in the waves... as if I don’t regularly snap at him about delayed diaper changes and too many episodes of Bluey in a row? Could I live in a home with soothing, Nancy Meyers-esque plush cream-colored furniture with two small children?

No, sadly. I know that I could not pull off any of it. I am too tired. But, though I know I’m not cut out for this particular lifestyle, it’s an undeniably pleasurable one to aspire to. How does she manage it all? And what does family dinner look like in her home, for real? We took a glance behind the cameras to find out more about this food-loving mom and beloved television host.

What did “family dinner” look like in your childhood home? Who cooked?

Whether the day was good or bad, the table was the place where we connected at the end of the day.

I feel like I was really fortunate to get to eat dinner with my whole family every night growing up. It was really important for us to sit down, have a home cooked meal, and talk about our day. Whether the day was good or bad, the table was the place where we connected at the end of the day. I have two kids now, and I felt like it was something I wanted to continue in our family. It kept us close, it kept us in the loop with what was going on in each others' lives.

What was your first experience with cooking? When did you fall in love with food?

Growing up, my mom would cook almost every meal, and so I didn't really find my passion for food until high school. After school I'd procrastinate by eating snacks while watching Food Network, and that sparked a passion for cooking and baking, and that inspired my culinary career. When it came time for university, I didn't go to college, I went to culinary school. I went to Le Cordon Bleu in London, and while I was there I also worked part time in restaurants. It was just one of those amazing life experiences.

I know travel is a big part of your life. Where did you grow up? Have you always had a passion for travel?

I grew up in Toronto but my dad is Israeli, so I spent a lot of time there and we always traveled a lot. Moving to London for culinary school was a no-brainer to me. While I was living there and working on my Grand Diplôme at Le Cordon Bleu, I worked in restaurant kitchens, but I also spent a lot of time traveling. I'd travel to Italy or Prague on the weekends — literally all over Italy and France. Being in London, everything is so accessible and so we just kind of went for it. I just loved traveling. And that's when I started connecting my love for cuisine with my love for travel. After graduation, I backpacked in India for about a year, and after that I lived in Israel and worked in kitchens there.

How has travel has inspired you in the kitchen?

I get most of my inspiration from travel, and from eating in different restaurants and learning about flavor, techniques, flavors. Travel really inspires my everyday cooking. There's no greater high than eating something that changes your life and really just excites you, and then sharing that with your friends and family when you get back home.

Did you come into parenthood with particular hopes for the role that food and family dinners would play in your life as a mother? How has that played out in reality?

Let's be honest here — I'll make buttery noodles at least once a week or maybe twice. Or maybe more!

I always wanted to have a home that was open to new flavors and where my kids were in the kitchen with me. I think we've done a really good job of that, actually. Like, last summer we planted a garden and every morning we water together. We walk through and Romi, my 1-year-old, picks cherry tomatoes off the vine and snacks on them in the mornings. We're a family that's connected to food. I really want to teach my kids where food comes from and I want them to appreciate that. When it comes to cooking and baking, too, it's something that's just a natural part of our life at home. I find that the more I get my kids involved in cooking, the more interest they have — they like to get their hands into things. Like, if we bake bread together, Ayv wants to immediately slice it and give it to everyone. If we baked it together, she’ll eat it with such joy. So she’s at the counter with me every day, cooking and baking by my side.

It's so interesting that you ask about the fantasy versus the practical reality of being a mom, because sometimes I cook like — let's be honest here — I'll make buttery noodles at least once a week or maybe twice. Or maybe more! I grew up with that, and I love it. It's comfort. But, it really does surprise me sometimes when I make a dish that I just assume Ayv’s not going to like, and then suddenly I look over and she's eating grilled fish and salad. Food like this has been around her whole life, and she sees that we love it.

Like you, Grinshpan makes buttery noodles at least once a week.Eden Grinshpan

The number one rule in my house is that you can't say you don't like something until you try it. If you don't like it and you've tried it? That's fine! But you don't get to say you don't like it without knowing. That doesn't fly by me! Like, now, my daughter loves fish eyeballs. My dad dared her to do it once and now she loves to eat them. I swear, it's like her party trick.

Do you use professional techniques in the kitchen that you learned in culinary school to help you get family dinner on the table? I know you’re partnering with Sir Kensington’s condiments — how do those factor into your weeknight dinners?

Obviously, culinary school gave me all the techniques I needed to push myself into so many different cuisines. But one thing that doesn't really require that level of technique is just having a familiarity with flavor profiles and flavor combinations. I use quality ingredients to up my condiment game — condiments are an easy way to up your game. I make these zucchini crisps that I serve with harissa mayo made with Sir Kensington’s avocado oil mayo. It’s just about playing with flavor combinations, using quality ingredients and putting your personal touch on things.

What do you hope your kids’ memories of family dinner look like?

When I think of eating with my family, it just makes me feel super happy. It's a joyous thing for me and I want my kids to carry that on. I want my kids to have respect for food, and where it comes from. I want them to have a basic knowledge [of how to cook] and to be able to get in the kitchen and be proud of what they know.

For me, what it comes down to is creating amazing memorable family moments around food. Happy food, good produce, good-quality food. I think especially about the summer memories — being outside, getting hands dirty, throwing everything on the grill and eating it fresh. We’ll throw the sprinkler on, and the kids are just running around in their underwear having the time of their life. Meanwhile we're over here just having a really nice relaxed barbecue. It's just fantastic. It’s about just cooking & eating together — that's what it's all about.

Eden’s Zucchini Crisps With Harissa Mayo

Eden Grinshpan

Ingredients:

⅓ cup Sir Kensington’s Avocado Oil Mayo

½ lemon juiced

½ cloves of garlic, grated

1 tablespoon harissa paste

2 medium summer squash, sliced into medallions ½ inch thick

2 eggs

1 cup flour

1 cup panko bread crumbs

¼ cup fresh sage leaves

¼ cup fresh basil leaves

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Neutral oil for frying (Eden likes either avocado or sunflower oil)

Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix the Sir Kensington’s Avocado Oil Mayo with the lemon juice, garlic, harissa paste and season with salt and black pepper.
  2. Slice the summer squash into ½ inch thick pieces.
  3. Take out three wide bowls. In one, place the flour and season with salt and cracked black pepper. In the second bowl, crack in the eggs and whisk well. In the third bowl, add the panko and season with salt and cracked black pepper.
  4. Bread your squash. Place the sliced squash into the seasoned all-purpose flour, and then dip into the whisked eggs. Place the seasoned panko and cover the squash all over. Place on a lined tray and continue until all the squash is breaded.
  5. Heat up a pan and add in the oil. When the oil starts to ripple, turn down to medium heat and add in enough squash to cover the pan in one layer, don’t overcrowd. Fry until golden around 2 minutes and then flip over and fry on the other side. When both sides are golden, remove and place on a paper towel lined plate. Season with salt and finish frying the rest.
  6. After all squash is fried, add the sage and fry for 10 seconds, remove from the oil and place on plate.
  7. Place the squash and sage on a plate with harissa mayo and basil.