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Lightened American Classics

With tasty, healthy recipes like Italian-American minestrone and Southern-style chicken legs, chef Mark Peel is championing the not-yet-extinct family meal.

Chef Mark Peel believes in the family meal. He has become famous for serving family-style dinners on Monday nights at his Los Angeles restaurant, Campanile. At home, he eats with his family almost every morning and at least two nights a week. His four-year-old is particularly fond of having fresh-picked flowers on the table. “None of our neighbors’ yards are safe from her,” Peel says.

Now, he hopes to inspire others with New Classic Family Dinners (co-written with Martha Rose Shulman). The book celebrates old-fashioned, almost clichéd American dishes like chicken potpie. “When made properly, with good ingredients, you see how delicious these foods can be,” he explains.

The recipes here are lightened versions of Peel’s favorites. Skinless chicken legs in an onion-tomato gravy get rich flavor from a single strip of bacon; a modern take on a Waldorf salad combines frisée, radishes, apples, walnuts and celery in a cumin dressing.

These recipes are healthy, yes, but so too is the simple act of sharing them: Peel isn’t surprised a recent study concluded that children who eat healthy meals with their families are more likely to eat well when they grow up.

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Published November 2009
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