Monday, August 21, 2017
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You could go your whole life without cutting up a whole raw chicken. But if it’s one of your favoured proteins – and America eats more chicken per person than any other nation on Earth – learning how to do so is a smack-your-forehead, no-brainer endeavour. It’s even a little empowering.

We have gotten awfully used to the convenience of buying cut-up chicken parts, which found a place in retail markets more than five decades ago. Today, two-thirds of the chicken we consume has been dismantled by someone else, and we are paying dearly for the service. Some peg the parts’ rise to our penchant for lean breast meat, while others say it’s because we shudder at the thought of carving up a pink, fleshy body.

“We are a white-meat, boneless-skinless country,” says Tom Super, senior vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council, a lobbying group with such serious intentions that it has relegated poultry recipes to its allied websites. His assessment is accurate and data- driven: We go for the wings and breasts. That means more of our dark-meat and other chicken parts are shipped abroad where they are prized, rightly so, for their flavor. One out of every five pounds of commercially raised meat chickens is exported. Sustainably savvy, but sad.

Nobody taught you. It seems intimidating. Well, you can call up one of dozens of how-to videos online, narrated by the precise language of Martha Stewart or the folksy patter of a Kraft Foods kitcheneer. Play a few in succession, and you will find the same technique, give or take an airline breast here and an order-of- business there. The moving hands use big chef’s knives or poultry shears. Step by step, one side and then the other. Still, we are not motivated. What will it take?

“We would love to know the same thing,” says Daniel Salatin. “The average American family could save thousands if they bought whole chickens and cut ‘em up themselves.”

He is operations manager for Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia, where his family and famous firebrand farmer father, Joel Salatin, run a sustainable “clean meat” enterprise. They say they sell 8,000 to 12,000 pastured chickens a year, with an eight-piece package priced at $4.65 per pound – a buck more per pound than their whole birds. But Polyface’s boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cost $14 per pound. That price was calculated to offset any loss of sales on less-popular parts and to achieve the same revenue that the farm’s whole birds generated. Still, breasts are their top seller.

“We didn’t start cutting up birds until the early 2000s,” Salatin says. There was a kind of perfect storm, as he sees it: Older, thriftier generations were doing less cooking. Families decreased in size. People lost the art and had the money to have someone else do the cutting. Plus, they were told that lean chicken was a more healthful meat option than beef. The almighty factor is, of course, convenience. But when that is compared with the combined benefits of menu versatility, stretching food dollars and the surprising ease of the divvying itself, though, DIY butchery deserves consideration. “A home cook with a family can make three meals from one whole chicken,” Salatin says. “But you’d have to know what you’re doing.”

Brian Patterson knows what he’s doing. He has broken down thousands of whole chickens. Start to finish, it takes him about two minutes, working at a smooth and steady pace. Washington-area cooks know him as the “Knife Skills Guy” at L’Academie de Cuisine, where the former restaurant chef taught culinary cuts on onions, carrots, tomatoes and mangoes in recreational classes at the school’s suburban Maryland locations. A whole chicken, typically a 2 1/2-pounder, was the pièce de résistance.

When his instruction moved to the school’s professional culinary program, he found that his students had no more experience cutting up whole birds than the home cooks. Teaching them that skill has almost become a mission for him. The chef is all for removing some of the distance between people and processes of modern food: “It was a critter. You get to understand the structure, which is valuable for someone who’s carving a roasted bird as well,” Patterson says.

More of his pro-cutting logic: The bird stays fresher longer when it is whole. Super of the chicken council is not so sure about that, but he does say that the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service set standards for, and began sampling, raw chicken parts for pathogens such as campylobacter and salmonella only in the past few years (as of February 2016); similar standards had been in place for whole birds since 1996.

If you eliminate the stress, They Will Cut.

That’s the takeaway lesson from my hands-on experience with newsroom colleagues. Over the past four months, sessions of five mostly millennial volunteers at a time spent an hour with me after work in the WaPo Food Lab – their own knives in hand, to help familiarise the process of breaking down a bird. We made sure their tools were sharp enough for the task and not too large, because when you know how to cut up a chicken into eight or 10 pieces, you don’t need to hack through a single bone.

Their reasons for wanting to learn were mainly

1. conquering poultry fears in a non- intimidating situation, 2. augmenting their life skills and 3. saving on food costs. Heartening!

The anatomy of the bird, being symmetrical, gives folks an immediate opportunity to practice what they have just learned. Remove one wingette, then do it again on the other side. One leg quarter, then the other. Treasures were uncovered along the way: Chefs and informed cooks know about the bird’s two “oysters” – those dime-size disks of dark meat that sit in pockets on the underside. They are a tasty treat and a test, in Patterson’s universe, of carving competence. The fact that the tenderloins were attached to the breast produced an “aha” moment every time. (“That’s where they come from?”) One buoyed participant figured the new skills would help with his Thanksgiving turkey carving, and he was right. Each group noted how easy the task was, and the word “empowering” was mentioned more than once. Some knew the non-meaty parts are good for making stock and that the skin can be fried into crisp, sinful snacks. I bought chickens from different vendors and stores along the way, which prompted discussions about variations in skin color and tone, size and presence of a giblets packet – the liver, heart and/or gizzard. (Large-scale processors tend to sell those off for other uses; small-scale farmers may sell them separately or upon customer request. But lately, none of those pieces are in high consumer demand.) The subject of whether to rinse the chicken came up often. The Food and Drug Administration says no, as splashed water can spread bacteria. I understand the impulse to wash, because birds treated with a salt-solution for packing look like they are in need of a shower. But a few minutes of verticality over the garbage can, plus a pat-down with paper towels, will make them suitable for handling.

Poultry shears work, especially when you want to spatchcock, or butterfly, a whole bird by cutting through the backbone. Chicken on the bone cooks faster that way. For cutting chicken into parts, a six-inch knife with a thin, flexible blade is preferable. But ever since I watched the famous French chef Michel Roux break down a couple of chickens using my $5 serrated paring knife, I have followed suit.

You cut through skin to expose joints, which can be bent till they pop. You can cut close to that cartilage without brute force. You also cut along some thin lines of fat, as professionals do in seam butchery. Bones lend flavor, so leaving them in will improve the taste of most cut-up parts. But once you head down this road, you can see how the meat of a chicken thigh is easily teased away from the bone with short cutting strokes, attached marginally by cartilage at the top and bottom.

Americans eat an average of 91 pounds of chicken per person per year, according to the NCC’s Super. Even if we embraced the DIY bird breakdown, would we know what to do with all of it? Isn’t just buying the bits we eat more economical in the long run than creating waste?

Again, a little education can do wonders, and looking into the chicken habits of other cultures is a fine place to start.

“As a Filipino of a certain age, I learned how to kill the chicken, bleed it and cut it up when I was growing up,” says Annie Cabayan Wilderman. As an assistant manager at Capitol Hill Poultry in Eastern Market, she sees people buying more parts than whole chickens, and she cringes at the thought of all those backs and necks going to waste: “There is no focus on how to mitigate it in this country.”

Washington Post-Bloomberg


9 Servings

The marinade/basting sauce turns bland chicken breast into something quite flavourful. These can be cooked on an outdoor grill as well (medium-high heat).

You’ll need to soak 8-inch bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes before grilling.

Calamansi (calamondin) is a type of tart orange, and its juice or extract is typically available in bottled and frozen form at Filipino markets such as Filipino Global Supermarket in Falls Church.

MAKE AHEAD: The chicken needs to marinate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

Adapted from Patrick and Helen Healy, owners of Pinoy Kitchens catering (, which sells on weekends at Eastern Market in Washington, D.C.


1 cup low-sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/4 cup frozen calamansi juice (see headnote; may substitute a 50-50 mix of fresh lime juice and fresh orange juice)

1/4 cup minced garlic (cloves from 1 head)

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (no tenderloins), cut into large chunks


Combine the soy sauce and brown sugar in a mixing bowl, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the calamansi juice, garlic, pepper and ketchup until well incorporated. Reserve 1/4 cup of the marinade, separately, for basting; stir the oil into the 1/4 cup of reserved marinade.

Add the chicken to the mixing bowl and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Once it’s quite hot, skewer the marinated chicken pieces close together. Discard any remaining marinade in the bowl.

Place them on the grill pan and cook for 8 to 12 minutes total, turning them and basting with the reserved marinade-oil mixture every few minutes. You’re looking to achieve a rich mahogany brown and an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Serve warm.

Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.

A nice cuppa isn’t new to cool, rainy Ireland. The republic drinks more tea per capita than any other nation but Turkey – a fact that won’t surprise visitors who have arrived at one of its traditional bed-and-breakfasts and immediately been offered a fresh pot. Still, global coffee culture has jabbed at classic black tea’s popularity over the past decade, and scores of third-wave coffeehouses have opened in Dublin. In recent years, demure and comforting tea has slugged back in the Irish capital.

Dublin’s fresh tea offerings include expanded products, from hibiscus to matcha, often delivered with Irish wit. A spate of stylish urban cafes also take the brew outside its old bounds of home and prim tea rooms, giving tea new cachet with millennials and foodies.

Former software engineer Oliver Cunningham, 41, helped start the wave when he drew on his time backpacking and working on Indian and Vietnamese tea plantations to found Wall & Keogh in a former hardware shop in 2011. His cafe now serves a changing roster of 150 exotic teas. Wall & Keogh has also become Dublin’s highest-profile tea wholesaler, supplying about 120 of even the most serious coffee shops, plus the Irish headquarters of companies including Twitter and Airbnb, with their loose-leaf offerings.

Coffee had gotten “pretty aggressive,” Cunningham said, sitting back with a pot of nettle tea one of his baristas identified just by its smell. But “there’s a real strong link to tea in Irish culture,” he added. “Even though coffee culture is booming, when you go home, you always have tea. Tea is like a classic tailor-made suit. Coffee is something new and trendy you buy off the peg. So no, I don’t think tea is panicking. It’s confident on its Chesterfield chair.”

Wall & Keogh serves teas with such in-your-face names as Virile Man, Pineapple Express and Rooibos Unicorn Tears alongside porridge, house-made granola or avocado toast rather than dainty pastries. Music alternates between acid jazz and electronica in the slate-gray cafe, set in the trendy, techie Portobello neighbourhood.

“We always get asked whether we do afternoon tea and cucumber sandwiches. We wanted to strip away all of that,” Cunningham said. “Everything is tailored to take away the granny-with-a-blue-rinse aspect of tea.”

A crew of millennial Dublin housemates took off on “tea-pusher” Mrs. Doyle, the housekeeper on the classic Irish comedy “Father Ted,” in 2012 to create a popular line of Mrs. Doyle’s Teas. “Sure, and didn’t our Lord himself on the cross pause for a cup of tea before giving himself up for the world?” Mrs. Doyle would say on the TV show, giving the title priest his own pause. The tea line her character inspired ranges from “Decent Irish Breakfast” to “Chill Out Peppermint” to best-selling “Hangover” and “Happy” varieties, all packaged for next-gen appeal.

The friends launched Mrs. Doyle’s Teas at Ireland’s Electric Picnic concerts as a charity fundraiser. They continue to sell thousands of cups, including a hangover variety and some that are infused with rum, at festivals with entertaining twists. Co-founder Vivian Pucher, a 24-year-old business strategist, was a sensation on Twitter last year when she dressed as Mrs. Doyle at the London Coffee Festival. The team surrounded her in mock-protest of coffee, carrying picket signs that read: “Down with this sort of thing.”

The company recently developed a Mrs. Doyle’s Irish Cream liqueur as well, and following afternoon tea, Pucher hit a favorite local pub, O’Donoghue’s, to talk drinks.

“The branding does the work for us. Irish people totally love it,” Pucher said. “Right now with coffee culture, people take care with what they consume. That’s where tea fits in really well. We bring in something fun.”

Teas the likes of Wall & Keogh and Mrs. Doyle’s are increasingly available in the well-designed coffee shops that have made big inroads into Dublin. Clement & Pekoe, for one, gives the two bevs equal billing in its Creative Quarter cafe, which is brightened by skylights, filled with neo-soul music and outfitted with a front stoop for people-watching and industrial racks of Teekanne teapots and Uji Hikari matcha pouches in the back.

Fumbally, a funky lunch spot and neighbourhood hub, grows its own lemon verbena tea and serves Wall & Keogh-sourced varieties, one with a distinct bacon flavour.

“There is definitely a better understanding, little by little, of tea,” co-owner Luca D’Alfonso said as he stood under the cafe’s minimalist cord-bulb-and-wire lighting, taking an order for an ultraheavy iron pot of the smoked tea. “It started with wine, then coffee, and now we are just entering with tea.”

In Smithfield, a working-class area on an upswing, tiny coffee stand Proper Order gives tea a reverent brew. Owner Niall Wynn, 28, presented boiling water and green leaves in what looked like a French press, advising: “The first infusion will be light, citrusy, with a grass tang. The second infusion will be way more citrusy, with a bit of candied lemon.”

The special prep was logical, given that Wynn holds a master’s degree in chemistry and is Ireland’s 2017 national-champ barista, slated to represent the country at the World Barista Championships in November.

Proper Order sells 40 cups of tea per day, up from two per day when the micro-shop opened last year. “I knew little or nothing about tea before I started,” Wynn said, explaining how he’d learned from the world-class steeping at London’s Postcard Teas. “I realised it’s as complex, if not more complex, than coffee. Coffee’s still our main bag, but tea is on the rise.”

Next, Wynn is investing nearly $3,500 in a new under-counter boiler that rapidly brings water to different temperatures for different tea varieties.

Other spots almost completely dedicated to tea have opened in the past few years. Burlap-heavy, patchouli-scented Joy of Cha brews world teas for the backpacker set in Temple Bar. Peacock Green & Co. feels like a wealthy aunt’s redecorated parlor, with ornate gold and teal wallpaper, two dozen kinds of tea in glass jars and slabs of cake for customers ranging from a uniformed schoolgirl to dignified older gents. And Oolong Flower Power offers a meld of afternoon-tea culture and evening lounge, pouring mate and red wine to drinkers lounging on Chesterfield sofas. Its dozens upon dozens of tea varieties include Dirty Dancing and Irish Cream.

Two men discussed Heidegger over cups at Oolong on a recent afternoon. They turned out to be philosophy grad students at Trinity College and University College Dublin: Benjamin Errington, 37, a native Briton in a polo shirt, and Damien Lennon, 45, a pierced-up Irishman whose teenage daughter introduced him to the cafe.

Tea has long been a cultural fixture on the British Isles, the two agreed, but a decade ago two guys might’ve felt odd meeting for drinks anywhere but a pub. They reflected a bit about how Irish tea now feels both modern and classic.

“There’s been a definite cultural shift,” Errington said. “Tea shops are actually quite cool. Coffee’s taken off all over the world, but tea – it feels homey, a bit like you’re in your own house.”

Washington Post-Bloomberg

One in 8 couples has difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a baby to term, leading more than 11 percent of women in the United States to use fertility services. In my private nutrition practice, I’m seeing more and more clients in their 30s and 40s who are trying to get pregnant and want to make sure their eating habits help their chances of conception and support a healthy pregnancy.

Most of what we know about the effect of nutrition on fertility is courtesy of a study based on data from the landmark Nurses’ Health Study. The “fertility diet” study followed nearly 18,000 women who were trying to conceive, and tracked their nutrition and lifestyle habits over eight years. Participants followed a diet including plenty of plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains and beans, as well as protein-rich foods, healthy fats and a bit of full-fat dairy. The researchers observed that a specific eating pattern was linked to having a 66 per cent lower risk of ovulatory infertility and a 27 per cent lower risk of infertility from other causes. While this study doesn’t show cause and effect, it does provide us with some valuable insights into nutrition and fertility.

If you’re over- or underweight, getting to a healthy weight range is one of the most important steps you can take to boost your fertility. There appears to be a “fertility zone” for weight. To get your BMI, or body mass index, visit the National Institutes of Health website and use its BMI calculator. If you’re overweight, losing 5 to 10 per cent of that weight can positively affect fertility. About 75 per cent of overweight women who struggle with fertility have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), so it’s important to get checked by your doctor to have any health issues resolved and/or managed.

This emphasis on weight doesn’t mean it’s time to crash diet. Food scarcity (a.k.a. dieting) negatively influences your fertility. It makes sense from a biological perspective: Your body needs to know the food supply is reliable and nutritious before bringing a baby on board. A recent systematic review found that a balanced eating plan that promotes gradual weight loss is better for fertility than drastically cutting calories.

Men also need to follow a healthy eating plan and get to a healthy weight to boost fertility. Being overweight can have a negative impact on testosterone levels, sperm count and motility.

There has been some headline-grabbing buzz that low-carb diets increase fertility. A recent review of low-carb diets and fertility found that of the interventions that have been done, the definition of a low-carb diet varies greatly and often is combined with other interventions. As a result, we don’t know enough about the effect of these diets to recommend them during the pre-conception period. Further, overdoing it on animal protein probably isn’t helpful. The “fertility diet” study found that ovulatory infertility was almost 40 percent more likely in women who ate the most animal protein.

According to Hillary Wright, a dietitian and director of nutritional counselling for the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health at Boston IVF, “The body uses nutrients in plant-based foods to neutralise the effects of toxic exposure, inflammation and more, so it makes sense to emphasise these foods during pre-conception and beyond.”

The researchers looking at the fertility diet found that the more women ate fast-absorbing carbs such as white bread, white rice, potatoes, soda and candy, the higher their risk for ovulatory infertility. They also observed that eating slow-absorbing carbs such as vegetables, whole grains, beans and lentils can provide a fertility boost. As an added bonus, a high-fiber diet reduces the risk of gestational diabetes.

Wright advises clients to get their carbohydrates from whole foods and to spread them throughout the day in smaller portions. She recommends making half your plate at each meal non-starchy vegetables, a quarter protein-rich foods and a quarter fiber-rich carbohydrates with some healthy fat.

Getting more vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds means more fiber and phytochemicals in your diet, helping to manage weight, improve health and boost fertility. Taking in plenty of antioxidants from produce also seems to be beneficial for male fertility.

In the “fertility diet” study, consuming one to two servings of full-fat dairy products a day was linked to increased fertility, while low-fat versions showed the opposite trend. It seems that having some whole milk or higher-fat yogurt could positively affect ovulation and conception, because the cream component of milk influences its balance of sex hormones.

Before you start putting cheese on everything and finishing every meal with a bowl of ice cream, note that it’s one or two servings a day, and it’s best to choose nutrient-rich options. Wright advises her clients to use their saturated fat “budget” wisely. If you’re going to have some higher-fat yogurt, put skim milk in your oatmeal.

You also don’t want to get your fat from processed foods, as hydrogenated oils negatively impact fertility. Although the Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of artificial trans fats in processed foods, this doesn’t come into effect until June 2018. Until then, read your ingredients lists and limit anything that has partially hydrogenated oils. Better yet, eat whole foods rather than packaged ones. That’s great advice for anyone to follow.

Washington Post-Bloomberg

I used to have all the time in the world to make dinner. See, I was a freelance food writer, and it was my job to obsess about what to cook, how to cook it and how to frame it for an Instagram post. Then I did something crazy – took a full-time legit job as editorial director at cookbook publisher Clarkson Potter. And now . . . those languid days of dinner dreaming are gone, baby, gone.

Even though I cook all the time, I am now one of those single moms who think – on my commute home – about the fastest way to get dinner on the table for my two hungry boys. Typically, I might turn to a baking sheet to roast, braise or bake my way to a one-pan dinner in one clean swoop, as it is efficient, easy and the subject of my next book.

But the weather is steamy, so no-cook dinner, here I come! No stove top, no grill – recipes that are the holy grail of sticky nights like these. Not only will you stay cool and composed, but you also can have the whole meal on the table in 40 minutes, including a no-bake dessert. (Spoiler alert: You do need to melt chocolate in the microwave.)

Here’s a menu’s worth of dead-simple yet sophisticated recipes to see you through the hottest of days.

webHeirloom Tomatoes, Cannellini Beans and Snap Peas

4 servings

Crisp crunch and beautiful colours will pull your guests to the side of the plate where this salad sits.

MAKE AHEAD: The salad, minus its basil and goat cheese, can be refrigerated a day in advance.

From cookbook author and Clarkson Potter editorial director Raquel Pelzel.


12 ounces (about 2 medium) ripe heirloom tomatoes, hulled and cut into bite-size pieces

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt OR 1 teaspoon kosher salt

6 ounces snap peas, ends trimmed and pods thinly sliced on a bias (about 1 cup)

1 1/2 cups drained and rinsed canned white beans, such as cannellini (from a 15-ounce can)

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and thinly sliced crosswise (chiffonade), or more as needed

2 ounces fresh goat cheese


Combine the tomatoes, oil and salt in a mixing bowl, stirring gently to incorporate.

Add the snap peas, beans and most of the basil, then crumble the goat cheese over the top. Give the salad a gentle stir, sprinkle with the remaining basil and serve.

Nutrition | Per serving (using kosher salt): 210 calories, 9 g protein, 19 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar

webAvocado-Crab Rolls

4 servings

Avocado makes a creamy and pretty mayo alternative in this 10-minute recipe, letting the taste of the crabmeat shine through.

Although this is a no-cook recipe, a butter-toasted bun wouldn’t be heresy.


Flesh of 1 ripe Hass avocado

2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

1/2 teaspoon salt OR 1 teaspoon kosher salt

8 ounces lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any cartilage or shell

2 tablespoons thinly sliced chives or scallions

4 hot dog buns or brioche buns, preferably split on top

Small green leaf lettuce leaves

12 sprigs cilantro, for garnish


Combine the avocado, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl. Use a fork to mash the mixture until it is semi-smooth, with some chunks.

Gently fold in the crabmeat, the chives or scallions and the remaining citrus juice and salt.

Line the buns with the lettuce leaves. Divide the avocado-crab mixture evenly among them. Top each portion with cilantro sprigs.

Serve right away.

Nutrition | Per serving: 240 calories, 16 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 75 mg cholesterol, 670 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar

webLentils With Hot-Smoked Salmon

4 servings

Canned lentils are a convenience item that merits co-star attention here. Serve this spiky-savory salad as a main dish or side.

Hot-smoked salmon has a flakier, more “roasted” texture than cold-smoked, lox-style salmon, though in a pinch, the latter works just fine. Here, it can be flaked apart or chopped and then folded into the salad, or you can simply serve it alongside the lentils.


One 15-ounce can lentils, drained and rinsed

3 radishes, trimmed and cut into thin rounds

1 tablespoon capers, drained and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt OR 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces hot-smoked salmon, skin and pinbones discarded (see headnote)


Combine the lentils, radishes, capers and dill in a mixing bowl. Drizzle with the vinegar, then season with the salt and pepper, stirring to incorporate. Add the oil and toss to coat.

Cut the salmon into 4 equal portions, or flake the salmon into the lentil salad and toss gently to incorporate, then divide among individual plates.

Nutrition | Per serving (using kosher salt): 210 calories, 17 g protein, 15 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 770 mg sodium, 8 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar

webNo-Bake Coconutter Fudge Bars

24 small squares

Chopped dried cherries enhance the chocolaty flavour and richness of this easy dessert or snack.

The chocolate does need to be melted in the microwave, so we can’t honestly call this a no-cook recipe. But making it won’t heat up your kitchen, and that’s the goal.

MAKE AHEAD: The assembled bars are easier to handle with at least 20 minutes of chill time. Store or pack them in a single layer; wrapped well (once they are firm), they can be frozen for up to 1 week.

From “Sheet Pan Suppers Meatless: 100 Surprising Vegetarian Meals Straight From the Oven,” by Raquel Pelzel (Workman, 2017).


1 1/2 cups roasted, salted peanuts

1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1/8 teaspoon salt OR 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

11/4 cups dried cherries

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter (optional)

8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

2/3 cup low-fat coconut milk

1 1/2 tablespoons liquefied coconut oil

Flaked sea salt, for garnish (optional)


Combine the peanuts, cocoa powder and salt in a food processor; pulse about 10 times (1-second pulses), until finely ground. Add the cherries; pulse about 6 times, until you can squeeze the mixture together without it breaking apart easily. If it seems loose, add the peanut butter and pulse to bind and incorporate.

Line a quarter baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the peanut mixture in the pan. Place a sheet of plastic wrap on top of the peanut mixture, and, using the bottom of a measuring cup, press it into a solid and even layer. Freeze until set, about 15 minutes.

Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH in 20-second increments, stirring between each, until the chocolate is completely melted; this should take a total of about 1 1/2 minutes.

Whisk in the coconut milk and coconut oil until smooth, then pour the mixture over the frozen peanut-mixture base, spreading it in an even layer. Sprinkle with flaky salt, if using, and freeze for at least 20 minutes before cutting into 24 squares.

Nutrition | Per piece (using kosher salt): 140 calories, 4 g protein, 13 g carbohydrates, 9 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugar

This is what we want in 2017: We want our food to be delivered to us. We want it to be gourmet. We want to know all of the ingredients and where they come from, so we can be sure they are healthful. We want to be able to order it with our phones and use them to cook it, too. We want to make restaurant-quality meals without needing restaurant-quality skills. We want dinner to take less than 15 minutes to make, and we want it to be easy, almost brainless. But not too easy – we still want to put the final touches on it, so it feels homemade.

One start-up thinks it has cracked the code of all of our conflicting culinary desires. Tovala – the name is a mashup of the Italian word for table, “tavola,” and the Hebrew word for good, “tov” – is a smart steam oven and meal subscription service that launched Tuesday; thanks to a Kickstarter and other pre-release efforts, it already has 700 of its $399 ovens in homes and connected to the internet. And by mid-July, CEO David Rabie estimates they will have shipped more than 10,000 meals.

Tovala meals have a bar code that the oven scans to determine the temperature and cook time.

Tovala meals have a bar code that the oven scans to determine the temperature and cook time.

The microwave-sized device is a steam convection oven, an appliance that has long been more popular in Europe, but is gaining ground in the US It has a chamber of water inside the oven that creates steam, which can cook food more quickly – “Heat moves faster through wet air than dry air,” said Rabie – and also produces moist, juicy food.

“I think chicken is a great example. There was this funny moment with our chef, he was trying to push the limits to see how hot it could get without drying it out,” said Rabie. “He got it to 198 degrees. It blew his mind that chicken at 198 degrees could still be juicy.” The recommended internal temperature for chicken, by the way, is much less – typically between 165 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can use the Tovala, which is controlled through an app, for your own recipes, but Rabie says it’s best when paired with the meal delivery service. It costs $36 for three meals a week for one person, or $72 for three meals a week for two, including shipping. That’s a few dollars more than Blue Apron, which charges $59.94 for two – but the difference is that with Tovala, there’s no cooking required. The meals are delivered to customers pre-assembled in metal trays, just like the dreaded airplane meal. But they’re a practical necessity, because all you have to do is pop them directly in the oven, and scan a barcode that communicates the cook time and temperature to the device (for some dishes, you might also be instructed to add a sauce, first). It’s Blue Apron for people who find Blue Apron to be too cumbersome.

“Anyone who has tried Blue Apron and stopped using it is our target customer,” said Rabie. “The meal kits, they pitch themselves as convenient, but at the end of the day, a lot of people don’t want to spend 45 minutes cooking.”

Heating up a Tovala meal takes about 15 minutes, typically. Some of the meals come in multiple trays – salmon in one, broccoli and brown rice in the other – and part of the charm of Tovala is that you can put them both in at once, and they’ll finish at exactly the same time. A few components are pre- or par-cooked, like the rice, but just as many are whole, raw ingredients. Almost all of them are cooked using Tovala’s three capabilities – steaming, then convection cooking, and then finishing the meal off with a few minutes of broiling, to add a little crispness.

Alexander Plotkin, the company’s chief culinary officer, studied at Noma in Copenhagen and Alinea in Chicago, and later developed recipes for corporate clients such as Starbucks, so his meals have mass appeal, but a touch of sophistication. I tried the Thai turkey meatballs with a hoisin glaze, served on cilantro brown rice with roasted asparagus, and was pleasantly surprised: The meatballs, studded with water chestnut, were crunchy and moist, the asparagus wasn’t overcooked, and a sambal sauce finish added a lot of kick. Another meal, miso salmon with roasted broccoli, delivered a velvety-soft piece of perfectly-done salmon. The food is prepped and packaged in a commercial commissary in Chicago.

Some foods work better than others for the meal service.

“We’re limited by our packaging right now. If you were to put steak in one of those trays, it would cook within its juices, it would come out too tough,” said Rabie. “We can solve that by putting a rack within the tray, to elevate it,” something they plan to introduce on a future menu. Their menu changes every week, and there are about five choices available now, with more to come. Dietary preferences, like vegetarianism and the paleo diet, are accommodated. There’s no minimum required commitment for the meal subscription. And they plan to introduce breakfasts and desserts in the coming months – baked egg dishes, breakfast sandwiches, and even a souffle. Like other delivery services, there is a lot of packaging, but at least it’s all recyclable.

You can program your own recipes into the Tovala, too, via its app – and after some experimentation, you can also do multi-step recipes where you steam some veggies and then broil them, for example. The device’s culinary team has already programmed some of these methods in for you: chicken wings, sausage, sweet potatoes, broccoli and shrimp are among the simple recipes Tovala can cook on autopilot. It doesn’t have as many pre-programmed foods as the June oven, but Rabie says they plan to add more recipes in the coming months, as well as community features that will allow users to share recipes.

As food cooks, a vent in the back of the Tovala puffs out little clouds of steam. It made broccoli perfectly – just sprinkle it with some olive oil and choose the broccoli setting in your phone – though its settings for shrimp made them a little firmer than our preference, and its sweet potato setting burned our spuds. And not everything is faster – it took six minutes to make a piece of toast. But it was a sad-looking piece of bread we fished out of a plastic bag in the deepest freezer drawer, and the Tovala brought it back to life, giving it moisture and eliminating all the telltale signs of freezer burn. Still, it seems like the device, unsurprisingly, works best with the delivered meals.

Tovala says it’s going after Blue Apron, but the meals work on another level too: They’re a much-tastier upgrade for people who supplement their cooking with frozen pizzas and skillet pastas, microwave dinners, and other convenience fare. It’s just one of the tech companies that is working to give convenience food a serious upgrade in both style and health: Nomiku, a company that makes a sous-vide circulator, a device for cooking food in a hot water bath, debuted a line of sous vide convenience foods in May. Customers only have to wave their foods over the device to automatically set the cook time and temperature, which is communicated through radio frequency identification.

As for the meal kit delivery business, the competition is growing ever steeper. Blue Apron had a particularly bad week, having priced its shares lower than expected for its initial public offering, and then watched that price dip even further. “Putting stuff that can be bought at the grocery store in a box and selling it at a premium just doesn’t seem like a great business model to me,” wrote Timothy Green for the Motley Fool. “Blue Apron’s financials appear to agree.” But if people are abandoning meal kits because they’re too much work, as Green speculates, they might be attracted to a service like Tovala. It could work well in a small office, too, as a company lunch perk.

“The challenge is that the early adopter demographic. Most of those people have tried [a meal kit] and the novelty has worn off,” said Rabie. “I think the reason they stopped using the service is that they don’t want to cook three meals a week.”

Washington Post-Bloomberg

The Fancy Foods Show might sound precious. But it’s actually pretty intense: Every summer, makers of specialty foods from across the globe convene in New York for a massive trade show of their wares, all vying for the attention of buyers from grocery stores and markets. A purchase from Whole Foods, for example, can make or break a brand.

Representatives from major grocery stores stalk the aisles of the Javits Center, sampling salmon jerky and switchel and “goji berry superfood ice treat,” looking for the next big thing. And when you see that many stalls shilling speculoos, for example, it’s easy to see what’s going to be trending in grocery stores next year. If you don’t see these products in your local grocery store, you can always buy them online.

Gochujang and all things Korean

Maybe it’s because we’ve grown weary of Sriracha. But gochujang, a spicy Korean sauce, is going to become a household name, if the Fancy Foods Show is any indication. There were several companies selling it – some from Korean entrepreneurs devoted only to Korean sauces, and others from established companies bandwagoning off of the trend. There was more gochujang in the halls of the Javits Center than could be counted, from brands such as We Rub You, Food Trk, One Culture Foods, Seriously Korean, Divine, and K-Mama Sauce (they just call it Korean hot sauce – and it’s also available gluten-free). Serious Foodie has a gochujang-infused “Korean Lemon Garlic Grill Sauce and Marinade,” which is gluten-free and non-GMO. Hak’s brand of tear-and-pour cooking sauces offers a Korean barbecue packet, and Spice Hunter has a Korean barbecue rub. Mother in Law’s, a kimchi brand that launched its gochujang in 2014, now offers “liquid kimchi” (it’s the liquid from the kimchi fermentation process), a “fermented and probiotic spicy elixir” that they recommend for use in salad dressings. Korean food is also gaining ground in the frozen aisle, where Saffron Road has a “Korean-style sweet chili chicken” bowl, and Korean fusion is on shelves too, in the form of Urban Accents’ Korean barbecue taco sauce.

Chickpeas are the new nuts

Last year’s chocolate hummus trend has manifested itself in a more palatable form: Chocolate-covered chickpeas. Some of them are crunchy, some of them are chewy, and all of them could substitute for your favourite chocolate covered almonds or trail mix when you get in a snack rut. Biena makes crunchy dark chocolate, milk chocolate and salted caramel chickpeas. Lebby, which boasts that it is “totes non GMO,” has a savoury hot chile flavour, and sweet dark chocolate, sesame honey and cinnamon crunch chickpea snacks. Watusee’s “Chickpeatos” take inspiration from another childhood snack – Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Fancy, expensive waters

I drank a few sips of a $25 bottle of “herbal table water” that was packaged to look vaguely like perfume. “This one is uplifting,” the kind woman at the SD Watersboten booth told me, handing me a small cup of what tasted mostly like sugar water. Remember hearing about the water sommeliers of fancy restaurants, who enraged the proletariat and inflamed the Internet trolls? Well, they’ve made their way into packaged goods. Watersboten offers three varieties that all sound like celebrity baby names: Angelica, Blue Vervain and Rhodiola Rosea, described in their marketing materials as “non-habit forming” and “gently mood-enhancing.” Instructions: “Enjoy cold as a cordial, in a long stemmed water glass, over ice in a rocks glass.” But that’s not the only expensive, soul-crushing water offering at Fancy Foods: A few tables down was Tanzamaji “prehistoric water,” which is advertised as being 10 million years old. Bottled in Mwanza, Tanzania, the water comes from the depths of a lake there, which is so deep that it has “not gone through the evaporation/rain cycle in 10 million years,” the company says. It costs $15 a bottle and tastes like water. Before you get out your pitchforks, know that the company provides jobs and clean drinking water for Tanzanians near the lake.

African flavours

African food has finally been getting more popular in the restaurant scene, so it’s only natural that those flavours would make their way to packaged goods. Serious Foodie has a “West African Paradise” rub, made with grains of paradise, a spice that is also referred to as alligator pepper and has a lemon-pepper flavor. Woodland Foods’ Manitou Trading Company is making a North African Chermoula seasoning, another trendy flavour – traditionally, chermoula is a Moroccan herb sauce that plays well with seafood. They also have berbere spice from Ethiopia, dukkah from Egypt, Libyan pilpelchuma, and North African ras el hanout. Spice Hunter, another brand, has an African spicy garlic blend. Iya Foods, based in Illinois, sells African spice mixes and jarred sauces for dishes like rice and pepper soup.

Drinkable veggies/‘Souping’

Because juicing isn’t just for fruit. What makes these drinkable fruit juices different from V8? Branding. Drinking vegetables is no longer juicing, it’s “souping.” Vegetable soups are being packaged as ready-to-drink portable beverages. Tio Gazpacho comes in six flavours: classic, “Del Sol” (yellow tomato, carrot, and pepper), green (kale, spinach, avocado, mint), “Rosado” (watermelon, cilantro, cayenne), corn and “fresa” (strawberry, basil and romaine). Zupa Noma (slogan: “Souping is the new juicing”) has a Whole 30-approved range of soups, from carrot coconut lime to yellow pepper turmeric. Beautifully packaged Fawen soups use organic vegetables and come in beet and cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, and sweet potato and red lentil. And Bonafide Provisions mixes vegetables with another trend of yesteryear: bone broth. Their “Drinkable veggies” soups combine chicken bone broth with herbs and spices in five flavors: spring pea, roasted butternut squash, beets, roasted red pepper, and carrots. As much as you might roll your eyes at the idea of “souping,” these cool, drinkable veggies would be pretty refreshing alongside a salad for a summer lunch break.

Highbrow ramen

Ramen at a restaurant is often a gourmet experience, but ramen at home hasn’t yet shaken its styrofoam-coated Top Ramen college student associations. That’s about to change: There were several companies at Fancy Foods shilling higher-quality ramen. Mike’s Mighty Good sells “craft” ramen cups filled with organic noodles in four flavors: chicken, pork tonkotsu, spicy beef and vegetarian. Wiki Wiki noodles – it means “fast” in Hawaiian – come with a miso or tonkotsu base, and take only 3 minutes to make. The same company that makes them, Sun Noodles – which supplies noodles to Momofuku – also has a “craft ramen” line, which you can buy noodles-only, or accompanied by a miso or shoyu base. It’s free of preservatives and artificial MSG, and the packaging is slightly rustic, as if it were cornbread or wild rice. One Culture Foods offers microwaveable ramen bowls with a variety of influences: In addition to a spicy Japanese bowl, there’s Taiwanese beef, Vietnamese pho and Chinese chicken noodle. The bowls are made with a bone broth reduction, and promise lower sodium than typical ramen bowls.

Birch water

What, you haven’t heard of birch water? Because coconut water, aloe water, maple water and cactus water are so passe, there were several companies at Fancy Foods hawking water made from the sap of birch trees. Companies like Absolutely Wild claim that the water is rich in antioxidants and electrolytes, has “detoxifying and restorative properties” and “strengthens your body’s immunity.” It’s lower in sugar than coconut water, and tastes less sweet, too: Earthy, grassy flavours are more predominant. Some companies try to enhance it by adding flavours. Absolutely Wild has a matcha birch water, while Treo offers four flavors: peach mango, blueberry, coconut pineapple and strawberry. Säpp birch water also comes in rosehip and nettle. That’s not to be confused with Vermont company Sap!, which makes birch water, maple soda and maple seltzer. Expect to see birch water in the hands of Lululemon-wearing SoulCyclers.

Beyond cold brew

Cold brew, last summer’s drink of choice, is too mainstream now. So 2016, #basic. But we still need an under-the-radar coffee drink that makes us look smarter than all the regular iced coffee drinkers, so there are some new innovations in the canned coffee field. Enter Keepers, a brand of flash-brewed sparkling coffee with a hint of citrus – it’s nicely effervescent. There’s also Sunup, a brand that makes canned green coffee – meaning, unroasted – that, true to its motto, “Tastes like a tea, energizes like a coffee.” (It’s not the same as cascara, another super-trendy drink made from the husks of coffee beans). Both drinks would be very refreshing over ice, sitting on a patio. And the method has shifted over to tea, too: Evy Tea makes flavoured, attractively packaged cold brew tea.


Hey, watermelon is back in! Why it was ever out is a mystery to me. It’s not like watermelon just started being delicious now, but in recent years, it took a back seat to less ordinary flavors like mango, goji berry and acai. For some reason, the flavor is having a little bit of a revival; there were so many watermelon-flavored drinks and snacks at the show. Dry sparkling soda just introduced a watermelon soda. The adorably named Watermelon Road Snack Co. makes a watermelon-lemonade dried fruit snack, and if I took a bag of those to the pool, they’d be gone in less than 10 minutes. I’d also knock back a Suja organic probiotic watermelon juice, or a CideRoad watermelon and mint spritzel (a “switchel with a spritz”), or an Owl’s Brew watermelon radler, or a Daily Greens watermelon-hibiscus “Green-Ade,” maybe while eating a GoodPop watermelon agave ice pop. There’s even DrinkMelon’s organic watermelon water – a beverage that contains “natural electrolytes,” made from squeezing the juice out of a bunch of melons. Basically, they’ve bottled the stuff that dribbles down your chin when you eat a big slice of melon. You can buy it in three flavors: original, cherry and lime.

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Why are some foods cheap and other foods expensive?

Hint: It’s (mostly) not subsidies. Although they’ve certainly played a role in shaping our food supply such that we have huge quantities of just a few crops – a recipe for low prices – the discrepancy that seems to be at issue is the one between commodity crops such as corn and soy, and the fruits and vegetables that everyone’s trying to get us to eat more of. There’s a factor there that plays a much larger role than subsidies, and it doesn’t get much airtime.

It’s machines.

In general, if you can use machines instead of people, you can produce a crop for less. But let’s not talk in general. Let’s talk about tomatoes.

The beautiful, ripe, in-season tomato will set you back up to $5 a pound, but you can buy a 28-ounce can of perfectly tasty tomatoes for as little as a dollar? The latest data from the US Department of Agriculture have beefsteak tomatoes at $3.16 per pound and canned tomatoes at 92 cents per pound.

A big part of that difference is machines.

The fresh tomatoes we buy are harvested by hand, which is still the only way to guarantee the blemish- and bruise-free specimens that picky American consumers demand. The canned tomatoes we buy are harvested by machine, because a few blemishes and bruises don’t much matter when the tomatoes are going to be processed.

This wasn’t always the case. Until about 50 years ago, all tomatoes were harvested by hand because there was no such thing as a tomato harvester. (The price difference between canned and fresh wasn’t quite as stark then, either: In 1955, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fresh tomatoes were 27.4 cents a pound, compared to 15.1 cents for canned.) But an agronomist and an engineer at the University of California at Davis set out to change that. The engineer, Coby Lorenzen, designed a machine to automate the harvest, while the agronomist, Jack Hanna, developed a less-delicate variety of tomato that ripened uniformly and could be easily plucked from the plant, qualities that made machine harvesting feasible.

The first few iterations of the harvester, introduced in the 1960s and refined in the decades following, reduced the labour required by 92 per cent, to about 24 minutes per ton. (Tomatoes for processing also don’t require the labor and materials needed to be boxed, a step that eats up over a third of the price that farmers get for tomatoes, according to a study done at UC-Davis.)

Other things happened, too. In the first decade of machine harvest, yields increased from 20 tons to 33 tons per acre. Fewer workers had jobs, of course, but the ones who did earned more money (by 22 percent) than field workers, because operating a harvester was considered more skilled labour.

A modern tomato harvester costs nearly $500,000 and can harvest 70 tons per hour. It’s one reason your canned tomatoes cost less than a third of your fresh tomatoes.

That’s just one crop, of course. What, more generally, have machines done for food prices? Sun Ling Wang, agricultural economist with the USDA, laid out the most basic principle: “On the supply side, technology can help produce more products. If farmers produce more products, other things being equal, prices will decrease.” But she – and several other economists I spoke with – emphasised the difficulty of teasing out the impact of mechanisation from the large pool of factors that affect price.

Case in point is the machine that has probably had the biggest impact on American agriculture: the combine.

A combine is for row crops (grains and legumes), and it does, as its name implies, a combination of things: harvesting (removing the plant from the ground), threshing (removing the grain from the plant and cleaning (removing the schmutz from the grain). What isn’t grain – the stalks and leaves – the combine can either chop up and leave on the field to provide cover and organic material, or bale for animal feed.

It does it all at once. At speed. Even when it’s 32 rows at a time. It’s an astonishing thing to watch. I got to drive a combine once, on an Illinois soy field, and I consider it a highlight of my agricultural journalism career. (To see a variety of big-farm machinery in action, try the YouTube channel of Brian Scott, a fourth-generation Indiana farmer whose family farms 2,200 acres of corn, soy, wheat and popcorn. He has a drone, and he’s not afraid to use it.)

Since tractors replaced horses, and then combines replaced tractors – in a period of about a century – the price of row crops has dropped fairly steadily. Although replacing horses was important because farmers no longer had to grow the grain to feed them, the biggest factor in the price drop, according to Prabhu Pingali, professor of applied economics and management at Cornell, was better-yielding crop varieties.

The combine had other effects, though: It led to larger farms and standardisation of growing practices. “Combines give you scale economies to expand farms,” says Pingali, but he notes that these effects aren’t universal. In India, for example, mechanisation hasn’t increased farm size, partly because farmers rent the equipment, which goes from farm to farm. But in the United States – and particularly in the Midwest, where the flat, uniform geography lends itself to large swaths of cropland – machines have been a major part of the dynamic that has more than doubled the size of the average farm and reduced the number of them by about two-thirds.

And then there’s jobs. While machines have clearly eliminated jobs in some areas, the dynamic is often the other way around: Lack of labour forces farmers to turn to machines. In the period after World War II, says Wang, workers left the fields for higher-paying manufacturing jobs. And now, in California, a labor shortage is driving wages up, and farmers are looking to machines that were prohibitively expensive when labor was cheap (like lettuce bots).

Among people who care about our food system, there’s often hostility toward the suite of changes to American agriculture that can reasonably be called “industrialisation.” Machines are part of that, but so is specialisation (a focus on just a few crops), dependence on pesticides and chemical fertiliser, large size, and the uniformity that enables just a few people – with the help of John Deere – to farm thousands of acres.

I understand the hostility, as the most serious problems we face (my list: fertilizer runoff, soil degradation, lack of crop variety) are wrapped up in industrialisation. But industrialisation brings with it some very significant benefits. The ability for fewer people to grow more food is one of them, and machines are a part of that. While people’s livelihoods still depend on farm jobs, it’s important that we safeguard those livelihoods, but field work is grueling drudgery. Post-Industrial Revolution modernisation has brought its share of problems, but freeing humans from grueling drudgery is a big win. I do just enough farm labor to be reminded regularly that the world’s a better place if farm labor is done by tractors and harvesters and combines, rather than people.

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The Holy Month of Ramadan is the perfect time for housewives to give free rein to experiment with their culinary skills and come up with exciting and mouth-watering recipes that will be the pride and joy of the iftar meal. Indeed the Holy Month of Fasting is a joyful time and the ladies of the household go all out to come up with new savouries and sweets so that the breaking of the fast at the evening meal is a memorable one, one worth waiting for after a full day of fasting.

The Oman Tribune spoke to some ladies to find out what’s cooking in their kitchen this Ramadan.


Jaleez Fatima, a housewife from Bangladesh living along with her husband and two kids in Wadi Kabir, says that she is tired of making the same pakoras, samosas, dahi vadas, club sandwiches and jalebis day after day. Of course these items are the most commonly favoured because they are quick to make without too much fuss or hassle. But sometime you must take a break and try something new.

That is why I sometimes make this particular recipe because it is quite simple to make and absolutely delicious:

Makes 15 pieces


250 gm moong dal vadi

½ to ¾ cup dry bread crumbs, 2 tbsp lemon juice

6-8 tbsp cream, enough to bind

Other ingredients

¾ cup grated paneer (150 gm)

¾ tbsp ginger-garlic paste

½ onion – finely chopped

¼ cup chopped coriander

3-4 green chillies – finely chopped

½ tomato – finely chopped

½ of a green capsicum

1 tsp salt or to taste


Boil vadi for 3-4 minutes in water. Pat dry on a kitchen towel. Deep fry on medium flame for 3-4 minutes. Cool. Break into pieces.

Grind vadi with all the other ingredients -paneer, ginger garlic, onion, coriander, chillies, tomato and capsicum. Add salt to taste.

Remove from grinder and add bread crumbs, lemon juice and cream.

Make balls and flatten to make kebabs. Cook on a hot pan greased with just 1 tbsp oil till well browned on both sides. Serve hot.


Shamim Siddiqi from New Delhi, India, is employed with a private firm. Her two daughters are studying in India and her husband has been working in Oman for the last seven years as a business consultant. She  offered to share this recipe which she says anybody can make in just 10 minutes:

Shamim Siddiqi offered to share this particular recipe which she says anybody can make in just 10 minutes:

Prep time: 4 mins

Cook time: 6 mins

Total time: 10 mins

10-Min Cheese Garlic Bread Recipe, an easy appetiser recipe with bread, butter, cheese, and chilli flakes.


1 baguette (mine was about 1 feet long)

4 tbsp of butter, softened to room temperature

½ tsp of salt (if using unsalted butter)

2.5 cups of grated mozzarella + cheddar

3 tbsp of chilli flakes

6-8 cloves of garlic, minced (I finally put my garlic press to good use)


1.Pre-heat your oven to 300F / 180C.

2.Slice the baguette into ¾” thick pieces. You can go thicker or thinner as you like, I like it neither here nor there.

3.Mix the minced garlic and butter along with salt if you are using unsalted butter. On that note, I used Amul salted butter and it was delicious. Slather a good layer of butter on one side of the bread pieces evenly.

4.Add the grated cheese on top and garnish with chilli flakes. You can be as generous as you want but don’t even think about being skimpy. Skimpy and cheese don’t go well together. Since I was serving pizza next, I went a bit easy on the cheese for the garlic bread, but note how I didn’t just make plain garlic bread, I had to add some cheese!

5.Bake in the pre-heated oven (Pre-heat your oven to 300F / 180C) for about 5-6 mins until the edges of the bread slices turn crisp and the cheese melts. Don’t let it sit in there too much even though you are tempted because if you over-bake them, they turn out like rusk when slightly cool.

6.You can use a baking tray but I didn’t have any spares since I was using them for the pizza so I directly put them on the (clean!) oven racks.


Shahnaz Jehan, from Pune, India, and living in Mabelah with her husband and one son since 2004, says she was in a mood to bake something different, something savoury. “And I did not want to go by any established recipe. It had to be something original; it was my own ‘invention test’. I looked around the kitchen and the fridge and collected a few ingredients to start with flour, eggs, boneless chicken, onions buttermilk et al. As I got on the job, the list went longer.

“When I put the dish in the oven to bake, I was wondering if I wasted my one hour. But then, with so many good ingredients, a good amount of effort and above all a good intention going into it, the result could not be bad, could it?”


Flour: 1 cup

Butter milk: 1/2 cup

Brown sugar (ground to dust): 2 tea spoons

Olive oil/butter: 1 cup

Boneless chicken: 250 g

Egg: 1

Ginger: 1 inch, chopped

Garlic: 3-4 cloves

Green chillies: 1-2, chopped

Dried oregano: 1 teaspoon

Chilli flakes: 1 teaspoon

Baking powder: 2 teaspoons

Sant and pepper: To taste

Processed cheese: 2 cubes

Olives: 4-5 (optional)


Cut the chicken into small pieces. Heat oil in a pan and fry the onions till golden brown. Add the chillies, ginger, garlic and the chicken and cook it dry with salt, pepper, oregano and chilli flakes. Once the chicken is cooked, grind it and set aside.     Sift the flour with baking powder, and mix in the brown sugar and salt and beat it smooth with the oil. Now whisk in the egg, butter milk and add the ground chicken mix and continue beating. If the mixture is still too thick, add another egg or soda water. Mix in the cheese cubes cut into small pieces. Once the batter is ready (it should fall from a spoon in dollops), pour it in a greased cake tin and put it in the oven preheated at 180 degrees C. Bake for around 30-40 minutes, or till the upper crust is golden. Keep checking by inserting a toothpick.

The most talked-about dish at PYT, a forward-thinking restaurant from Los Angeles chef Josef Centeno, takes 15 minutes for the kitchen to execute and is introduced with the kind of ceremony typically reserved for Dover sole or chateaubriand.

Centeno, or one of his staff, ferries the signature on a ceramic plate to the table, where the chef chips away an armor of kosher salt and egg white and frees the main event from the anise-scented, heart-shaped hoja santa leaf in which it’s baked. Next, he quarters the centerpiece and embellishes it with a nettle chimichurri. Crumbled feta cheese follows, as do a sugar snap pea pesto, house-made pomegranate molasses and shaved walnuts.

The recipient of all the attention? A turnip. Laugh if you will, but the vegetable, plucked from a nearby organic school garden supported by PYT, is a serious pleasure, caramelly and slightly peppery going down. Not for nothing did Los Angeles magazine proclaim the baked turnip “dish of the year” last December.

webBeet tartare. Cauliflower “steak.” Bolognese pumped up not with ground meat but with minced vegetables. If you’ve been out to eat lately, chances are you’re seeing what I am: vegetables on the center of the plate and chefs according them VIP treatment.

A prime splurge at the FrenchAmerican Convivial in Washington is Cedric Maupillier’s bouquet of vegetables arranged on hazelnut soubise, garnished with sliced black truffles and cooked in parchment paper. Sliced open as diners watch, the packet releases a cloud made fragrant with smoked celeriac, butternut squash and more. At the three-month-old Esker Grove in the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, chef Doug Flicker makes an entree of brined sauteed parsnips, which he cuts into slices and wedges, drapes with caramelised goat’s milk and sauteed escarole and finishes with a bold coffee-onion crumble. Forget nose-to-tail dining: Vegetables, declares Flicker, are “the new innards.”

No less a trailblazer than Jean-Georges Vongerichten, whose culinary empire embraces 34 restaurants around the world, just launched ABCV in the ABC Carpet & Home store in New York. The chef’s first all-vegetarian restaurant (the “V” in the title represents vegetable, vibration and Vongerichten) features plant-based food from around the world and a chef de cuisine, Neal Harden, who has been a vegetarian “since he was 6 years old,” says his boss. A new vegetable- oriented restaurant in Chicago takes the carrot cake for best name: Bad Hunter.

Yet in no other American city are you as likely to find more web(and more varied) ways to skip meat and fill up on vegetables than Los Angeles, a rainbow coalition of 4 million people and a dazzling restaurant scene that embraces a global buffet, with Chinese, Mexican and Southeast Asian especially well-represented.

On a recent 48-hour graze-a-thon, I took in the pleasures of Destroyer, a neighbourhood cafe in Culver City with a Nordic sensibility from chef Jordan Kahn; Trejo’s Tacos, a stylish vegan- welcoming taqueria created by Mexican American actor Danny Trejo; and Kismet, a fledgling Middle Eastern cafe whose draws include roasted spiced mushrooms sharing a bowl with braised chickpeas, a hit of green chile and almond broth. The designer labels at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills extend to chef Matthew Kenney, the wellness and raw-food guru whose eponymous dining room on the third floor of the store serves the ladies who lunch rethought taco salads and Reuben sandwiches. The former shape up with hearts of palm and sunflower “chorizo”; the latter finds pastrami-flavoured roasted cauliflower between slices of rye bread. On the chalkboard menu at soul food purveyor My Two Cents: “chickenless” and dumplings.

‘The natural choice’

“No question, L.A. is the epicenter of a plant-based lifestyle,” says Colleen Holland, publisher and co-founder of the San Francisco-based VegNews. In the magazine’s forthcoming May issue, the City of Angels is ranked the No. 1 vegan city in the United States, followed by New York; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; Oakland, Calif.; Miami; Chicago; Dallas; Las Vegas and Detroit.

The shift to more and better vegetable dishes away from home is a reaction to changing tastes among diners and chefs who have spent careers around foie gras and other rich ingredients and are looking for relief. According to Experian/Mi

Chefs and owners, Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer, got their start in Los Angeles with their first project, a falafel spot called Madcapra. Now, they’ve opened Kismet.

Chefs and owners, Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer, got their start in Los Angeles with their first project, a falafel spot called Madcapra. Now, they’ve opened Kismet.

ntel, the percentage of US consumers who identify as vegetarians increased by 3 percentage points (to 9.8 per cent) between 2012 and 2015. Market researcher Mintel also reported that 38 per cent of consumers agreed there should be more meat alternatives in restaurants.

Blessed with fabulous produce and the assumpt

ion of quality, Los Angeles is a natural source of inspiration for cooks. “My neighbourhood grocery store is the Santa Monica Farmers Market,” humble-brags Jeremy Fox, chef of the esteemed Rustic Canyon eight blocks away. Warm weather encourages meatless eating, too. “

You can get a damn good salad in Minneapolis,” says Patric Kuh, restaurant critic for Los Angeles magazine. “But we have conditions that make vegetable eating the natural choice.” In Minneapolis, he says, “there’s no moment when there’s three feet of snow outside and anyone says, ‘I’ll have a salad.’ “

Where yams rival clams

Fox, the visionary behind one of the best vegetarian restaurants in the country, the late Ubuntu in Napa, Calif., cooks with meat and seafood these days. Indeed, one of the most popular dishes on the menu at Rustic Canyon is pozole verde with clams. But a rival for

Chef Josef Centeno is prolific in Los Angeles as chef and owner of Ledlow, Bar Ama, Orsa + Winston, PYT and Baco Shop.

Chef Josef Centeno is prolific in Los Angeles as chef and owner of Ledlow, Bar Ama, Orsa + Winston, PYT and Baco Shop.

diners’ affection is a dish of yams staged with green garlic butter, pickled onions, aioli and hazelnut dukkah (an Egyptian spice blend), instructions for which are included in Fox’s just-released “On Vegetables” (Phaidon), a collection of 150 recipes with the home cook in mind.

The success of the produce-driven yam dish drives home a modern point: “No deprivation, no compromise,” says Holland of VegNews. In Los Angeles in particular, chefs aren’t using vegan products trying to be meat. Rather, chefs are turning plants into “superstars.”

She’s right. One bite of the shredded cabbage pancake with braised eggplant and chili hoisin at Erven, the fresh vegan eatery from chef Nick Erven in Santa Monica, leads to another, and just about everything at PYT, the scene of my favorite meat-free meal last month, deserves a shout-out.

“The way I cook now is the way I want to feel afterward,” says Centeno. His menu features a bountiful chef’s salad that tastes like the Garden of Eden was anointed with walnut marigold dressing, along with a hand-milled rye-and-oat porridge he perks up with pickled beet greens, pecorino and “Chicharron at 9 o’clock at night isn’t the easiest thing to recover from the next day. Eating vegetables, I feel better.”

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This recipe treats tender chicken thighs to two of my all-time favourite flavour sensations: a mouthwatering Asian-style marinade that hits every single taste bud, and the alluring char that happens when food gets near fire.

The marinade strikes a bold sweet-salty-savory-spicy balance without the heaps of refined sugar found in many like it. Here, most of the sweetness comes from the mango itself, which, of course, also lends a tropical flair. That sweetness is offset by the tang of fresh lime juice, a generous helping of savory garlic and a salty umami punch from Thai fish sauce. If you don’t have the latter, you could substitute soy sauce, but I think it is worth picking up a bottle of fish sauce, as it has become a “new essential” ingredient – along with the Sriracha here, which gives the marinade a kick. I used a gentle amount in the accompanying recipe, but feel free to add a couple more shakes if you like things hotter.

The ingredients come together easily in the blender, and then time does the work as the chicken marinates. For full impact, four hours is the minimum, but it could go for up to 12 hours, making this recipe easy to pull off on busy weekdays. I typically blend the marinade the night before I am planning to cook, then combine it with the chicken in the morning so that it is ready to cook when I get home from work.

Then all it takes is less than 20 minutes in the broiler, or on the grill, for succulent chicken with crisped edges that complement a realm of big flavor within.

Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television’s “Ellie’s Real Good Food.” She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at

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4 to 6 servings

Here, tender chicken is treated to a bold mango-lime mixture then char-broiled for mouthwatering flavor. The marinade has a tantalizing sweet-salty-savory-spicy balance without the heaps of refined sugar found in many similar store-bought marinades, thanks to the sweetness inherent in the tropical fruit.

MAKE AHEAD: The chicken needs to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.


1 cup mango chunks (defrosted if from frozen)

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2 limes)

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

2 tablespoons canola oil, or other neutral-tasting oil

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

2 teaspoons Sriracha

3 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving

Lime wedges, for serving


Combine the mango, lime juice, fish sauce, oil, sugar, Sriracha, garlic and salt in a blender; puree to form a smooth marinade. Transfer to a quart-size zip-top bag. Add the chicken and seal; refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler.

Place the chicken on a broiler pan, allowing some marinade to cling to it. Broil for about 8 minutes, then use tongs to turn the chicken over and spoon a bit more marinade on the second side. (Discard any remaining marinade, at this point.) Broil for about 9 minutes, until lightly charred around the edges and the chicken is cooked through.

Serve warm, with cilantro and lime wedges.