Clean Eating Made with Alia Dalal
Clean up your plate! That’s the rallying cry from Chicago Chef Alia Dalai who offers an “Anti-Meal Plan” for folks who want to eat clean, but are reluctant to spend a big chunk of time in the kitchen. A Pakistani American daughter of a nurse and a pharmacist, she was raised on Middle Eastern food. She calls herself a “counterculture culinista” who strives to spend more time with friends and less time slaving over a stove. According to Dalai, the plan comes with a bonus: It’s economical—“10 ingredients. Three dinners. $20.”
For her, the Black Rice and Lentil Mujadara is one of those go-to dishes created from cupboard staples. “I create something from the odds and ends in our pantry during those moments most people would open the fridge and say ‘There is nothing to eat.’” This dish requires a grain, lentils, onions and some butter or oil, she says.
Alia Dalai’s personal connection to the relationship between food and health began with her best friend. “Soon after college my best friend was spending a lot of time in the hospital waiting for a transplant surgery. Her condition had nothing to do with lifestyle or diet,” she says. The stark realization set in when she compared the hospital food to the nurturing food she wanted for her friend. “How was she supposed to have the best chance of recovering and healing when she was being served Jell-0 instead of real food?” she asked herself.
“I began to get really curious about the relationship between food and health, not just in a literal, nutrition-focused way but also how food can be used to nurture, excite, calm and connect us.”
“I think chefs have a lot of responsibility and power when it comes to shaping the way Americans eat, and so I felt drawn to dive in and become a chef.” Alia trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts and, after working in Michelin-star restaurants in Chicago, including Sepia, she launched a personal chef business.
“I’m focused on helping people eat healthier in a fun, open and nonjudgmental way* she says. Alia is also a food consultant and executive chef for the natural juice company \Here\, which uses local farm produce for its products. The line also includes vegetable-forward dips, like hummus, except instead of chickpeas I used Midwest-grown beans like white beans, lentils and black beans and combined them with local vegetables.”
It’s Asparagus Season
By Rebecca Katz
You can learn a lot sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck. A farmer friend of mine used to sit me down and teach me about all things asparagus. Chris worked hard—awfully hard—as a farmer. He was true salt of the earth, and as generous as they come. Normally, there’s an invisible line: farmers behind their wares and buyers on the other side, but Chris always insisted I “step into his parlor.” Both of us were always so excited when the first asparagus of the season showed up. He’d put aside a bunch for me, and then we’d both hop up on that tailgate and talk—about recipes, how amazingly nutritious asparagus is, and, a lot of the time, about life and family. Chris passed away not long ago, and I felt the best way I could honor him was to create a recipe featuring his favorite veggie. I think he would have enjoyed this, and I hope you will too.
All Hail to Kale
By Sara Forte
I love raw kale salads, in part because the nutrient- rich greens are so sturdy that the leftovers keep well. It’s great if you pack your lunch for work or need something that will travel well to a potluck or picnic. For this recipe you’ll want to use lacinato kale, which goes by the name Tuscan kale. Its leaves are smoother and a bit more tender than those of curly kale, which is a bit uncomfortable to eat raw. If eating a salad made almost entirely of raw kale sounds daunting to you, substitute half of the kale with romaine lettuce to soften the texture and make the salad even more colorful.
By Regan Baroni
I love the discoveries that come with creative collaborations. Anytime I make eggs, I’m reminded of when I partnered up with my talented friend and fellow blogger Kit Graham from The Kittchen to photograph three brunch recipes. Kit and I had a blast together.
I understand that collaborating with other creatives is important for things like growing your community and networking, but for me, it’s more about making new friends and learning from them. Let’s face it, we don’t know it all and we can’t do it all alone. As a food photographer, I love partnering with recipe developers. They help me with the cooking and I help them with the photography. However, not only did Kit help me in the kitchen, she also taught me how to poach an egg. It may sound simple, but it has been a brunch-changing experience for me at home.
Don’t you think a poached egg seems fancier than the other styles? Next to sunny side up, it’s my favorite way to eat eggs and they always look so gorgeous. I recently threw this recipe together and it’s perfect if you want a lazy morning in your PJs with something delicious in hand that doesn’t require a lot of effort. It would also be a fun brunch recipe. You’ll totally fool your friends into thinking you slaved away in the kitchen and they’ll probably pour you an extra mimosa for all your hard work.
The recipe comes together quickly and the flavors are smoky, rich and bright. Since the ingredients are minimal and affordable, I also think this would be a good recipe for practicing your egg poaching and plating skills.