The primary chunk fills my mouth with surprising stars. Sure, generally dishes shock me. On paper, the recipes or descriptions could seem puzzling or humdrum, the mix of substances failing to sing to my food-loving creativeness. However I’m all the time desirous to strive new concoctions when cooking with proficient cooks. Their presents open my palate to new tastes and textures.

Three addictive dishes come to thoughts; every a delicious revelation taught to me by a Southern California chef. Concoctions corresponding to an avocado-centric raita that’s so flavorful its scrumptious teamed with every little thing from hen to chips to salad. A brilliant inexperienced rice that’s simmered in a pureed mixture of recent herbs and broth. And a meat-free carpaccio that showcases skinny slices of uncooked zucchini.

Shachi Mehra, chef-owner at Adya Restaurant in Anaheim, places a California spin on the Indian condiment raita by making it with avocados. (Photograph by Curt Norris)

Avocado Raita

Shachi Mehra, chef-owner of Adya in Anaheim and Irvine, has a expertise for combining custom with innovation. Her dishes showcase influences from all areas of India whereas putting California vegatables and fruits within the highlight.

Her avocado raita is one instance — one very scrumptious instance. Sometimes, the condiment is made with plain yogurt, herbs, chilies and spices; typically cucumbers are additionally included within the ingredient checklist. However in Mehra’s kitchen, a cucumber-free model is whirled with beneficiant quantities of ripe avocados, making it creamy clean and irresistibly wealthy. She dreamed up the avocado model years in the past when she moved to California.

Transfer over guacamole, her raita topping is a contender.

A technique she makes use of her it’s atop masala papad, a salad-like concoction that’s served on crisp poppadums; think about an Indian model of tortilla chips topped with a mouth-watering vegetable concoction and garnished with tangy guac. The salad combination combines roasted corn kernels with diced cucumbers, thinly sliced radishes and roasted cumin, in addition to cilantro, Serrano chili and chaat masala (a dried floor combination of mango powder, cumin, black salt, coriander, ginger and chili). The colourful tangle is tossed with a dressing of extra-virgin olive oil and recent lime juice.

Poppadums are the muse of the dish; they turn out to be blistered and cracker-crisp when flame toasted. Additionally known as papads, at first look the plain ones look one thing like fried-and-wavy flour tortillas. They’re manufactured from lentils and can be utilized like brittle tortilla chips for dipping or spreading.

Yield: About 5 cups


1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds, divided use

3 cups plain Greek-style yogurt; nonfat is OK, divided use

Salt to style

4 ripe avocados, seeded, scooped from the pores and skin

1/4 to 1 inexperienced chili corresponding to jalapeño or serrano, unseeded, minced, see cook dinner’s notes

1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Cook dinner’s notes: I take advantage of japaleño moderately than serrano as a result of I desire a milder, much less fiery combine. When working with recent chilies, wash work floor and palms upon completion and don’t contact your face or eyes.


1. On medium warmth, toast cumin seeds till one shade darker and aromatic, shaking deal with to redistribute seeds occasionally. Place on plate to chill. Grind in spice grinder or place in zipper-style plastic bag and pound with mallet or backside of a saucepan till floor. Use 1/4 teaspoon on this recipe and 1/2 teaspoon within the Masala Papad (recipe follows); leftover toasted cumin will be refrigerated hermetic and utilized in quite a lot of dishes.

2. Puree 1 cup yogurt, salt and avocados in meals processor or high-speed blender. Add remaining yogurt and puree till clean and completely blended. Switch to bowl and utilizing a whisk, stir in chili, cilantro, 1/4 teaspoon toasted floor cumin and lime juice. Style and regulate seasoning.

Masala Papad options corn, cucumber, radish, olive oil and served atop toasted poppadums. (Photograph by Cathy Thomas)

Masala Papad

Yield: 4 servings


2 recent corn, roasted till caramelized, kernels faraway from cob

1 small watermelon radish or pink radish, trimmed, minimize into very skinny slices, mandolin sliced most well-liked

1 small cucumber, Persian or English (hothouse) most well-liked, diced

1 teaspoon minced unseeded serrano chili (use much less if a much less spicy model is most well-liked)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon chaat masala

1/2 teaspoon roasted floor cumin

1 teaspoon recent lime juice

1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

4 toasted poppadums (plain, or with black pepper), see cook dinner’s notes

Cook dinner’s notes: Raw poppadums and chaat masala are offered on-line and at Indian markets. If you’re utilizing a gasoline range, set the flame at medium excessive. Holding 1 poppadum with a pair of tongs, flip it forwards and backwards over the open flame till bumps begin to seem on the floor and the poppadum turns mild brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Keep in mind to shift the tongs to toast the half initially lined by them. Repeat with the remaining poppadums. Set them apart to chill. (Word that I discover it simpler on my range to make use of tongs in each palms and maintain the poppadum about 1 inch from the flame, turning steadily). OR, for those who desire, broil them within the oven. Place rack as shut as attainable to heating ingredient and preheat the broiler to excessive. Toast the poppadums till bumps seem on the floor and so they flip mild brown, 1 to 2 minutes. There isn’t a want to show them. Set them apart to chill. Microwaving poppadums on excessive energy for 30 seconds to 1 minute can be an choice. The poppadums will flip crisp and brittle as they cool. You’ll be able to retailer them (cooled) in hermetic plastic zipper model luggage at room temperature for as much as 2 weeks (however I guess they are going to be gone lengthy earlier than that).


1. Toss all substances besides the poppadums in bowl; style and regulate seasoning as wanted. Place poppadums in single layer on platter or 4 particular person plates. High with corn combination and serve; go avocado raita for topping. Visitors can break the poppadums into items and eat them utilizing their palms.

Supply: Shachi Mehra, Adya restaurant, Anaheim and Irvine

Uncooked zucchini is sliced paper skinny to make Fig & Olive’s Zucchini Carpaccio. (Photograph by Cathy Thomas)

Fig & Olive’s Zucchini Carpaccio

Uncooked zucchini? How may that yield welcoming taste? Typically it’s quite simple mixtures of substances that wow the palate; a bowl of completely seasoned olives teamed with sliced salami; wedges of crisp sweet-tart apple paired with aged white cheddar; blanched greens sautéed with pancetta.

Or, within the case of Fig & Olive, a shocking “carpaccio” made with uncooked paper-thin zucchini slices, buttery extra-virgin olive oil, recent lemon juice, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and toasted pine nuts. It’s a basic concoction with roots within the south of France taught to me by the manager chef at the moment, Pascal Lorange.

To begin, he confirmed me that the zucchini must be a precise dimension, the diameter of 1 / 4, not a nickel or a 50-cent piece. They have to be very thinly sliced, ideally by utilizing a mandolin. He confessed {that a} vegetable peeler is also employed to do the thin slicing.

The elements, as a result of there are so few, have to be good. The additional-virgin olive oil performs an important function. Lorange advised me that for the carpaccio he prefers oil that’s candy and buttery, an fragrant marvel sourced from Portugal. The tasty vegetarian deal with could sing of summer season, however it’s simply as tempting as a primary course when the climate is chilly.

Yield: 6 to eight servings


1 pound medium zucchini (diameter in regards to the dimension of 1 / 4)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and freshly floor black pepper

4 tablespoons shaved Parmigiano Reggiano

4 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, see cook dinner’s notes

Cook dinner’s notes: To toast pine nuts, place in small dry skillet on medium warmth. Shake deal with steadily to redistribute pine nuts, cooking till evenly browned. Watch rigorously as a result of they burn simply.


1. Trim zucchini ends. Reduce into paper-thin slices utilizing a mandolin or vegetable peeler.

Organize the zucchini slices, barely overlapping, on a big, flat platter. Cowl with plastic wrap. Refrigerate till able to serve.

2. In a small bowl whisk the olive oil and lemon juice. Simply earlier than serving, whisk the olive oil dressing briefly to mix it, drizzle it over the zucchini, season with salt and pepper, scatter the cheese and the pine nuts on prime, and serve.

Supply: Pascal Lorange, former government chef Fig & Olive eating places

L.A. chef Suzanne Goin’s Herbed Inexperienced Rice is irresistible when you get used to its verdant hue. (Photograph by Cathy Thomas)

Herbed Inexperienced Rice

Just a few years in the past, I joined acclaimed Los Angeles chef-restaurateur Suzanne Goin within the kitchen of her sadly now-shuttered West Hollywood restaurant, Lucques. A extremely creative chef, Goin cooked up a few of the dishes she developed for Singapore Airways, and shared her methods for servings irresistible menus within the sky. Throughout our cooking and sampling, the dialog turned to her extraordinary inexperienced rice, a recipe sourced from her cookbook showcasing one other of her eating places, A.O.C. in Los Angeles.

The verdant basmati turned out to be one in all my favourite rice recipes, though at first strive I used to be doubtful in regards to the brilliant inexperienced hue of the herb-laden broth utilized in its preparation. However don’t be postpone by the vivid broth, the outcomes are flawless.

Yield: 6 to eight servings


2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 cup hen broth plus 1 1/4 cups water

1/2 cup packed Italian parsley

1/4 cup packed mint leaves

2 tablespoons minced chives

1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves

1 teaspoon sizzling sauce, see cook dinner’s notes

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

3/4 cup finely diced recent fennel bulb

3/4 cup finely diced pink onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups uncooked white basmati rice

1 tablespoon butter

Kosher salt and freshly floor black pepper

Cook dinner’s notes: The unique recipe known as for including 1 crumbled chili arbol when sautéing the greens. I desire to make use of one teaspoon of Frank’s RedHot sauce to the cooking liquid in Step#2. I prefer it as a result of it provides a spark of acidity and (for me) has just-right spicy warmth. If you happen to use Sriracha “rooster sauce” use 1/2 teaspoon.


1. Toast fennel seeds in a small pan over medium warmth for two to three minutes, till they launch their aroma and switch mild golden brown. Cool. Grind in mortar and pestle, or place in small zipper-style plastic bag and pound with mallet or backside of a pot till floor.

2. Deliver hen broth and water to a boil in medium-large saucepan. Flip off warmth.

3. Place parsley, mint, chives and cilantro in blender. Add 1 cup of the recent liquid and puree herbs at medium velocity (cautiously maintain down lid of blender with potholder). Add remaining liquid and puree at excessive velocity for about 2 minutes, stopping to wipe down sides and lid as wanted. It is best to have a clean, very inexperienced broth.

4. Rinse out pot and warmth it over excessive warmth. Add oil, fennel, onion, toasted floor fennel seeds and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook dinner over medium-high warmth for about 5 minutes, stirring typically, till onion and fennel are translucent. Add rice, 1 teaspoon salt and pinch of pepper; toss to coat. Add herb broth and convey to boil. Cut back warmth to simmer. Add butter. Cowl and simmer for 15 to twenty minutes, or till tender and liquid is absorbed. Flip off warmth and depart rice lined for five minutes. Fluff rice with fork. Style and regulate seasoning if wanted.

Supply: Tailored from “The A.O.C. Cookbook” by Suzanne Goin (Alfred A. Knopf, $35)

Have a cooking query? Contact Cathy Thomas at


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here