Dance With Flavor + Texture: Trick Your Mouth Into Complete Satisfaction

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At home I tend to lean toward cooking food with A LOT of FLAVOR and A LOT of TEXTURE. I enjoy trying new spices and, in the past, did some writing for 2 NYC Food + Culture websites, Real Cheap Eats and City Spoonful. I co-wrote a piece on tacos, eating my way through every Mexican joint in Astoria one very hot, humid and thigh chafing summer. I spent a lot of my downtime exploring spices, traveling through Queens and back to my old neighborhood of Canarsie - once famed for their Italian salumerias and bakeries, bagels and babka - now houses a large West Indian/Caribbean population. It's through this eating and writing that I opened up my mind, palate and kitchen to cooking globally. 

In the height of weight loss I didn't know that much about food outside of what I grew up eating. I spent the majority of my time making lentils a few different ways, spicing cabbage like my nonna did, making classic pesto, red sauce, bread and tuna salads. My food choices and cooking was safe, what I knew and came from my heart.  

It was in my move to Queens and the meeting of likeminded food loving friends that I branched out, grew fearless of eating out (I was always afraid because I thought I'd somehow gain the weight back if I ate a dumpling or a taco or two) and trying new things. My kitchen became a playroom/laboratory/dance floor, where I discovered and tasted my way through places I'd never been. My tastebuds have been to Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Thailand, Guyana, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, France and beyond - all without ever getting on a plane. I simply walked, took the train or sat on the bus to try new food, procure ingredients, remake what I ate or pick up a new inspired spice to try at home. 

The beauty of this eating? The beauty of trying new food? It expands our world more than we might even recognize. Making friends with food, trying new things, embracing new experiences - that's what healed my mind and my body. My weight, your weight, our weight is a product of habit - from food to emotion. Try something new, a new flavor, talk to a stranger, talk to the cook at your favorite local restaurant. Put down your phone. Engage. Stop worrying so much. The dumplings will not make you gain weight, nor will the doughnuts or pasta - they will only if you use them beyond the point of satisfaction and enjoyment. If you eat food to fill a void or self-isolate, you need to heal and I know it's possible because I've done it. It's imperfect and I overindulge, but a love and understanding of how connecting to food and moments embedded in food can heal is where the answer is.

The food we may eat at home grows old fast, one note hamburgers, pizza - again, the comfort foods of fried chicken, potatoes and other take out are all fine ... But did you ever have a bahn mi (a Vietnamese sandwich) and notice it's not huge, it's not piled high with meat - it has pickled veggies for crunch and a sweet/sour taste, a light dressing, crunchy bread. This sandwich has what I call flavor and feels. Mouth happiness from texture in our food is a real thing, it's not just soft and salty. Did you ever have pasta in Italy with an intense truffle taste, finished with cheese and a sip of a good red? Again, layered flavors, mouth feels and more.

It's when we eat from a place of our food stimulating our senses that we become even more satisfied.  

My suggestion, fill your world and plate with flavor and see what happens. 
Break out your food processor and imagine the possibilities. 
Go down a new aisle at the market, grab the turmeric and don't look back. 
Be food forward. 

Here are a few simple dips/sauces to try at home, guaranteed to get your palate pumped. All of the recipes contain very few ingredients and are at the easy level in preparation - but will make you feel like an expert in your kitchen.

There are 2 variations on hummus, one using the anti-inflammatory wonder spice of turmeric and the other using poppy seeds which aid in reducing anxiety. 3 of the recipes call for tahini - often used in Middle Eastern Cuisine and one using miso, commonly found in Asian recipes to add an umami boost to many a meal, sauce and/or soup. Making an eggplant or avocado into a dip proves tasty in two of the below recipes. My favorite standby of yogurt which is multi-purpose and always great for breakfast, lunch or dinner is used primarily in Mediterranean fare/throughout many countries in Western Europe is paired with cilantro - an herb that is part of the parsley family. Cilantro has antioxidants and good old purifying benefits for your bod as do many herbs when used regularly in cooking, which is why I also use jalapenos and scallions in these preparations. The aforementioned herbs can be found in many Asian and Mexican dishes and around the globe. Beans, dairy, herbs and veggies are all common fare in my kitchen, considered staples I'd never be without. Fiber, vibrant colors and new flavor combinations are at the heart of every recipe here - and when you look at these photos you can see the texture. I hope you enjoy making one or all of them, floating on a flavor cloud and trying something new. 

Go on, take your pick and dive in. 
Get in the kitchen and be not afraid.

XO

HERBED CILANTRO YOGURT SAUCE

  • 1 container greek style yogurt

  • Handful of cilantro or parsley

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1-2 tsp. Olive oil

  • 1 tsp. Cumin

  • Juice + Zest of 1 lemon or Lime

Place all ingredients in a food processor and whizz until fully blended
Refrigerate and store in small glass jar or container

*Spread on bread, scoop on Indian inspired bowls, cream up a grain with a
dollop and mix for a richly textured bite and don’t forget you can load a raw
veggie platter and dip away!

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BABBA GANOUSH

  • 1 roasted eggplant *place whole eggplant in a 400 degree oven for 40-45 minutes until the eggplant collapses and the skin is charred, allow to cool, open and spoon out flesh - I like to leave some skin for a charred taste and texture in my dip

  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 T. tahini

  • ½ tsp of salt

  • Zest from ½ a lemon

Place all ingredients in a food processor and whizz until fully blended
Refrigerate and store in small glass jar or container for up to one week

TURMERIC HUMMUS

  • 1 can of chickpeas drained, rinsed + liquid reserved

  • ¾ tsp turmeric

  • 2 T tahini

  • 1 jalapeno

  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • ½ tsp of salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and whizz until fully blended, adding liquid through the food processor feeding tube if the mixture is too thick and not smoothing/creaming up
Refrigerate and store in small glass jar or container for up to one week

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LEMON SCALLION POPPY SEED HUMMUS

  • 1 can of chickpeas drained, rinsed + liquid reserved

  • 1 bunch of scallions, thinly sliced

  • 2 cloves of garlic

  • 2 T. tahini

  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil

  • Juice of 1 lemon

  • ¼ c. of poppy seeds

  • ½ tsp of salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and whizz until fully blended, adding liquid through the food processor feeding tube if the mixture is too thick and not smoothing/creaming up
Refrigerate and store in small glass jar or container for up to one week

SPICY MISO AVOCADO DIP

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 T. miso paste
  • Juice of 1 lemon + zest
  • 1 handful of scallion greens *optional
  • 1 jalapeno *optional

Place all ingredients in a food processor and whizz until fully blended
Refrigerate and store in small glass jar or container for up to one week

tina corrado