Celebrate your BODY in Santa Fe

The city of Santa Fe is aptly known for high spiritual energy that stems from its unique landscapes and Native American history. It is home to a number of spas, yoga and meditation centers, spiritual healers and alternative medicine practitioners. While the choices are endless, many locals pick BODY of Santa Fe as their daily destination for a complete inner and outer retreat. Continue reading “Celebrate your BODY in Santa Fe”

Moorish Fusion Cuisine

When I visited Morocco last Fall, I took cooking lessons from the locals, indulged in the native food and came home with some cookbooks for reference. Eating at home in Rabat was very different than eating at Moroccan restaurants. There were a variety of vegetables that were used in everyday cooking (and were delicious) which weren’t even listed in the restaurant menus. Perhaps you have also experienced the same tagines, couscous, bastilla and salad, but are foreign to Harira, poached artichokes, stewed pumpkins, etc.

Recently, I virtually met Zouhair Zairi (also known as Chef ZZ), a chef from Morocco who recently released his cookbook, Moorish Fusion Cuisine. It captured my interest immediately so I got my hands on a copy. As the book is titled, the recipes in the book are definitely “fusion.” Combining the commonly found ingredients in Morocco (pumpkin, artichokes, fennel, dates, saffron, olives, argan oil) with dishes inspired from the West (Bruschetta, Dip, Sushi, Flat Bread), Chef ZZ has created a fun and inspiring cookbook full of delicious recipes. There are also a few traditional dishes, such as Zahlouk (eggplant dip), Chicken Bastilla (sweet and savory pie), Chicken Tagine with preserven lemon and Moroccan green olives, Lamb Kebabs and many more that retain the elements of Moroccan cuisine.

The author has an inspiring story that proves that with hard work and strong determination, any dream can be achieved. Chef ZZ left Morocco for US at the age of 19, where he started as a dishwasher and ended up learning all aspects of the restaurant business. He ended up getting a degree in Culinary Arts and became an executive banquet chef for the 1996 Olympic tennis team’s “Gala Affair” in Atlanta, GA. In 2002 Zouhair opened his own restaurant, Spices in Maui, island of Hawaii. Chef ZZ now works at a five-diamond resort where his abilities and passion earned him the coveted Culinary Excellence Award from the JW Marriott Resort & Spa and a Certificate of Appreciation from the White House.

Get chef ZZ’s recipe for Tomato, Fennel, and Saffron Soup with Olive Oil–Poached Artichokes

Whether you want to impress your guests at the next dinner party or spice up your weekday dinner routine, Moorish Fusion Cuisine will give you “something different,” recipes you cannot find in any other cookbook.

Leave a comment below & enter to win a copy of the book, Moorish Fusion Cuisine: Conquering the New World by Zouhair Zairi with more exciting recipes. Winners will be announced on Oct 30, 2011. 

11 courses at No. 246

From the owner of JCT Kitchen, comes a new restaurant in the heart of downtown Decatur, No. 246. In less than six weeks of it’s opening, Chef Drew Belline has worked his magic here, creating one of the most inspiring Italian menu’s in town!

While the restaurant boasts a casual elegance, yet cozy ambiance, the food itself is nothing less than 5 stars.  Each night, the restaurant takes reservations for four guests to dine at the Chef’s Counter. With informal bar stools overlooking the kitchen, the guests are in for a total surprise. They put themselves in the very capable hands of Belline, allowing him to prepare an impromptu multiple-course menu. He does note any dietary restrictions at the beginning of the dinner and checks in frequently for feedback.

This was my first time eating at No. 246 and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Even so, I was very excited about the front row seating overlooking the kitchen, watching the crew as they sauteed, grilled and plated. It reminded me of watching one of those kitchen shows on TV, only the people on this show were very peaceful, cooperative and did not talk much (let alone yell at each other).

The food was a treat for the eyes, mouth and spirit. Each dish had an intricate blend of flavors so you never got bored after a few bites. Needless to say, there were multiple contrasting flavors in every dish to which words can’t do full justice.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect at No. 246 is the quality of it’s ingredients. Artisan Meat is bought from Pine Street Market, cheese sourced from small organic farms and the honey…well, the chef turned out to be a bee keeper as well. He brought out a live honey comb and scooped off fresh honey from it, which he poured over an aged Pawlet and topped off with toasted nuts. Yum!

The whole Branzino (a Mediterranean Seabass) served with shaved fennel and pesto was also an eye-catcher. The chef presented it in the pan and then processed it onto individual plates with perfection.

Brisket with smashed potatoes turned a not-a-meat lover (me) into one! A top cut cooked with pork fat simply melted into the mouth. The beef was well seasoned and I actually like the idea of keeping the potatoes whole and hearty, rather than whipping and mashing them with heavy cream.

Other highlights included an African squash soup with almond and sage, rabbit terrine with plum preserves (made fresh daily), and Guanciale pork scented carbonara tossed with corkscrew pasta.  Individual toasts served five different ways (house made lemony ricotta topped with preserved mild mushrooms being my favorite) are also reflective of Belline’s creative style where he blends sweet, pungent and salty flavors.

The grand finale to a heavenly meal was an olive oil-almond cake with plum extract and sweet cream. A dense home-made cake with the delicate moist richness coming from the olive oil. It did not look like much but was good enough for me to finish the entire plate as my 11th course!

No. 246

129 E. Ponce de Leon Avenue, Decatur

Phone (678) 399-8246


Inside the Persian kitchen

A few days ago I visited one of my all time favorite restaurants in Sandy Springs, Fanoos Persian cuisine. I had spoken to the owner, Jalal on several occasions before asking him to share some of his delicious Iranian recipes with me. This turned out to be my lucky night! Jalal gave me the pleasure of his company and some of his original recipes from his native Iran. Not only did he come over to my table and narrated the recipes of my choosing, he even brought out some of the essential ingredients used in Persian cooking.

Jalal told me how to make Kashke Bademjon (fried eggplant and kaske dip), Mirza Ghasemi (grilled eggplant and tomato dip), Shirin Polo (sweet rice mixed with barberries, orange peels, sliced almonds, and pistachios) and Fessenjon (chicken stew in pomegranate and walnut sauce).

I tried to take as detailed notes as possible as I have not cooked any of these dishes before but it wasn’t that easy. Jalal, being a true chef from Iran gave me measurements using his palm and fingers. At one point when I asked him how much rice to use in the Shirin Polo, his response was “Well it depend on how hungry they are!”

You will rarely find a Persian kitchen that does is not well stocked with these common grocery items, so Jalal sent me home with them. They can be used in multiple dishes and measurements differ by who’s cooking.

Rose water – Almost like an essence, rose water is very delicate and used for flavoring food and in beauty products. A few teaspoons are sprinkled over rice dishes, ice creams, cookies and puddings for a hint of rose flavor and aroma.

Saffron – A spice derived from a flower in very small quantities, the real saffron can be quite expensive. It is used in Spanish cooking to make yellow rice, in the Middle East to flavor rice (pulaos), added to milk and desserts for rich color and flavor. A few strands of saffron added to hot liquid (water or milk) and left for a few minutes will produce a golden rich color that is added to the dish. It also has a sweet yet smooth taste that goes well with everything from risotto to ice cream.

Pomegranate paste – Used for sauces and seasonings, the pomegranate paste is derived from fresh pomegranate seeds and is heavily concentrated. It adds a rich, complex texture to chicken and meat stews. As a result, the dish will have a sweet and nutty flavor (add some heat for a spicy contrast).

Kashk – Persian whey that comes in a bottle and looks like yogurt. A delightful eggplant spread, called Kashke Bademjon is made with roasted eggplants and kashk. If you are lactose intolerant, gluten free, need more protein, consider Kashk. It is used as a substitute for cream in many Italian dishes too.

Sumac – A deep red or brown powder that is common served in Middle Eastern and Persian restaurants alongside salt and pepper. Sumac adds a lemony taste to the food and is generously sprinkled on tops of bread, kebabs, dips and more. It is also used as a garnish on most dishes from this area.

Dill Weed – Dill is commonly used across the globe in different cuisines but is native to the Eastern Mediterranean region. However, where and when you buy your dried dill is very important. Dill has a strong, crisp flavor, similar to caraway or fennel. The Persian kind is very strong in fragrance so you will really be able to notice it in the food. A couple of teaspoons used in sauces, stews and spreads goes a long way.

Fanoos Persian Cuisine

6125 Roswell Rd Ste 104 B
Sandy Springs, GA 30328
(404) 256-2099

Cooking for good!

Linda Watson helps people save money, eat well, and make a difference by cooking seasonal food from scratch at less than the food-stamp allowance. Her book, Wildly Affordable Organic is all about delicious recipes that are made from scratch using fresh ingredients. Why good? “Because you will save money and feel better” she says. You will also increase your self-sufficiency, reduce suffering, and help slow global warming.

Linda first experimented to see what it feels like to live on a food-stamp budget and how does one eat healthy (let along organic) being on it. Allocating just $1.53 to each meal, she challenged herself to create family-friendly recipes that were simple, delicious and affordable.

I know it sounds too good to be true, but it actually is not. Linda gives very simple tips throughout her book, along with her recipes. She talks about buying family-size bargains, making your own spice mixtures, cooking dry beans from scratch, freezing seasonal fruits and much more.

Even if you are a busy professional, you can Cook for Good by planning ahead and strategizing your meals. Linda claims that you can cook about 60% of your food from scratch in less time than it takes to watch a TV show!

I first met Linda at the IACP conference in Austin, TX back in June 2011. The moment I started talking to her about what she does, I could tell she was really passionate about making a difference in people’s lives. Linda believes that helping people get enough good food to eat isn’t just a matter of giving them money, although money is essential. Linda also campaigns at state and national level to encourage the government to fund and make more convenient its financial support for hungry people.

To learn more about how you can help yourself and the planet, visit Cook for Good.

I will be giving away a copy of the book, Wildly Affordable Organic on Twitter! If you like to enter to win, all you need to do is follow GoEatGive on Twitter. Drawing will be held on August 31, 2011 and the winner will be notified through Twitter