The Ultimate Guide to Mangoes

Chowhound. July 2020.

Get to know the mango in this handy guide, from types of mango to mango recipes, plus lots more info you never knew about this marvelous tropical fruit.

Mango is one of the most popular fruits in the world. It is believed that mango was first found in India over 5,000 years ago, and traveled with humans from Asia to almost every continent since. Mango is still considered a symbol of love in India, and according to local tradition, presenting a basket of mangoes symbolizes a gesture of friendship. Continue reading on Chowhound…

8 Great Easter Egg Decorating Ideas from Around the World

Chowhound. April 2020.

Easter egg decoration is an expressive art form that goes beyond dyeing in pastel colors or dipping in chocolate. Write, scratch, or etch designs; glue beads or leaves; paint dots, geometric designs, or entire scenes. From wire woven eggs in the Czech Republic and painted murals of the countryside in Croatia, to gold- and gemstone-laden eggs in Russia, check out these local Easter egg traditions around the world. You may even be inspired to create something new this year!

Continue reading on Chowhound…

Jiyeon Lee’s Path From Korean Pop Star to Beloved BBQ Chef in the South

Chowhound. March 2020.

There’s a line out the door of a 750-square foot restaurant at the northern edge of Atlanta. People are flocking in for the sweet and spicy BBQ pork sandwiches with kimchi coleslaw, revered by the likes of Adam Richman and Andrew Zimmern. There’s standing room only, but patrons don’t seem to mind it. Heirloom Market BBQ is named one of the best BBQ restaurants in the USA by Food & Wine, Gayot, and Southern Living, among others. The chefs and owners—Jiyeon Lee and Cody Taylor—are nominated for Best Chef Southeast 2020 by the James Beard Foundation.

To get here, Lee (who also goes by Chef JiJi) has had a thrilling, fairytale ride. Continue reading on Chowhound…

How-To How to Make Roti with Gluten-Free Flour

For Chowhound. March 2020.

If you’ve never tried roti (or chapati), it’s a delicious flatbread that’s fairly easy to make at home—there’s no yeast involved. And you can make it with gluten-free flour too.

Roti is an unleavened flatbread commonly found in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, as well as parts of Africa and the Caribbean. Roll it with peanut butter, stuff it with scrambled eggs, dip it in curry, or mix it with spices. Wholesome, plant-based, vegan, and versatile, you can have roti at practically every meal.

Read more on Chowhound…

The Ultimate Guide to Salmon

Chowhound. Feb 2019

How many times have you heard nutritionists say, “Eat more salmon!”? Though this fish is a great source of protein, potassium, and vitamin B12, it is mainly known for its omega-3 fatty acids that contribute to healthy brain, heart, and joint functions.

With so many different kinds of salmon, it may be worth knowing which ones are better than others and how each one tastes. If eating healthier is one of your goals this year, then check out this ultimate guide to how to buy, store, and cook salmon. Continue reading on Chowhound…

Where Did Hummus Really Originate?

~ For Chowhound. April 2018.

The brownish paste has become a staple appetizer on most menus, often served as a dip with a side of pita and veggies. It can now be found at American, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern restaurants, but do you know where hummus really comes from?

The Invention of Hummus

Israelis, Palestinians, Egyptian Arabs, Greeks, and other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries all claim hummus as “their” dish. Some historians say hummus can be dated to 13th century Egypt, others identify it as hometz from the Hebrew Bible written 3,500 years ago. The truth is, chickpeas have been growing in Turkey and surrounding areas for 10,000 years, which most likely gave way to some form of this dip.

Hummus Wars

Naturally, ownership of the popular chickpea dip started a war between Lebanon and Israel in 2008. Lebanese Industrialists and the government petitioned to recognize Lebanon, not Israel, as the appropriator of hummus, and waged an unconventional war of lawsuits, cook-offs, and competitions. According to CNN, in 2010, Lebanon set the record for the largest plate of hummus at 11.5 tons!

Chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author, Yotam Ottolenghi, writes about the hummus wars in his book “Jerusalem: A Cookbook.” “The arguments never cease. And even if the question of authorship is somehow set aside, you are still left with who makes the best hummus?…It is like the English fish-and-chips shop, a savored local treasure.”

What’s the Difference?

Most recipes for hummus contain the same basic ingredients: chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Yet a hummus aficionado has preferences of consistency—smooth and fluffy vs. chunky and spicy; temperature—warm, cold, or room temperature; and which condiments to serve alongside—cooked whole chickpeas, rehydrated dried fava beans, spice paste, chilisauce, or just plain. “It’s sort of like Minestrone soup,” says Paul Nirens, founder of GalilEat that runs culinary tours in Galilee. “Every cook has his/ her own recipe. I personally like it not too heavy, with a good amount of tehina, no garlic, and with very little lemon,” following a family recipe of a Christian-Arab grandma of 17 kids in the village of Dir Hanna in Israel.

Turkish, Greek, Israeli, or Lebanese—each culture has their own twist on the recipe. The Turkish chef and owner of Sivas Turkish Restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia adds ice cold water while blending the chickpeas and a little white pepper to flavor his hummus. Sometimes small amounts of Greek yogurt, cumin, and hot peppers can be added, and toppings range from foul (fava beans), to eggs and minced lamb. Hummus has even surfaced to dessert menus. New York-based franchise The Hummus & Pita Co. serves chocolate hummus, cookie dough humus, and cake batter hummus with cinnamon toast pita chips, while Delighted by Hummus’ Snickerdoodle hummus has become all the rave after appearing on the hit TV show Shark Tank.

Cake batter hummus, The Hummus & Pita Co.

The Best Way to Eat Hummus

At the famous Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, you will find a row of hummusias, dedicated hummus cafes open for breakfast until late afternoon, typically run by Mizrahi Jews and Arab-Israelis. These are packed with locals starting at breakfast and crowded out by tourists. Masabacha (or hot hummus) is a full hummus-based meal eaten for breakfast or lunch. A huge portion of hummus is served individually, topped with shakshouka, chickpeas, cumin, paprika, chopped fresh parsley, and a whole brownish looking egg which is boiled in black tea. Custom dictates using raw onion scales to scoop the hummus and biting into long green peppers that are served on the side.

One thing to note is that hummus is traditionally served in a red clay bowl with raised edges, allowing for convenience of scooping. Also, for proper eating etiquette, twist your wrist in a clockwise motion instead of dipping right in.

Make it at Home

No matter where hummus comes from, the important part is using good quality ingredients and making it from scratch. Soak dried chickpeas or garbanzo beans with baking soda overnight to soften them instead of using canned preserved ones. Squeeze fresh lemon juice, mince whole garlic cloves, blend in tahini paste, extra virgin olive oil, and kosher salt. Balance the measure of each of the ingredients based on your personal preference. The result will be wholesome hummus that is rich in protein, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B6, fiber, and potassium.

~ Written for Chowhound. April 2018.

An Official Guide to the Unofficial Starbucks Secret Menu

For Chowhound. March 2018. 

Tired of ordering the same few drinks each time you visit Starbucks? What if you could invent your own pick-me-up at your favorite coffee shop? What if all your favorite desserts were made into beverages?

No need for a magic wand to grant this wish! Starbucks has a secret menu, unofficially created by consumers, that gives you a choice of ordering thousands of drinks you probably never even heard of. The next time you enter a Starbucks coffee shop, order your own secret recipe and sip away.

According to Starbucks’ Media Relations, “Starbucks does not have an official ‘secret menu.’ However, in addition to the beverage options listed on our menu boards, there are more than 170,000 ways baristas can customize beverages at Starbucks, including selecting from a variety of milks, syrups, coffee/espresso options, and toppings. If customers would like to order a beverage that is not listed on our menu boards, we recommend they know the recipe so that their barista can handcraft the beverage perfectly for them.”

Many secret recipes have become popular through Instagram feeds and Starbucks has even incorporated them into their “official menus” for limited times. For example, the Christmas Tree Frappuccino spread holiday cheer for a few days in December, while the Zombie Frappuccino played a tribute to the goriness of Halloween.

Check out some of the under-the-radar creations from Starbucks’ Secret Menu.

Colored for Spring

Pink Drink, via Starbucks

Referred to simply as the Pink Drink or Purple Drink, these strawberry acai refreshers with coconut milk and scoops of berries will get you in the mood for spring.

If you have seen people walking out with drinks that have pink and blue swirls or topped with glitter, that is a Unicorn Frappuccino, a jazzier version of the Dragon Frappuccino made with green tea Frappuccino, vanilla bean powder, and berry swirls.

The baby pink Raspberry Caramel Macchiato tastes as good as it looks. Have it with raspberry syrup, ice, milk, espresso, and caramel.

Drink Your Candy Bar

Twix Frappuccino, via Starbucks Secret Menu

The possibilities are endless when it comes to having your favorite candy created into a blended beverage. The candy bar-inspired Twix Frappuccino is a scrumptious mix of caramel Frappuccino, caramel syrup, hazelnut syrup, java chips, and a drizzle of mocha.

Chocolate connoisseurs will love the Ferrero Rocher Frappuccinowith double chocolate chip Frappuccino, mocha syrup, hazelnut syrup, and hazelnut drizzle.

Even if you can’t eat the real thing, this lactose-free Caramel Snickerdoodle Macchiato will surely perk you up. Ask for an iced soy caramel macchiato and add vanilla syrup and cinnamon dolce syrup.

Pick up an after-dinner indulgence in a Thin Mint Frappuccino, made with chocolate syrup, mint syrup, java chips, and honey mixed into a Tazo Green Tea Frappuccino.

Character Rich

Butterbeer Latte, via Starbucks Secret Menu

The Pokemon-Go inspired Pokeball Frappuccino was so popular that some Starbucks locations put it on the specials board. Made with vanilla Frappuccino, strawberries and crème Frappuccino, and topped with strawberry whipped cream, this pink-white and creamy drink is made to look like the ball’s opening.

Harry Potter fans invented the Butter Beer Latte, a milk steamer with caramel syrup, toffee nut syrup, cinnamon dolce syrup, whipped cream, and salted caramel bits. There’s also an iced version of it.

Sweeten the Deal

Banana Cream Pie Frappuccino, via The Odyssey

No need to bake your favorite dessert recipes. Just ask your barista to add sweet ingredients of your choice to a cup and drink away. Order a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino with a pump or two of vanilla and hazelnut syrups, plus a whole banana to make a Banana Cream Pie Frappuccino.

Skip breakfast for a Nutella Frappuccino, a coffee Frappuccino with mocha syrup, hazelnut syrup, and blended whipped cream, topped with caramel drizzle.

Winter may be almost over, but you can still enjoy a Starbucks S’mores Hot Chocolate with chestnut praline syrup, whipped cream, and mocha drizzle added to a regular hot chocolate.

Add one to three pumps of raspberry syrup to a White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino to make it a Raspberry Cheesecake Mocha Frappuccino, or ask your barista to blend a biscotti into any Frappuccino for an impromptu Biscotti Frappuccino.

Drink to Your Health

Iced tea, via Starbucks

If sugary drinks are not your thing, order an Iced Matcha Latte that boasts antioxidants and has a lot less calories. Just mix matcha powder, vanilla, cinnamon, and ice.

Detox with a healthier option of blended drinks with a Superfruit Tea. The green tea with limes and strawberries packs flavor and is good for you too.

Feeling under the weather? Get the Passion Coldbuster Tea with passion tango tea, emperor cloud and mist, half steamed lemonade, half boiling water, and a bit of honey. It helps reduce inflammation, suppresses cough, boosts immunity, and relieves stress and insomnia.

There is an unofficial website dedicated to drink recipes (which is not Starbucks affiliated) where fans can post recipes and pictures of their own creations.  They recommend noting down the recipes as not all baristas will be familiar with the creative drink names.

Also, a ‘Secret Menu for Starbucks’ app available from iTunes provides a database of recipes on your fingertips. Search hot, cold, blended, and tea-based drinks, learn how to order, and rate your drinks.

~ Written for Chowhound. March 2018. 

Breakfast Casseroles from Around the World

For Chowhound. March 2018. 

You don’t need a plane ticket to enjoy food from different countries. Brighten your morning routine with these internationally inspired casserole dishes that can be made ahead. From Mexico to Nigeria, expand your breakfast culture knowledge one egg at a time.

Mexico: Huevos Rancheros

Meaning “rancher’s eggs” in Spanish, these are sunny-side up fried eggs served on lightly fried corn tortillas smothered in tomato-chilisauce, accompanied by refried beans and rice. Top with diced avocados, fresh cilantro, sour cream and salsa to make this hearty breakfast dish that will transport you to a hacienda in Mexico. Get our Huevos Rancheros recipe.

Israel: Shakshuka

Shakshuka is a staple found in the Middle East and North Africa. The name aptly means “all mixed up” as it is a blend of poached eggs, onions, bell peppers, minced meat (optional), and spicy tomato sauce flavored with smoked paprika and oregano. Melt feta cheese on top and serve the casserole with a hearty baguette or fresh warm pita bread. Get our Shakshuka recipe.

Spain: Tortilla Espanola

Fine Cooking

Found at cafes and bars across Spain and in many countries in South America, tortilla espanola can be eaten for breakfast, snack, or as tapas with a glass of wine. The vegetarian and gluten-free baked omelet is made by layering sliced potatoes with eggs, onions, and garlic. To serve, slice into pie size pieces at room temperature. Get the recipe.

Germany: Hoppel Poppel

Journal.hr

What better way to use leftovers than to toss them into a breakfast casserole? Hoppel poppel is a traditional breakfast/ supper casserole from Berlin which includes meat, potatoes, onions, and cheese, flavored with heavy cream, dill, salt, and pepper. Feel free to use whatever you have in the fridge—cooked meat, bacon, salami, or even hamburgers. Get the recipe.

Portugal: Bacalhau a Bras

Melepimenta

Travel to the Iberian Peninsula through Portuguese comfort food. Salted cod is the national dish of Portugal and it shows up at breakfast time too. Soak dried cod in cold water overnight and layer the casserole with fried shredded potatoes, onions, black olives, garlic, and beaten eggs. Get the recipe.

France: Oeufs au Plat Bressanne

Coley Cooks

Maybe you haven’t made it to the Alpine region of France yet, but you can still brag about your talents when it comes to French cooking. The countryside version of eggs benedict baked with runny eggs makes for great presentation. Fry pieces of toast in butter, add heavy cream seasoned with garlic, tarragon or chives, carefully top the eggs, and bake until the egg whites are firm. Get the recipe.

Pakistan: Khagina

Spice Spoon

Known as egg bhurji in India, tukhum-bonjam in Afghanistan, and khagina in Pakistan, the stovetop scrambled eggs are delightful if you like your breakfast spicy. Cook beaten eggs with onions, tomatoes, chilies, lentils, and turmeric. Serve with chapatti (flatbread) and cardamom-spiced chai. Get the recipe.

Italy: Frittata

Frittata meaning “fried” in Italian is a crustless quiche that is cooked in a cast iron skillet. You can use leftover ingredients, any combination of vegetables, cheese and meats—the possibilities are endless. The key to making a good frittata is beating the eggs vigorously to allow for air to incorporate, and cooking them very slowly on stove top and in the oven. Get our Kale and Roasted Red Pepper Frittata recipe.

Iraq: Makhlama Lahm

This one-pot dish will satisfy the meateater in you. Saute ground lamb with onions, tomatoes, parsley, yellow curry powder, and red chili flakes, then top with soft-baked eggs. The Iraqi breakfast dish dates to the 10th century! Get the recipe.

Nigeria: Egg Stew

Nigerian Food TV

Nigerian egg stew is a staple breakfast at every home in Nigeria, especially on the weekends. Blend red bell peppers and tomatoes to make a sauce, and season with garlic and scotch bonnet for heat. For proteins, add eggs, corned beef, and fish. Serve with boiled yam, potatoes, or chunky plantains. Get the recipe.

Eat Like a Local at Atlanta Airport

For Chowhound. February 2018. 

Airport food doesn’t always have to be greasy fast food, pre-packed sandwiches, and run-of-the-mill chain restaurants. Over 100 million passengers fly through the world’s busiest Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport each year, and they have several options where they can taste local flavors. While most travelers don’t have enough time to step outside the airport and enjoy Atlanta’s eclectic food scene, they can get a pretty good glimpse of it inside the seven terminals.

Check out these local restaurants inside Atlanta airport.

Paschal’s (Atrium, A, C)

Step back in time and visit one of Atlanta’s classic restaurants since 1947. This soul food establishment is known for award-winning fried chicken, and the city location was a meeting place for key civil rights leaders and strategists including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his lieutenants.

Papi’s Caribbean Café (T)

Established by a Cuban refugee, the Cuban grill has a takeout counter to grab a quick ropa vieja sandwich with black beans and yucca fries. Sip on a mojito at the bar, enjoy Latin music, and pick up a fedora at the adjacent shop.

Verasano’s Pizzeria (A)

Jeff Varasano traveled the world for 10 years perfecting the art of making pizza, eventually moving from the Bronx to Atlanta and taking the local gourmet pizza niche by storm. The restaurant is consistently ranked as a top pizzeria in the nation.

Grindhouse Killer Burgers (D, T)

The local chain is rated one of Atlanta’s best for burgers and brisket chili. Build your own burger with a wide selection of toppings, or order a Hillbilly Style with pimento cheese and jalapeños, along with distinctive Georgia sides—Vidalia onion rings, fried green tomatoes, and sweet potato fries.

Goldberg’s Bagel Company (T)

This family-run deli started serving New York style bagels in Atlanta in 1972 and has several locations around the city. Serving 32 varieties of bagels and homestyle Po’Boys, along with deli salads, stuffed cabbage, and steamed corned-beef pastrami, this is one of your classic neighborhood Jewish delis.

The Original El Taco (C, Mezzanine)

Who doesn’t like unpretentious good Mexican food while on the go? Atlanta’s neighborhood taco stand is always a big hit with travelers, offering simple and fresh Oaxaca-style tacos, big boss burritos, and spicy quesadillas for lunch and dinner.

Fresh to Order (B)

This Atlanta restaurant chain serves gourmet salads, sandwiches, and entrees at casual prices. Co-owner and South African immigrant Pierre Panos is behind the concept of healthy fast food at affordable prices, which is why F2O is one of the most popular lunch spots in the city.

The Varsity (C)

If you can’t go check out the biggest drive-in restaurant in the world in downtown Atlanta, you can still get a taste of its legendary burgers and chili dogs. Celebrating its 90th year, the family-owned chain still uses the same recipes for almost a century that even President Obama and President George H.W Bush can’t resist.

One Flew South Restaurant & Sushi Bar (E)

One Flew South is one of the few upscale dining establishments at Atlanta Airport. The cuisine is defined as “southernational,” inspired by world travels and using fresh, local ingredients. Find everything from chicken noodle soup and Korean style burgers to good quality sushi here.

Jekyll Island Seafood Company (F)

The Jekyll Island-inspired restaurant offers a taste of Georgia’s Atlantic coast with fried crawfish, buffalo shrimp, grits, fresh oysters, and seafood gumbo served with southern hospitality. The only thing missing is an ocean breeze!

Atlanta Chophouse & Brewery (Atrium)

A classic steakhouse with hearty sandwiches and salads in a casual setting. This is where you can get a fantastic prime rib served quickly. Also, have a business meeting over craft beer in one of their private rooms.

Atlanta Stillhouse (T)

Experience a bourbon flight (32 to choose from), cocktails, and whiskey at the Jim Beam (one of the best-selling bourbon brands in the world) co-owned restaurant. Pair it with Southern-style deviled eggs topped with crispy bacon, or a side of brisket.

TAP Airport (A)

Owned by local Concentrics Restaurants group, the gastropub showcases a taste of Atlanta with dishes such as buttermilk fried chicken, hot boiled peanuts, and shrimp and Logan Turnpike grits. Try local beers on tap, or relax with a porch swing peach punch.

Lotta Frutta (B)

Who says you can’t eat healthy on the road? What began as a website about fruit facts evolved into a Pan-Latin fruiteria serving Mexican-style fresh-cut fruit cups, South American-style smoothies, Cuban-inspired sandwiches, Mexican paletas (fruit popsicles), and Ecuadorian ice creams.

Piece of Cake (A)

If you are craving something sweet, head over to one of Atlanta’s legendary bakeries, Piece of Cake, for rich slices of coconut, banana, and pound cake. They also have cupcakes, brownies, cheese straw,s and cookies baked daily.

~ Written for Chowhound. February 2018.