All Posts By Alia Akkam

Chefs Share Their Strategies for Staying Healthy

by in Healthy Tips, March 10, 2017

Long, laborious hours over a stove and tasting dishes on the fly don’t exactly breed nourishment, but chefs know that sticking to a few easy healthy food habits can punctuate a demanding, exhausting industry with much-needed moments of calm and clarity.

Opening a restaurant (a grueling, all-consuming affair) leaves little time for sleep, yet alone sport. But a rigorous schedule didn’t deter Derek Stevens, who just unveiled Union Standard in Pittsburgh, from keeping to his ultramarathon training and Brazilian jiu-jitsu sessions. The disciplined chef/owner also took care to whip up healing ginger-turmeric tea amid round-the-clock planning and construction. “Turmeric root is an obsession of mine,” he says. “It is both an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, which helps with any injuries I may have.”

Matt Jennings, chef/owner of Townsman in Boston, shed over 100 pounds after surgery and profound lifestyle transformations. Like Stevens, his non-alcoholic tipple of choice right now stars ginger, paired with organic apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest and maple syrup. “I steep all the ingredients together with a bay leaf and drink it hot, or chilled over crushed ice. The kick in the vinegar and ginger is reminiscent of a cocktail, yet the health properties of all the ingredients are amazing,” he explains. Avid swimmer Ruth Gresser, chef/owner of Pizzeria Paradiso in Washington, D.C. and Alexandria, VA, relishes turmeric as well, but when mixed with garlic and cayenne in warm lemon water. Just as her father does, she begins her day with this pungent elixir. “He has been doing this for years, and his mother lived to be 100,” she says.  Read more

The Chefs’ Take: Parsnips

by in Chefs and Restaurants, January 10, 2017

A thick, taupe-hued version of the ubiquitous, snack-friendly carrot, the parsnip is an unsung root vegetable seldom eaten raw. Then winter arrives, and its nutty profile deservedly gets the spotlight in a barrage of hearty soups and braises. But, there are other clever ways to celebrate the parsnip’s complexity this season.

Five nights a week, chef/owner Nicolas Delaroque of Nico in San Francisco serves a five-course tasting menu. Inevitably, parsnips make a cameo this time of the year. “I enjoy their versatility. We can use them in so many types of cooking,” he explains. That’s why he embraces the vegetable’s floral notes and incorporates them into a dessert. One splurge-worthy scoop of brown butter ice cream is dressed with fried parsnip chips and wood sorrel. “Parsnips have a sweet disposition, and with the cozy, warm feel of maple and bourbon, it just makes sense on a cold day.” Read more

The Chef’s Take: Chestnuts

by in Chefs and Restaurants, December 11, 2016

Nat King Cole first started crooning about chestnuts roasting on an open fire in the 1940s, and the nostalgic scent of these plump, shiny beauties wafting from street corners remains a comforting symbol amid the frenetic swirl of holiday shopping and shindigs December usually promises.

Simply baking the chestnuts (don’t forget to score each one and give them a good soak before opening that oven door) is a surefire way to please guests, as is folding them into stuffing or using them to dot a chocolate cake. But chestnuts are rather versatile, which means chefs around the country are also using chestnuts to lend a festive touch to their winter dishes.

For Greg Guevin, chef at Russell House Tavern in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it was boredom of “the grilled vegetable platter ubiquitous to restaurants, the generic default option that gets no love” that led to him reach for chestnuts. His imaginative lasagna (pictured above) shuns pasta noodles for sheets of shaved potato that are layered with a blend of roasted chestnuts and root vegetables like carrots and parsnips. “The sweetness of the chestnuts makes the dish,” he says. Guevin amplifies it with a deep cremini mushroom-garlic-thyme jus deglazed with red wine “that helps keep the lasagna light,” he says. He then sparingly covers the “pasta” with a pecorino Mornay sauce, essentially a cheesy bechamel. Read more

Chef’s Take: Michel Nischan and Wholesome Wave

by in Dining Out, April 6, 2016

When it opened in Westport, Conn., in 2006, the Dressing Room — which, sadly, was shuttered in 2014 — was a pioneer of the region’s now ubiquitous farm-to-table movement. Co-founded by Chef Michel Nischan and the late actor Paul Newman, the restaurant embraced local and organic ingredients in such dishes as Iroquois White Corn Soup and Hook-and-Line Crisp Baked Chatham Cod. Here, many a meal began with the crisp, easy-to-eat “Use a Spoon” Chopped Salad, an antidote to the plethora of bowls dominated by unwieldy iceberg chunks.

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The Chef’s Take: Michael Chernow at Seamore’s in New York City

by in Dining Out, February 2, 2016

Seafood-loving diners swarm Seamore’s, in New York’s Nolita neighborhood, for the likes of kimchi fishermen’s stew and apple- and kale-flecked spicy squid tacos. The restaurant’s health-conscious owner, Michael Chernow — who also co-founded beloved chainlet The Meatball Shop — has a penchant for vegetables to boot.

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The Chef’s Take: Inday

by in Dining Out, January 7, 2016

With its potato-stuffed samosas, mounds of rice and must-have spheres of naan, Indian cooking doesn’t exactly conjure images of invigorating, low-calorie lunches. But Basu Ratnam, a young finance-dude-turned-restaurateur, would like it to. Enter Inday, his new, fast-casual eatery in New York’s NoMad District.

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Our Best Healthy Recipes of 2015

by in Healthy Recipes, December 23, 2015

Despite hectic schedules, much time this year was spent in the kitchen whipping up wholesome meals instead of relying on takeout. Throughout 2015, the recipes in our trove most relished by readers ran the gamut from creamy, comforting hummus to Parmesan-amped zucchini. These 11 dishes came to the rescue most often for home cooks staying in for the night.

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The Chef’s Take: Charred Kale and White Beans from Lido

by in Dining Out, December 7, 2015

Kale, once spurned for its obligatory green cameos at the childhood dinner table, has undoubtedly emerged as the most fashionable of vegetables. Its ubiquity certainly induces its share of eye rolls, but it “has entered into our culinary lexicon,” says Serena Bass, executive chef of the convivial Italian eatery Lido, in New York’s Harlem neighborhood. “It may not have the excitement of a new discovery any more, but like a tomato, it is far from done,” she says. “It’s what we turn to when we need an earthy punch in soups or salads and feel the urge to binge on B vitamins.” Read more

The Chef’s Take: Vegan Meatballs at the Meatball Shop

by in Dining Out, October 17, 2015


At any one of the Meatball Shop’s six New York outposts, patrons relish, say, orbs of spicy pork over a bed of sauteed broccoli, or pesto-dressed chicken atop freshly milled polenta. And while a vegetable version of the meatball has long graced the menu, now Meatball Shop owner and Chef Daniel Holzman has dreamed up a vegan recipe. Read more

The Chef’s Take: Broccoli Stalk Salad

by in Dining Out, August 1, 2015

Compared with much-in-demand kale, broccoli, that other verdant vegetable, has long suffered a far less glamorous fate. When diners do spear their forks into the nutrient-rich green, however, typically it’s the springy crown they crave, not the squat stem. Jeanne Cheng, chef and proprietor of Kye’s in Santa Monica, knows her passion for broccoli stalks rather than florets is unusual, but she became hooked as a kid, when her Chinese mother pickled them. “She’d marinate the stems overnight and they would get crispy,” Cheng recalls. “It’s funny, because I stir-fried them for my son when he was very young, and he would cry when it was time to take the plate away. He loves the stalks just as much as I do.” Read more

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