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Food with Mark Bittman: Khushbu Shah

The prolific food writer and cook talks to Mark and Kate about having one foot in two cultures; the auntie whisperer network – or, how Indians in America learned to make do without some of their beloved staples, and how they learned to make do with what was readily available; and why and how the term “fusion” got a dirty rep.


Khushbu Shah’s Masala Smashed Potatoes

Smashed potatoes are essentially roasted potatoes but with even more texture. Thanks to the increased surface area, smashed potatoes have unbelievably crispy edges, fluffy and creamy interiors, and paper-thin crackly skin. Also, it’s deeply satisfying to smash down a potato—scratches that same itch as popping bubble wrap. — Khushbu Shah

Hetal Vasavada's Parfait

Hetal Vasavada’s Shrikhand Parfait

Shrikhand has to be one of my favorite dinner party desserts! It’s mostly found in the Western states of India and is made of hung curd, a thick and creamy drained yogurt. It’s similar to Greek yogurt but 100 times creamier and thicker. — Milk & Cardamom


Fireplace Beans (Beans al Fiasco)

Cooking in the fireplace doesn’t require any fancy equipment. This recipe can be done with a mason jar in any living room fireplace. Lacking a fireplace or a campfire, the beans can be cooked in a covered pot but it is less dramatic and magical. The slow, even cooking produces wonderfully unctuous and flavorful beans. It is fun to watch them cooking before your eyes. — Peter Hoffman


Stir-Fried Tofu with Snow Peas or Sugar Snap Peas

The best way to learn to love tofu is to cook it with lots of crisp vegetables. A ton of ginger and garlic help too. You can serve this with white or brown rice, of course. I also like it tossed with wide rice noodles. Whatever accompaniment you choose, get it ready before you start the stir-fry; this goes super-fast.


Warm Chickpea Salad with Arugula

Chickpeas frequently get the salad treatment throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. My version is an amalgam of a few recipes I’ve had and includes ginger, garlic, and cumin. After the season- ings are cooked and the beans warmed, the dressing is finished in the pan, then tossed with arugula leaves to soften them slightly.

Watermelon and Tomato Salad

A quintessential summer dish; beautifully ripe tomatoes and sweet, juicy watermelon are musts for this salad. Use variously colored heirloom tomatoes for an outrageous presentation.


Stewed Tomatillos and Tomatoes

Tart green tomatillos play the starring role in this stew, mellowed a bit by the sweetness of fresh tomatoes. The texture is silky and slightly thick. Serve over rice, grits or polenta, or hominy. A good substitute here would be all-green or not-quite-ripe tomatoes.

Food Processor Fruit Sorbet

You don’t need an ice cream maker, or even fresh fruit, to make this sorbet — it comes together in a matter of minutes in a food processor and goes straight to the table. Yogurt adds a silky tang, but you can substitute dairy or nondairy milk. You can also use juice or water, adding just enough to break down the fruit.

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster is as showy as the city of its birth, New Orleans. Remember to use a pan without any coating for this or other flambéed desserts. For a new take on banana cream pie, use these bananas as a layer underneath the vanilla or chocolate cream.


Fadi Kattan’s Mujadara

When I close my eyes and try to think of a dish that says home, many appear. Mujadara is one of them. At the beginning of the pandemic, when I started my radio show, Sabah Al-Yasmine, Ramblings of a Chef, the recipe most requested by people locked up in their homes across the world was mujadara, a humble but satisfying meal. –Fadi Kattan


Fadi Kattan’s Fig Salad

This fig salad is actually the simplest recipe in the book, and yet it might be the one with the most complex flavours as these are given to us by nature without intervention from cooks. Figs are a magical fruit that have a very deep, intense flavour that is both sweet and at the same time extremely close to savoury. — Fadi Kattan


Lemon-Lime Gelée

All sorts of flavors are possible here, from sweet-tart lemon-lime to coffee to coconut, and they’re all perfect on a summer day or when you want something light and refreshing. Freshly squeezed juice is the best, of course; otherwise, use nectar if it’s available.

Homemade Spinach Fettuccine with Gorgonzola

This dish is a real stunner to all the senses. There’s spinach in both the dough and sauce—assisted by a generous crumble of Gorgonzola—so there are plenty of vegetables hidden in the decadence.


Sugared Peaches with Candied Ginger Ice Cream

A quick brush with butter and a dredge in sugar turns into a light burnt-caramel crust on the grill. Top each peach half with vanilla ice cream studded with candied ginger bits and you’ve got something simple but special. The size of the peaches will determine how many you need. For peaches weighing in at 8 ounces each or less, figure 1 peach per person; for peaches 12 ounces or more, one peach half makes for a generous dessert serving.

Grilled Avocado with Lemon

Don’t relegate avocados to guacamole; half an avocado warmed on the grill is a rich, cooling side.


Pain Perdu with Balsamic Strawberries

Breakfast for dessert. Be sure to use sturdy slices of rich bread like challah or brioche, or a relatively tight-crumbed crusty country-style bread. Don’t let the bread sit long in the egg mixture—get it in, get it out, and get it on the grill. The combination of strawberries, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper is classically Italian and is a nice foil to the rich, sweet bread.


Whole Fish with Basil-Orange Oil

Whenever possible, I grill fish whole. Whole fish are easy to handle, and the skin crisps and protects the delicate flesh so it stays moist. Start larger fish first over direct heat, then move to indirect after the skin releases.