Part edible sculptures, part performance pieces, food artist Laila Gohar’s multilayered creations are more than a meal—they’re an experience. Here, she tells us about one of her favorite ingredients to cook and eat: the humble bean.
I hear beans are your favorite food. What kinds do you like to cook?
I wouldn’t say I have a favorite food, per se, but I really like humble things that can be transformed with a few ingredients, like beans or potatoes—inexpensive things that are very versatile and act as vehicles of flavor.
I usually get my beans from this amazing place called Rancho Gordo. You can get them online, but you can also find them in stores. They’re different varieties of heirloom beans. This wonderful man, Steve Sando, works with farms in Mexico, California, and several other places to produce them. It’s amazing, the work that he does. Because of the lack of agro-biodiversity today, a lot of these heirloom varieties are dying off with the dominance of genetically modified crops. We depend very heavily on just a few crops: I recently learned that seventy-five percent of what we eat comes from just twelve different plant varieties and five different animals. It’s completely mind-blowing, and it’s really damaging our ecosystem to rely so heavily on just a handful of different crops.
There are so many foods I only learned to enjoy as an adult‚ including beans, maybe for that reason, or because they were usually undercooked, or canned.
Kids also don’t like brussels sprouts because adults boil the hell out of them, and make them just mushy and farty and gross. I’m actually writing a kid’s cookbook right now—Apartamento is going to be publishing it—about this very concept: that a lot of things children think that they don’t like, they don’t like because adults don’t prepare them properly. The recipes are all just for simple things, organized by ingredients. It’s just one recipe per ingredient, and they’re the same ingredients that I enjoy and eat regularly. There’s potato, fish, milk, chicken, egg, tomato—all basic things.
Where I come from, there’s no such thing as a kid’s menu; you eat whatever the adults eat. There’s no designated “kid food” or “special meal.” Children respond to flavors. They like things that are balanced, they like things that are acidic, they like salt and all the things we appreciate as adults.
How do you like to make your beans?
Soaking the them first really improves them, because then they don’t fall apart when you cook them. You have to plan a little bit in advance, but it’s not a huge deal. Just soak them in a bowl of water, overnight in the fridge, or on the countertop is fine, too. When I cook them the next day, I just put them in a pot with a few inches of water, and add whatever aromatics I have on hand. I really like to add bay leaf. I’ll also add half an onion, garlic, and some herbs, like parsley and cilantro. Sometimes I’ll add the stems of herbs that I’ve saved, from when I’ve used the plant for something else. I like to add the herbs at different points, so some get really cooked through, while others, like oregano or marjoram (which is a little more mild), I’ll add right at the end. It just depends on what I have.
Also, it’s really important to add a healthy amount of fat—some good olive oil, or maybe some leftover fat from another dish, like duck fat or drippings. I’ve heard people say that you shouldn’t salt your beans at the beginning, but I don’t really think that’s true: You’ve got to season things properly, from the inside out. Meaning, you season them throughout the whole cooking process. So I salt them in the beginning, and then I taste them toward the end and salt them again. The broth has to be kind of salty; that’s where you get the flavor from. Salt and fat really make everything come together, but specifically with beans, it’s essential.
Do you think your love for simple food stems from the fact that in your work, food is made playful, often quite experimental, and complex? It’s almost like a way of finding a work-life balance.
Yes, definitely, it’s very reactive. It’s like an inverse release, because I obsess over every detail when I’m working. There are layers to it. It’s a bit whimsical, for lack of a better word, and my reaction to that is to eat really simply at home. I don’t like fancy ingredients or over-the-top dishes, just simple things cooked really well.
This is going to sound a bit weird, but sometimes I crave foods that taste like nothing, that aren’t intense in any way. Like, there’s this one brand of rye cracker that’s really ordinary and maybe feels a bit like eating cardboard. I think most people find it repulsive, but I find I really like to not be overstimulated in that way. There are few things I’ll cook just for myself, and one of them is a flatbread that’s literally just salt, flour, water, and maybe a little bit of yogurt. It tastes like air.
I don’t have a hard time going to restaurants, I appreciate all kinds of food, and will make something nice if I’m cooking for other people or have people over—I mean, I wouldn’t make my friends eat cardboard. But eating, for me, is just a way to sustain myself in a very simple or elemental kind of way.
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The human gut microbiome contains up to one thousand species of bacteria that, among many functions, produce neurotransm
In like a lion—and maybe out like a lion, too—summer has passed; it’s suddenly fall. And as our minds wander off to the génépi floral herb, a close relative to the more hardy wormwood, grows in rock crevices and among glacial debris at an altitudForthave Spirits have just produced a version called Yellow, which, like its other offerings (including Red, a botanical aperitif, and Blue, an American dry gin), is simply named Genepy Herbetet, made by Italy’s family-run Distilleria Alpe, is another excellent pick, infused with additional aromatics including or
Ghetto Gastro, the Bronx-based culinary collective working at the intersection of design, art, and social justice, has cooked up a taCRUXGG, includes a range of everyday appliances—a blender, a coffee maker, a toaster oven, an air fryer, and more—with matte-bEp. 2 of our Time Sensitive podcast), have released a rotating double waffle maker, which promises to yield perfectly browned, crisped edges, nooks, and crannies. True to Ghetto Gastro’s mission to igniKnow Your Rights Camp, a campaign founded by athlete-activist Colin Kaepernick. Consider the cookware, designed to be left out on the kitchen
Aishwarya Iyer never thought she would found an olive oil company. At least her background in start-ups and venture capi So Iyer decided to make her own, and launched Brightland in 2018. Using olives from a family-run farm on California’s central coast, the Los Angeles–based company makes extra-v
Sichuan cuisine, named for the subtropical province of China where it originates from, is characterized by a diversity omálà (a portmanteau meaning “numbing and spicy”), is marked by deep and pungent, peppery notes that you not only taste but fethe U.S. considered Sichuan peppercorns to be contraband; nowadays, you can find the little pink orbs in trendy cocktails that play on its citrus and camphor-like aromas. As thThe Mala Market, an online purveyor that stocks top-grade ingredients directly from Sichuan province. Here, in one fell swoop, you can blog of recipes to kick-start your culinary adventures.
Chefs and restaurant owners everywhere have had to rethink their business models this year, as social distancing and new
Several months into the pandemic, the restaurant industry remains among the hardest hit in the U.S., with scant evidenceparticularly those run by BIPOC entrepreneurs, who have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus-related losses—their fates lie directly in continuing sales. Eat Okra app, founded by New York couple Anthony and Janique Edwards in 2016, which gives a boost of visibility to Black-owned b
The 20th-century futurist, theorist, inventor, and architect R. Buckminster Fuller was a tireless visionary and radical thinker who wrote dozens of books and proposed theoretical designs advocating for Synergetic Stew: Explorations in Dymaxion Dining, a collection of recipes and anecdotes originally compiled by Fuller’s friends as a surprise gift for his 86th birthday
Tamy Rofe, a sommelier who owns Brooklyn’s farm-to-table-y Latin American restaurant Colonia Verde with her husband, Felipe Donnelly, operates by a matra borrowed from her mother: “La comida compartida sabe mejor.” In English, it means, “Food tastes better when shared.” From the eatery’s lived-in aesthetic to its signature Sunday general store,” selling and even delivering nearly every ingredient on its menu alongside prepared meals and grill boxes—a way for Co
Lexie Smith is an artist and baker, though it’s only relatively recently, after years of working in restaurant kitchens and balanciBread on Earth. Her work often takes on various forms, from performance and installation to photography, writing, and publishing, all
After years in various kitchens, working his way up from dishwasher to cook, and ultimately chef de partie at Eleven Madison Park, Matt Jozwiak left the fine-dining world behind in 2017 to start Rethink Food NYC, a nonprofit organization that partners with restaurants and grocery stores to reduce excess food and make nutritious, Ghetto Gastro and Jozwiak’s former boss, chef Daniel Humm—as collaborators in its mission to fight food insecurity and foster a more
Extolled by New York City’s finest restaurants, from Daniel to Eleven Madison Park and abcV, as well as a growing coteriDavocadoguy, is seemingly everyone’s go-to guy for the best avocados. He keeps his supply consistently stocked and perfectly ripene