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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Whetstone Magazine Co-Founder and “Origin Forager” Stephen Satterfield on Food, Culture, and Identity
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With Memorial Day weekend behind us, summer has officially begun, and for many home-growers, this signifies the busiest Kitazawa Seed Company, founded in 1917 by a Japanese American family, sells some of the best, and offers more than 500 seed varieties of dento yasai, traditional heirloom varieties of a diverse array of Asian vegetables used in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisines, Browse the extensive catalog to learn about all the delicious varieties, and pick up some recipes for dishes such as sunomono, a simple and refreshing cucumber salad, and kinpira gobo, a savory side of burdock root sautéed in sweet soy sauce.
Thirty to forty percent of perfectly good, fresh produce grown in the U.S. goes to waste each year simply due to bruisinTerroir in a Jar, a company with a serious mission to reduce food waste and put profits back into the hands of growers.
As the in-house chef for Vitsœ—the midcentury furniture manufacturer that’s been producing Dieter Rams designs since 1959—Will Leigh is a fixture who famous 606 modular shelving. Though much of the Vitsœ team has been working remotely these past several weeks, Leigh, along with a dozen or so esse
As we enter yet another week of social distancing in many cities throughout the U.S., home cooking, it seems, is here toGreat Jones, the direct-to-consumer startup co-founded by Grub Street alum Sierra Tishgart, makes a beautiful enamel cast-iron versThe Dutchess, in a range of cheery colors to brighten any kitchen drudgery. For the more minimalist or solo cook looking to save spaAlways Pan from Our Place is an ideal starter piece, with a ceramic non-stick coating and various nesting accessories that give it a multifunctioMisen’s durable seven-piece cookware set, designed by the Brooklyn studio Visibility, offers a clean, no-nonsense take, with ergonomic handles designed for comf
The ongoing Covid-19 closures have brought the unimaginable to so many local and small businesses across the country andFamily Meal, a site and Instagram account of recipe cards featuring dishes from their favorite local restaurants. All are available for download, with suggested bagna cauda from Popina, challah from The Lighthouse, and lou rou fan from Win Son.
Between homeschooling, working from home, and/or cooking at home more than ever, many of us are spending our days stayinan automated, open-source system called FarmBot that’s been slowly cultivating a fan base of users online. Controlled using an app, and assembled from a kit of parts, t
Daytime drinking is on the up—hey, it’s 5 p.m. somewhere (not that we can keep track of time these days, though the #HandMarkingTime Stories on our @slowdown.tv Instagram at least help us remember which day of the month it is). But if you prefer not to risk getting a hangover, or weakeningDram Apothecary makes a version of the increasingly popular drink in a range of flavors, such as cardamom and black tea, using CBD extrWild Mountain Sage) and switchels, as well as a set of CBD tinctures that you can either drop directly on your tongue, or add to any drink
The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has put a sudden and massive halt on the restaurant industry: Bars, small businesses, mega-c“morbidly high business death rate.” (There’s an episode of our At a Distance podcast on this very subject with Esquire food and drinks editor Jeff Gordinier coming out soon.) As wholesale restaurant suppliers now find their client bases on
As people everywhere settle into new home-cooking routines, finding resourceful ways to make their pantry goods stretch victory garden. Luckily for apartment dwellers without a backyard or access to much green space (more than half the world, basically), all you need is a corner of a countertop to grow some fresh herbs indoors. Better still, and for the botanEdn. The company makes wifi-controlled kits that come with a built-in LED grow light; simple seed pods for no-fuss, soillesSmall Garden order placed—a welcome reminder, in these uncertain times, that your efforts to stay indoors can make a difference for
Self-quarantine and social distancing in the age of the coronavirus are not to be taken lightly, and if, like us, you’refor your own safety and for the safety of others—you may be asking yourself what to stock your pantries with. Add to cart: DADA Daily, a line of tasty and healthy snacks that are neither heavy-handedly survivalist nor overprocessed and, not to mention, so don’t be that bulk-buying, toilet paper-stockpiling jerk.
As the daughter of Slow Food pioneer and Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters, Fanny Singer has had her share of Proustian Always Home: A Daughter’s Recipes and Stories (Alfred A. Knopf), offers a warm and sensorial portrait of her mother, and of an upbringing that often revolved around
Dimes, the all-day café, bar, and market founded by Sabrina De Sousa and Alissa Wagner in downtown Manhattan, has always doneDimes Times: Emotional Eating (Karma Books)—which she says is the first in a series of more publications to come.
Rich Shih, founder of the blog Our Cook Quest and co-author of the forthcoming book Koji Alchemy: Rediscovering the Magic of Mold-Based Fermentation, is a self-taught cook and fermentation expert who makes everything from takuan pickles to fish sauce from scratch, twekoji, the source of umami in fermented ingredients like miso, soy sauce, mirin, and more.
South Korean cinema has been on everyone’s lips this week, in the afterglow of director Bong Joon-ho’s triumphant OscarsParasite, the grand finale to a months-long award spree that began with a Palme d’Or win at the Cannes Film Festival last year. making history in more ways than one. By his second acceptance speech, Bong, whose reactions were being duly memed, was ready to hit the bar. His exact words: “I’m ready to drink now, until the morning.” A total mood.