Last week, we chatted with Susan Feniger about being out in the kitchen and becoming a celebrity chef. This week, we continue the talk, and bring it back to the food.
AfterEllen: How did you come up with the concept of Street, a restaurant with a menu featuring street food from all over the world?
Another popular dish right now is Bhel Puri, an Indian street food. It’s puffed rice with sweet potatoes, date tamarind chutney and cilantro, all mixed together.
AE: Yum! Both of those dishes sound incredible. I’m also thinking about your Mexican fare at Border Grill. We all throw together tacos and burritos at home on occasion (actually, it happens weekly at my house.) How would you advise someone to get more exciting with their Mexican, get out of the Old El Paso rut?
You can also make a really great red rice with simple ingredients. Sauté onions, garlic, and tomato to make a sauce, then fry the rice in oil, and cook it in the sauce.
You have to get out of your comfort zone, widen it. People get nervous because they see things they’re not familiar with. But with a little bit of exploration another level of cuisine opens up. If you can make lasagna, then you can make chilaquiles.
AE: When did you first become interested in cooking?
If people focused more on taste than creativity, there would be more good food. It’s not about being creative in the kitchen as much as it is about knowing how to taste, really think about it, and make sure the flavor profile is there. There’s no point in being creative if the food isn’t good. Flavor has to drive creativity. The only important thing is that it tastes great. I’d rather have an unbelievably fantastic taco than foie gras without flavor.
Susan and her Street co-chef, Kajsa Alger, sent us this truly toothsome recipe (I added some explanation here and there to clarify the steps). This is not just comfort food, but a wonderful potluck dish (it serves a crowd). Have leftovers? Bring it to work the next day for a savory and very pack-able lunch.
Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the tubetini until it’s al dente. Set aside.
In a large pot over medium heat, combine the ghee and two tablespoons of canola oil. When the oil and butter are hot, add the rice and lentils and toast for approximately five minutes, stirring regularly.
Add the cumin and the salt, stirring to combine. Toast another minute or so, then add the water.
Cook uncovered, simmering until the liquid is absorbed and the rice mix starts to crackle and toast on the bottom (stir it occasionally).
Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Add the 1/8 cup canola oil, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, ¼ tsp kosher salt, and harissa to a skillet on medium heat, and stir to blend. When the oil mixture is hot, add the cooked, drained pasta to the skillet. Stir it as it crisps up. Add it to the bowl of rice and lentils and mix to combine.
©2009 Susan Feniger and Kajsa Alger
Candace is the co-editor of Dear John, I Love Jane: Women Write About Leaving Men for Women (Seal Press, 2010), and Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up About Moving On (Seal Press, 2009). She is currently working on a memoir-with-recipes for Seal Press called Licking the Spoon. Candace is also the features editor at Mothering magazine, mama of two, and enamorata of smarty-pants Laura, her live-in recipe tester. Follow Candace on Twitter @candacewalsh.