Our latest recipe contest, Your Best Restaurant Inspired Recipe, gave us the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the hard-hit restaurant industry that has continued to make us superb meals infused with love and passion through the struggles of the last year.
With a massive outpouring of delicious recipes paying homage to favorite local restaurants and eateries, our work was certainly cut out for us. Deciding on the final five was challenging, but after testing and tasting and tasting some more, we were able to narrow the field to our two finalists: Shri Repp's Crispy Kale Chaat and Meredith's Sweet & Spicy Piloncilo Cheese Spread.
Picking a winner is never an easy task, but thanks to our amazing community who rallied with a record number of votes in support of these outstanding eateries, we've chosen a winner. Cue the drumroll...
Shri Repp's Crispy Kale Chaat
Congratulations, Shri, your appetizer was unanimously loved by all! Congrats as well to runner-up Meredith—your dish is absolutely delicious, and we can't recommend it enough. This bright, flavor-packed kale recipe was inspired by a dish Shri enjoyed at Washington D.C.'s award-winning modern Indian restaurant Rasika. If you live in or near D.C. or find yourself in the neighborhood, Rasika is a must-visit.
Shri, a D.C. ex-pat now lives in Seattle, Washington. We asked a few questions to get to know her culinary experience a little better.
What's your least favorite food? I'm game to try almost any food, but my biggest pet peeve is when leftovers take on the shape of their container. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll definitely still eat that lo mein, but I'll need you to cover my eyes, release it from its takeout carton mold, and reheat it into a more natural shape before I consider taking a bite.
What is the best thing you've made so far this year? The best thing I made this year was a recipe I developed for samosa pot pie. The pie's filling is spiced potato and peas, which gets heat from chiles, tang from chaat masala, and acid from lemon juice. The recipe for the crust is based on Erin McDowell’s All Buttah Pie which is flaky and full of the buttery richness of a traditional pie crust. However, in my adaptation, I include the very important ingredient of ajwain, also known as caraway, which imparts the flavor of a traditional samosa wrapped into the crust. To me, this combines two iconic dishes and represents the Indian-American experience, which makes it so special to me.
Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster. My most spectacular kitchen disaster unfortunately involves accidentally poisoning my then-boyfriend. There were a series of missteps, like not using the freshest salmon, marinating it in an acidic concoction for far too long, and slathering on loads of mustard, which my partner notoriously dislikes. Needless to say, the next couple of days weren’t great for him, and salmon was removed from our regular rotation for the next couple of months. However, he did end up marrying me, so I guess it couldn’t have been that bad!
What is your idea of comfort food? To me, comfort food is food that makes me feel like my amma (mom) is giving me a warm hug. It's food that's unassuming, and can fix the worst of days. The dish that most makes me feel this way is yogurt rice or thayir sadam. It's rice mixed with a luscious Indian yogurt called thayir that is similar to Greek yogurt, for a porridge-like consistency. The rice is topped with a nutty thalicha (also known as tadka) or oil tempered with spices, which infuses warmth and flavor throughout the dish. I eat this dish with my hands, which may seem odd, but hands are in fact the primary utensil for a third of the Indian population, and that's the way I grew up eating. There is a sensory connection in eating thayir sadam with my hands, and not fussing with cutlery, which truly adds to the homey experience.
Apron or no apron? I wish I was one of those chefs who rock those hipster-chic linen cross-back aprons. However, the combination of my short stature (which often leaves the apron hanging too low) and my shocking inability to tie knots behind my back instead leaves me sporting a blanket of flour at the end of my cooking projects.
What's your favorite food-related scene in a movie? My favorite food-related scene comes from one of my favorite sitcoms, Friends. In the episode, Rachel attempts to make an English trifle. However, the pages of two magazine recipes stick together, which unbeknownst to her results in a crazy shepherd pie and English trifle hybrid dish! I love this scene because Rachel is so confident and proud in the moments leading up to serving the dish. Without skipping a beat, she describes her trifle creation as “a layer of ladyfingers, then a layer of jam, then custard, which I made from scratch, then raspberries, more ladyfingers, then beef sauteed with peas and onions, then a little more custard, and then bananas, and then I just put some whipped cream on top!”
I just love how proud she is of something that ultimately “tastes like feet." There is something highly relatable and heartwarming about seeing America’s girl next door make a fatal recipe misstep, and her friends going to great lengths to spare her feelings.
Who is someone you'd love to cook for, and why? I daydream about the day I get to cook for (or rather cook with) Sohla El-Waylly. Sohla brings a beautiful balance to cooking by knowing the history and methodology behind a recipe as well as knowing when to go off-script to create an adventurous creation.
I imagine us strolling to the Sunday farmers market and grabbing a hodgepodge of the freshest ingredients. We would riff together on ideas in detail deciding how best to showcase our plunder. Once our final creation is complete, we would hover over the kitchen island at our platter and dissect all the great things about the dish and how we could tweak it to make it even better the next time. Cooking is a balancing act of art and science, and Sohla El-Waylly is the perfect balance of frivolity and gravitas, which makes her the no-brainer choice as the person I would most want to cook with and for.
We hope you have had a chance to make Shri's delicious recipe. If you did, please let us know how you liked it in the comments, and join us in congratulating her!