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Everyday Eats: Lentil Salad with Peanut Dressing and Summer in NYC

18 Jul

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If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed a change in my posting patterns. Gone are the bright afternoon photos of homemade salads and freshly baked goods. Weekday posts are scarce, pictures of my usual Los Angeles hangouts replaced with those of decadent weekend brunches in Downtown Manhattan.

At the end of May, I moved from Los Angeles to New York City for a summer internship at Food & Wine Magazine. I cannot begin to explain all that has happened in the past two months–the lessons learned, friendships made, and delicious food eaten. What I can say now, though, is how much I miss cooking.

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I live with my cousin in a 300 square foot apartment in Midtown, our kitchenette equipped with nothing but a microwave and a miniature refrigerator. While eating out is a large part of the lifestyle here in New York, bars and restaurants bustling with people late into the night, it gets exhausting. I long for the leisurely hours spent flipping through cookbooks, baking cookies and cakes or tossing together fresh produce for simple summer salads. With its bounty of vibrant fruits and vegetables, summer is a much-anticipated season for cooks and bakers alike.

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Australian-inspired breakfast and coffee at Little Collins Café.

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Stellar brunch at Lafayette in NoHo. Try the chocolate-banana-coconut croissant.

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Lusting after sweet, dainty strawberries at the Union Square Farmers’ Market.

I made this salad on a lazy afternoon a few days before my departure. I was in the mood for a change and deviated from my usual drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice, creating a delicious Asian-inspired dressing using just a few pantry staples. A single ingredient, or in this case, dressing, can completely transform the flavors of a dish.

The creamy peanut dressing pairs well with hearty lentils and crisp arugula, but would be a welcome addition to shrimp spring rolls or a cold soba noodle salad. The recipe is more of a framework than a strict guideline, so feel free to improvise with whichever combination of lettuce, vegetables, and protein suits your fancy.

Recipe by Maral Tavitian

For the salad:

  • 1 1/2 cups arugula
  • 3/4 cup steamed green lentils, drained and cooled
  • 1/4 of an avocado, thinly sliced
  • 2 oz. medium-firm tofu, drained and sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • Handful of toasted cashew pieces, for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For the peanut dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted creamy peanut butter*
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or other neutral-tasting oil
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

* Use a good-quality peanut butter with a loose consistency. Look for brands that have only one ingredient (peanuts) and a layer of oil on top.

1. Place the lentils on top of the bed of arugula. Top with avocado slices, tofu, and cashew pieces. Season with salt and pepper to taste. For the dressing, combine the peanut butter, vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, and honey in a small bowl using a whisk or fork. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking to combine until the dressing reaches a smooth consistency. If the dressing seems too thick, add a bit more oil or water. Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Extra dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to one week.

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Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo

31 May
Top: The Paris-NY is Dominique’s twist on a Paris-Brest, a traditional French pastry made with choux dough and filled with pastry cream. This variation pays tribute to an American candy bar with its peanut butter, caramel, and chocolate flavors. Below: Cloud-like lemon madeleine cookies that are baked-to-order.

Has a bakery ever blown you away? Have you ever tasted a dessert so masterfully executed, so perfectly delicious, that you intensely admire its creator? In my book, only an handful of pastry shops have achieved this level of excellence. Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City was one of these rare experiences. 


I first heard about Dominique Ansel through a fabulous show on Cooking Channel called Unique Sweets. Unique Sweets profiles notable sweet spots throughout the country, featuring mouth-watering video footage and interviews with innovative pastry chefs. When my family and I traveled to NYC over spring break, visiting this bakery was at the top of my to-do list. 

We ordered a variety of items to sample, including pistachio, hazelnut, and chocolate macarons, chocolate chunk and chocolate-pecan cookies, a Paris-NY, 10 mini madeleines, and a cannelé. You cannot go wrong with any of these options, but my personal favorites were the Paris-NY, the chocolate chunk cookie, and the mini madeleines. 

The fact that each batch of madeleines bakes within minutes of arriving to your table shows incredible attention-to-detail and thoughtfulness. These petite French cakes, though seemingly simple, can be made several different ways with subtle textural and flavor nuances. Dominique’s are light as air, practically melting on your tongue. The chef’s chocolate chunk cookie, another ubiquitous classic, is crunchy on the outside and soft and melty on the inside, with notes of caramel from the brown sugar. 

ABC News – Cronut from ABC News Now on Vimeo.

A few weeks ago, Dominique made waves with his newest invention, a croissant-doughnut hybrid called the cronut. Layers of flaky croissant dough are deep fried, filled with Tahitian vanilla cream, rolled in rose sugar, and finished with a pale pink rose glaze. Dominique tried 10 different recipes before he found the one, and now people line up at 5 a.m. to get their hands on this unique pastry. 

Ansel inspires me with his ability to transform familiar baked goods into amazing works of art. His creativeness with flavor combinations and presentation are unmatched. Though Dominique has received much recognition for his work and is a James Beard Award Finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef, he continues to push the boundaries. When I visited, I was surprised to see him working humbly behind the counter with the other employees. This dedication and passion for his craft makes Dominique Ansel a stand-out in the pastry world.  

Dominique Ansel Bakery 
189 Spring Street
New York, New York 
10012
(212) 219 2773
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Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sunday, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. 

Visiting Balthazar Bakery in Englewood, NJ

31 Mar


Some people get excited about shopping for vintage records and antique furniture at flea markets. Others love waking up at 6 a.m. for an early morning spin class. What gets me giddy is walking into a great bakery on a cool spring morning, inhaling the smell of freshly baked bread, and going home with a bag of pastries that are still barely warm from the oven.

I traveled to New York City last week to spend time with family, visit museums, and eat at amazing restaurants. Balthazar is one of my favorite bakeries in New York, offering carefully crafted, high-quality baked goods with a rustic Parisian influence. Balthazar’s little store in SoHo is always packed with people looking for a good cup of coffee and a quick pastry. While there is something undoubtedly charming about waiting in line at a cramped French bakery in one of NYC’s hippest neighborhoods, I visited Balthazar’s factory in Englewood, New Jersey (just half an hour outside Manhattan) to escape the hustle-bustle for a bit and observe bakers at work. 

From top: Charlotte aux Fruits with raspberry mouse and homemade ladyfingers, 
Chocolate-Almond Torte, and Lemon-Ricotta Torte. 
The Chocolate-Almond Torte was subtly sweet with a tender, nutty crumb. 


Balthazar is a wonderland for all things sweet. You walk in and you are immediately taken aback by the pastry case packed with beautiful products. Rustic loaves of handmade bread line the back wall, some speckled with oats, seeds, and nuts, some dusted with flour or cornmeal, each a distinct shape. Workers scurry about in the massive kitchen; it is fascinating to see them so engulfed in their different tasks, be it shaping dough or glazing danishes.


My family and I ordered more pastries than we could possibly consume in a single sitting. We laid everything out on our dining room table and sampled small pieces of almost every treat. Good dessert makes people smile, temporarily satisfying their sweet tooth. But only excellent dessert halts conversation as people savor and analyze each bite. That is exactly what happened to me. With every item I tried, I declared it my favorite and urged everyone at the table to experience it with me.

From top: Seasonal Vegetable Quiche and Mango-Passionfruit Tart. 


It is virtually impossible to go wrong with anything on Balthazar’s menu, but I have a few favorites that you must try. The Rhubarb and Sour Plum Crisp is filled with sweet, seasonal rhubarb preserves and plums and sprinkled with buttery crumble topping. The Chocolate-Almond Torte is light with a tender, nutty crumb. The Chocolate Chip-Walnut Cookie is crisp on the outside and slightly soft on the inside. I have tried chocolate chip cookies from around the world in pursuit of “the one,” and Balthazar’s version ranks in the top of my list. You can always judge a bakery’s character from its take on this classic baked good. 

Balthazar Bakery 
214 South Dean St. 
Englewood, NJ 07631
(201) 503 9717
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Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.