Stick with Kati Rolls

Kati rolls are a special sort of food that exists beyond spoken language. It needs no translation, even if this is the first time you’ve heard such a word. One glance and all the mysteries are revealed. The kati roll is fluent in delicious, which is the most compelling form of communication on everyone’s lips.

What are kati rolls?

Soft flatbread, lightly crisped on the outside, wraps around an aromatic and highly spiced filling; the epitome of indispensable street food. Kati rolls are strikingly similar to fajitas in construction or open-ended burritos when finished. Originally, skewer-roasted kebabs were at the heart of it all, beginning life not unlike our modern day hot dog. Thus, the name comes from the Bengali word kathi, which means “stick,” in reference to the bamboo sticks used for cooking the protein. The bread is merely the vehicle, but simultaneously an essential part of the whole build.

The most “complicated” part of making kathi rolls to preparing the chapati (AKA roti.) I say this in quotes because it’s an incredibly simple flatbread made from minimal, common pantry staples that’s well within everyone’s grasp.

Even if you struggle with bread baking, this is a great way to ease into the art, since there’s no yeast involved and you truly can’t over-knead it. Gently charred by pan-frying on the stove top , you don’t need to preheat your oven, either. The biggest struggle can be carving out the time on a busy weeknight, to which I say: Don’t sweat the details.

Traditionally, the flatbread of choice for making kati rolls has been paratha. Infused with buttery, flaky layers throughout, that particular unleavened dough does take a bit more finesse. I’d rather save such intensive labor and overall decadence for a stand-alone snack, ideally with a side of chutney or curry sauce for dipping.

What are good alternatives to homemade chapati?

While all flatbread are not created equal, you can absolutely make mouthwatering kathi rolls using a wide range of ready-made solutions with great success. For best results, brush them with oil and lightly griddle them on both sides before rolling to make them more flexible. A few options include:

It’s what’s on the inside that counts

Beef, lamb, and goat kebabs no longer need apply for this starring role. In fact, the most popular fillings are now largely vegetarian. Typically focused on cubes of fresh paneer that are masala-marinated and tossed with sauteed peppers, it’s a simple, adaptable combination that never gets old. Step up that umami quotient with Sugimoto shiitake for an even better experience.

Koshin shiitake mushrooms are perfectly suited for this application, bearing wide, long caps that are ideal for slicing into meaty strips. Instantly boost the overall flavor profile while incorporating a more satisfying, toothsome bite with that one effortless addition.

Are kati rolls healthy?

Keeping it vegan, cheese is out and tofu is in. Swapping the two lowers the fat, increases the protein, and removes cholesterol entirely. Factor in those high-fiber veggies and you’ve got a real superfood snack on hand!

Kati rolls are the ultimate meal prep hack

Designed to be eaten on the go, kati rolls are ideal for make-ahead meals, packed lunches, and traveling snacks. After assembling the rolls, wrap them individually in foil and freeze for up to 6 months. Whenever you’re ready to eat, either simply let them thaw out and enjoy at room temperature, or stick them in a toaster over or air fryer for a few minutes until warm and crispy. Keep chutney or hot sauce separate to apply as desired.

You don’t even need a recipe to make a kati roll. It could be made completely from leftovers, restaurant takeout, or prepared foods from the grocery store. Kati rolls are whatever you want them to be, whether they’re made 100% from scratch or with zero cooking involved. The only way you can go wrong is if you don’t start rolling in the first place.

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Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Modern meat processing does a marvelous job of making flesh, fat, and gristle look like anything other than that. From ground sinew and muscle we get exquisitely smooth deli slices or hot dog links, completely divorced from their corporeal beings. As plant-based meats evolve to compete with conventional options, I think the next big step is to outpace them entirely. It’s time to embrace whole body butchery.

“Meathead” might be an insult, but “meat foot” is about to become a compliment of the highest order. The concept of feetloaf isn’t new, just not well understood. While it may have begun as a play on words, the flavors here are no joke. Let’s take a swing at this beast and break it all down.

What exactly is feetloaf?

First, you need to start with pasture-raised, hormone-free, organic, free-range humans. Next, you need to make sure they’re slaughtered humanely at a USDA-approved facility…

In truth though, feetloaf can be made from any meatloaf recipe you like. Standard yields will only make enough material for a single foot, or baby feet, so either double the quantities or plan the sculpting accordingly.

You’ll want to remove the natural toenails, which are pretty tough and sharp. Sliced cipollini onions make excellent replacements, adding flavor and covering any unsightly toe stumps at once.

Alternate vegetables to use for a “bone” instead of daikon:

Did you know that the tibia is is the most commonly fractured long bone in the body? If your human doesn’t have a suitable bone for the loaf, there are plenty of easy replacements. I prefer daikon for it’s mildly peppery bite and tender texture. Other great options include:

  • Parsnip
  • Whole hearts of palm
  • White carrots
  • Leeks (white parts only)
  • Peeled potatoes

What sides are best to serve with feetloaf?

Expect any side dish to be largely overlooked when you have such a grand show-stopper on the table. That said, it’s good to keep the supporting players simple and unfussy. My go-tos are:

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Steamed broccoli or peas
  • Leafy green salad

Those who have been raised eating only innocuous nuggets might have a hard time coming around to feetloaf. Some may even find it shocking or unsettling if not prepared for the meal. Rest assured that this is the only way towards a truly sustainable food system. No matter any initial backlash, this meal is absolutely the best way to get your foot in the door.

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Ready to Pop

With enough creativity, anything can be a taco. Beyond hard or soft shells, salads and bowls, the satisfying spices and resounding crunch can be translated in any edible medium. That’s why I’m going for a much bolder base to celebrate National Taco Day on October 4th. Taco jalapeño poppers could just change this beloved Tex-Mex snack.

Typical jalapeño poppers are a bit boring for my tastes. Stuffed with plain cream cheese before being battered and fried, they’re tasty enough with a beer or two, but nothing to write home about. Take it to the next level with Hodo’s Mexican Crumbles to make an instant taco filling, perfect for stuffing into these peppery shells. This high-protein staple is ready to eat right out of the package, infused with chipotles, oregano, and a squeeze of lime, so all the hard work is done for you.

Bringing the taco theme home, finely crushed tortilla chips replace bland breadcrumbs for an extra crispy, lightly salted, and perfectly corny bite. You get all the best parts of a crunchy taco in one killer app, ideal for a party or midnight cravings.

Considering how decadent and crave-worthy they taste, it might be hard to stop at a single serving. Go ahead, indulge!

These poppers have the edge on the nutritional competition for many reasons:

  1. Air fried, not deep-fried. The only fat here comes from the cheese, not frying oil.
  2. Dairy-free cheese means zero cholesterol.
  3. Plant protein. One package of Hodo Mexican Crumbles alone has over 45 gram of protein!
  4. Full of fiber. Try to find another game day snack that can actually keep you satisfied from kickoff to overtime.

In fact, the versatility of this recipe goes well beyond the opening act.

You can make it the main event by pairing with any of the following serving suggestions:

  • Plain or seasoned rice
  • Pinto beans, black beans, or refried beans
  • Green salad or cabbage slaw
  • Tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole
  • Elote or esquites

Jalapeño poppers are a relatively new phenomenon, appearing on menus only a few decades ago in the early 90s. It’s not too late to redefine the dish with new flair and brighter flavors. Take inspiration from beefy meatless tacos to get the party started.

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Perfect Palak Paneer

Pearlescent white cubes floating in an emerald sea, the appearance of palak paneer is like nothing else. Sometimes the green might be a more muted, or even downright swampy hue, but somehow it still shines all the same. Instantly recognizable in any shade, it’s a dish to win over the fickle hearts of vegetable-haters, packing in a mega dose of dark leafy greens almost by accident. It manages to taste amazing in spite of AND because of the massive quantity of spinach involved.

Hailing from one of the most fertile regions on Earth, it’s not a stretch to imagine farmers throwing pounds of spinach into a pot, trying to wilt down the harvest into a more manageable output. Consider it the Punjabi version of creamed spinach, rich with sauteed onions and coconut milk. Vibrantly spiced without becoming overly spicy in terms of scoville units, you can smell it simmering on the stove from a mile away.

Naturally vegetarian, the protein at the heart of this dish is sometimes described as Indian cottage cheese, but that’s only a fitting description of paneer’s flavor. Mild, soft yet spongy and sliceable, the similarities it shares with tofu are unmistakable. While I’ve successfully swapped the two in the past with minimal adaptation, there’s always room for improvement.

That’s where Sugimoto shiitake powder comes in, building incremental umami flavor to enhance the cheesy notes of the nutritional yeast, creating a more impactful savory taste that could rival that of curdled dairy. The magic is in that marinade, disarmingly simple and undeniably savory.

How much spinach does it take to make palak paneer?

If you’ve ever cooked fresh spinach, you already know it takes a truckload to yield a single forkful once it touches the heat. That’s why I typically like to start with frozen spinach in this recipe, which only needs to be drained of excess liquid before it’s ready to use. Otherwise, here are some basic guidelines for spinach usage:

  • 1 Pound Fresh Spinach = 10 Ounces Frozen Spinach
  • 1 Pound Fresh Spinach = About 10 Cups
  • 1 Pound Fresh, Steamed Spinach / 10 Ounces Frozen Spinach, Thawed and Drained = 1 1/2 Cups

That means for this recipe, you’ll want to start with a little over 19 ounces (let’s round it to 20 to be safe,) or about 20 cups in volume. That said, there’s no such thing as too much when it comes to spinach here. Feel free to add more if you have it.

What’s the difference between palak paneer and saag paneer?

All palak is saag, but not all saag is palak. “Palak” means spinach in Hindi, whereas “saag” can refer to any sort of leafy greens. Saag might include one or many of the following:

  • Arugula
  • Kale
  • Mustard greens
  • Collard greens
  • Bok choy
  • Chard
  • Beet greens
  • Turnip greens
  • Fenugreek
  • And yes, spinach!

To brown or not to brown?

Once marinated, the tofu paneer can be enjoyed as is, without further cooking. In fact, I like keeping mine in the fridge until just before serving for a cooling contrast to the hot spinach curry. It’s just as enjoyable with a gentle sear on the outsides, crisping and caramelizing the edges for more textural contrast instead. You can pan fry or air fry the cubes very briefly using high heat without adding more oil.

How can you serve palak paneer?

Enjoy palak paneer, hot with basmati rice, roti, naan, or chapati. On particularly sweltering summer days, though, I happen to think this is a great dish to enjoy cold, straight out of the fridge. Like all curries, the complex blend of spices continues to develop, blend, and bloom over time. Leftovers are unlikely for this recipe though, so you may want to preemptively double it. There’s no such thing as too much spinach when you have such a crave-worthy formula for palak paneer in your recipe arsenal.

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Koftaesque

Some would describe kofta as the naturally vegetarian equivalent to meatballs, but that’s like calling a croissant a dinner roll. While there may be some common thread between the two, such a statement really misses the mark. Some kofta are actual meatballs, made of beef or lamb, appearing in the Middle East and Southeast Asia in myriad dishes. When we’re talking about malai kofta, however, these balls are more closely related to a fried potato dumpling, if you needed to make comparisons.

Though firmly categorized as restaurant food or a dish for special occasions, there’s no reason why you can’t take matters into your own hands. In fact, it’s necessary given that the name itself, malai, implies vast amounts of heavy cream, creating the rich curried sauce it’s best known for. Let’s not forget that it takes more than just pure potatoes to make a compelling kofta; namely, paneer adds subtly salty, cheesy taste, along with an extra dose of dairy.

As a fledgling food lover and young vegan, such delicacies tortured me to no end. Proudly offered as the height of meatless Indian cuisine, I could only wonder what I was missing while digging into my trustworthy order of masoor dal. The fact that it was just out of reach, vegetarian but not vegan, only added to the allure.

Making vegan malai kofta is a snap!

  • A simple swap would be to replace the heavy cream with coconut milk in most conventional recipes. Personally, I prefer to make cashew cream, blending in some of the aromatics to create a consistent, natural harmony throughout the sauce.
  • Tofu, the ultimate chameleon of the plant-based pantry, provides a seamless substitute for paneer while enhancing the nutritional profile overall. Down with cholesterol and up with protein!
  • Ghee, AKA clarified butter, is often a signifier of wealth and luxury, but coconut oil provides all the same decadence. In truth, you could use any neutral oil such as avocado oil, rice bran oil, or grapeseed oil, and no one would be the wiser.

As with all of Indian cuisine, there’s plenty of room for interpretation with malai kofta.

Best known for having a luscious, silky sauce infused with subtly sweet spices and a savory tomato base, this version is considered Punjabi, drawing influence from neighboring Pakistan in true melting pot fashion. Glowing orange from the mixture of cream and tomatoes simmered together over low and slow heat, this is the malai kofta most people would expect to see.

Lesser known is the Mughlai version, comparatively colorless with a mild and subtly, naturally sweet white gravy. Raw cashews are a considerable component in the original version, making the transition over to a fully vegan cream sauce an easy task. Brilliantly seasoned without being overtly spicy, it’s a delicate balance of flavors that could genuinely pair well with anything. This is where the Sugimoto shiitake powder really shines, tempered along with the other spices to bloom with a depth of umami flavor.

Palak kofta, an unofficial variant, is a painless solution for eating your daily recommended allowance of greens. Spinach is the headliner, but the flavor comes from equally verdant fresh cilantro and mint. I like to simmer this one lightly to retain the bright green color, rather than turning up the heat to a full boil, quickly transforming the dish into a rather swampy concoction.

If malai kofta are dumplings, personally, I expect a filling

Granted, it’s less common and certainly not mandatory for a properly seasoned kofta, crispy on the outside and buttery on the inside, like a luscious bite of fried mashed potatoes, but I love the idea of adding a tiny little hidden morsel in the middle. Finely chopped donko shiitake caps and stems lend an impossibly meaty bite, while a scant measure of raisins contribute a sweetness so faint, so delicate, that you’d never pinpoint the source if no one told you. Yes, you can omit the raisins, and the filling entirely if must, but try it as written at least once. You might be pleasantly surprised if you’re open to the experience.

Restaurant-style malai kofta is an absurdly decadent entree, reserved only for special occasions. On the other hand, this homemade vegan version, enhanced with Sugimoto shiitake, makes any day seem like a special occasion.

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Devil in Disguise

Of all the pasta shapes in the world, which do you think is the worst, and why is it always angel hair? Meant to approximate the gossamer-thin strands of hair that only an angel could boast, such a divine name is entirely antithetical to its behavior on the plate. Let cooked noodles sit for just a second too long and all hell will break loose. Suddenly, those golden threads transform into bloated, tangled knots of dough. Gummy, gluey, supersaturated with sauce, it’s like they never even knew the term “al dente.”

Angel hair, AKA capellini, has never been my first choice. Nor would it be my second, third, fourth… I think you get the picture. It barely even registers on my hierarchy of pasta, and yet, I recently ended up with a box in my pantry. My trusty pasta maker went down at exactly the same time there was an apparent pasta shortage in local stores, so my choice was angel hair or nothing. Out of desperation, I said my prayers and tried to trust in fate.

One benefit to angel hair is that it does cook quickly; even more quickly than most manufacturers suggest. Start testing it after one minute at a full boil, leaving it on the heat for no longer than two. Then, overall success depends entirely on not just draining out the hot liquid, but then rinsing it in cold water. While this would be a sin for most noodles, stripping away the excess starch necessary for making rich sauces that cling as a velvety coating, it’s a sacrifice we must make for preserving any toothsome texture.

General advice is to pair angel hair with only the lightest, most delicate of sauces, such as pesto or plain olive oil. I’m sorry, but is an eternity in heaven supposed to be this boring? If we have to eat angel hair, I think it’s time we embrace a more devilish approach.

Seitan is the obvious protein of choice; what else is as wickedly savory, heart, and downright decadent in the right sauce? Speaking of which, this one is scant, just barely coating each strand while cranking up the flavor to full blast. There’s no need to drown the noodles in a watered-down dressing when this concentrated, fiery seasoning mix does the trick. Spiked with gochujang and smoked paprika, it glows a demonic shade of red, balancing out heat with nuanced flavor.

To embrace angel hair is to accept a more fiendish path to salvation. Don’t be afraid; a little seitan worship never hurt anyone.

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