From Alabama to Korea: Updates on my International Food Project

I’ve been cooking quite a bit lately (at least for me) and I’ve been making steady progress on my never-ending International Food Project. This is a project I started 22 (yes, you read that right) years ago through which I cook foods from all over the world, alphabetically. In 22 years I’ve only reached the K’s, so this is a project that will never reach the end (I’ll never know what Zimbabwean food tastes like, and probably not even Swedish) but it keeps me entertained.

In the last six months or so I’ve started “K” cuisines, but I’ve also explored cuisines I’d skipped in the first place, usually because I didn’t know about them. For those cuisines, I usually just made one dish. I think now I’ll concentrate on just finishing “K” before catching up on any others.

These are the cuisines I cooked:

K Cuisines

Kansan bierrocks

Kabardian: I made a chicken and a beef stew from this Caucasian region.

Kachin: curried chicken and beef from this hill people

Kansan: my favorite finding from this US state were bierocks

Kenyan: a variety of ethnic dishes from this wonderful country

Korean: we had a whole meal with a stew, a main dish and sides

Korean-American: I made the one dish that Koreans invented in America, LA galbi

US States

Navajo Tacos

I had decided against cooking meals from every US state originally, given that most states don’t really have a cuisine of their own. While there are some exceptions (think Hawaii), most states’ cuisines fall within regional culinary traditions. But I changed my mind after cooking Kansan food and realizing that I hadn’t given states enough of a chance to impress me. So I am going back and cooking a single dish from A – I states. So far, I’ve made:

 Chicken Vesuvio
chicken Vesubio

Alabamian Fried Fish: it wasn’t very flavorful

Arizonan Navajo Tacos: taco fixings on fried bread, a winning combination.

Connecticut Lobster Rolls: hubby liked them

Delaware Fried Chicken: did you know Delaware is a chicken state?

Floridian Key Lime Pie: super easy!

And also from Florida, a Cuban-American Cubano sandwich

Idahoan finger steaks and scalloped potatoes

Illinoisan Chicken Vesubio: a delicious Chicago classic

Global Jewish Cuisines

Mukmura
Chicken in an almond and lemon sauce

I also caught up on the cuisines of the Jewish diaspora, making:

An Afghani Jewish beef pilaf

A layered beef dish from the Jews of Baghdad.

Three dishes from the Jews of Calcutta

A matzo & potato layered dish by Egyptian Jews.

A Georgian Jewish chicken dish

Other Catch-Up Cuisines

Chairman Mao's Red-Braised Pork
Red Braised Pork

From the Caucus, I made a Balkar stuffed flat bread.

From China, I explored Shanghai’s Haipai cuisine by making a Chinese borscht and Hunan cuisine with Chairman Mao’s famous red-braised pork.

And from India, I made a lamb curry from the Bodo people, a chicken curry from Chettinad, and the most delicious lamb curry ever from the Dogra people in Jammu.

Brianna’s Blue Cheese Salad Dressing Rocks!

Briannas Blue Cheese Dressing, 12 oz - Walmart.com

For years, as parents of children and then teens, the only salad dressing we had at home was ranch. There was the occasional diversion into Italian, Thousand Islands or, more recently, Caesar’s, but blue cheese was well out of the question. Now, the kids are grown and family meals are the exception rather than the rule. The silver lining to that is that I can finally cook and buy what I want to eat.

So I went google searching for the best Blue Cheese dressing and Brianna’s came at the top of several lists – I bought it, since I found it at Sprouts, and it exceeded all my expectations. It’s absolutely delicious. It has a very, very strong flavor however, and it’s incredibly rich, so less is definitely more with this salad dressing. That, of course, is not a bad thing.

For some reason, Brianna’s decided to use a picture of a red onion on the packaging, so they had to specify that the salad dressing doesn’t actually contain red onions. They claim, instead, that it’s delicious on fresh red onions, and if you want to eat it that way, be my guest. I’ve both used it to dress onionless salads and as a general dip for whatever item I felt like dipping (the last thing were shawarma slices from Costco). It was $4.29 through Instacart, but given how little you need to use of it, it’s actually cheaper than brands like Kraft.

Hot Cocoa in Fine China

A few nights ago, I was watching an old episode of Miss Marple, At Bertram’s Hotel to be exact, and in one scene a maid brought Miss Marple a cup of cocoa in bed. It was served in a dainty tea cup and the whole thought of drinking cocoa in bed from fine china seemed very luxurious. So I tried it the other day. It was glorious. It’s also a way of getting a sweet treat in a pretty limited amount – a tea cup doesn’t hold that much, after all.

It also reminded me of how fondly my aunt Gladys used to talk about her evenings at Bennington College in Vermont. Gladys had studied to be an English teacher at the INPLV in Buenos Aires (where the famed Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni had been one of her professors), and had received a fellowship to do post-graduate studies at Bennington. She taught Spanish there, I think, and lived in the dorms where every evening the girls would be served hot chocolate. I don’t know if they drank it from tea cups, but now I like imagining it being so. She was so extremely fond of reminiscing about her time at Bennington.

Growing up, cocoa was something that only children drunk. It was generally in cold drinks, which we called by the names of the most famous brands, Toddy and Nesquik. Or at least that’s how it was in my house. I don’t remember adults ever drinking cocoa, maybe that made the memories fonder.

Flavor of India – San Lorenzo – Restaurant Review

Delicious!

I have been getting delivery and take out from Flavor of India in San Lorenzo for quite a few years. I discovered them in GrubHub, and it was a the time one of the closest Indian restaurants that delivered in my area. It wasn’t the best restaurant, but it was good enough.

Since then a couple of Indian restaurants opened in San Leandro and we’ve switched to getting take out rather than delivery, so it’d been a couple of years since we last had their food. A couple of nights ago we decided to try it again and I’m so glad we did. The food was absolutely delicious. Apparently, they are under new ownership and the new chef really knows how to cater to American tastes.

Fish pakora with sauces

We started with fish pakora ($7). The portion was a good size as a shared appetizer, the fish was flaky and had a very flavorful coating and the accompanying cilantro and sweet/sour sauces were particularly tasty and not too pungent. I enjoyed it very much.

Lamb Korma

I had my usual lamb korma ($14) and this time the sauce had a much more intense, bright flavor than I remember it having. It was the best korma I’ve had for years. The lamb itself was very tender.

We also ordered butter chicken($13) and chicken tikka masala ($14). I didn’t taste the chicken in the former, but the sauces are very similar if not identical. The chicken in the tikka masala was in large cubes and was surprisingly moist – I tend to prefer butter chicken because chicken tikka is often dry. The sauces were, once again, out of this world delicious.

Naan bread ($2) was standard as was the rice. The curries come with rice, so you don’t need to order separately.

It was easy to order on their website (currently through the lokobee app), and the food was ready quickly and hassle free. The prices are lower than at other local Indian restaurants and the portions seem to be about the same size.

Flavor of India now offers outdoor dining in a patio. I haven’t seen it, but it looks very nice in pictures, though set in a parking lot. Still, this seems like a good option for eating out, and I might try it.

Flavor of India
15930 Hesperian Blvd
San Lorenzo, CA
(510) 276-5000


Kashmiri Masala Recipe

This masala is wonderful, not at all spicy but very tasty.

  • 1″ cinnamon stick
  • 2 black cardamom pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 Indian bay leaf
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • a dash of ground mace

Heat a dry saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds and fennel seeds. Toast for a few minutes, stirring, until the spices are toasted and fragrant. Transfer to an electric grinder, add the bay leaf and ground into a powder. Mix in the nutmeg and the mace.

Based on this recipe at Archana’s Kitchen

Marga’s International Recipes

Please Comment on My Recipes & More

If you see any of my blog postings, it’s very easy to just comment below them. However, most of the recipes I share are actually on static pages that don’t allow for commenting. So I’m creating this blog entry to allow people to comment on any of those recipes or anything else on my site.

Please write your comment below.

Christmas Eve Dinner 2021: Moussaka Mediterranean Kitchen + Luke’s Grill

A wonderful Christmas Eve Dinner with some help from Luke’s Grill

This year, probably for the third time in two decades, I didn’t cook Christmas Eve dinner. I’m going through one of my anti-cooking spells, and the thought of making course after course of food I’d barely have time to eat before getting up to prepare the next one just wasn’t appealing. Plus, after the fiasco that was Thanksgiving Dinner, I wasn’t eager for a repeat. Moreover, with another COVID wave hitting us, we had decided that once again it would only be us having dinner.

So, I decided on take out – but what? This shouldn’t have been that hard a question, but I wanted something “special”. That meant something that we didn’t usually get for take out, something that I wouldn’t be able to make easily, something that could be eaten family style and something that would satisfy all our individual food issues. Deciding on a specific cuisine, much less a restaurant, was hard.

Ultimately, I decided upon Greek because it’s homey, it’s somewhat Christmasy and it can be served family style. We actually have two pretty good Greek restaurants in town, and rather than decide between them, we tried them both.

Items from the Zeus Platter from Luke’s Grill.

We ordered the Zeus Platter ($20) from Luke’s Grill. This appetizer combo came with Greek sausage, meatballs, tiropita, spanakopita, dolmades, tzaziki and abundant pieces of pita. Though it was a bit cold by the time we started eating it, I was quite pleased with both the sausages and the meatballs. The tiropita, phyllo dough cooked with herbed cheese, was also quite delicious, and I enjoyed the pita with the tzaziki. Unfortunately, my vegetarian daughter wasn’t in the mood for dolmades or spanakopita, so those went uneaten.

We got all our mains from Moussaka. I particularly enjoyed the Hunkar Beyendi or Sultan’s Favorite ($28), apparently an Ottoman specialty. The dish consists of a smoked eggplant and mozzarella puree topped with braised lamb and tomato sauce. It’s served with a rice/orzo combination. By the time I transferred it to a serving dish, the whole thing was mixed together but that’s how you are supposed to eat it anyway. It was delicious. I’m not a particular fan of eggplant, but it provided an amazing smokiness to the dish. The lamb was tender and flavorful and the whole dish just came together with homey umami. And it was just perfect for Christmas: it has too many elements for me to easily replicate and it’s too expensive for a regular take out meal, and thus provided the “specialness” I wanted from a Christmas Eve meal.

Manti

I was far more disappointed in the manti ($18), pasta filled with spiced beef and supposedly served with a garlic yogurt sauce, brown butter and fresh mint. The little dumplings were tasty, but they were very lightly sauced, and therefore way too dry to really enjoy. They quickly became monotonous. I wouldn’t order them from here again.

Two portions of the combo kebap (one kofta already eaten)

In order to get a good sampling of their offerings, we ordered the combo kebap ($29), which came with a meat skewer, a chicken skewer, a single kofte, a mixture of beef/lamb gyro meat, rice and a salad. The meat skewer was listed as a lamb skewer, but it was actually beef. It was very tender, very nicely spiced and just delicious – often times kebabs are dry, but this was not the case even when the leftovers were reheated.

The same cannot be said for the chicken kebaps. They were very tasty, but dry. Fortunately, the kofta was delicious.

Beef/lamb gyro meat

I’m totally in love with the beef/lamb gyro meat. I couldn’t tell a difference between each slice of meat, so I’m going to guess it was all lamb, but whatever it was was delicious. Also very tender and not dry, and perfectly seasoned.

Chicken shawarma

A dish of chicken shawarma ($20), also served with rice and salad, was equally delicious. Again, they seasoned it perfectly and managed to not make it dry.

Finally, I ordered a felafel wrap ($13) for my vegetarian daughter, and she was happy enough, though wouldn’t elaborate about it.

In all, it was a great meal and I’d order from here again for a special occasion meal.

Gateau Basque, perspective from above

We had two desserts, though we were too full to eat more than one that night, and then well after the meal. Early in my meal planning, when I still thought I’d actually cook Christmas Eve dinner, I had proposed making Gâteau Basque for dessert. My first trip with Mike after we got married was to Spain, where we spent several days in the Basque country. We had enjoyed an amazing gâteau basque at a restaurant in Aoiz, my great-grandparents’ hometown and the memory has lingered with Mike ever since. However, in the decades since, we’ve been unable to find a cake that matched those memories, either at a restaurant or at home. It’d been many years since our last try, so I was game to do it again.

This time I decided on a well reviewed recipe that I found on the internet. I was quite pleased with the flavor, both of the cake and the pastry filling, but I felt that the dough needed more flour – my daughter preferred the soft texture, however. In all, it was good but not as sublime as our memories of that cake in Aoiz.

I also bought a Tres Leches cake from Safeway, a favorite of all of us. I was lucky to get to eat a slice the next day.

Moussaka Mediterranean Kitchen
599 Dutton Ave, San Leandro
‭(510) 850-5020
Closed Mondays

Luke’s Grill
1509 East 14th St, San Leandro
510-614-1010
Closed Sundays

Early Xmas Dinner 2021: Canelones!

For many years, my father and my sister used to come to spend Christmas with us and they’d partake on my multi-course meals. Once my sister got married, however, she started spending Christmas with her in-laws, but still missed my cooking. So for the last few years we’ve been going down south after Christmas and I’d end up making a New Year’s Eve dinner for the whole family. This got disrupted in 2019 when we went abroad that holiday season, and while we had a belated dinner in February 2020 – the last one with my father – I didn’t record it. Then the pandemic came and we stayed home in 2020 but armed with vaccines and home tests, we decided to give it a new try in 2021. Alas, my sister had a trip planned for New Years, so we had our family Christmas dinner early in December. Unlike my disastrous Thanksgiving dinner, this was an overall success.

It wasn’t easy to come up with a menu. My mother has never eaten poultry and is now disgusted by beef. She also says that vegetables make her feel bad – so she mostly just eats pasta. Now, I love pasta as much as the next person, but there is nothing particularly “special” about pasta. Unless, of course, it’s the sort of pasta you never make because it’s too much work. Enter, cannelloni.

I loved cannelloni – canelones, in Spanish – as a child. It was one of the dishes I most often ordered at restaurants. I preferred beef cannelloni, but would accept spinach and cheese cannelloni as well, even though I otherwise would not eat any vegetables. I didn’t even realize there were other types of cannelloni until one meal during a trip to Brazil and Paraguay, back in ’80, when I was 11. For some reason we were having lunch at the restaurant of the Stroessner airport in, I’m assuming, Asunción. Ours was a road trip, so I’m not sure why we ended up in that airport, but we did. I ordered cannelloni, they were ham and cheese. I hated ham – and most other foods, apparently – so I threw a tantrum (maybe a quiet one, I was too shy to make a scene back then) and didn’t eat them. I’m not sure if anyone did. But I did pose pretending them to eat them for the picture. Who knows? Without the picture I might now have remembered the incident – though what made that meal also memorable is that the then-President of Paraguay, the same Alfredo Stroessner for whom the airport had been named, was also having dinner at the restaurant, just a couple of tables over. I knew nothing of politics or the brutality of dictatorships at the time, which is probably a good thing.

My family I at the Stroessner Airport in Paraguay, 1980



As much as I loved cannelloni as a child, I’d only once tried to make them as an adult, over two decades ago. The problem, of course, was the dough. Cannelloni are stuffed pasta rolls which really require fresh pasta. I’ve never made pasta in my life, and I really don’t mind if I die without making it. My memories of making ravioli with my grandmother Zuni are all I need as far as pasta making goes. During my first attempt at making cannelloni, I used lasagna sheets. But these proved too short, and the frilly ending made the cannelloni visually unappealing. It’s a hack, but one that I didn’t thing was worth making.

My idea this time was to actually make them with crepes, another common hack. However my oldest daughter wasn’t keen on the idea. She didn’t think they would be actual cannelloni, and I thought she had a point. That’s when I thought of the Pasta Shop. I had seen their fresh pasta at the Market Hall in Oakland for years and years, and it occurred to me that they might sell pasta sheets as well. A quick online search proved that they did! Indeed, they listed pasta in a huge variety of flavors – when I finally went to buy it they only had egg pasta and spinach, which was fine – I don’t think you can actually taste the pasta when you have both fillings and sauce.

It was particularly difficult figuring out how many canelones I needed to make for my whole family, and how many I could get from a sheet. It turned out that a 6″ x 13″ sheet could be easily cut in 4. The sheets pretty much doubled in size when cooked (boil for 4 minutes for the perfect texture), but the size was good to roll them about 2-3 times over the filling.

Calculate between 2 and 6 cannelloni per person. People who ate soup and appetizer ended up eating 2 or 3, a couple of the guys who skipped everything else ended up eating 5-6. Next time around, I’ll probably just make 4 per person and then add another few just in case.

Note that making cannelloni is a slow process. When I tried to hurry and boil more than 5-6 cut cannelloni sheet at the time, or left them to rest together for too long, they stuck to each other and were ruined when I tried to separate them. The best process is to first cut all the sheets into fourths, and then drop 5-6 sheets into a pot of boiling water one at the time. Boil them for 4 minutes and then transfer them into a bowl of cold water, so they stop cooking. Again, do this one at the time so they don’t stick to each other. Transfer them from this bowl to kitchen towels to dry. You can make each batch one after the other, but make sure you have lots of towels to keep them separate.

At first, I was very ambitious and I thought I’d make a bunch of different fillings and sauces to go with them, but soon after I was daunted by the task and briefly considered just buying ravioli – but given how non-special that would be, I settled back on more streamlined cannelloni. The fillings I ended up making were my traditional ground beef/picadillo filling (the same one I use in empanadas or, with more pasta sauce, as a beef pasta sauce), ham & cheese (a slice of ham and some chunks of fresh mozarella) and spinach & cheese (fresh baby spinach leaves, fresh mozarella or goat cheese and chopped almonds). I made some with just Monterey Jack cheese, as i had some cannelloni sheets left over, but these were not as popular. The other ones were well received, though everyone had different preferences. My brother, for example, loved the ham & cheese ones, and my daughter was not at all fond of the goat cheese ones.

I made some with regular pasta sauce (from a jar) and others with a cheese sauce (bechamel sauce mixed to saturation with grated Parmesan cheese) and, of course, sprinkled parmesan before baking (20 minutes at 400F).

Now that I’ve made them once and I know how well the pasta sheets work, I’m tempted to make them again in the future, probably for a special family meal. Unlike other types of pasta, cannellonis are heavier on filling than pasta, which makes them more acceptable for the diabetics among us.

Anyway, my final menu consisted of:

Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I actually was too tired to prepare this, so my sister in law took over and added some twists of her own.

Mushroom Soup

A favorite frequently included in our holiday menus, a special request from my sister.

Blue Cheese & Caramelized Onion Tart

Another request from my sister which everyone loved, though my oldest daughter would prefer it with a different cheese. I may try it with fresh mozzarella for her next time around.

Canelones!

See above.

Tiramisu

I followed the NYT recipe, which was simple enough but does call for uncooked eggs. I used Argentine ladyfingers, called vainillas, which are easily available at Argentinian and Latin market in LA, but harder to find elsewhere. They were the perfect texture. This was probably the best tiramisu I had in my life, I’m guessing because I was able to control the amount of coffee I used (I used regular coffee, not espresso).

See also: Party & Holiday Recipes

Thanksgiving 2021: A dinner failure

This year, we stayed home for Thanksgiving. That meant that I would be making dinner, and I was just not at all inspired this time around. It took me forever to come up with a menu – I finally settled on a seasonal French-inspired menu – and then I completely failed in its execution. There wasn’t anything wrong with the recipes, several of which I’d cooked before, but my timing was off, dishes were unbalanced and I just couldn’t deliver. Still, I do like to know what I’ve done in previous years, so here is what I cooked.

1 – Canapés

  • Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese on Crackers
  • Tri-Tip and White Cheddar with Horseradish Cream Crostini
  • Baked Camembert with Honey and Rosemary with crackers

I decided near the last minute to serve a few canapes, as I had invited my friends Lola and Iggy for dinner rather early and I wanted them to have something to eat while I prepared the dinner in the kitchen. I chose things that didn’t require much effort to put together, and they all worked wonderfully.

For the salmon canapés, I simply spread cream cheese on crackers and topped these with slices of refrigerated smoked salmon I got at Safeway. I don’t eat salmon, but everyone liked them. I was inspired by Panera’s steak and white cheddar sandwich for the tri-tip canapé. I had previously toasted some tri-tip in the oven, and I simply made thin slices, which I topped with a slice of white cheddar. I don’t remember what recipe for horseradish cream sauce I used, but there are lots of online and I know I chose one of the simplest ones. It was delicious, and I will be sure to make more of these in the form of sandwiches next time I can get tri-tip on sale. Finally, the baked camembert was just delicious.

2- Roquefort Pear Salad

This turned out to be OK to good. I had made the dressing the day before and I didn’t like it at all, perhaps because I put too much garlic – but it was OK on the salad. My guests did enjoy the pears in particular.

3 – Vegetarian French Onion Soup

This is where things started to go sour. Rather than make a French Onion soup and simply used vegetable broth instead of beef broth, I went with a recipe that enhanced the flavor of the broth with tamari and other seasonings. The results were not tasty. The soup was very intense – though I solved this by adding extra water when I reheated it – and just not that good. Next time, I’ll stick to the traditional recipe or simply serve a different soup altogether.

4- Bourbonnais Chicken with Mustard Sauce

I had made this recipe before and it had been delicious, but this time it just didn’t work. I’d doubled the sauce and vegetables but there were just too many vegetables and they weren’t well integrated with the sauce. I’d made an effort to get organic, free range chicken and somehow it was dryer than the chicken I usually buy. I don’t know, it was fine but not great. I did enjoy the leftovers, however.

Vegan mushroom bourguignon pot pie

I made this for my vegetarian daughter, but it was too alcoholic tasting for her, and the flavors were really not well balanced. Another failure.

Sage Stuffing

I also don’t remember what recipe I used, but it was a pretty standard vegetarian one. It was actually not bad, but I did overcook it so it was dry. Still, my vegetarian daughter liked it

Mashed Potatoes


I’m sad to report that, together with the canapes, the mashed potatoes were everyone’s favorite part of the meal. I’m sad because these were just plain mashed potatoes: yukon gold potatoes boiled and mashed and then mixed with a ton of butter and whipping cream.

5- Tarte Normande

This is a French apple tart with a custard topping. My daughter actually put this together for me while I was taking a nap. The top was very good, but I had messed up the dough when I’d made it and it was way too tough.

See also: Party & Holiday Recipes

CookUnity Review

Great Tasting Ready-to-warm Single-Serve Meals

*May 2022 Update*

CookUnity is a new-to-me service that sends you ready-to-warm prepared meals, in single-serving trays. The meals can be warmed by microwaving them for 2-3 minutes or heating them in a pre-heated oven for 8-15 minutes. They are basically a competitor to Freshly, which I’ve reviewed before. They are, however, far superior in quality, flavor and variety. The meals taste very much like the leftovers from a high-quality, perhaps adventures, home meal. Indeed, despite the fact that they come pre-cooked and all in one tray, I’d say they rival the best meal kits.

Single-serve meals do serve a very niche clientele. They don’t really work for us as a family, though they do work to cater with those with special meals (e.g. one of our kids is vegetarian, though she’s currently away in college) or for when my husband is out of town. They would also make a good choice for when/if we go back to working from an office.

The Food

CookUnity’s main selling point is the wide selection of prepared meals they offer. I counted 110 choices of dishes, more than any subscription meal kit or supermarket that I know. They run the gamut of proteins and cuisines, from the exotic to the mundane, from the high caloric, to the diet minded. There are ample choices for vegetarians, vegans and those who keep special diets.

The second selling point in the taste and quality. Everything we tasted ranged from good to very good. The meals included special ingredients, such as hand-made sausages and forbidden rice, and mostly offered a balance of meats to vegetables to carbs. All the nutritional values are listed so you can choose when you order.

We mostly got high-caloric meals and all of them were large enough to satisfy a big appetite for dinner. We even had leftovers a couple of times.

We tried both microwaving and heating them in the oven, and there wasn’t a huge difference in results – with the exception of steak. Few steaks could survive reheating in the microwave, so if you don’t want to fire up your oven, go for other types of meats.

The meals come with an expiration date of either 5 or 7 days, so if you are getting for the whole week you probably should look at the dates when you get them and prioritize the ones that will expire first.

As far as I can tell, CookUnity contracts with professional restaurant chefs in major cities where CookUnity has commercial kitchens, and the chefs conceive of the meals and prepare them. In addition to providing chefs with the kitchens, CookUnity also buys the ingredients, packages and ships the meals and is in charge of marketing and sales. All the chefs need to do is cook.

The Plans

CookUnity’s meals cost between $11 and $13.50 each depending on how many you ordered, I ordered 8 and paid $11.50 each (minus a coupon). Some of the meals – progressively more of them – which have more expensive ingredients have an added cost, usually $4 to $7. The cost is competitive with meal kits and take out, particular now that inflation has hit us hard. The meals were definitely large enough to satisfy – but pay attention to calories. Shipping is free but they do charge taxes – albeit, judged by the amount, it doesn’t seem they included city taxes.

It is easy to skip meals, and you can even suspend your account for up to 2 months. Unsubscribing is simple as well.

The Packaging

CookUnity meals come in a microwave and oven-safe tray made out of paper waste product with a plastic seal. They are not compostable, but CookUnity claims they are recyclable. However, while they have the recycle symbol on them, they don’t have a number. I am thus guessing they are not recyclable at all. It’s a pity, because if they used wax instead of plastic, they probably could be composted and would eliminate a lot of waste (though probably wouldn’t be oven safe).


The meals trays are covered by a plastic film that you throw away, and come with a paper sleeve listing the ingredients and nutrition facts, as well as cooking instructions and date of expiration, which can be recycled. Some meals have sauces or vegetables in removable plastic containers within the trays. You are supposed to remove these before you cook them. These containers are usually recyclable, or you can was them and use them yourself.

CookUnity ships their meals inside an insulated bag, with 3 small freezer packs in the bottom and 3 in the top. The bag and freezer packs are picked up when you get your next set of meals.

The Shipping & Delivery

When I first ordered CookUnity they were shipping to my area through UPS. They were shipping on a Monday for Wednesday deliver. UPS was delayed with my first order, and they just sent it back. I got credit for the meals I didn’t get, which I used to order mostly the same meals a couple of weeks later.

Since then, they’ve changed deliveries in my area and now they apparently deliver the same day the food is prepared. I had no problems getting my meals in subsequent deliveries. Once they texted me to tell me they were going to be late, but weren’t.

Customer Service

Customer service has been stellar. They’ve been prompt in answering my e-mails, solved problems when they existed and responded to texts.

The Meals

These are the meals we tried, I’d have most of them again.

Soft Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout & Porcini Cream: A+

This might look like gruel, but it’s really a comforting hug in a plate. The dish is exactly what the name describes and it tastes exactly like you hope it will taste. The polenta is soft and sensuos, the mushrooms earthy and delicious. Microwaving this dish did make the mushrooms a bit rubbery – an expected problem – but they weren’t overly so and the taste made up for it. I’m sure they’d be better if reheated in the oven. I’d definitely order this again for when I need unapologetic comfort food.

Handmade Merguez Sausage in Moroccan Couscous Stew with Harissa: A-

by French chef Cedric Nicolas, former sous chef at Belle Vie Food & Wine in LA (now closed)

This was a very tasty dish. The merguez sausages were delicious, if much smaller than those shown, and the whole dish tasted very home made. Definitely a winner. For some reason I enjoyed it less the second time around, but it may just be how I was feeling.

Moroccan Lamb Meatballs: B

by chef Dustin Taylor, last at AC Hotel in LA

My husband had this dish for lunch one day. He can’t remember eating it at all, so it wasn’t memorable. My own recollection is that he liked it but wasn’t enthusiastic.

Lamb Kebab with Turmeric Hummus and Roasted Sweet Potatoes: A-

by Kentucky born chef Akhtar Nawab, owner of Alta Calidad in New York, Otra Vez in New Orleans, and Prather’s on the Alley in Washington, DC

These were kofta-like rather than kebabs per se, as the lamb was ground and mixed with spices, but it was very tasty nonetheless. Kofta tend to be dry, and this was no exception, but it was no drier than pretty much every other one I’ve ever made or encountered. They came with a cumin spiced hummus, which tasted lightly of curry and was also very tasty. It worked as a dip for both the sweet potatoes and lamb. I’m not a huge fan of sweet potatoes, but these were quite good.

Braised Lamb Sabzi with Cumin Seed Rice: A

by Israeli chef Einat Admony, chef-owner of Balaboosta in NYC.

This dish tasted exactly what I expect lamb sabzi to taste. It’s a dish of Persian origin, tangy and fragrant with Middle Eastern spices.

Pasture-Raised Rack of Lamb with Creamy Potato Gratin: B+

by NYC chef John DeLucie, chef at Bedford&co , Ainslie, and Empire Diner, The Lion, and The Waverly Inn

This was a premium dish, almost restaurant-priced at $19. Unfortunately, while it was good, I don’t think it was worth it. The lamb chops were tasty and juicy enough, but they were underseasoned. They needed the accompanying gelatin to brighten them up, but the flavor of the gelatin hid the lambiness of the chops. The potato gratin was very tasty and satisfying in itself, but it matched the lamb very badly. The flavors were not at all complimentary – the strong cheesy flavor in the gratin overwhelmed the lamb, so the two components had to be eaten separately and with sips of water in between. Scalloped potatoes would have been a better choice.

Filipino Adobo Pork Ribs and Jasmine Rice: A

by Filipina chef Stacy Bareng, chef-owner of Tagalog Takeover pop up in LA

The ribs were very tasty, moist and tender. I also liked the rice quite a bit. It came with bok choy which I don’t like, but my dog does.

Gochujang Baby Back Ribs: B+

by Korean-American chef Esther Choi, chef-owner of Mokbar and Ms.Yoo in New York City

I liked these tangy and tender ribs and really enjoyed the sweet corn. The rice was just OK.

Hanger Steak and Coconut Forbidden Rice: A-

by Filipina chef Stacy Bareng, chef-owner of Tagalog Takeover pop up in LA

This was my favorite of the two hanger steak dishes we had. It’s also one we warmed in the oven. As you can see, it wasn’t cooked medium-rare as on the picture in the website, but the beef was tender and flavorful, and I could still taste the beef flavor. The forbidden rice was tasty and fun. The broccolini, however, didn’t work. It was chewy.

Garlic Hanger Steak with Roasted Vegetables and Avocado-Cilantro Lime Sauce: C

by NYC chef Andres Mendez

This was probably my least favorite dish of the bunch. The steak wasn’t very flavorful, and it was completely overwhelmed by the spicy sauce. The vegetables where OK, but one-dimensional. I wouldn’t order it again.

Herb Marinated Steak with Ratatouille and Rice Pilaf: C-

by chef Dustin Taylor, last at AC Hotel in LA

This is another strike-out by Dustin Taylor (who fortunately redeems himself with the next dish). I liked the texture of the beef, tender but somewhat chewy/tough, but it had practically no seasoning and it was almost tasteless. What is worse, the smell and flavor it did have was somewhat fishy. I don’t have any fish in the fridge, so it couldn’t have acquired it from something else. The pilaf was nice enough, but the ratatouille was mostly eggplant and zucchini, with little in the way of onions or peppers. It’s winter, so I understand the latter, but still! This is not a dish I’d order again.


Grilled Tagliata Steak with Arugula, Parmesan and Lemon: D

by NYC chef John DeLucie, chef at Bedford&co , Ainslie, and Empire Diner, The Lion, and The Waverly Inn

This is the 3rd subpar steak dish I get from CookUnity, and this helps to cement my opinion that steak just does not lend itself to being cooked in advance and re-heated. This steak was tough, a little chewy and not all flavorful. I did like that it came with a fresh side salad, but it also lacked flavor. I don’t complain often that a meal has too much steak and too little salad, but that was the case here. In all, I would not order it again. Note that your millage may vary, the one CookUnity steak we liked is one that we warmed in the oven rather than the microwave.

Braised Beef and Polenta: B+

by Filipina chef Stacy Bareng, chef-owner of Tagalog Takeover pop up in LA

On the one hand, there is nothing I can fault this dish for. It tasted exactly like what I expected it to taste. On the other hand, there are more delicious ways to braise beef, some wine and caramelized onions would have done wonders. Still, a satisfying meal.

Chicken Tagine: A-

by Israeli chef Einat Admony, chef-owner of Balaboosta in NYC.

This was a pretty good rendition of chicken tagine with couscous. The chicken was a little tough, but it was flavorful and the couscous was quite good when mixed with the vegetables.

Update: I got a coupon for CookUnity which arrived pretty much at the same time that I was tired of cooking, so I re-subscribed. These are the meals I’ve tried since the original review (more will be added):

Old Version

Spiced Chicken With Pork Chorizo Roasted Peppers: B+ (downgraded from A)

by chef Dustin Taylor, last at AC Hotel in LA

The first couple of times I had this dish, I really enjoyed it. I found the chicken nicely spiced, moist and tender, the rice flavorful and harmonious with the hearty chorizo/pepper mix. This last time I wasn’t as a big a fan. I felt the chicken was a bit scrawny and needed more flavor, and the Mexican chorizo seemed less integrated into the other ingredients. There also seemed to be les peppers. I’d still order it again, but hope it’d get better.

Chicken alla Cacciatora: B+

by NYC chef John DeLucie, chef at Bedford&co , Ainslie, and Empire Diner, The Lion, and The Waverly Inn

This is a perfectly acceptable version of chicken alla cacciatora. The chicken, particularly the skin, was tasty and the sauce tasted exactly like you’d expect it to, though perhaps it was a little too heavy on celery for my taste. I was a bit disappointing at the size of the portion. The chicken itself was sort of scrawny and there was no starch as a filler (except for carrots, but I’m not fond of carrots myself). A larger portion of chicken or some starch to go with the sauce would have given this dish an A.

Coq au Vin with Tagliatelle Pasta: C

by French chef Cedric Nicolas, former sous chef at Belle Vie Food & Wine in LA (now closed)

This is a premium dish, costing $16. I actually found this to be a lazy dish. There is really no excuse to not make a good coq au vin, it’s a simple recipe and one that is ideal as a leftover. But this one was a failure. The main sin is that I don’t believe the chicken had been braised in the red wine sauce, despite the fact that that’s the whole point of coq au vin. The chicken was bland and had not incorporated any of the flavors of the sauce – my guess is that it was cold when it was plated alongside it. Most tellingly, it had not been stained at all by the red wine, which is what happens when you braise chicken in a red wine sauce for a while. The sauce itself was rather pedestrian and there wasn’t very much of it. Still, the dish wasn’t unpleasant to eat, so I gave it a C, but it certainly did not meet expectations. If you do want to eat a good coq au vin, here is the recipe I’ve used for the last 30 years.

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