Chef Suvir Saran
Butternut squash is a fall and winter staple for Chef Suvir Saran and he is always looking for new ways to prepare it. Inspired by a recipe found in his James Beard Award Nominated cookbook, Masala Farm: Stories and Recipes from an Uncommon Life in the Country, this version replaces butter with extra virgin olive oil, resulting in what he terms, "a beautiful side dish" that is perfectly balanced - creamy and chewy, sweet and spicy.
But first, continue reading for an exclusive interview with one of our dearest chefs, Chef Suvir Saran.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I came to America in 1993 at the age of 20 to study design and art history. What I missed most about India was the fresh and bountiful magic of the table. And so I found myself cooking for family and friends, and strangers too - dishes I craved from back home and dishes that were at once delicious, fresh and comforting. Soon I found people calling on me to cater their parties, birthday, celebrations, weddings and even state events. One thing led to another. I started teaching cooking. Next I was offered a restaurant. And then a cookbook deal and more. Life happened. Credit goes to all people around the world who cook, share, celebrate and cherish food and life as being a woven tapestry of infinite patterns and beauty. My life owes its entirety to those that came before me and I strive each day to live as best I can to leave the world no worse than when I became aware and mindful of its magic.
What three ingredients are you never without?
Love, gratitude and EVOO (seriously, not a cheap plug just for Lucini). With these three ingredients and salt at your side - magic can be brought to the table with very little effort.
Friends just informed you they will be over for dinner in an hour. What is your go-to dish?
A dish made with what is available to me in the garden or refrigerator. And of course then I have a list of comforting dishes that come into play. Soups, stews, pastas, rice casseroles, salads - the list of what one can make in an hour is endless and very varied. It always has tons of respect, love, good oil, variety of vegetables, many herbs and aromatics, and ease of preparation and sharing at its core. My go-to dishes are never fussy enough to kill my desire to open heart and home to loved ones and strangers. They must be connected as best as possible to the seasons and moods, the local foodways and any particular celebration of the moment. Of course all that I cook has a deep connection to flavor. I believe flavors can win over any mind and heart.
Do you prefer sweet or savory?
I am greedy for flavor. For me flavor in the form of savory or sweet treats - is flavor I want and will cherish. Never a place in my world for boring, dull, mild or bland. Those are the foods I avoid. Of course I have moments when I crave savory and other times when I crave sweet. But mostly in my life - I crave sweet and spice almost close to one another. Sometimes together. Never in order. My mood dictates if I will take the sweet bite first or last. I am nothing shy of unpredictable and hungry around foods and flavor.
What is one skill that is essential for every home cook to know?
Generosity towards self and other - is the missing ingredient in our lives. When one can learn to open heart to oneself and respect oneself even in ones mistakes - one can do the same for the other. When we are happy with ourselves and comfortable in our own skin, we can cook, share and celebrate without fear. A fearless person is the best person in a kitchen. Mistakes in kitchens happen only to translate into learning opportunities. Smart people use them as their essential skill that they learn to hone and refine with each moment in a kitchen. Tools are for craftsmen. Artists render moments into tools for their creativity. They do not become puppet to the tool.
About Chef Suvir Saran
Viewing the kitchen as both a culinary and spiritual haven, New Delhi-born Chef Suvir Saran has nurtured a lifelong passion for the traditional flavors of Indian cooking, which has lead him to become an accomplished chef, cookbook author, educator, and organic farmer. He is the author of three widely acclaimed cookbooks, James Beard Award Nominated cookbook, Masala Farm: Stories and Recipes from an Uncommon Life in the Country, American Masala: 125 New Classics From My Home Kitchen and Indian Home Cooking. When he is not on the road, Saran and partner Charlie Burd live and care for American Masala Farm, a nineteenth century farm on sixty-eight acres of rolling land in upstate New York and home to lovingly raised heritage breed animals and pets including two dogs, cat, sheep, ducks, geese, alpacas, chickens, guinea hens, and goats. Visit www.suvir.com for more information.
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