Healthy, Hip, Haute Indian Cuisine

Healthy, Hip, Haute Indian Cuisine

Chef Meherwan Irani

QFor our vegetarian and vegan readers, what are some non-meat, high protein foods you’d recommend for those wanting to increase their protein levels?

Chef Meherwan Irani: Most Indians are either fully vegetarian or eat meat sparingly. Though the primary driver of vegetarianism is religious and cultural, many non-vegetarians still eat meat sparingly for economic reasons. So, as a country of now over a billion people, Indians have traditionally looked to legumes and dairy as the primary source of protein. Lentils, chickpeas, and beans are transformed into fragrant daals and stews, almost always served with rice. Dairy in the form of milk, yogurt, cream, and ghee (clarified butter) is also a big part of the diet, with ghee used for cooking more extravagant meals, and yogurt used as a ubiquitous heat quencher and digestive. For vegan versions of lentil dishes, skip the ghee and use oil – peanut, mustard, and coconut oils are traditionally used and packed with flavor.

QCarbs sometimes get a bad rap. At Chai Pani Decatur, what are some carb-friendly, healthy dishes that you’d recommend?


  • Daal – we make ours Gujerati style, with a tadka of cumin, hing, turmeric, ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, tomatoes, and tamarind.
  • Chole – a chickpea stew with tomatoes, chillies, garam masala.
  • Kale Pakoras – kale dipped in a batter of chickpea flour, seasoned with cumin, caraway seed, chili powder, turmeric.
  • Corn Bhel – roasted corn niblets tossed with fresh cilantro, onion, cucumbers, tomatoes, and mint with a cumin-lime vinaigrette

Q: How did you choose your featured dish (Desi Salad)?

MI: Indians don’t really do salads. We like our greens dark, leafy, and stewed, braised, or fried with spices. But I personally love salads, and came up with the idea of a crunchy, crispy salad that had Indian flavors and wasn’t overwhelmed with spice, but instead is light, bright, and flavorful. Topped with toasted masala cashews and a skewer of grilled paneer (Indian farmer’s cheese) or tandoori spiced chicken, it’s a low carb, high protein dish that’s so delicious you might just forget you’re eating a salad!

Q: What are some health-conscious and unique Irani foods you’d recommend our readers try when they want to mix things up?

MI: Irani’s do love meat and tend to cook heavy. For my restaurants, I took some of my favorites and lightened them to be not only healthier, but more flavorful. For example, Kheema Pav (a spiced lamb hash) is usually pretty fatty and greasy (although delicious) in traditional Irani cooking. I often substitute ground turkey or chicken for lamb, and add tomatoes and lots of fresh cilantro to lighten the dish and add a punch of flavor and fragrance. Serve it over rice, on a low carb bun (sloppy joe style) or in a corn tortilla with lots of fresh herbs, red onion, radish, diced tomatoes and yogurt for a high protein meal that’s tasty and unique. It’s a one pot dish and easy to make in an Insta Pot or slow cooker. It can stay refrigerated for days, is easy to heat up, and versatile for use in salads, tacos, sandwiches, etc.

Chai Pani Decatur’s Desi Salad

Chai Pani Decatur is located at: 406 W Ponce de Leon Ave, Decatur, GA 30030

Chai Pani Decatur

Distance to closest LA Fitness: 1.7 mi. (1496 Church St., Decatur, CA 30030)


Cumin-Lime Dressing 

  • 1 T                    sugar
  • 3 T                    rice wine vinegar
  • 3 T                    fresh lime juice
  • 1 t                     salt
  • ½ t                    cumin powder
  • 2 cloves            garlic
  • 2 T                    diced red onion
  • ½ bunch           cilantro
  • ¼ C                  olive oil

Masala Cashews 

  • ¼ C                  whole cashews
  • Pinch                sugar
  • 1 t                     salt
  • ½ t                    chili powder
  • ½ t                    cumin powder
  • 2 t                     oil


  • 4 C                   green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 ½ C               red cabbage, shredded
  • ½ C                  carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1 t                     salt
  • 2 t                     toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 T                    cilantro, chopped


  1. Combine all of the above except the olive oil in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Set the blender to lowest speed and slowly pour olive oil in through opening in blender lid.
  3. Blend on low until all of olive oil is incorporated and dressing is emulsified.


  1. Preheat oven to 320 degrees.
  2. Season cashews with all of the above, mixing thoroughly.
  3. Spread on a small pan and bake for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and mix, then bake for an additional 5-6 minutes.


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

  2. Add the toasted masala cashews and blended dressing.

  3. Mix well and let the cabbage marinate for a few minutes.

  4. Serve cold, topped with grilled chicken or grilled vegetables as desired.

Serves: 2-4

Featured Recipes

Experience Truthfully Honest Cooking at True Food Kitchen

Experience Truthfully Honest Cooking at True Food Kitchen

Nathan Coulon, Manager of Culinary Standards for True Food Kitchen, helps us explore what sets True Food Kitchen apart from other culinary dining establishments. In order to ensure guests receive only the freshest ingredients possible, TFK changes its menu seasonally to use what’s currently in season. Meat-lovers, vegetarians and vegans alike, can be sure to find something that will satisfy their cravings for a good meal, while still being healthy. As a guest of True Food Kitchen, you can be certain you’ll be receiving true-quality ingredients, from a team that is passionate about healthy foods.

QSince True Food Kitchen offers seasonal fare, about how long does it typically take to build out each seasonal menu?

Nathan Coulon: We are typically planning one season ahead. We always need to test menu ideas and it can get difficult to test too many seasons ahead, since we cannot get the products we want as they are not in season. Also, when you are buying something, strawberries for example, in winter they taste completely different than when they are in season. It makes it hard to get a true taste for a new dish when none of the ingredients taste like they should. Having said that, the creative process is always ongoing and so something may inspire you now that ends up on a menu a couple of seasons from now.


Q: Do you have a favorite season that brings ingredients you most enjoy working with? What is your favorite ingredient to work with? How does it complement the dishes?

NC: My favorite season is spring. There are so many incredible vegetables that are only available in spring: English peas, perfect strawberries, spring garlic. It’s so amazing to go to the farmer’s markets and see all of the colors as spring turns into summer. I really don’t think I can say I have a favorite ingredient, there are too many amazing flavors, but I really love tomatoes when they are perfectly ripe. Most people haven’t had a great tomato. They’ve only had flavorless, mealy, hard tomatoes that you see at the grocery store.

Q: What is an often underrated dish True Food offers that you would like more guests to try?

NC: The Spaghetti Casserole. It’s a classic True Food Kitchen menu item, and I can’t say it’s underrated, because we do sell a lot, but I think to the average guest that doesn’t know too much about Dr. Weil*, or True Food Kitchen, they might glance over it. It seems simple, and it is, but it’s so good. It really exemplifies True Food kitchen and what we do. Fresh ingredients, simple preparation, great tasting, and healthy.

*Andrew Weil, MD is an American celebrity doctor who is a physician, author, spokesperson, and broadly described “guru” of the alternative medical brands.

Q: For the meat-lovers, what dish is an absolute must-have? What about for the veggie-lovers? Vegans?

NC: When we are talking beef, I love the Grass-fed Burger. It’s grass-fed from start to finish, most grass-fed beef is finished on corn, and ours is completely grass-fed. It’s ground in-house fresh each day. The combination with the cheese, mushrooms, and Umami sauce is amazing. All of those flavors compliment the beef so well. For the veggie-lover, I would recommend the Spaghetti Squash Casserole, or, my favorite salad, the Mediterranean Chopped Salad. Both of those dishes can be vegan if you remove the cheese. The Roasted Squash Pizza on our menu right now is vegan, and with the Almond Ricotta, that we make in-house, you’d never know. I think that’s something we do very well here at True Food Kitchen, we don’t try to make a dish something it’s not, and we make great tasting dishes that also happen to be vegetarian or vegan. I am not vegan, but I would be happy eating the Roasted Squash Pizza and not miss the “meat”.


Q: What can a guest of True Food Kitchen expect to experience when visiting one of your multiple locations?

NC: We strive to make the experience consistent between all of the stores. The menus are the same across the country and the service standards are also the same. We have a lot of guests that eat at different locations across the country.

Q: If you could offer our Living Healthy readers one piece of nutritional advice, what would that be?

NC: Eat more vegetables, and make sure they are fresh vegetables. Many times even “fresh” vegetables are a week or two old before the consumer gets them. You should be trying to go to farmer’s markets and buying vegetables that have just been picked.

True Food Kitchen is located at the following locations:

True Food - Phoenix, AZ

True Food - Scottsdale, AZ

True Food - El Segundo, CA

True Food - Newport Beach, CA

True Food - Palo Alto, CA

True Food - Pasadena, CA

True Food - San Diego, CA

True Food - San Diego, CA

True Food - Santa Monica, CA

True Food - Walnut Creek, CA

True Food - Denver, CO

True Food - Boca Raton, FL

True Food - Naples, FL

True Food - Atlanta, GA

True Food - Chicago, IL

True Food - Bethesda, MD

True Food - King of Prussia, PA

True Food - Nashville, TN

True Food - Austin, TX

True Food - Dallas, TX

True Food - Houston, TX

True Foods - Plano, TX

True Food - The Woodlands, TX

True Food - Fairfax, VA

Distance to closest LA Fitness: Varies by state.


Ingredients – Quinoa Patties


Ingredients – Burger Toppings


  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 0.5 tsp Red Chili Flakes
  • 2 Whole Eggs (whipped)
  • 4 c Red Quinoa (cooked)
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Mint Leaves (minced)
  • 1 tbsp Oregano Leaves (minced)
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • small pinch Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 1/4 c Gluten-Free Bread Crumbs
  1. In a bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, red chili flakes, and eggs. Whisk together. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine quinoa, cumin, mint, oregano, salt and pepper.
  3. Combine the wet ingredients with the quinoa mix. Mix together well, until evenly incorporated.
  4. Fold the breadcrumbs into the mixture.
  5. Press 1/3 cup of the mixture into a ring mold, gently pressing down at the edges of each, to form patties.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes.
  7. Let the patties cool before using.

Note: If saving patties, they should be held at 41 degrees or below.

Shelf Life: 3 days

  • 4 Sliced Tomatoes
  • 4 Cucumber Slices
  • 2 leaves torn Butter Lettuce
  • 6 pieces Red Onion
  • 2 tsp Feta Cheese
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 0.5 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 2 tbsp Hummus
  • 2 tsp Tzatziki


  1. In a bowl, toss tomatoes, cucumber, onion, lettuce, and feta cheese with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.
  2. On bottom quinoa patty, top with 1 tbsp of hummus.
  3. Place tossed veggies on top of hummus spread.
  4. Garnish the veggies with the 1 tsp of tzatziki.
  5. Top with the other quinoa patty & enjoy!

Makes: 2 Inside Out Quinoa Burgers

Keep an eye out for some new True Food Kitchen locations COMING SOON:

Boca Raton, FL – Opening Spring 2018

Nashville, TN – Opening Spring 2018

The Woodlands, TX – Opening Summer 2018

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor. True Food Kitchen is not an affiliate of LA Fitness.

Featured Recipes

Peppercorn Crusted Kangaroo from Canoe

Peppercorn Crusted Kangaroo from Canoe

Chef Matthew Basford, of Canoe in Atlanta, Georgia, shares with us one of his favorite healthy dishes!

QPlease tell us what inspired the creation of our featured dish. 

Chef Matthew Basford: Being Australian I thought it was my duty to expose people the great protein that is kangaroo. The flavor of kangaroo is very similar to venison with the texture of a lamb loin. I like to combine the slight gaminess of kangaroo with a beet labneh. The labneh combines a slightly acidic flavor with the sweetness of beets. The kangaroo is then complimented with a saute of roasted parsnips, Brussels and north Georgia apples. It is the dish that combines my past and my present.


QFor our vegetarian readers, which dish do you recommend as a must try? And what about for the meat-eaters?

MB: For vegetarians, I would recommend our autumnal style salad. It consists of apples, brussels, squash with kale, and a vanilla – bourbon vinaigrette. For meat eaters, I would also recommend people try our kangaroo dish. Kangaroo is an extremely healthy protein and also has a taste great. If you eat venison you would defiantly enjoy kangaroo. At the moment, I sell it with a beet labneh, parsnip and brussels.

Q: Besides the beautiful views offered at Canoe, the dish presentations are just as stunning. What does food presentation mean to you?

MB: Presentation is definitely important but it means less if you do not have great flavor and sourcing great ingredients. At Canoe, we always strive to sell the highest quality of ingredients and in the height of their season.

Q: How does Canoe offer a dining experience for its guests unlike other restaurant establishments?

MB: At Canoe, we always strive to give the guest the best possible dining experience. That comes in three factors, service definitely being of great importance. Our service staff is one of the best in the city, with their level of knowledge, dedication and pursuit of excellence. Then comes the food, I look at it as approachable cuisine. We are not looking to make people feel intimidated with what they are about to eat. If people are comfortable then they can enjoy their experience more. Lastly is the view, and that is not repeatable in the city. There are few places in Atlanta that you can drive 10 minutes from the city and be in a very tranquil location with just the flowing river and crickets to serenade you.

Q: For our readers who may be new to healthy cooking, where do you suggest they start as far as ingredients to always keep stocked at home?

MB: I would recommend that people explore farmers markets and get to know the people that sell at them. If you can make contacts there you will know what fruits and vegetables are in season. The ingredients bought there will also generally last a little longer as it was picked only a few days before. Always look to have fresh and unprocessed food, it may be a little more time spent in the kitchen but the flavor of the food will be far superior and better for your health.





Canoe is located at: 4199 Paces Ferry Rd SE, Atlanta, GA 30339


Distance to closest LA Fitness: 2.9 mi. (Akers Mill Square – 2995 Cobb Parkway)



w/ Crisped Brussels, Apple, and Beet Labneh


  • 2 Kangaroo Loins (cleaned) *Substitute: If cannot find, venison loin will also work)
  • 2 oz. Coarse Grind Black Pepper
  • 8 tbsp. Canola Oil

For the Roasted Vegetables

  • 8 ea Brussel Sprouts cut in 1/2
  • 2 ea Granny Smith Apples peeled and cut into wedges
  • 4 oz. Dried Cranberry roughly chopped
  • 2 ea Parsnip peeled and cut into batons

For the Labneh

  • 16 oz. Greek Style yogurt
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 ea. Red Beet Root peeled
  • 2 c Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 c Water
  • 1 c Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Salt

Serves 4.





For the Labneh (Prep Time: 2 days)

  1. Combine the yogurt and salt.
  2. Using a colander, place a cheese cloth (double-lined) with enough cloth to hang over the edge. Gently spoon the yogurt mixture into the center of the colander.
  3. Pull the excess cloth towards the center and tie off with butchers twine.
  4. Hang the mixture with a bowl underneath to catch the liquid that expels.
  5. Leave to hang in refrigerator from 24-48 hours.

For the Beet Puree

  1. In a sauce pan, combine beets, vinegar, sugar, water and salt.
  2. Cook gently until beets can be skewered with no resistance.
  3. Let cool.
  4. Puree the beets with just enough of the liquid to make a puree.
  5. Combine beet puree with labneh base. Season with salt and pepper. Consistency should be smooth.

For the Roasted Vegetables

  1. Toss half the brussels with enough canola oil and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Repeat same step with apples and parsnips. Be sure to separate the two, as cooking times will vary.
  3. Roast in a 400 degree oven until golden brown. Chef Tip: Apples will take approximately 6-10 minutes, brussels 15-20 minutes, and parsnip 15 minutes. Rotate for an even color.

For the Kangaroo

  1. Season the kangaroo with cracked black pepper, salt, and canola oil.
  2. Sear the meat on high heat, using either a cast iron pan or outdoor BBQ grill. Chef Tip: Recommended to cook to a rare temperature.

To Assemble

  1. Place some labneh on base of the plate.
  2. While hot, mix the roasted vegetable with the dried cranberry and place atop the labneh.
  3. Once the kangaroo has rested slightly, slice thinly and lay atop the vegetables.


Featured Recipes

Treat Your Taste Buds to Something Unique at Beatnik

Treat Your Taste Buds to Something Unique at Beatnik

Chef Marcos Campos, of Beatnik in Chicago, IL, has crafted a menu bursting with a flavor and variety, just as unique as the decor that makes up this eccentric restaurant. Chef Marcos shares some of his favorite dishes with us and what visitor’s can expect to find when dining at Beatnik.

Q: With a menu that offers such artfully crafted options, which dish do you recommend as a must-try for diners visiting Beatnik? 

A: The Beet Hummus, the Butternut Squash, the Whole Fish and the Lamb really harness our vision of cuisine at Beatnik. The overall balance of the dishes, as well as the contrast in global influence can be seen in these dishes.

Q: For the longest time, healthy eating was thought of as boring and bland, with having no real taste or substance. At Beatnik, I notice your dishes use a lot of unique ingredients. Is there a favorite you enjoy working with? 

Chef Marcos: We feel that the access to local farms has really helped us shape our menu. Being able to utilize the freshest, farm grown vegetables and meats really allow the products and flavors to speak for themselves.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career as a chef? 

Chef Marcos: The way food and cooking brought my family together really helped me see my vision in food, starting with working with my father in the town butcher shop, in Valencia, Spain, to spending time with my mother and grandmother in the kitchen, over the stove. Ultimately food was what brought us all together.

Q: How does Beatnik offer a dining experience for its guests unlike other restaurant establishments? 

Chef Marcos: We really look to bringing an International Dinner Party to you. The atmosphere is unlike any other seen in Chicago. From the ambiance, to the cocktails, to the food… they all come together to give you an overall global adventure of the senses.

Q: For our readers who may be new to healthy cooking, where do you suggest they start as far as ingredients to always keep stocked at home? 

Chef Marcos: As far as healthy options, it really depends on how adventurous the consumer is. Substituting a touch of Fish Sauce or Tamari (gluten free soy sauce) can be an alternative for salt, while adding essential vitamins to your diet. Utilizing Labneh Cheese (cheese made from straining yogurt) in place of Cream Cheese can help jump start the stomach enzymes, aiding in better digestion. As far as spices, venturing through those commonly used in Mediterranean kitchens such as; Cumin, Za’tar, Sumac, Baharat and Cardamom, not only add delicious flavors to food, but also offer a variety of health benefits.

Beatnik (IL) is located at:


Distance to closest LA Fitness: 3.5 mi. (Chicago, IL)

Beet Hummus

Photo by Allison Wessel



  • 1 quart beets
  • 1 quart garbanzo beans
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of blended oil
  • 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of 3 oranges
  • juice of 1/2 orange
  • sprinkle of blue cheese



  1. Fry garbanzo beans in a pan with olive oil for 3 minutes at 350 degrees.

Recipe for Hummus:

  1. Combine all ingredients into robot coupe, except oils.
  2. Allow ingredients to incorporate and emulsify with oils and season with oranges to taste.
  3. Serve as large format Hummus dish or to separate into each small dish, use 4 tablespoons of Hummus for each.
  4. Add the ring of Hummus around the bowl with space left in the middle.
  5. Add fried garbanzo beans in enter of bowl with blue cheese (can substitute for any kind of cheese), and roasted pepitas/pumpkin seeds (can substitute for sunflower seeds).
  6. Finish with adding basil oil on top.
  7. Serve with Pita Bread on the side.


This recipe is perfect for a group dinner or party since it is based on the larger quantity. Or it can easily be saved and as a whole and served multiple times with the one batch.


This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor. Beatnik is not an affiliate of LA Fitness.

Featured Recipes

Simplicity at Its Finest at Avant Garden

Simplicity at Its Finest at Avant Garden

Avant Garden in New York City, owned by restaurateur, Ravi DeRossi, is an all-vegan based hot-spot full of tasty dishes that attract vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike!  We had an opportunity to speak with Avant Garden’s head chef who shared some insights on what makes Avant Garden such a huge success.


Q: What would you like non-vegans to know about the menu items offered at Avant Garden?

A: Avant Garden is a small restaurant in the East Village that serves vegetables. Our focus is to offer delicious food that just happens to be vegan. Many of our kitchen staff have experience in both vegan and non-vegan kitchens so the menu and style of cooking appeals to everyone. I’d say the majority of our returning guests are non-vegan.

Q: I notice your dishes are crafted from a variety of healthy ingredients. Is there a favorite you enjoy working with?

A: Garlic.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a career as a chef?

A: Cooking is such a big part of my life ever since I was a kid. I have been cooking my whole life and I know it’s what I am meant to do.

Q: How does Avant Garden offer a dining experience for its guests unlike other restaurant establishments?

A: Avant Garden is a small restaurant in the East Village that serves vegetables. Our focus is offer delicious food that just happens to be vegan. The Chef’s prepare all the food at a long counter in the dining room so no matter where guests are seated, they are in the kitchen. This makes for an intimate experience. It feels like home!  I think being such a small staff and facility forces us to maximize within our margins. We have to be hyper aware of the quantities of produce we order due our limited storage space. Working together in such close quarters makes for a tight-knit team. Those good vibes can only heighten our program. We also don’t use any wheat gluten or “meat” substitutes which may set us apart as well.


Avant Garden is located at: 130 E 7th St, New York, NY 10009

Avant Garden

Distance to closest LA Fitness: 8.1 mi. (485 Harmon Meadow, Secaucus, NJ 07094)




Tsuyu Recipe

  • 60 pieces of dried Shiitake
  • 10 pieces of Kombu
  • 3 liters of Water
  • 6 cups Sake
  • 9 cups of White Soy Sauce
  • 9 cups of Mirin
  • 1 medium Onion
  • 15 Garlic Cloves
  • Olive Oil
  • Celery Root



  1. In a large pot combine the dried shiitake mushrooms, kombu, water, sake, white soy sauce, and mirin.
  2. Bring to a boil, then remove from flame. Let the liquid mixture sit overnight.
  3. Strain the following day and keep just the liquid.
  4. Rough chop 3 pounds of shiitake mushrooms, medium chop 1 onion and slice 15 garlic cloves.
  5. Sweat the onions in olive oil with garlic until tender.
  6. Add the shiitake mushrooms. Cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Add 2 quarts of mushroom stock. Reduce liquid.
  8. Once reduced, blend mixture in blender until smooth.
  9. In the meantime, peel and spiralize celery root. Keep in cold water.
  10. In a sauté pan, sauté 4 ounces of oyster mushroom and 3.5 ounces of shimeji mushroom until golden brown.
  11. Add two cups of mushroom purée and 4 ounces of the tsuyu. Mix together.
  12. Dry off celery root (pat dry) and add to the pan. Cook two minutes, occasionally until wilted and sauce reduces. Add one table spoon chopped parsley.
  13. Place in bowl, and garnish with sliced fried and dehydrated shiitake, toasted garlic, chives and a squeeze of lemon (optional.)
  14. Enjoy!!


Featured Recipes



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