Clean Eating Made Easy with Alia Dalal
Clean up your plate! That's the rallying cry from Chicago Chef Alia Dalal who offers an "Anti-Meal Plan" for folks who want to eat clean, but are reluctant to spend a big chunk of time in the kitchen. A Pakistani American daughter of a nurse and a pharmacist, she was raised on Middle Eastern food. She calls herself a "counterculture culinista" who strives to spend more time with friends and less time slaving over a stove. According to Dalal, the plan comes with a bonus: It's economical—"10 ingredients. Three dinners. $20."
For her, the Black Rice and Lentil Mujadara is one of those go-to dishes created from cupboard staples. "I create something from the odds and ends in our pantry during those moments most people would open the fridge and say "There is nothing to eat." This dish requires a grain, lentils, onions and some butter or oil, she says.
Alia Dalal's personal connection to the relationship between food and health began with her best friend. "Soon after college my best friend was spending a lot of time in the hospital waiting for a transplant surgery. Her condition had nothing to do with lifestyle or diet," she says. The stark realization set in when she compared the hospital food to the nurturing food she wanted for her friend. "How was she supposed to have the best chance of recovering and healing when she was being served Jell-O instead of real food?" she asked herself.
"I began to get really curious about the relationship between food and health, not just in a literal, nutrition-focused way but also how food can be used to nurture, excite, calm and connect us."
"I think chefs have a lot of responsibility and power when it comes to shaping the way Americans eat, and so I felt drawn to dive in and become a chef." Alia trained at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts and, after working in Michelin-star restaurants in Chicago, including Sepia, she launched a personal chef business.
"I'm focused on helping people eat healthier in a fun, open and nonjudgmental way," she says. Alia is also a food consultant and executive chef for the natural juice company \Here\, which uses local farm produce for its products. The line also includes vegetable-forward dips, "like hummus, except instead of chickpeas I used Midwest-grown beans like white beans, lentils and black beans and combined them with local vegetables."