Culinistas's Kitchen,  Health,  Hosts,  Recipes & Cooking

The Culinistas’ Top Dish Picks

by The Culinistas

While the pandemic and remote working have made it difficult for The Culinistas HQ team to gather & break bread together, we’re still cooking plenty of Culinistas recipes at home. Whether hosting our families or meal prepping for ourselves, the kitchen is our happy place and we simply can’t stay away!

To keep our love of food alive, we recently challenged each other to a little game of personal favorites: If you could pick your #1 Culinistas dish, what would it be? The results were too delicious not to share.

With over 500 recipes in our library, you can imagine how hard it is to pick favorites, but these eight Culinistas dishes rose right to the top. A mix of savory and sweet, small plate and main dish, we’ve accumulated a list of the dishes we simply can’t resist. We hope you enjoy as much as we do!⁠

Banana French Toast (Marketing & Content Director, Erica)

Portobello Pasta (Director of Client Services, Stephanie)

Butternut & Chickpea Fritters (Culinary Director, DyAnne)

Tomato Baked Feta & Baguette (Co-founder, CFO, and COO, Tiana)

Chicken Jalfrezi (Designer, Rose)

Parsnips & Potatoes with Bacon (Client Services Manager, Allison)

Pumpkin Rigatoni (Client Services Manager, Charmaine)

Chocolate Zucchini Snack Cake (Co-founder, CEO, CMO & resident culinary goddess, Jill)

Looking to make these dishes at home? Check out the recipes below.

Banana French Toast

Pro tip: Wash it down with a warm cup of creamy coffee.

Prep Time 20 mins 

Cook Time 15 mins  

Serves 4 to 6

3 bananas, peeled, sliced

1 cup dried currants

¼ cup + 2 TB maple syrup, divided, plus more for drizzling

1¼ tsp allspice, ground, divided

1 tsp solstice blend, divided

½ cup hazelnuts, roasted, chopped, plus more for garnish

1 loaf challah bread, sliced 2 inch thick (8 slices)

4 eggs

¼ olive oil

Salt, to taste

1. In a large pan, sauté bananas, currants, 2 TB maple syrup, ½ tsp allspice & ¼ tsp solstice blend, 4-5 mins. Set aside to cool.

2. In a small bowl, cover hazelnuts in warm water for 10 mins & strain; reserve water & nuts.

3. In a high speed blender, blend ¼ tsp allspice, soaked hazelnuts, soaking water & remaining ¼ cup maple syrup. Transfer to a small bowl; garnish with hazelnuts & drizzle with maple syrup. Set aside. 

4. Cut a slit into each bread slice & fill slit with sautéed banana mixture.

5. In a shallow dish, whisk eggs, remaining ½ tsp allspice & 2 TB water. Season with salt. Soak stuffed challah in egg mixture.

6. In a large pan, heat 1 TB oil over medium heat. Working in batches with new oil, pan fry soaked challah until golden brown, 3-4 mins per side.

7. Serve french toast with hazelnut sauce & garnish with currants.

Portobello Pasta

Pro tip: Enjoy this salad warm.

Prep Time 20 mins 

Cook Time 15 mins  

Serves 4

CHEF TIPS

Leftover Ingredient: 

– Whip any leftover mascarpone with honey & salt. Enjoy with fruit & extra hazelnuts on top.

6 TB olive oil

¼ cup thyme, picked

4 medium portobello mushrooms, stems removed

1 TB + 1 tsp urfa, divided, plus more for garnish

4 oz farfalle pasta

½ cup mascarpone

2 TB lemon juice

1 TB lemon zest

¼ cup hazelnuts, roasted, chopped, plus more for garnish

Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Make thyme oil: In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Gently add thyme & stir. When the oil is no longer bubbling, transfer the fried thyme to a paper towel-lined plate & season with salt. Reserve the thyme oil.

2. In a large pan, heat 3 TB thyme oil over medium high heat. Sear mushrooms, 4-5 mins. Add 1 TB urfa & cook the mushrooms until tender, 3-4 mins. Season with salt & pepper; let cool. Thinly slice the mushrooms & set aside.

3. In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta until tender, 8-10 mins. Strain & rinse under cold water.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk remaining 1 tsp urfa, mascarpone, lemon juice & zest. While whisking, stream in remaining 3 TB thyme oil. Season with salt & pepper.

5. In a large bowl, mix mushrooms, pasta & hazelnuts. Dress with cream sauce to taste.

6. Transfer to a shallow bowl; garnish with fried thyme, urfa & hazelnuts. 

Butternut & Chickpea Fritters

Pro tip: Swap out the butternut squash for your go-to seasonal veggie & this becomes a year-round dish. In the spring, use green beans. In the summer, use zucchini blossoms. In the winter, use beets.

Prep Time  20 mins

Cook Time 20 mins

Makes 8 fritters

CHEF TIPS

Technique:

– The longer the yogurt dip sits, the better it tastes. Make in advance for optimal flavor. 

– The fritters should be crisp on the outside with a soft interior. Be sure to have enough oil in the pan kept at a medium high heat for optimal cooking. 

– One lemon typically produces 1 TB of zest & ¼ cup of juice.

Taste:

– Other soft stem herbs, like cilantro & dill, would make a great addition to the yogurt dip. 

Leftover Ingredient: 

– Double the cumin oil to keep some on hand & use in the base of sauces, as a finishing oil or a dip for crusty bread. 

6 TB olive oil, divided

2 tsp cumin seed

2 eggs, whisked

2 cups butternut squash, shredded

1 bunch scallion, whites & greens divided, sliced

1½ cups chickpea flour

1 tsp onion powder 

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 lemon, zest & juice, plus more for garnish

1. In a small sauté pan over medium high heat, add olive oil. Gently add cumin & stir. When the oil is no longer bubbling, strain out fried seeds & reserve. Reserve oil & slightly cool. 

2. In a medium bowl, combine eggs with butternut squash & scallions.  Add chickpea flour, onion powder, salt & pepper. Slowly stream in 3 TB reserved cumin oil & mix until smooth. Rest, 10 mins. 

3. While the batter is resting, make yogurt dip: In a small bowl, combine yogurt, lemon zest & juice, scallion greens, reserved fried cumin, salt & pepper. Reserve.

4. In a large pan, heat remaining oil over medium heat. Scoop ¼ cup batter directly into the center of the pan. Repeat the process while working your way around the pan to fit the maximum fritters without touching. Fry until golden brown, 3-4 mins per side. Transfer to a wire rack-lined baking sheet. Work in batches using fresh oil, if needed. Fry until all batter is used.

5. Transfer the fritters to a platter & serve the yogurt dip, garnished with lemon zest & olive oil on the side.

Tomato Baked Feta & Baguette

Pro tip: This dish serves as the perfect make-ahead appetizer for a winter dinner party. Prepare it the day before & reheat before guests arrive. One less thing to do day-of to make hosting stress-free!

Prep Time 10 mins ⁠

Cook Time 20 mins  ⁠

Serves 6 to 8⁠

CHEF TIPS

Taste:

– If you do not like spicy food, add half of the cayenne & incrementally add more to taste.

¼ cup olive oil, divided⁠

¼ cup rosemary, picked⁠

2 shallots, sliced⁠

¼ cup tomato paste⁠

1 tsp cayenne⁠

1 tsp onion powder⁠

¼ cup sherry vinegar⁠

1 lb block feta cheese, sliced⁠

Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste⁠

1 baguette, sliced, for serving⁠

1. Preheat oven to 425ºF.

2. Make the rosemary oil: In a large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Gently add rosemary & stir. When the oil is no longer bubbling, transfer the fried rosemary to a paper towel-lined plate & season with salt. Reserve rosemary oil in pan.

3. Heat pan over medium; sweat shallots until soft, 4-5 min. Add tomato paste, cayenne & onion powder; cook until tomato paste is caramelized, 4-5 minutes. Turn off heat & add vinegar. Season with salt & pepper.

4. In a small, oven safe baking dish, shingle the feta & coat fully with the tomato mixture. Bake until golden brown, 12-15 mins.

5. Serve the baked feta from the baking dish with toasted baguette on the side. Garnish with remaining fried rosemary.

Chicken Jalfrezi

Pro tip: She loves to pair this dish with The Culinistas’ Vegetable Biryani.

Prep Time 15 mins 

Cook Time 25 mins 

Serves 2 to 4

CHEF TIPS

Shopping:

– If making a larger portion, buy bell peppers in a variety of colors.

Technique:

– Stir chicken & peppers often to avoid scorching the mixture.

– Tomato products & spices “break from the oil” as they separate from the oil. The process is achieved when the tomato product has caramelized & the oil is no longer emulsified. 

Taste:

– If you happen to have crushed kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), add at the end to give the dish a greater depth of flavor. 

Extra Ingredient:

– Make a sweet chutney with the remaining crushed tomatoes. Heat oil & add cumin seeds, fennel seeds & nigella seeds. Toast until they crackle a bit. Add tomatoes, salt & sugar. Cook until slightly thickened.

3 TB olive oil

4 cloves garlic, grated 

3 tsp ginger, grated

½ cup crushed tomatoes

½ tsp turmeric 

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp cumin, ground

2 tsp coriander, ground

1 ½ lb chicken thighs, boneless, skinless, cubed

1 bell pepper, sliced 

½ tsp garam masala

Salt, to taste 

Cilantro, for garnish

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic & ginger. Sauté until fragrant, 2-3 mins. 

2. Add tomatoes & simmer until the tomato has broken from the oil, 3 mins.

3. Add turmeric, onion powder, cumin & coriander; cook until aromatic, 3-4 mins. 

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add chicken & cook until tender, 12-15 mins. 

5. Add bell pepper & cook until tender, 5-8 mins.

6. Stir in garam masala, transfer to a shallow bowl & garnish with cilantro.

Parsnips & Potatoes with Bacon

Pro tip: If you love the crunchy taste of bacon bits, make it a more rustic dressing versus fully blending it. 

Prep Time 10 mins 

Cook Time 30 mins  

Serves 6

CHEF TIPS

Technique:

– Cut of parsnips & potatoes should mirror each other.

– Roast parsnips & potatoes at a high heat for golden brown color. Or roast a little longer & lower, then crank the heat to broil for 5 mins to finish. 

– Consistency of the dressing should be slightly chunky.

– Gauge if you need the oil in the dressing based on the fat content of the bacon & if there is bacon grease you can use instead. If you want a fully infused bacon flavor, fry the bacon first & use the bacon grease for roasting. Then use olive oil for the dressing. 

Taste:

– Balance fat & smokiness from the bacon in the dressing with lemon zest & juice.

6 parsnips, cut ½ in thick on a bias

1 lb potatoes, cut ½ in thick 

¼ cup + 2 TB olive oil, divided

½ lb bacon

1 TB lemon zest

2 TB lemon juice

½ tsp cayenne

1 tsp onion powder

1 TB chives, chopped, plus more for garnish

1 TB lemon peel, julienned

Salt & freshly ground pepper, 

to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.

2. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, toss parsnips & potatoes with ¼ cup oil. Roast, 20-25 mins. Season with salt & pepper.

3. In a large pan over medium heat, fry bacon until crispy, 5-7 mins. Cool on a paper towel-lined plate.

4. Make the bacon dressing: In a high speed blender, blend crispy bacon, lemon zest & juice, cayenne, onion powder & remaining 2 TB oil (if needed).

5. In a large serving bowl, mix potatoes, parsnips & chives; dress with bacon dressing. Garnish with julienned lemon peel & chives.

Pumpkin Rigatoni

Pro tip: Enjoy this yummy dish with your family during the holidays.

Prep Time 35 mins⁠

Cook Time 55 mins 

CHEF TIPS

Technique:

– Roast garlic & sage directly in the cavity of the squash by covering halved garlic with halved squash to save space & time.

– If a springform pan is not available, an 8 inch cake pan or cast iron skillet will work fine. If using a cast iron skillet, serve directly in the vessel as the honeycomb will likely not come out cleanly. 

– Cook the pasta for 5 mins less than the suggested cooking time on the package. The pasta should be nearly raw in the center; the second cook in the oven will finish the pasta. 

Taste:

– Adjust the amount of roasted garlic to taste; save remaining garlic to use as a condiment, spread on toast & top with coarse salt or whisk into a vinaigrette.

2 TB olive oil, divided

1 head garlic, halved

6-8 sprigs sage

1 kabocha squash, halved, seeds removed

1 lb rigatoni

¾ cup parmesan

¼ tsp allspice, ground

¼ tsp cayenne 

1 tsp onion powder

1 cup fontina, shredded 

Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.

2. Drizzle each half of garlic with 1 tsp olive oil & place flesh side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top each with 3-4 sprigs sage.

3. Season the kabocha squash with salt & pepper. Drizzle with remaining oil & place flesh side down on top of garlic & sage. Roast until tender, 30-35 mins. 

4. In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta until very al dente, 6-8 mins. Reserve 3-4 cups of pasta water, strain.

5. While squash roasts, prepare pasta: Place rigatoni standing upright to form a honeycomb pattern in a parchment-lined 8 inch springform pan.

6. Make Pumpkin Sauce: In the base of a blender, scoop out & add cooked squash. Add roasted garlic cloves, sage, parmesan, allspice, cayenne & onion powder. Slowly stream in hot pasta water while blending until a smooth sauce comes together; reserve. 

7. Pour pumpkin sauce into the pasta. Top with fontina cheese & bake, 20 mins.

8. Remove the springform pan sides & serve wedges of the rigatoni. 

Chocolate Zucchini Snack Cake

Pro tip: The more thoroughly you squeeze out the zucchini, the more veg you can pack into this bread. Use 5% yogurt or labneh for extra shiny, moist cake.

P.S. We love this one so much we wrote a whole article about it.

Prep Time 15 mins 

Cook Time 50 mins  

Makes 1 loaf

CHEF TIPS

Technique:

– Use a tea towel or paper towels to squeeze zucchini dry. Removing excess moisture will prevent the loaf from becoming soggy.

– To make this dish dairy free, swap yogurt with applesauce. 

– After baking for 50 minutes, insert a skewer into the loaf to see if it’s finished. If it comes out clean, remove the loaf from the oven. If the batter is wet on the skewer, continue to cook in 5 minute increments until fully baked. 

 Taste:

– For extra sweetness, add vanilla or cinnamon.

1 ½ cup Greek yogurt

2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar 

2 cup zucchini, grated & squeezed dry

1 cup oat flour

1 cup cocoa powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

¾ cup chocolate chips, plus more for topping

1. Preheat oven to 325ºF.

2. In a medium bowl, add yogurt, eggs, brown sugar & zucchini. Mix well to combine. 

3. Add oat flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Gently stir to combine. Add chocolate chips & gently stir to combine. 

4. Transfer to a parchment-lined loaf pan & top with chocolate chips. 

5. Bake until the bread is completely cooked through, 40-50 mins. Let the bread cool, 10 mins in the pan, then remove & rest on a rack until completely cooled.