As a gay immigrant of color, Nik Sharma is in many ways the ultimate outsider. But with his infectious passion for food and his sheer inventiveness at the stove, he creates recipes that appeal to everyone. Growing up in Bombay, India, with a Hindu father and a Christian mother, Nik was introduced as a child to the blending of culinary traditions and flavors. When he later spent time cooking with his husband’s mother in the American South, he came to know yet another style of cooking. “I started to play with ingredients that were new to me,” he says, “and transformed them with the techniques I learned in India. My two distinct worlds were coming together through aroma and taste.”
Even though we love to cook here at ChopChop Family, we all have been a part of a morning panic that includes staring into the fridge hoping something will appear to grab for lunch. We also know that caregivers have to find creative ways to make and pack lunch for kids every day. Our editor, Catherine Newman, once said something that made us laugh: she couldn’t believe her kids wanted dinner again after she had just made them dinner the night before! Sometimes, packing lunch feels like that—didn’t I just do this yesterday?
We know school-day mornings can be chaotic. Yes, we’re also still pining for those lazy summer days when multiple backpacks and lunches didn’t have to be packed at the same time as everyone needing to be fed. But the school year is upon us and morning madness will commence, if it hasn’t already.
As a rule, I make everything from scratch. For me it’s easier, quicker, cheaper, more interesting, and infinitely more flexible (If a recipe has something I don’t like, I can omit it. Or if it has too much of something I do like, I can reduce it.). I make an exception for Trader Joe’s Zhoug Sauce: “a very spicy green herbal sauce with Yemeni roots,” which I liken to a spicy cilantro pesto (though it contains no cheese or nuts).
When I was growing up, my parents took me to the New York World’s Fair almost every weekend. And, almost every weekend, fireworks were displayed. The fireworks, etched into my memory, seemed as if they were breaking up the sky: massive, deafeningly-loud, and seemingly forever-lasting. I found them ominous and overwhelming and, as a result, have never been a fan of July Fourth. That is until I spent July Fourth in Nahant, a small Massachusetts town on a peninsula in Essex County, where the fireworks are of the old-fashioned sort: beautiful, short and sweet, and not scary at all.