When Manal Kahi arrived in New York in 2013 from Lebanon, she was quite disappointed with the hummus she tried. She would make her own based on a family recipe to the delight of her friends. Her brother Wissam saw an opportunity: “We should sell it!” he excitedly announced. While on the search for hummus in the same ballpark as their grandmother’s, they found striking similarities between their own story and other refugees in the New York City area. The siblings knew that there were hundreds of other recipes from around the world to share. and after inviting some talented chefs onto the team such as Chef Juan Suarez de Lezo, Eat Offbeat was formed. Many of the chefs are discovered through the kitchen’s partnership with The International Rescue Committee, a Manhattan-based NGO.
Through meal boxes — often consisting of 2 mains, 2 sides, 2 grains and 2 appetizers for a total of 6 meals — Eat Offbeat has captured the culinary complexities of different world cuisines, showcasing the flavors of Venezuela, Syria, Sri Lanka, Senegal, and many others. This month, the organization released its newest meal box: the Colombia X Antigua Box.
The box, a grandmother, mother and son collaboration, explores the flavors of Colombia and Antigua through six full meals. Chef Claudia Sidoti, along with her mom Baba, infuses her Colombian background into the recipes, while her son Chris Weathered draws from his father’s Antigua. Together they’ve crafted this menu at Eat Offbeat’s kitchen to honor their most beloved family recipes. The menu includes:
- Caribbean Jerk Chicken or Tofu (Vegetarian)
- Christopher’s Curried Coleslaw (Vegetarian)
- Caribbean Rice & Peas (Vegan)
- Caribbean Mushroom patties (Vegetarian)
- Grandma Ena’s Mac & Cheese (Vegetarian)
- Colombian Stewed Chicken Tamales with Salsa Aji
- Colombian Arepa con Queso (Vegetarian & Gluten Free)
- Uncle Eddie’s Sweet Plantains with Guava and Cheese (Vegetarian)
- Caribbean Sweet Rum Raisin bread pudding (Vegetarian)
Claudia Sidoti’s deep connection with food began in her grandmother’s kitchen, and eventually, she became the Test Kitchen Director for Food Network. For more than eight years, she directed the culinary content for Food Network Magazine. After her role there, she spent three years heading the Culinary Team for HelloFresh. Claudia’s experience with food and hospitality has led her to Kerhonkson, New York, where she will open Mill & Main, a seasonal farm-to-table restaurant.
“Developing these recipes was a beautiful and heartfelt experience for me,” she said in a statement. “Getting to collaborate with my family and the Eat OffBeat team is a wonderful way to preserve family recipes and bring people into our kitchen to share our food story.”
Claudia’s mother, Nelly Ruiz Arango, immigrated to the U.S. at 14, and since then she has been cooking meals for her family and friends. She cooks up Colombian dishes like tamales and arepas, the recipes for which she perfected while an NYC Public School teacher. She also worked as a court interpreter for NY Immigration Court.
“Cooking these recipes makes me think of Sunday mornings in Bogota on the patio of my grandmother’s house,” Sidtri said. “I can smell the geraniums, roses, thyme and mint, and hear the sound of a tiple (a Colombian guitar) being played by my uncle while I ran around laughing with my cousins. We’d all be waiting for her call, ‘Tamales are ready…’ While I can’t transport people to Bogota, I wanted to recreate the same flavors that I was so lucky to grow up with. My tamales are plantain leaves filled with custardy masa, stewed chicken, vegetables and egg topped with hogao, also known as spicy tomato Sofrito. I am so happy to share the same heritage recipes I’ve been cooking for my family with the Eat Offbeat community.”
The Colombia X Antigua box runs for $120, and orders and shipping will last until August 6. A percentage of sales from all Colombia X Antigua meal boxes will be donated to RAICES, a nonprofit agency that provides free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. The seven-person chef roster also is cooking up their Intro Box ($86), the Vegan Box ($84), and the Picnic Box ($84).
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