Posts Tagged ‘Richard LaMarita’


On October 15, Natural Gourmet Institute had the privilege to host Dr. Robert Graham, his wife Julie Graham (a certified holistic health coach), and 13 residents from New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital for a special, hands-on evening of healthy vegetarian cooking. The Grahams and NGI created the event to draw attention to the Meatless Mondays campaign and give doctors the knowledge and tools to treat common lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity with healthy food choices and cooking techniques.

The evening kicked off with hors d’oeuvres and a meet-and-greet between the doctors and NGI staff. Then it was into the kitchen for the doctors to prepare a healthy, balanced vegetarian meal under the direction of NGI instructor Richard LaMarita, who designed the Italian-inspired menu.

Colin Zhu, a recent graduate of NGI’s Chef’s Training Program and first-year resident at CentraState Health Care System, introduced the evening’s recipes and talked about their health benefits and nutritional highlights. Chef Rich followed with a quick knife skills tutorial, and then the doctors teamed up to make a healthy, seasonal four-course meal.

The class was a resounding success and the first in a series where these internists, each committed to promoting the role food choices make in our health, will learn basic vegetarian cooking techniques they can share with patients.



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NGI President Jenny Matthau, Chef Rich LaMarita, and grad Colin Zhu

Our Chef’s Training grad Colin Zhu was kind enough to report to us on NGI’s recent collaboration to teach a nutrition class with NY Coalition for Health School Food at PS 184 in Chinatown . . . 

On Friday, May 25, the Natural Gourmet Institute had the good fortune to do cooking demonstrations at P.S. 184, Shuang Wen Elementary School in Chinatown. The NGI team consisted of Chef Instructor Rich LaMarita, Chef’s Training Graduate Colin Zhu, Chef’s Training student Steven Stewart and NGI President Jenny Matthau.

NGI collaborated with Healthy School Food in teaching nutrition to two 5th grade classes. As each nutrition class ended, Colin and Steven assisted Chef Rich in the set-up of the food demonstration. As enthusiastic as the students were with each nutritional class, they could not help being totally enticed by what the chefs were preparing.

The NGI team made three dishes for the students: sticky brown rice cooked with coconut milk and star anise; black beans with onions, tomatoes, toasted cumin and oregano; and a hearty guacamole made with red onions, chopped Beefsteak tomatoes, cumin and cilantro served with crisp sticks of jicama.

During the presentation, Chef Rich displayed all the ingredients, talked about the unique origins of each food item, showed how to sauté the toppings for the black beans and how to make guacamole.

The students were eager to try each dish. Having just learned about macronutrients the class before, they were excited to have their senses amused by an actual cooking demo right in their own classrooms. The combination of nutrition class and a fantastic cooking demonstration created the perfect recipe for each student’s culinary curiosity.

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Rich LaMarita was our first demonstrator of Day 1. He’s our resident expert on all things Ayurveda and Indian. His paratha and dhal (curried lentil with sweet potato) were a big hit with the crowd.

Rich working the crowd with his paratha and dhal

Curried Lentils with Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard

serves 15





1 ½ cups red lentils (masoor), washed thoroughly

3 green chilis

½ teaspoon tumeric

4 – 5 cups water

1 ½ teaspoons salt


1 ½ lb. sweet potato, diced and roasted

1 lb. Swiss chard, chiffonade


4 tablespoons coconut oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ginger, chopped

1 cup tomatoes, finely diced

Finishing Spice Oil

2 tablespoons coconut oil

½ teaspoon each cumin seeds, fennel seeds, black mustard seeds,

fenugreek seeds, black onion seeds

1 bay leaf

9 fresh curry leaves

3 red chili pods


1.         Combine the red lentils, chilis, tumeric, water and salt. Bring to boil and simmer, stirring often, for about 40 minutes. Reduce heat, partially cover and cook an additional 20 minutes until soft.

2.         Tarka: While the lentils are cooking, heat coconut oil in pan and sweat onion and ginger. Add the tomatoes and cook until thickened. Add to the dahl and cook until the flavors are blended.

3.         Vegetables: When dahl is almost done, add the sweet potato and Swiss chard, and cook for 5 minutes.

4.         Finishing Oil: Heat coconut oil in pan, toast the spices and add bay leaf, curry leaves and chili pods. Fry for about 15 – 20 seconds.  Pour the mixture into the dahl and serve.

 Fennel – Scented Paratha

yield: 10 Parathas


2 ½ cups chapati flour, or 1 ½ cups whole wheat & 1 cup unbleached white

1 tablespoon Lucknow fennel seed

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons ghee, melted

2/3 cups warm water

extra flour for dusting

extra ghee for brushing


1.         Mix flour, fennel seed and salt in a bowl. Drizzle in melted ghee and rub   with fingertips until mixture has consistency of coarse breadcrumbs. Add the water, bit by bit, to form a soft dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Rub ghee over it and let it rest for at least 1 hour.

2.        Divide the dough into 10 even pieces and roll into balls. Cover with towel. Flatten a ball and dip into dusting flour. Roll out to 6” diameter. Brush the top with ghee and fold in half. Brush half-circle with ghee and fold in quarter-circle. Dust it with flour and roll out into a large triangle. Cover with cloth. You can roll all out, but do not let them touch.

3.         Prepare griddle to medium heat and brush with little ghee. Place the paratha on the griddle and drizzle a bit of ghee around the edges and a bit on the top. Cook the paratha for a minute or until the bottom starts to form spots. Turn over, drizzle with ghee and cook until done.

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Recently, there was considerable chatter across Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere about Chef Jamie Oliver winning a TED AwardTED (Technology Entertainment Design): Ideas Worth Sharing, is a non-profit organization that sponsors worldwide conferences, a video site, community programs, and the TED award.

The TED award goes to a “leader in his/her chosen field of work, with an unconventional viewpoint and a vision to transform the world.”  The winner receives $100,000, “One Wish to Change the World,” and the use of TED’s resources and community to fulfill that wish.

Jamie Oliver’s wish was to “create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again, and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.”  The project includes establishing “a network of community kitchens; launching a traveling food theater that will teach kids practical food and cooking skills in an entertaining way and provide basic training for parents and professionals; and bringing millions of people together through an online community to drive the fight against obesity.”  Jamie’s work begins in Huntington, West Virginia, a community where childhood obesity is an epidemic.

Keep your eye on this blog for the next few weeks as we profile Natural Gourmet staff, students, and graduates who are also making meaningful contributions to educating youth about food and health.  Look for:

  • A recap of NGI Instructor Rich LaMarita’s collaboration with high school students from The Expeditionary Learning School for Community Leaders.  Rich will mentor students in creating a catering event to kick off their Growing Leaders Garden Project.
  • An interview with NGI graduate Jennifer Paulson, Culinary Director of Sprouts Academy in Chicago, Illinois.  Sprouts Academy is a pre-school devoted to teaching children a green, natural approach to “Diet, Environment, and Social Responsibility.
  • A discussion with NGI graduate Ellen Emerson, Sous Chef at New York’s WITS (Wellness in the Schools), a non-profit promoting “children’s environmental health, nutrition and fitness in the NYC public schools.”
  • An update from Stefania Patinella, Director of Food and Nutrition programs at The Children’s Aid Society, where she created and runs Seed to Table, a gardening and healthy cooking program for kids and their families.

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