One of the core tenets of creativity is drawing on a range of influences for wholly new results. This is especially true when it comes to cooking. Creating new flavors comes from combining elements across cuisines. Like No Other — presented by noosa yoghurt — celebrates creative chefs who find inspiration around the world and bring it to life in their food.
Just two blocks away from the sand and surf, Manhattan Beach's Love & Salt is bringing some serious soul to the LA dining scene. On yet another sunny day, chef de cuisine and pastry chef Rebecca Merhej is hard at work in the kitchen prepping for what is sure to be another busy night with customers flocking to the bright, but cozy, space in search of artfully crafted pizza, pasta, and rustic Italian fare. The Class of 2015 Eater Young Gun inherited her love of cooking from her family and her insistence on honest, family-style cooking remains.
"I'm half Lebanese, and food has always been a huge influence on my life," Merhej said. Growing up cooking with her grandmother, and mother, Merhej was exposed to a wide array of flavors at a young age. And while other kids were playing dodgeball, Merhej and her sister preferring helping their grandmother prepare that night's family dinner. "I was always so involved in food and learning how to do things in the kitchen."
Today, Merhej's style is marked by wholesome, yet healthy, foods that can be enjoyed by the whole family. "My style is more of a rustic, family style feel. I don't really go the route of fancy, modified flavors," she added, "I'm more interested in the kind of food that brings people together."
Looking to showcase the natural, real fruit flavor of noosa yoghurt, Merhej whipped up a homemade granola that is easy and versatile. "I love making granolas, because it's one of those things where you can just use anything that you have in your pantry — any nuts, fruits, really any flavor you want to do," said Merhej. "The noosa tart cherry yoghurt compliments this granola really well."
1 and a quarter cups of rolled oats
3 Tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes
3 Tablespoons almonds, coarsely chopped
3 Tablespoons hazelnuts
1 and a half tablespoons pumpkin seeds
2 Teaspoons olive oil
½ Teaspoon coarse salt
4 Ounces maple syrup (or agave)
½ Teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Large egg whites
½ Cup dried cherries or another dried fruit
Start by preheating your oven to 300-degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is heating up, combine all of the ingredients, except the egg whites, in a large bowl. Toss the mixture evenly to ensure that everything is coated and well-mixed.
Next, separate two farm fresh eggs and hold onto the whites. Whisk the egg whites in a small bowl until they are frothy like the milk in a latte. Stir the whisked egg whites into the granola mixture, making sure it's distributed evenly throughout.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper to prevent sticking. Spread the granola mixture out so it covers the sheet with roughly uniformed thickness. Bake in your 300-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 40 to 45 minutes.
Halfway through the baking process, remove the baking tray to give the granola a light mix. Be careful not to break it up too much, but mix it just enough so the entire tray is getting equally browned.
After about 45 minutes of cooking, let the granola cool entirely before digging in. Largely because of the sugar in the maple syrup (or agave), the granola will be especially hot. Once it's cooled, pair the granola with your favorite noosa yoghurt for a hearty, healthy breakfast or light afternoon snack. This recipe goes well with the cool, creamy tart cherry noosa yoghurt but is also equally delicious with blueberry, lemon, honey, and coconut varieties.