The signs that Huda Mu’min would grow up to have a culinary career were there from the very beginning.
“When I was 6, I decided to stop napping and make baked fish,” says Mu’min, who now goes by Chef Huda. She’s owner of D.C.-based culinary company Pretty and Delicious and a former contestant on ABC’s “The Taste.” What’s telling about that anecdote, she says, is that her craving wasn’t for a candy bar.
For that, she can thank her mom, who owned and operated a health food store and served organic food at home. (“It was a contrast when I went to school. Everything was fried,” Chef Huda says. “People have this thought that kids don’t like healthy food. Kids will eat what you give them.”)
It was particularly important in their family, Chef Huda now knows, because of their health history. She’s seen relatives struggle to regain skills after strokes and pass away too early from heart attacks.
“That’s not something that goes away,” says Chef Huda, who works with the American Heart Association to make sure more people eat the way her mother taught her. The most important lesson: “Make better decisions when you can.”
That translates into eating as many vegetables as possible, Chef Huda says. Her go-to vegetable is spinach — “put it in pasta, spinach dips, spinach souffles!” She’s also a big proponent of Brussels sprouts, which many people think of as mushy and smelly. Her advice is to simply roast them for a completely different experience.
“Roasting is an awesome way to cook almost everything,” Chef Huda says. Shoving something in the oven is also easy, which takes away people’s excuses that they don’t have the skill or the time to cook.
And taking care of yourself by eating better can help you get more time with your family. “With a healthier lifestyle, it’s not just you that benefits,” Chef Huda says. “It’s everyone who loves you.”
1 pound boneless chicken breast
1 cup baby heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup aged Parmesan cheese, shaved (for the garnish), plus 1⁄2 cup (for the pesto)
1 multigrain baguette
1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
fresh cracked black pepper
4 cups baby spinach
2 cups fresh basil
11⁄2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Place a large saute pan over medium heat and add in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Clean, cut and season the chicken breast. Place the chicken into the hot pan. Cook the chicken until golden brown on all sides. Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove from the pan and let rest for 3-5 minutes. Cut into strips or 1-inch cubes and place in a large bowl.
For the pesto, place the spinach, basil, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Blend and slowly drizzle in ⅓ cup olive oil until the pesto mixture is smooth. When the pesto is done, add desired amount to the chicken and toss.
Slice the multigrain baguette into ½-inch slices on a bias and brush with ½ tablespoon of olive oil. Place bread on a baking sheet, then in the oven on broil, until it’s golden brown on both sides.
Thinly slice the baby heirloom tomatoes and lightly toss in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt, then set aside.
Place the toasted multigrain bread on the plate first, then stack with the pesto chicken, then the tomatoes and finally garnish with Parmesan cheese.
Finish by drizzling another ½ tablespoon of olive oil and cracked black pepper over the tomatoes. Adapted from an original recipe by Chef Huda. For more, visit chefhuda.com.