Chef Kyle Williams has taken a corporate cafeteria and elevated it to celebrity-chef standards, but with wellness in mind.
Williams is the executive chef for Good Food Good Futures, which operates the Live Blue Kitchen and Café at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City. When Williams took the helm in May 2014, he designed a new menu with options under 550 calories, such as Baked Falafel Shawarma With Baba Ghanoush and Cilantro Raita.
The dish is packed with vegetable protein, fiber, antioxidants and great taste. The company subsidizes healthier options for employees: the falafel is $5.25, while a traditional personal pepperoni pizza is $6.75.
Williams, 31, is a 2002 Raytown South High School graduate. He earned a bachelor’s degree in applied science in culinary nutrition from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. He also brings more than 16 years of restaurant experience, which includes working with celebrity chefs Todd English, David Burke and Daniel Boulud.
Williams’ team serves up breakfasts, snacks, lunches and the occasional take-home dinners. About half of the company’s 800 employees visit the cafe in a given day. Other Kansas City companies eager to invest in health and wellness frequently ask to tour the Live Blue Kitchen and Café when rethinking their menus.
Chef Kyle Williams, Blue Cross and Blue Shield: Facebook; Twitter and Instagram @KyleWilliams923
Baked Falafel Shawarma With Baba Ghanoush and Cilantro Raita
Za’atar spice can be found in specialty stores that carry Middle Eastern ingredients.
Makes 12 pita sandwiches
For the baba ghanoush:
6 garlic cloves
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 lemon, juiced
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley leaves
1/4 cup tahini
For the falafel:
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15-ounce) cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 lemon, zested
1/4 cup olive oil
For the raita:
1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1/2 cup peeled, seeded and small diced cucumber
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint leaves
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons finely minced red onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
12 whole-wheat pocket-less pitas
3 cups baby arugula or spring salad greens, divided
3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, divided
3/4 cup shredded carrots, divided
1 lime, zested, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons za’atar spice, divided
1/4 cup Sriracha hot chili sauce, divided and optional
12 lemon wedges
To make baba ghanoush: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and score down the middle of the meat with a sharp knife. Insert 3 garlic cloves into the scored cut on each eggplant half. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over each cut side of eggplant and season with salt and pepper. Place eggplant halves, cut side down, on baking sheet. Prick skin with tines of fork and place in oven to roast for 30 to 45 minutes, or until eggplant is completely soft.
Remove eggplant from oven and allow to cool. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine lemon juice, parsley leaves and tahini. Set aside.
Scoop roasted eggplant meat and garlic from the skin. Discard skin and process roasted vegetables with tahini mixture. With food processor running, slowly drizzle in remaining 1/2 cup olive oil until a spreadable mixture forms; refrigerate until cool. Yield: 11/2 cups.
To make falafel: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine onion, parsley and garlic. Add garbanzo beans and process until a thick paste forms. Add eggs and process to bind mixture together. Season with cumin, coriander, cardamom and salt. Add in baking soda, flours and lemon zest and pulse until combined. With food processor running, drizzle in olive oil.
Using a 1 1/2 tablespoon scoop, drop mixture onto baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until lightly golden browned and center springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool completely. Yield: 24
To make raita: In a mixing bowl, gently stir Greek yogurt, cucumber, cilantro, mint, lemon zest and juice, onion, salt, sugar and pepper together; chill in refrigerator. Yield: 11/2 cups.
To assemble shawarma: Warm cast-iron skillet over high heat on stovetop. Toast pita on each side for about 1 minute.
Spread 2 tablespoons baba ghanoush to completely cover 1 side of pita. Sprinkle 1/4 cup arugula or greens over spread. Place 2 falafel on top. Spoon on 2 tablespoons raita. Top with 1 tablespoon each cilantro and carrots. Sprinkle 1/8 teaspoon of lime zest and of za’atar spice over all. Add optional 1 teaspoon Sriracha hot chili sauce.
Fold pita in half and secure with toothpicks. Serve with additional greens and lemon wedge, if desired. Repeat until all ingredients have been used.
Per sandwich: 487 calories (39 percent from fat), 22 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 37 milligrams cholesterol, 63 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams protein, 1,005 milligrams sodium, 11 grams dietary fiber.