Miz Chef

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Apple Cider Special

Apple cider drinkIt’s the last weekend before Christmas. For many of you, the tree’s been trimmed, the stockings have been hung by the chimney with care, the presents are wrapped and waiting under the tree, and the cookies for Santa have been baked. For many of you, this frenzy will continue for the next few days until Santa Claus is on the radar over Singapore.

For both of these groups of people—and even for those who don’t like Christmas and feel that it’s a time of year you must endure—the best thing I could think to off this week is an alcoholic beverage.

Apple cider is everywhere this time of year and it’s not unknown to add a dash or whiskey of bourbon to enhance its qualities. I thought I’d try something slightly different: apple cider, gold rum, and apricot brandy.

It worked. And so I’d like to share it with you. This little cocktail eases the muscles, sore from shopping, and soothes the stress. You can also heat it up for a hot toddy.

Happy holidays to all, whatever you celebrate. For those of you who don’t celebrate anything, enjoy the good food and festivities anyway. Be safe, be happy, and be joyous.

Choose-One-FOr-CelebrationApple Cider Special

1 cup apple cider, well chilled
¼ cup gold rum
1 tablespoon apricot brandy
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine apple cider, rum, and brandy in a shaker and shake well. If the cider isn’t cold enough, shake with ice. Pour out into two glasses. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of each.

Makes 2.

 


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Italian Vegetable Crackers

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Want to do something different for that  Christmas party? Why don’t you try making your own crackers? They’re really not that difficult.

Crackers have been around for thousands of years—the ancient Romans made them! The word “cracker” comes from the Medieval word craken, meaning “to resound,” which describes the sound they made when broken.

Italians love to put vegetables in everything, and crackers are no exception. These crackers are a nice blend of herbs and fresh greens. Fava beans, in particular, are very popular in Italy and this recipes utilizes fava bean flour. Not only does it eliminate at least a little bit of the white flour, but it lends the crackers a more complex, vaguely nutty flavor.

Put these out with cheese, dips, salsa, or even guacamole. But they’re tasty enough to enjoy on their own.

Enjoy!

Italian Vegetable Crackers

Makes approximately 7 dozen crackers.

½ cup chopped greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.)
¼ cup +2 teaspoons olive oil
½ cup fava bean flour (or chick pea flour)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground rosemary
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground fennel seed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup parmesan cheese
Hawaiian sea salt or other finishing salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place greens and 1 teaspoon oil in a food processor and process until very finely chopped. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, rosemary, oregano, paprika, garlic powder,  kosher salt, fennel seed, pepper, and parmesan. IMG_4165

Add ¼ cup oil and mix until a dough forms. If necessary, add water, a little at a time, until all ingredients come together.IMG_4166IMG_4167

Place a piece of parchment paper down on a clean surface. Place  dough on the parchment and roll out as thinly as possible. IMG_4169

Cut off the edges to make straight lines. With a ruler, score 1 inch rows down and then across. IMG_4171

Brush top with remaining oil; sprinkle with finishing salt, if desired.IMG_4174

Bake until firm and lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Then move parchment to a cooling rack. Separate crackers and let cool completely.

Store in a tin.

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Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Coconut Cake with Apple Cider-Bourbon Glaze

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One of my favorite things about the autumn holidays is baking with pumpkin. Every year, I try at least one or two new pumpkin recipe. This one is an homage to the people in my life who have gluten issues.

I call this recipe gluten-free but be aware that the flour I chose to use is spelt. If you have a gluten sensitivity, you’re probably able to eat spelt. But if you have Celiac Disease, this isn’t the recipe for you.

Pumpkin is a strong flavor and usually trumps any other flavors that it’s combined with. I wanted to make the coconut in this cake as bold as I could, so I used coconut in several forms: coconut sugar, coconut flour, coconut milk, coconut rum, and shredded coconut. This cake is dense but moist with a nice little crunch from the shredded coconut. And best of all, those of you with gluten issues don’t have to miss out on the pumpkin goodness at the holidays.

Enjoy and have a safe, healthy, happy Thanksgiving.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Coconut Cake with Apple Cider-Bourbon Glaze

1 cup spelt flour
1 cup coconut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup coconut rum
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup coconut (palm) sugar
4 large eggs
1 15-oz can pumpkin puree
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans, almonds, or walnuts

Glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons bourbon
2 teaspoons apple cider

Grease and flour a 10-inch cake pan. Preheat the oven to 375.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the spelt and coconut flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt. Place shredded coconut in a small bowl and pour rum over it. Mix and let sit.

Cream together the butter and coconut sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each one. Beat in pumpkin puree, coconut milk, applesauce, and vanilla.

Gradually add flour mixture and mix until well blended. Fold in shredded coconut and nuts.

Pour into cake pan and bake 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out fairly clean (the knife will be slightly wet but you don’t want to see raw batter coming out). Place on a cooling rack and let cool completely in pan, then invert onto a plate. The cake will be fragile while it’s hot.

Make Apple Cider Glaze:

Place confectioner’s sugar in a medium bowl. Add 1 teaspoon each bourbon and cider, then a little more at a time until it reaches the right consistency. Pour over cake. Decorate as desired.

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Put de Lime in de Coconut

If you’re still looking for a cool, refreshing, but yummy drink to serve at your IMAG1802Memorial Day picnic or barbecue, look no further. I’ve got you covered right here.

I had this little bottle of coconut vodka that I wanted to use, and while I was out shopping the other day, I came across one of those coconut juice drinks with the little pieces of coconut in it. Hmm, I said to myself. I think this would be a great mixer for that coconut vodka.

And that’s what I did. I poured the vodka over a little ice and added the coconut drink. It was okay but it needed something. So I squeezed in some lime. That was it. Let me tell you, coconuts and limes are often paired together for a reason! They’re like Antony and Cleopatra, beans and rice, Abbott and Costello—they just belong together (well, at least the beans and rice and Abbott and Costello).

So, here’s my recipe for a Coconutty-Limey Drink. It serves one but can be batched, and it works well with coconut rum, too.IMAG1808

Coconutty-Limey Drink

2 oz. coconut vodka (or rum)
1 1/4 cups coconut juice drink with pulp
2 wedges from a medium lime

Place a couple of ice cubes in a glass. Pour in the vodka and coconut drink. Squeeze in the juice from one wedge of lime. Squeeze in the juice from the other wedge and add the wedge to the glass Serve.

 

 


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Gorgeously Green Pasta Salad

So, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and green is the official black for that holiday. The foodIMG_0445 world, too, suddenly turns green. We see  green bagels, green cake, and even green beer. But if all of that turns you green, here’s a recipe that keeps that particular tradition going but is a lot better for you and is gorgeously green naturally.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and may the Luck o’ the Irish be with you!

Gorgeously Green Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is open to many variations—you can add anything you want, as long as it’s green! It has several components to it, but if you’re willing to spend a little time on it, the result will truly be gorgeous, not to mention delicious. Aside from the broccoli florets, I split the string beans in half, used only the green part of the zucchini, and garnished it with zucchini curls.

1 medium head broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more
2 small zucchini, diced small
2 ½ cups cut string beans
2 cups peas (if frozen, thawed)
1 lb short pasta
½ lb arugula
¼ lb watercress
1 cup sliced scallions (white part only), divided
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium green bell pepper, diced small
½ cup chopped parsley

Garnish: zucchini, scallion greens, broccoli florets

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1. Cut the broccoli into florets. Set aside as many “pretty” florets (they should be similarly sized). Chop the remaining florets, stems, and pieces. Blanch and shock the florets. Cook the remaining broccoli until crisp-tender; drain well.

To blanch and shock: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Set a bowl of ice water on the counter. Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water and cook for a minute or 2, until broccoli is slightly tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

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2. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium skillet; add the onion and salt, and sweat (cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Do not brown.)

3. Zucchini: Saute in 2 teaspoons just until tender. Transfer to a bowl; let cool.

4. String beans: Bring pot of salted water to a boil; add string beans and cook just until tender. Transfer to the ice water and let cool. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside ½ cup.

5. Peas: If fresh, cook in boiling water until just tender. If frozen, boil briefly. Drain well.

6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well and let cool.

7. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a food processor or blender, combine the arugula, watercress, ½ cup string beans that were set aside, ½ cup scallions, garlic, salt and pepper. With the machine processing, slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil until a sauce forms.

8. When pasta has cooled but is still slightly warm, add the sauce and mix well. Add the green pepper, the chopped broccoli, onion, cooked zucchini, peas, remaining string beans, and remaining scallions. Mix well. Blend in parsley. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add whatever herbs or spices you like.

IMG_0436Makes 14 servings.

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New Year’s Dish for Luck: Black-Eyed Peas & Quinoa

This is my last post of 2013. It was a head-spinning year for me, and my calendar looks like one big ink blot from all the markings. I attended and participated in many culinary events, including “An Evening with Dorie Greenspan” and “An Evening with Mollie Katzen and Sara Moulton,” thanks to the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance (NYWCA). Rick Bayless Mollie Katzen-Sara Moulten IMAG0436I had the pleasure of cooking something out of their cookbooks for everyone to enjoy at the events.

I volunteered at the Food Network Food & Wine Festival, where I had the honor of working with Rick Bayless at  Bobby Flay’s “Tacos & Tequila” event. For Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, I was on a panel about media skills for chefs. I also attended FoodBlogSouth in Birmingham in January, went on a tour of Jacques Torres’ chocolate factory in Manhattan with Jacques himself, and attended many other fun events throughout the year.

Also this year, I took on the role of copyeditor for the NYWCA member newsletter, and I am involved with the NYWCA’s fundraising raffle taking place on February 3, “An Evening with Mollie O’Neill.” Proceeds of the raffle will go to GEMS (Girls Educational and Mentoring Service) for young women 12–24 who have experienced sexual exploitation and abuse; Spoons Across America; WISCAH—Chef Training Program; and FamilyCook Productions—Teen Battle Chef Program. Prizes include: $1,000 OXO Gift Certificate; Wine-Pairing Dinner & Hotel for Two ($600 value); Cuisinart Elite Collection Package ($600 value); and Dinner for 8 at Murray’s Cheese Bar ($500 value). If you’re interested in attending the event and/or purchasing raffle tickets, just contact me via the form below and I’ll hook you up.

Now, onto food.

Around the world, different people have their own traditions and rituals for ringing in the New Year. And food always plays a part.

For example, in Japan, it is customary to eat soba noodles during the New Year’s celebration to ensure a long life. In many Latin American countries, as well as Spain, 12 grapes are eaten—1 for each month—and it is hoped that the grapes are sweet as a harbinger of a sweet year ahead. In many countries, legumes are popular for New Year’s because they swell when cooked, symbolizing increased financial prosperity. Lentils, particularly, are used in Italy and Brazil.

In the United States, black-eyed peas are popular (the musical group and the legume) and Hoppin’ John is a staple New Year’s dish in the South. I made my own black-eyed peas dishred quinoa salad 2 incorporating the healthy grain quinoa. And to make it more festive, I used red quinoa. So, here’s the recipe for my New Year’s Red Quinoa and Black-Eyed Peas Salad. Enjoy.

Happy New Year, everyone! Have a fun, safe time, and may 2014 bring you joy and happiness.

New Year’s Red Quinoa and Black-Eyed Peas Salad

1 1/2 cups red or white quinoa, rinsed
2 3/4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups cooked black-eyed peas
1 1/2 cups chopped bell peppers, mixed colors
5 scallions, thinly sliced
1 Haas avocado, cut into small dice
1/4 finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp flavored mustard
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the quinoa in the vegetable stock until liquid has been absorbed and grains are tender. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool.

2. When quinoa has cooled, add remaining ingredients (except dressing).

3. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Mix well and adjust seasoning as desired. If it’s dry, add more oil a little at a time and mix well.


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Chestnut-Chocolate-Bourbon Brownies

chestnut chocolate bourbon brownies

If you’re still looking for something to bring to the family meal for the holidays, try this one. It’s Chestnut-Chocolate-Bourbon Brownies. What gives them a seasonal touch is the chestnut spread, which is flavored with vanilla and sugar, so additional sugar is unnecessary.IMG_1840

These are the perfect party treat. Chestnut is a classic holiday ingredient, and who doesn’t love brownies? As for the bourbon…well, let’s just say it makes the holidays go down easier.

You can find the chestnut spread at gourmet shops (I found mine at Dean & Deluca in Manhattan).

For those of you who celebrate, I hope that you have a wonderful, joyous Christmas, or a bountiful, happy Kwanzaa.

Chestnut-Chocolate-Bourbon Brownies

Makes 16 servings

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate or 1 cup bittersweet chips
1 can chestnut spread
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan and line it with parchment.

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Melt chocolate in a double boiler or an aluminum bowl set over a pot of simmering water.

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In a medium bowl, combine the chestnut spread and butter. Stir to break up butter. Stir in egg, then bourbon and melted chocolate. Add flour and baking powder and stir just until blended.

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Transfer batter to baking pan. Bake 45 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out fairly clean. If top get dark before cake is done, cover with aluminum foil.

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Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then lift cake out of pan using parchment and place on rack. Let cool completely. Cut into 2-inch squares.

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