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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Broccoli Rabe and Cheese-Stuffed Bread

IMG_4110What happens when you have the urge to bake bread and have some broccoli rabe in the refrigerator? You make broccoli rabe bread, of course. Or, more specifically, broccoli rabe and cheese-stuffed bread.

Stuffed bread is an age-old delicacy and Italian cuisine is known for many kinds. In this one, the pleasant bitterness of the broccoli rabe is tamed by the rustic bread. The addition of cheese lends a salty sharpness to it. You can use whatever cheese you want. I used a blend of Fontina and Jarlsberg. If you like, you can add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese as well.

I just bought a big ol’ package of yeast, so I think I’m going to be on a bread-baking kick for a while. We’ll see. In the meantime, try this one out for breakfast, lunch, or a snack. By the way, it goes great with wine.

Broccoli Rabe and Cheese-Stuffed Bread

Bread:

2 teaspoons dry active yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
2 ½-3cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ cup milk
2 teaspoon olive oil

Broccoli Rabe-Cheese Filling:

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
½ cup chopped mushrooms
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 large head broccoli rabe, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup shredded cheese
1 egg, well beaten (optional)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds (optional)

Combine the yeast with sugar and ¼ cup very warm water. Stir until dissolved and let sit for 5 minutes until it bubbles and foams.

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Combine 2½ cups flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attached. Add the yeast and butter and begin mixing on medium speed. Begin adding milk a little at a time, then increase speed until dough comes together. Continue mixing for a couple of minutes.

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Transfer dough to a lightly floured board and knead for 2 or 3 minutes. Place oil in bottom of mixer bowl; place dough in oil then turn it over so that all of dough is coated. Cover with a clean towel and place in a warm, draft-free place and let rise for 1 hour.

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Meanwhile, make filling. Heat oil in a wide pan. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add mushrooms and ½ teaspoon salt and sauté until they start to brown, about 10 minutes. Add broccoli rabe, red pepper flakes, and remaining salt; cover and let cook until tender, about 5 minutes. If pan dries out, add a little water, white wine, or broth.

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When dough has risen for an hour, place on lightly floured board again. Roll out into a rectangle about 8 x 15 inches. (It doesn’t have to be perfect, as my picture can attest.) Place the broccoli rabe along the center of the dough, then spread on the cheese. Roll up dough and pinch the seam together. Tuck in the ends and pinch together. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with the cloth and let rise again for another hour.

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prick the dough with a fork in several places. If you want to add sesame seeds, brush the top with egg and sprinkle on the sesame seeds.

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Bake for about an hour, or until golden brown and bottom sounds hollow when thumped.

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Move to a cooling rack and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting into it.

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Enjoy!


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Black Bean Flour Bread with Herbs

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Over the past few years, I’ve experimented with quite a few gluten-free flours and I thought I’d seen, or at least heard about, most of them. Then, recently, I found a new one: black bean flour (or powder). The reason I hadn’t seen it before? It was in the coffee and tea aisle in an Asian market.IMG_4031

See, the coffee and tea aisle in an Asian market is not like the coffee and tea aisle in other markets. In an Asian market, next to the Folger’s and Maxwell House and Lipton and Celestial Seasonings, you’ll find an enormous assortment of beverage mixes to which you would add hot water. The teas, of course, include herbal “health” teas, but next to the coffees, you’ll find beverages made of grains, roots, and beans. These are all drunk in various Asian countries for various health purposes. In the case of bean flours, they provide protein.

Black bean flour lends a dark color to whatever you add it to, so it’s generally added to breads, chocolate cakes, or dark vegetable dishes, such as black bean quesadillas. I decided to try my hand at bread. It turned out very well, and I’m going to try incorporating it into a gluten-free loaf next time.IMG_4032

Black bean flour has an unusual flavor and takes a bit to get used to. But after I processed the first bite, I found the taste to be pleasant. I think it makes a great snacking bread with butter or jam to accompany coffee or tea. But I think it would also make a good hearty sandwich bread—any kind that you would make with a pumpernickel or dark European-style loaf.

If you want to give it a try, look for black bean flour in an Asian IMG_4033market or Whole Foods. If you can’t find it, Bob’s Red Mill has it (they seem to only have one size, though—6.5 lbs.). Oh, and be careful–I found one of those preservative packets in mine (oddly named “oxygen absorber”).

Black Bean Flour Bread with Herbs

1 tablespoon dry active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup black bean flour
1 cup whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
¼ cup chopped parsley
¼ chipped dill

In a small bowl, stir yeast and sugar in ¼ very warm water until dissolved. Let sit 5 minutes until foamy.

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Whisk together the flours and salt.

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(If you have a mixer with a dough hook, you can use that. You can also use a food processor. Otherwise, mix the flours and salt together in a large bowl.)

Pour in the yeast along with another cup of very warm water. Mix until all ingredients are well blended. Unlike most yeast breads, you don’t have to knead this. This will be a moist, somewhat sticky dough. Add a little more warm water if it seems dry.

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Coat the bottom of a large bowl with the oil; place dough in bowl and turn it over until completely coated with oil. Cover with a towel and set in a warm, draft-free place and let rise for 2 hours.

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Lightly dust a board with flour and turn the dough out. Flatten it a little. Add the chopped parsley and dill and begin folding it in. When herbs are well incorporated, stop working the dough.

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Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover again with the towel and let rise another hour. (You can divide the dough into 2 loaves, or make 1 big loaf.)

Preheat oven to 400 degree F. Bake bread until it sounds dense when you thump it, about 40 minutes for smaller loaves, 45-60 minutes for a larger loaf.

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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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Pan-Fried Indian Eggplant

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Simple ingredients call for simple preparations. I could have turned  this beautiful Indian eggplant I found into so many wonderful dishes: ratatouille, vegetable chili, eggplant lasagna, pasta with roasted eggplant, etc., etc.

Instead, I wanted to keep this pretty vegetable pretty by just pan frying it. It’s the easiest thing in the world. Have this on the side with a protein or other vegetables, over rice, tossed with pasta, or (like I did) on homemade pizza.

Pan-Fried Indian Eggplant

1 1/2 lbs. Indian (or baby or Japanese) eggplant
1/4 cup oil (olive, sunflower, grapeseed)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

IMG_3984Slice the eggplant into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Heat half the oil in a frying pan. Add some of the eggplant (don’t crowd the pan). Cook, turning them over once, until browned on both sides. Transfer to paper towels.

Repeat with remaining eggplant, adding more oil to the pan as needed (eggplant soaks up oil quickly). Sprinkle the salt over the eggplant. Enjoy!

 

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Celeriac Bisque with Mustard Greens and Chick Peas

 

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This week’s catch at the farmer’s market was a nice big knob of celeriac and red mustard greens.IMAG2330

I’ve had celeriac (also known as celery root and knob celery) before, and I’ve really enjoyed it. It has a great celery flavor to it, but a little sweeter and more intense. It also has parsley notes, and that’s because it’s part of the parsley family, and not the root of the celery plant.  Like other root vegetables, it has a long shelf life (6 to 8 months in a cool place).

Celeriac is not a beauty queen, and many Americans have no clue what it is or what to do with it, but it’s a flavorful addition to anything. You can cut them up and roast them. You can add them to chilis and stews. Or you can do what many chefs do with them, and what I’ve done for the recipe below: make a bisque. It’s wonderfully creamy when pureed and combined with either apples or pears, it has a rich, complex flavor.

They’re good for you, too. Celeriac contains antioxidants, and is very a good source of vitamin K, phosphorus, iron, calcium, copper (good for the immune system, prevents anemia, and required for bone metabolism), and manganese. And it contains some B-complex vitamins, such as pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin, and some vitamin C.IMAG2335

The red mustard greens are new to me, though. They are Chinese in origin, but are also cultivated in Japan. They’re lovely to look at and just as nutritious as other mustard greens, all part of the Brassica family, along with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, etc.

Celeriac is not found everywhere simply because they are an unfamiliar item for many people. But most larger stores, like supermarkets, carry a few, as do gourmet stores, and, of course, farmer’s markets. Enjoy!

Celeriac Bisque with Mustard Greens and Chick Peas

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 lb. celeriac (celery root), peeled and diced
3 small celery ribs, coarsely chopped
2 medium apples or Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
¼ teaspoon sea salt
4 cups vegetable broth
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley
Freshly ground pepper to taste
8 oz. mustard greens (or other greens), washed and chopped
2 cups cooked chick peas
Garnish: chopped fresh parsley (optional)

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Heat oil in a medium-large sauce pan. Saute onion and garlic until translucent. Add celeriac, celery, apples or pears, and salt and saute another 5 minutes.

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Pour in broth and bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer until vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork.

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Transfer to a blender; add parsley and puree (the soup is hot so be careful to hold the lip of the blender with a hand towel.

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Pour back into pot. (Alternatively, you can add parsley to pot and use a stick blender).

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Add fresh pepper, mustard greens, and chick peas. Cook another 5 minutes. Check for seasoning and serve. Sprinkle parsley on top for garnish.IMAG2342

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Makes 4 servings.

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