Miz Chef

Food Is Sexy—Therefore, I Cook


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Sorghum Pilaf

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Sorghum is technically a grass (but for culinary purposes is classified as a grain) that is native to Africa, and was introduced to to the U.S. in the 1800s. It’s always been an important food crop around the world, but in the U.S., it’s been used primarily as animal feed. The exception to this is in the U.S. South, where sorghum molasses is a traditional sweetener, used much in the same way as honey or maple syrup. However, with the rising interest in gluten-free and ancient grains, sorghum is becoming more and more popular as human food in the U.S.IMG_4625

The great thing about sorghum, apart from the fact that it’s gluten free, is that it doesn’t have an outer shell that has to be removed to make it edible. That means that it’s a whole food, and that means that it’s healthy and just plain awesome.
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Colcannon—An Irish Mash

Irish cuisine is traditionally hearty and to the point. Years of impoverishment and famine led to honest cooking that holds the utmost respect for the food being used. In other words, food was not taken for granted. And it made use of foods that were available—the crops that would easily grow in the Irish terrain and the livestock that were raised in the countryside.potatoes

The food probably most associated with Ireland is the potato. Potatoes were introduced in the 16th century and because they grew abundantly and cheaply, they became the most important crop in feeding the masses, which is why when a blight destroyed potato crops in the mid-1800s, famine decimated the population.

Another important item in Irish cuisine is cabbage. It, too, grows abundantly and cheaply and, like potatoes, lasts a long time in storage. Sometimes kale is used, or other members of the cabbage family.AU_MAR~1

Colcannon became known in the 18th century, but some food historians believe that it existed before then. It combines these two staple ingredients in the simplest, most basic of ways: boiled and combined into a mash. Okay, there’s a bit more to it than that, but not much. The potatoes and cabbage are flavored by sautéed leeks and enriched with butter.

For a little more in-depth history of Irish cuisine, and specifically colcannon, check out FoodTimeline.org or DoChara.com.

So, make this traditional Irish dish for St. Patrick’s Day and may the luck o’ the Irish be with you.

Erin go bragh.

(This recipe will be appearing in one of my upcoming cookbooks, so please do not reprint it in any format without express written permission.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t print it out–you definitely should! Thanks!)
Colcannon

Colcannon
Mashed Potatoes and Cabbage

4 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 tbsp + 1 tsp salt
2 large potatoes, quartered
2 tbsp butter
1 cup milk
Pepper to taste
1 tbsp canola oil
2 large leeks, washed and sliced
2 tbsp minced parsley for garnish (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add the cabbage and 1 tsp salt. Lower the heat to medium-low and boil until tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Drain well.

At the same time, place the potatoes in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring it to a boil; lower the heat to medium-low, partially cover, and boil until tender when pierced with a knife, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, peel, place in a bowl, and coarsely mash. Add the milk, butter, ½ tablespoon of the salt, and pepper and mix well.

Heat the oil in a wide pan. Add the leeks and sauté until soft and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add the cooked cabbage and remaining salt and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring often, until cabbage starts to brown. Add to the mashed potatoes and mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary. Transfer the colcannon to a platter. Garnish with parsley and serve hot.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


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Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Bisque

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I had no plans for cauliflower over the course of my very busy weekend, but when I saw big, beautiful heads of cauliflower in the store the other day, I couldn’t resist buying one.

It’s cold, snowy, wintry weather, and days like this just scream soup, and what I wanted was a creamy bisque. But before I get to my recipe, let’s talk a bit about this wonderful cruciferous vegetable.

Cauliflower is part of the Brassicaceae family and is related to cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choi, collard greens, and some other leafy green vegetables. In my cookbook, Vegetarian Italian: Traditions, Volume 1, I talk a little bit about the history of cauliflower and its health benefits:
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Gluten-Free Lemon-Poppy Berry-Topped Cake

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On this deep-in-winter February day, I’d like to offer a recipe for a gluten-free cake that is really easy to make and very versatile. The batter doesn’t rise much, which makes it a great vehicle for all kinds of toppings.

I like it because it’s not overly sweet and it can be paired with lots of different things. Instead of berries, you can top it with lemon curd or orange marmalade, or buttercream frosting. You can put the batter into 4 small loaf pans for individual desserts. You can also substitute the lemon zest and juice with orange or other citrus. And with the exception of 1 egg, it’s also dairy free, so for those of you who are lactose intolerant, it’s a great choice.

Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Lemon-Poppy Berry-Topped Cake

Makes 1 8-inch cake.¼ cup sorghum flour

¼ cup chickpea flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 large egg
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons maple crystals or coconut sugar
¼ cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 cups fresh berries
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch cake springform pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zest, and poppy seed.

In another medium bowl, whisk egg, sugar, yogurt, oil, and lemon juice. Fold in dry ingredients, just until all ingredients are moistened.

Bake about 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Remove ring. Invert onto a plate, remove pan plate, then invert again back onto rack. Let cool completely.

Transfer to a plate. Decorate with berries and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. (The best way to do this is to put sugar in a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. Then shake the sieve gently over the cake.)

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The Dark Mistress of Valentine’s Day…and Pudding Hearts

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It’s kind of fascinating how you can point to any holiday on the calendar at any time of the year and, invariably, there will be food associated with that holiday. And if it’s not about the things you should eat, then it’s the things you should not eat. Or, it’s that you should not eat at all (as in fasting).

Personally, I think holidays are just excuses for eating lots of delicious things that we normally stay away from, or otherwise berate ourselves for indulging in when there’s no holiday to make it permissible.

Photo: André Karwath

Photo: André Karwath

St. Valentine’s Day is no exception. The number one food for V-Day, of course, is chocolate. What would this lovers’ holiday be without the sweet, dark mistress of passion? And a mistress she is—when she calls you, you come running, even if you have to jump hurdles to get to her. She seduces you with her aroma and her flavor, and when you get a taste of her, you savor her, letting her linger on your palate. And once she whips you into submission, she makes you beg for more. There’s a reason why the Aztecs called it the food of the gods.Choco Story Museum in Bruges Belgium (9)

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Cooking with Cambrays

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Cambray onions, also known as spring onions, are related to scallions. In fact, they look like a cross between scallions and Texas onions—long green stems with big round bulbs.

I’d seen them before but had never purchased them, so when I saw them this past week, I grabbed a few. I learned that they are a popular onion in Latin cuisine (in which they are referred to as cebollitas de Cambray or cebolla Cambray), and almost always appear on mixed grill platters.

They can be used in many types of preparations, from salads to onion tarts to tacos. Being that this was the first time I was eating them (to my knowledge, anyway), I did what I often do with a new-to-me vegetables—I roasted them. I like to do this because it allows me to sample the new vegetable in its basic form with no added ingredients, besides olive oil, salt, and pepper. Plus, once you’ve grilled a vegetable, you can then add it into many other dishes.

So, I roasted the Cambrays until they were caramelized and tasted one by itself. It was sweet and creamy and I could imagine throwing them, cut up, into a dish of pasta or adding them to a stew or chili. I put a few pieces on some flat bread, drizzled some extra virgin olive oil over it, sprinkled a little more salt and pepper, and finished it with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Very simple and very good.

IMG_4430Roasted Cambray Onions

Several Cambray onions
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Trim onions by slicing off roots and removing outer layers that look brown or funky.

Lay onions on a baking sheet. Drizzle oil over onions and rub them to coat with oil. Sprinkle on salt and pepper.IMG_4423Roast about 15 minutes; turn them over and roast another 10 minutes, or until both sides are golden brown.IMG_4427


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Avocado Pineapple Cake

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This weekend was my mother’s birthday. She just turned 81. She’s very spry for her age and still sharp in mind, and I’m thankful every day for that.

She’s also set in her ways. She likes what she likes, and doesn’t like what she doesn’t. She’s never liked going out to restaurants much, since, in her opinion, restaurant food lacks in many departments. The one and only time she was ever really excited to go to a restaurant was when my brother and I took my parents to Felidia, Lidia Bastianich’s place in Manhattan. She’s a huge fan of Lidia and just being in her world was a thrill for Mom. (One of my regrets is not getting a picture with Lidia when I met her at the James Beard House when I was interning there. She treasures the picture of me with Jacques Pepin and I think one of me with Lidia would have made her swoon.)

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