Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


Baby Beets with Balsamic Reduction

IMG_5544Once again, I was lured by the Siren’s song of the farmers’ market. I picked up some lettuce, some carrots, some cipolline onions. But what caught my eye this week was the box of baby beets. Gigantic red globes can be found anywhere, but baby beets are not quite as easily found. At least not for me. So I pounced on them.IMG_5528

When I was doing my internship at the James Beard House, I worked with different chefs each week. One week, I worked with the crew from Blackberry Farm in North Carolina. They did a plate of roasted baby beets that were like sparkling jewels. And the memory of those little gems is what inspired me to make this recipe.

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Cauliflower Steak with Sun-Dried Tomato-Olive Sauce

IMG_5504Cauliflower steak is a mainstay of many vegetarian and vegan restaurants. I think it’s because once you’ve worked your way through a big slab of cauliflower, you find yourself full and satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming that a cauliflower steak gives the same feeling of satisfaction that of a regular steak or that it’s a comparable substitute in any way, but for vegetarians, it’s a hearty and delicious option.

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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whet-Your-Whistle Bar

IMG_5525Yeah, that would be MY bar. It’s a cart in the corner of my dining room loaded up with various alcoholic delights. Don’t judge me.IMG_5509

Anyway, we hit a little cool snap here last week on the East Coast and suddenly people with gardens found themselves having to make some quick decisions about their remaining vegetables. My parents still had a garden full of tomatoes that had to be taken in.

There’s no better opportunity to make fried green tomatoes.

Although fried green tomatoes are associated with the American South, according to an article on Smithsonian.com and this article from Bon Appetit, they’re actually from the North and Midwest, possibly of Ashkenazi Jewish origins. But the use of cornmeal is probably a Southern contribution to the dish, and I think that the flavor and texture of the cornmeal are what makes the tomatoes so tasty and unique.

Fried green tomatoes are really easy to make and can be flavored with whatever spices you like.


Fried Green Tomatoes

1½ pounds green tomatoes
1 medium egg
2 teaspoons milk (any kind)
¾ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt

freshly ground pepper to taste
Coconut oil

Line a large plate with paper towels and place it by the stove.

Slice the tomatoes into ½-inch-thick slices.IMG_5512Beat the egg with the milk in a medium bowl. Combine the cornmeal, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper on platter. Place a few of the tomato slices in the egg and coat both sides. Then put them in the cornmeal and coat both sides.IMG_5517Heat about ½ inch oil. Gently shake off excess cornmeal from the tomato slices and place them in the oil. Fry, flipping them over once, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 or 4 minutes per side. Transfer to the paper towels.

Repeat with the remaining tomatoes. Replenish the oil in the pan as needed.

Serve with a creamy dressing, sour cream, or salsa.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.



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Parsnip-Butternut Soup

IMG_5468My parents’ garden comes up with great stuff every year. This season, they got butternut squash, and I took a cute little one for myself. The farmers’ market had great-looking parsnips, so I decided to make parsnip-butternut soup.

Because it’s October and I don’t have any fresh herbs left my garden, I turned to my dried herbs. You can use whatever dried herbs you have on hand or particularly like for soup. I used thyme and savory.

Also growing in my parents’ garden is celery. But it’s a kind of wild celery—in fact, it’s probably lovage, a relative of celery that has big leaves and small, thin stalks. I put some of these leaves into the soup and pureed everything together. It unexpectedly turned my soup green, so it kind of looks like split-pea soup. If I hadn’t done that, I would have ended up with something that looks more like typical butternut squash soup.

Regardless, it’s delicious. The parsnips give the soup an earthy tone, while the squash sweetens it up. It was just what I needed on a brisk autumn day. You can have it with croutons or chopped walnuts or little cooked cubes of butternut.

Give it a try. Enjoy!IMG_5452

Parsnip-Butternut Soup

Makes 4 servings.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried spices (see instructions)
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 cups cut-up parsnip (from 1 large parsnip)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups cut-up butternut squash (from 1 small squash)
Fresh herbs, if available
Black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and salt and cook until translucent.IMG_5454Add the garlic, bay leaf, dried spices (I used 1/2 teaspoon each thyme and savory), and garlic salt. Stir and continue cooking another 2 minutes.IMG_5455Add parsnips and saute, stirring often, until parsnips starts browning.IMG_5456IMG_5457Add broth. Bring to a boil.IMG_5458Add squash and any fresh herbs you want. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife. Add black pepper.IMG_5460IMG_5461Transfer to a blender and puree. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.IMG_5463IMG_5464Serve hot.IMG_5467


Beet Green Rolls Stuffed with Millet and Eggplant

IMG_5427This recipe is another example of just how good leftovers can be. You can transform the things you have in your refrigerator and pantry, the little bits and pieces that remained behind, into something new and interesting.

I had purchased beets from the farmers’ market and wanted to do something different with the leaves than the usual saute with olive oil and garlic. As much as I like that particular dish, I think I’ve O.D.d on it. So I started thinking about other ways of using them.IMG_5398

I also happened to have leftover roasted eggplant slices and some millet in the pantry. After some thought I came up with this recipe: beet green rolls stuffed with millet and eggplant. Millet is the perfect grain for stuffing because it’s sticky and you won’t have little individual grains skittering across your plate. It will hold everything together. It’s also gluten free, so those of you with (or who have loved ones with) Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, this is a great recipe for you. Further, beet greens are loaded with iron, vitamin C, beta carotene, and antioxidants.

Since I will assume that you don’t just happen to have roasted eggplant slices already in the fridge, or perhaps not even millet in your pantry (even if you do, I doubt you’d have both at the same time), I’ve written this recipe so that you can start from scratch. Btu it’s a very easy recipe—you can even make the eggplant a few days in advance so that you can just jump right into this recipe.

This is the perfect autumn/winter dish—hearty, delicious, and great to bring to gatherings. You can serve it as an appetizer, a main course, or side dish. Enjoy!

Beet Green Rolls Stuffed with Millet and Eggplant

½ cup olive oil, plus extra
1 medium Italian eggplant
¾ cup millet
Greens from 1 bunch beets
1 tablespoon grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. If you’re using foil, grease it with some of the olive oil.

Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch-thick slices lengthwise and lay them on the baking sheet (use more than one baking sheet if you have to). Set aside 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and use the rest to brush both sides of the eggplant slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, turning over once, until browned on both sides, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Chop up the eggplant finely and measure out 2 cups. Reserve the rest for another recipe.IMG_5411Meanwhile, place the millet in a small saucepan with 1½ cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 10 minutes.IMG_5399If the water hasn’t been all absorbed, drain the millet in a mesh strainer. If it needs to cook some more, you can add a little more water and continue simmering.IMG_5402Transfer the millet to a bowl. Add the eggplant, parmesan, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper; mix well.IMG_5412IMG_5413Place the beet greens in a large bowl of water and wash the greens in several changes of water.

IMG_5400Pick out the largest, nicest leaves (you’ll need about 14) and place them on a kitchen towel to dry.IMG_5408Cut off the stems of the leaves. You may need to cut out a little bit of the ribs a the bottom if you find the leaves difficult to roll. IMG_5415Place 1/4 cup of the filling—less, if the leaf is smaller–at the base of a leaf and roll the leaf up. (It’s okay if the leaf tears a bit or the rib pokes through—you’re not making rolls that people will eat with their hand. These are fork rolls!)

IMG_5414Place it on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining leaves. Pack the rolls close together. Gently brush olive oil over them.IMG_5419Cover tightly with foil. Bake 15 minutes. Transfer them to a serving platter, sprinkle more parmesan over the top, then drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil.IMG_5423Serve hot or at room temperature.

Makes about 14 rolls.IMG_5430




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Spanish Spinach & Chickpeas

IMG_5396I was in Seattle this past week and as it usually is when I return from a trip, I found myself with an empty fridge. Well, what I consider empty, anyway. So, I went to the produce market to see what vegetables looked good. I was surprised to be irresistibly drawn to some spinach.

I say surprised because, although I like spinach, I don’t exactly go wild for it. But this particular store had bunches of spinach on sale for $1. And they were nice-looking bunches, too. Not wilted or dried, but fresh and green. So, I bought a couple of bunches.

After giving a little thought to what I might want to do with it, I quickly decided that I wanted to make a Spanish tapa staple: Espinaca con Garbanzos. Or Spinach with Chickpeas.

What makes this dish delectable is the bread crumbs, which turns the flavorful, garlicky spinach liquid into a thick, scoopable sauce. If you are gluten intolerant, you can use gluten-free bread crumbs. You can change the flavor profile very easily by adding any kind of spices you like. And best of all, this is a low-cal, low-fat, high-nutrient dish that is savory and comforting all at once.
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Guava Quesadillas

IMG_5341Oh, my peeps, do I have a great recipe for you this week. I saw these beautiful Mexican guavas at the store and picked up a carton. I’m a big fan of guava and knew that I could do quite a few things with them.

First, I decided to make a puree and I would go from there. When I cut themIMG_5328 open, I was surprised to find that they were white guavas rather than the pink ones that we most often think of. They’re delicious, just not as pretty. But that’s okay.

I also happened to have some queso fresco on hand, which I’d purchased for another recipe. Queso fresco—literally, “fresh cheese”—is like a feta cheese in flavor and texture, but it’s much milder, and it’s used frequently in Latin American cuisines. You can find it in Latin American markets, or supermarkets that have a decent cheese selection. If you can’t find it, any crumbly feta-like cheese will do.

Oh, and I also had blue corn tortillas. My decision was easy. I would make guava quesadillas. They require so few ingredients, yet guava quesadillas are so flavor-packed and really fun to eat. The sweetness of the guava is offset by the saltiness of the cheese, so you can actually have them as part of a meal, a snack, or dessert. And you can add whatever toppings you like: salsa, guacamole, hot sauce. It all works.IMG_5330 Continue reading


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