Miz Chef

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Black Rice Risotto


IMG_3250 A while back, I was in Eataly in Soho and picked up a box of Italian black rice. I was a bit surprised to see it on the shelf because the only black rice I’d ever seen—as far as Italian cuisine is concerned—was risotto that had been cooked with squid ink. I was too intrigued not to buy it.IMG_3249

Black rice was first cultivated in China, but is currently cultivated in other parts of Asia and Southeast Asia, as well as in Italy near the Po River (hence its appearance in Eataly). Black rice is often called “forbidden rice” because, according to legend, it was so rare, nutritious, and precious, only the Chinese Emperor was allowed to eat it.

Black rice is a whole grain that contains anthocyanins,  antioxidants found in purple, blue, and red produce, such as blueberries, cranberries, grapes, red cabbage, blackberries, acai, and others. This anti-cancer agent has also been linked to decreased risk of heart disease, increased memory function, and lower blood pressure. It also helps with urinary tract infections and has antibacterial and antiviral properties.

There are different types of black rice, some short-grained, some medium-grained. Black sticky Thai rice (sometimes called sweet sticky Thai rice) is short-grained and glutinous, which is what makes it sticky (akin to Arborio rice, used to make risotto). The one I picked up is medium-grained and although short-grain rice is usually used for risotto, I wanted to try and make a black rice risotto this medium-grain variety.

Black rice, also known as japonica rice, is firm and chewy and takes a bit longer to cook than regular rice. So my dish ended up being sort of a cross between risotto and paella. I began by adding broth a half-cup at a time, as if making risotto, to coax out the starch; then I dumped all of the remaining broth in, as when making paella, to get it cooked through.

I started out browning mushrooms in a cast iron skillet and decided to just keep using it to make my risotto rather than switch to a more traditional pot. A cast iron skillet is a great cooking vessel, but I soon realized it’s not so great for photography purposes. Not when cooking black rice, anyway. You can choose to sauté the mushrooms in a skillet and start the risotto in a sauce pot, if you prefer.

The end result was not quite as creamy as a risotto should be but was quite tasty. One thing you should know is anything you cook with black rice will turn black. The only way to have that not happen is to cook the rice separately, as you would any other rice, then mix in other ingredients. This is also why it doesn’t matter whether you use red or white wine, except where personal taste is concerned.

As for the herbs, I used what I had in my garden, which was basil, savory, and sage. Feel free to use any herbs you like, or none at all.

By the way, if you ever see “black pasta” on a menu, that still means that it was made with squid ink.

Black rice is usually available in Asian markets, but make note of what the package says: If it says “sweet” or “glutinous” then it’s short-grain, which is fine, but it’s not japonica. I hope you can get some and that you try out this recipe. Enjoy!


Black Rice Risotto with Peas and Mushrooms

12 oz. white mushrooms
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2½ cups vegetable broth
½ cup chopped red onion
¼ cup chopped red pepper
5 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup black rice
½ cup red or white wine
1 cup frozen peas
Freshly ground black pepper
Herbs of your choice

Choose a few nice mushrooms, slice thinly, and set aside. Coarsely chop the rest.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a wide cast iron pan. Add mushrooms and a teaspoon kosher salt. Sauté over medium heat until mushrooms are nicely browned on both sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add reserved sliced mushrooms and gently sauté until browned on both sides. Transfer to a small bowl.


Bring the broth to a boil in a small pot; lower the heat very low and keep it simmering.

Add another tablespoon oil to the pan and heat. Add onion; sauté over medium heat a couple of minutes until softened. Add red pepper and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and 1 teaspoon salt and sauté another 2 minutes.


Add rice and stir until all grains are coated with oil. Let rice toast for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring often.


Stir 1/2 cup of broth and let it be absorbed; repeat with another ½ cup. Stir in the wine and let it be absorbed. Pour in the remaining broth; cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Mix in the chopped mushrooms and peas and continue cooking until all liquid is absorbed. If the rice is still not fully tender, add a little more broth or water. The rice should be firm and chewy. Season with salt and pepper and stir in herbs, if using.


Transfer to a serving bowl and place browned sliced mushrooms on top.

Makes 4 small servings or 2 main dish servings.





Red & Golden Beet Carpaccio


I went to the Greenmarket this past week and found golden beets, which is not something I encounter often. So I bought a bunch and finally got around to roastingfarmer's market 8-14 them. I love beets and so happened to also have some red beets left over as well.

I wondered what I should do with all these beets. Well, as it turns out, today was a pretty hot day and I just didn’t have the energy or desire to do too much food prep.

So I pulled out my mandoline and just sliced these little jewels up. My mandoline is old and cheap and it sucks, so I didn’t really get nice clean edges. But it didn’t matter. Some extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and thinly sliced red onions (which I also got at the IMG_3207Greenmarket), and I had a simple, flavorful, and attractive light summer dish. The herbs from my garden and a few olives topped it off.

Do not discard the leafy greens. Those are amazing sauteed in olive oil and garlic. Trim off the tough stems. Fill a big bowl with cold water and soak the leaves for about 15 minutes (swish them around a couple of times). Lift the leaves out of the bowl and place them in another bowl. Repeat this a couple of times until you feel the leaves are clean. Saute garlic in olive oil, sprinkle in some paprika, then add the greens and some salt. Cover and cook over medium heat until wilted, about 10 minutes. This is both delicious and nutritious—they contain antioxidants, vitamins B6 and A, calcium, and they help fight osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s Disease. The beets themselves have vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, folate, and manganese. They help prevent prevent anemia, build muscle and maintain nerve function, build bone strength, regulate blood sugar levels, and promote a healthy immune system. And its betaine, an amino acid, helps fight against colon and stomach cancers.

Red & Golden Beet Carpaccio

2 large red beets
2 large golden beets
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash and trip beets (snip off long roots and cut off stems). Wrap beets up tightly in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast until tender when pierce with the tip of a knife, about 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and unwrap. When cool enough to handle, peel off skin with the help of a paring knife.

Using a mandoline or sharp knife, slice beets as thinly as possible. Arrange on a plate, along with the red onion. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Season with salt and pepper.

Add olives, herbs, or any other seasonings you’d like.

Serves 2.











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Beet-Kale-Garbanzo Salad

Beet-Kale-Garbanzo Salad

Chickpea (garbanzo) and beet salad is not a new thing. In fact, a recipe for it is in my cookbook, Vegetarian Italian: Traditions, Volume 1. But, see, I had this kale that I needed to use, and I had just roasted up these fresh beets that I’d purchased at the Greenmarket.

So, this particular chickpea and beet salad is a mutated version of my old recipe, encompassing the little “extras” in my fridge. It’s really simple and can easily be seasoned to suit anyone’s taste.

Beet-Kale-Garbanzo Salad

2 medium beets
1 cup kale leaves, washed and chopped
½ cup cooked garbanzos
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup cured olives (any kind)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast until tender when pierced with a knife, about 45 minutes. (The time will vary, depending on the size and freshness of the beets. You will have to unwrap the foil to check it.)

Remove from oven, unwrap the foil, and let cool. When cook enough to handle, peel the beets with a paring knife (the skin will pull right off). You may want to wear gloves to keep your fingers from turning red. Chop and place in a medium bowl.

Add kale, garbanzos, oil, and balsamic and mix. Season with salt and pepper to your liking and mix again. Gently mix in the olives.

Serves 2.


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Purple Haricot Vert Salad



A couple of friends of mine receive CSA boxes. For those of you who don’t know what a CSA box is, it stands for “community-supported agriculture.” You have to join a CSA program and every week, you go and pick up your box, in which there will be a collection of produce based on that week’s crops. It’s basically a “what’s ready” box. You’re getting farm-fresh local and seasonal produce and you are supporting your local farmers.

As much as I believe in local and organic produce and sustainable farming, CSA boxes are not practical for me because when I do have time to cook, I have to focus on recipes that I must make. If you’re a food writer like me, you know exactly what I’m talking about: There are specific recipes that need to be tested, dishes to be photographed, events to cook for… We cook with an agenda, and cooking just for pleasure is a luxury.IMG_3180

At any rate, these friends were going away for a week and would not be able to use all the produce in their CSA box. They offered me a few items, including some beautiful purple haricot vert.

It was my brother’s birthday this past week and my mother wanted to cook him a special lunch with the whole family, and I thought it would be a nice to bring a fresh green bean salad, using the purple haricot vert. This salad is simple and fresh and you can appreciate the grassy notes of the beans. Note that purple beans will, sadly, turn green once cooked. It’s such a shame that they can’t retain their dazzling color. The vinegar will at least keep it a vibrant green.IMG_3183

Haricot Vert Salad

1 lb. purple haricot vert (or other fresh green beans)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ small white onion, thinly sliced
½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil; add the beans and vinegar. Return to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until tender but still firm. Drain and run under cold water. Drain well and place in a serving bowl.

Add remaining ingredients and gently stir. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.

Makes 6 servings.


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Creamless Broccoli-Gouda Soup

Broccoli-Gouda Soup

Broccoli-Gouda Soup

This is one of those recipes that came from wanting to satisfy a craving with what was already at hand. I had purchased a head of broccoli because I wanted some in a veggie quesadilla. But there’s only so much broccoli you can put in a quesadilla.

I looked at the leftover broccoli and cheddar cheese (also purchased for the quesadilla) and I instantly thought “broccoli-cheddar soup.” Then I remembered that I had a piece of Gouda cheese that needed to be used and I thought, “Okay, broccoli-Gouda soup.”

Traditionally, broccoli-cheese soup uses milk or half-and-half, but I didn’t want to use any dairy (apart from the cheese). So I thought to use a technique I learned in culinary school for thickening cream soups: oats. It thickens it up without adding the extra fat and calories and keeps the soup light and filling without being overly rich.

I just threw all these ingredients together and I was immensely pleased with the result. This soup is hearty and filling, but less heavy than cream-based soups as well as healthier. The flavor is deep and pleasing, and it looks really appetizing. It would be well complemented by croutons or toast, and a side of green or bean salad.

By the way, if you want to go completely dairy-free, the soup was already delicious even before I stirred in the cheese. So go ahead and omit it—you’ll enjoy it just the same.

Creamless Broccoli-Gouda Soup

Makes 4 servings.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup coarsely chopped white onion
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 medium head broccoli, chopped (florets and tender stems)
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons quick-cooking oats
2 tablespoons flour
4 oz. Gouda, shredded


Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a medium pot. Add onion and saute over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add garlic and nutmeg and saute another minute.


Add broccoli, carrot, salt, and black pepper to taste and cook, stirring often, until broccoli turns bright green.


Add broth and oats; stir and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat, cover, and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes.


Make a roux by heating the remaining oil in a small skillet. Sprinkle in flour and whisk until it cakes up and becomes slightly stiff. Keep whisking until it turns a nutty brown. This will take only a minute or so.


Stir it into the soup until it’s well blended.


Puree the soup, either in a blender with an immersion blender, to the consistency that you like―fully blend for a smooth soup, or leave some pieces for a chunkier soup (I like it chunky). If you’ve used a blender, pour it back into the pot.









Stir in the cheese and continue stirring over low heat until it’s melted in. Check for seasoning and adjust, if desired.


Serve hot.


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Avocado Slaw Canapes

I love avocados. They’re so rich, buttery, and delicious, yet healthy. There are so few things in life that can’t be said to be decadent and heart-healthy at the same time. This is one of them.

Avocados—technically, fruits—are a good source of dietary fiber, potassium (more per weight than bananas), folate, B5, B6, and B9. One avocado contains more than one-third the daily value of vitamin C, and more than half the day’s requirements of vitamin K. People often avoid avocados because they think they’re high in fat. And they are. But the good kind of fat—monounsaturated, in the form of oleic acid, which reduces levels of bad cholesterol and lowers the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Avocados have been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and, due to their phytochemicals, prevent cancer. Studies have also found that people who ate avocados were more likely to have a lower body weight, BMI (body mass index), and waist circumference. An average avocado contains around 4 grams of protein, more than most other fruits, and only .4 grams of sugar, less than most other fruits.

I didn’t have my first avocado until I was an adult. We didn’t eat avocados in our family—it simply wasn’t a typical Italian ingredient. I was probably in my 20s when I had my first taste. Initially, I didn’t care for them; I didn’t appreciate their butteriness. It felt to me like I was eating…well, a stick of butter. Then I was introduced to guacamole, and my world changed. Guacamole became the secret treasure I would seek out at parties. And if there wasn’t any, I was very disappointed and marked that party off as a failure. I then began to appreciate avocados on their own and in other dishes.

Avocados go well with so many other ingredients, including cabbage. I was inspired to create this recipe by a dinner I worked to fulfill a class requirement at The Natural Gourmet Institute. By using your hands to squeeze the ingredients together, the cabbage softens and it creates a tender, creamy slaw. You can put your own swerve on it by adding other ingredients, such as poppy seeds, chopped pickle, or shredded carrot.

Avocado Slaw Canapes

Makes 16.DSCF0039

1 large ripe Haas avocado, diced
4 cups shredded cabbage
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 (6-inch) tortillas (corn or wheat)
Olive oil for brushing
2 medium plum tomatoes, diced small

1. Combine the avocado, cabbage, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl. With your hands, squeeze the ingredients together until cabbage has softened and ingredients are well combined. Taste for seasoning and adjust to your taste.

2. Using a 3-inch biscuit cutter or drinking glass, cut out 2 circles from each tortilla. Brush the circles lightly with olive oil and brown them on both sides on a grill or in a frying pan.

3. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the slaw onto each tortilla round and garnish with the tomato.





Papalo, the Unsung Cilantro

I just love finding new items to try. I was at the farmer’s market one day and saw something called papalo. I’d never heard of it and had no idea how to use it, but I bought a bundle and did some research.

Papalo leaf

Papalo leaf

Turns out that papalo is an herb that grows wild in Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Most popular in Mexican cooking (although it’s also used in South American cuisines), it’s been compared closely to cilantro. It looks nothing like cilantro but its flavor is mildly cilantro-like with citrus overtones. In fact, it is often used in dishes in place of cilantro. It tends to be used in raw applications more than cooked ones, and is especially popular in salsas and guacamole.

There’s a traditional Puebla sandwich made with meat, avocado, and chiles, varying with tomatoes, cheese, and onions, and always papalo. As far as I’ve been able to determine, this sandwich is called a cemita, which is also a general word (in Spanish) for “sandwich.”

The word papalo comes from the Native American Nahuatl word for butterfly, papalotl. (Interestingly, it’s similar to the French word for butterfly, papillon.) But I’ve come across numerous names for papalo, including Bolivian coriander (coriander being the word for cilantro in many countries), butterfly weed, pápaloquelite, tepegua, quillquiña, quirquiña, and killi.Papalo

Despite the prevailing belief that papalo should not be cooked, I used it in a batch of vegetarian chili and, predictably, it gave it a citrusy note. The chili seemed somehow “fresher” and more summery. That’s obviously my own association with the flavor profile of the chili but the papalo definitely gave it a nice little zing.

Here’s a recipe for a simple tomatillo salsa, using papalo. Let me know what you think.

Simple Tomatillo Salsa with Papalo

½ lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 small jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and finely minced
¼ cup minced papalo leaves
¼ cup finely minced white onion
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Sea salt to taste

Finely chop the tomatillos and place in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Chill for at least ½ hour to allow the flavors to blend.



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