Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


Umbrian Cicerchia Soup

cicerchia soupThere’s one thing I love about Eataly, the Italian market in Chelsea in New York, and it’s not the prices. It’s the fact that you can get products that have been imported from Italy, things that you wouldn’t otherwise find, at least not easily.IMG_5261

During one particular perusal of the market, I found cicerchia, an Umbrian hybrid of chickpeas and fava beans. Ceceri means chickpeas, so I imagine that cirechia is a playful word meaning “in the realm of chickpeas.” Italians love playing with their words almost as much as their food.

It’s probably a good thing, though, that cicerchia isn’t available widely. According to Vorrei Italianfood, they contain a neurotoxin and should not be eaten every day over a prolonged period of time (alhough I don’t know what that means.)IMG_5245

I wasn’t sure what to do with them, though, as this was not a common product, at least not in the region where my family is from (Basalicata). Ultimately, I decided to use them in a typical Umbrian dish: chickpea soup.

If you’re able to get your hands on cicerchia, try this recipe—it’s light but filling and scrumptious.
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Garlic Scapes with Fresh Peas & Israeli Couscous

IMG_5159Garlic scapes come around once a year for a short period of time and I’ve generally only seen them at farmer’s markets. So when I do see them, I make sure to grab some.

The first time I bought garlic scapes, I used them raw in a pesto. It was delicious but incredibly strong. Very garlicky. So after that, I used them only cooked.IMG_5110When I was at the farmer’s market this past week, I not only found garlic scapes, I found fresh peas as well (also quick to come and go at the market). I decided to combine them with some whole wheat Israeli couscous and the result was fabulous.

IMG_5118Here’s the recipe. I guarantee you’ll love it.
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Sautéed Rainbow chard with Roman Beans

IMG_5114I found the most beautiful rainbow chard at the farmer’s market this week. In fact, it was so beautiful, I hated to cook it. The leaves were so plump and full and the stems so colorful and vivid, I wanted to just look at them all day. They were ruby red, fuchsia, lemony yellow, and light orange. Nature does stunning work.IMG_5081IMG_5087But, alas, uncooked chard soon becomes not so beautiful. So cook it, I must.
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Roasted Cabbage

IMG_5071Roasting is probably my favorite way to prepare vegetables. They get golden brown, charred here and there, and caramelized for sweet, intense flavor.

I have never, however, tried roasting cabbage. It’s just never occurred to me. So, I had this head of cabbage sitting in my refrigerator and I was trying to decide what to do with it. Cabbage has may possibilities—I could boil it, steam it, saute it, make soup with it… But I was bored with all those options. I wanted to do something different.

And that’s when it hit me. Roast it. I cut it up, coated the pieces with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then I roasted them at 350 F. The result? Delicious. The cabbage was tender, toasty brown, and so flavorful. I ate it all week long.

Here’s what I did. Give it a try.

Roasted Cabbage

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the cabbage in half through the core, then each half in thirds. (If you have a particularly large cabbage, you may want to cut the pieces even further.)IMG_5059Lay the pieces a baking sheet. Pour ¼ cup olive oil over the pieces and use your hands to coat them thoroughly. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.IMG_5067Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.IMG_5068Turn the pieces over and cover again with foil. IMG_5070Bake another 15 minutes.Uncover the pan and roast 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender (it will depend on the size of your pieces).IMG_5075

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PB&J Cake, aka Space Cake

IMG_5052You might be wondering why I’ve given this cake the alternate name of Space Cake. Or maybe you’re not, but I’m going to tell you anyway.

I went into my local kosher market to pick up a few specific things (it’s the only place I know of that carries my favorite hummus). As I do in any market, I started looking around to see if there was anything new and/or unusual, anything I haven’t tried before. And I was rewarded for my efforts.IMG_5025

I found a bottle of peanut butter powder. Yes, that’s correct. Peanut butter that has been dehydrated and turned into powder. Curiosity overcame me and, of course, I had to buy it. To use it, you mix the powder with water until it’s a paste. When I did that, I have to say that it looked, smelled, and tasted like peanut butter.

Space food.

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Coconut Rice-Cake Pudding

IMG_5017What is rice-cake pudding? you ask. I’m going to tell you.

I recently found in an Asian market another product that I had never seen before: rice cakes. Not the round disks of puffed rice that dieters have been munching on for decades, but flattened oval, kind of paddle-shaped, disks made from pounded sticky rice. Of course, I bought some.IMG_4999I had absolutely no idea at the time what I was supposed to do with these, so I looked around a bit. I saw a few recipes where the rice cakes are sautéed or stir fried with other vegetables, and that’s something that I’m going to try. But according to the package, they can be fried for a popped rick cake snack, to which you can add “highly tasteful or plain ingredients” for “indeed a favourable dish either for entertainment or for home meal.”IMG_5001Well, how could I not give it a try? I fried a small batch in oil and, as you can see in the photo below, they do puff up. I fried them until they were golden brown, at which point they are quite crisp but hard. Not unpleasantly hard—some people like that, including me. The ones that were more lightly fried had a flakier texture. A sprinkle of sea salt over the top and that was it.

So there you have it for fried rice cakes—a lighter fry for flaky/crispy, a longer fry for crunchy/crispy. (Make sure you dry the rice cakes before putting them in the oil. See note below about soaking.)IMG_5007But what I really wanted to try was rice pudding. Would it taste or be anything like regular rice pudding? I made mine with coconut milk and I can honestly say that it came out pretty darn good. What made it truly different from regular rice pudding, though, was the texture. Because the rice is in the form of these paddles that retain their shape, you have something that requires chewing, not just a mashing, as with regular rice pudding. I’m very much about texture where food is concerned, so I enjoyed this more than I normally enjoy rice pudding (never one of my favorite desserts).

If rice pudding is not usually your thing, whether because of the texture or because it’s a “milky” dish (another reason why I don’t usually care for it), try my recipe below. You might just like it.

So this is my coconut rice-cake pudding. It’s vegan, gluten free, and dairy free. Give it a go, and let me know what you think. Enjoy!

Coconut Rice-Cake Pudding

Note that the rice cakes have to soak in water a minimum of 12 hours or overnight before using them in any recipe.

Makes 2 servings.

2 ounces (about 2 cups) rice cakes
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups coconut milk
½ cup coconut water or plain water
¼- 1/3 cup sugar (based on your sweetness preference)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Garnish: Cinnamon and coconut flakes

Place the rice cakes in a bowl with enough water to cover by about an inch for a small amount or 2 inches for an entire bag. Cover and let soak in refrigerator at least 12 hours or overnight.


Rice cakes after soaking overnight

Drain the rice cakes and place them, along with the cinnamon stick, in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to low and simmer 5 minutes.IMG_5012Drain and return the rice cakes and cinnamon to the pot. Add the coconut milk, coconut water, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Bring to a boil; lower heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until thick and creamy, about 45 to 55 minutes. Stir frequently, especially in the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Divide the pudding between 2 pudding dishes and garnish with cinnamon and/or coconut flakes.

(I left my pudding unadorned in the photos so that you can see how the rice cakes retained their shape.)IMG_5024


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