Miz Chef

Food Is Sexy—Therefore, I Cook


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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



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Black Bean Flour Bread with Herbs


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.


Whisk together the flours and salt.


(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.


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.


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.


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.




Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Coconut Cake with Apple Cider-Bourbon Glaze


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

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


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!




My Exploding Nuts (Ginkgo, that is)


I went to an Asian market the other day with a list in hand. I had specific things that I needed to buy and a short amount of time in which to shop, and I wasn’t looking for anything unusual or new, the way I usually do. I had grabbed my items and was just about to head to the check-out lines when something caught my eye. They were in the refrigerated case, where Asian markets generally keep the more perishable produce, such as mushrooms, water chestnuts, chili peppers, and a host of other delicate items.IMG_4016

Tucked between packages of freeze-dried ginkgo nuts and little cartons of quail eggs and 100-year-old duck eggs were small red mesh bags with these little white things in them. Curiosity got to me and I picked one up. They looked like pistachio nuts. I looked at the sign, which read, “Ginkgo nuts.”

Interesting. I’d had the freeze-dried ones before in a a stir fry, but I’d never seen the raw, unshelled nuts before. So, yes, I bought them.IMAG2360

Ginkgo trees are the oldest living trees on earth, unchanged for more than 200 million years. Evidence shows that Chinese began cultivating it more than 1,000 years ago. Last week, I unknowingly encountered a ginkgo tree. Because it’s, its leaves were turning yellow from the top down. I thought it was so pretty that I took a photo of it, but when I got near it, I was repelled by an odor of urine. I thought, “Great, some asshole ruined the beauty of this tree by peeing on it.” I posted it on Facebook and was told by one of my former NGI classmates that this was a gingko tree and the smell is natural. It’s believed that this odor was attractive to animals at some point.

What a coincidence that I would buy ginkgo nuts the same week. I asked my friend at work how to use them and she told me that I should boil them, shell them, and peel off the skin that’s on each one. While I trusted her advice, I wondered if there were any other methods. I read that another common way to prepare them is pan frying. I decided to try both. I put half in a pot of water and boiled them for about 15 minutes, and pan fried the other half in a little bit of sunflower oil.

After placing them both on the stove, I went into the other room to check on an email. There I was, scrolling through my mail, when I hear this loud POP. As I walked back into the kitchen, there was another big POP. I had a suspicion about what was happening, so I cautiously approached the stove and sure enough, those suckers were popping right out of the pan and shooting across the room. They had become oily little projectiles and little pieces of shell landed on my counter and floor like shrapnel. I shielded my face as I approached the stove because I didn’t want to become a casualty of detonating ginkgo nuts. At arm’s length, I turned off the flame and moved the pan to the back at a safe distance. The whole thing was rather ridiculous, but I pictured getting a sharp piece of shell in my eye and wasn’t thrilled by the thought. In fact, I did get a shot of hot oil right near my eye.

IMG_4023IMG_4027While both methods turned out perfectly fine ginkgo nuts, there were a few differences. The fried ones came out with a nice golden yellow color, while the boiled ones had a smooth creamy look to them. (Pictured above, on the left are the boiled nuts; on the right are the pan fried nuts.) That one is a personal choice. However, I don’t think anyone would argue that struggling to peel skin from a nut is not a fun task. The skins, for the most part, slid off the pan fried nuts, while they stuck a little to the boiled ones. I mean, it wasn’t as difficult as removing skin from, say, hazelnuts or Brazil nuts, but I did struggle a tiny bit. A few came out looking like plaster, crumbling into dust—I assumed those were rotten. IMG_4025

To avoid the missile launch from your frying pan, I think timing the cooking would help. I had them in there for approximately 8 to 10 minutes before they started exploding, so maybe keeping them in the pan for about 5 minutes would do the trick. And cracking them first would probably prevent the fireworks, too.

I also discovered that the pan fried nuts were less bitter than the boiled nuts. So if you’re going to eat them out of hand, I suggest pan frying them. Ultimately, they just tasted better.

All of this pertains to ginkgo nuts that have been removed from the fruit. If you have access to the fruit, handle them carefully. The fruit contains urushiol, the same element that’s found in poison ivy, and may cause a skin reaction. Also, your hands will smell like cheese, I’ve been told. You should wear gloves and remove the flesh from around the nuts. The upside is that ginkgo nuts are known to stimulate the brain, staving off memory loss and Alzheimer’s Disease. They’re also used in Chinese culture to help with breathing/lung problems, such as asthma and bronchitis. Chinese also believe them to be aphrodisiacs.

Whether you boil or fry them, whack them gently with a mallet (or meat tenderizer or blade of a knife, or whatever you’ve got handy). Or you can crack each one with a nut cracker. Don’t whack or crack them too hard as the nuts are rather delicate. Sprinkle them with a little sea salt and enjoy. Or add them to stir fries, soups and stews, or just about anything you would add nuts to.

The medical warnings about ginkgo nuts is that adults shouldn’t have more than 8 in one day and children should have a maximum of 5. And word on the street is that if you are allergic to cashews or mangoes, you should avoid them altogether.

Anyway, that’s the story of my exploding nuts. So, just let my stupid experience be your guide when trying this Asian specialty. Here’s hoping your nuts don’t explode.


Ginkgo Nuts for Snacking

1 small bag ginkgo nuts
1 teaspoon cooking oil
Sea salt

Rinse nuts under running water.

If frying:
Lay the nuts out on paper towels to dry.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Add the nuts and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool until you can handle them.

If boiling:
Place nuts in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool.

Lay the nuts on a dish towel. Gently whack the nuts with a mallet (or other object) so that crack. Remove the shells and skins (a paper towel may help you rub the skins off more easily).

Sprinkle with salt and enjoy (in moderation!).



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Celeriac Bisque with Mustard Greens and Chick Peas



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)


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.


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


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.


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



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


Makes 4 servings.



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Sweet Potato Flour Scones


For those of you who don’t know, I took all my own photos for Vegetarian Italian: Traditions, volumes 1 and 2 (volume 1 is available now from all online retailers, and volume 2 is due out some time next year). I am taking photos for my upcoming cookbooks as well. What this means for me is that I’m in a constant testing/shooting mode. Which in turn means that I don’t often have a chance to cook just for the pleasure of it or to randomly experiment. Between a full-time job, my fiction writing, and my cooking/writing, I just don’t have the time.VegItalCover FINAL_Page_1

Lately, though, I’ve been in a bit of a slump in my fiction writing, so I’ve been able to devote a little bit more time to my cooking/writing. The following recipe is one result.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I go out all the time to the specialty and ethnic markets near where I work and buy something new to try. The Asian markets have sweet potato flour, which I’d never seen before, so I picked up a bag and finally got to use it. It’s great for gluten-free baking, and I decided to try out a scone. I started with a standard gluten-free flour combination and incorporated the sweet potato flour. It turned out very well.IMG_3792

You can alter the recipe any way you like. I prefer dried cranberries, blueberries, or other dried fruit, but if you prefer to go traditional and stick with raisins, go right ahead. For added moisture, you can soak the fruit for an hour or so before adding them to the batter. Or omit them altogether. You can add nuts or change the flavor profile by adding orange or lemon zest, or your favorite flavor extract. And if you like scones on the sweeter side, add a bit more sugar.

Gluten-free scones tend to dry out faster than regular scones, so they’re best eaten fresh. Store leftovers in a plastic bag at room temperature for the first couple of days (unless it’s very hot and humid, then put it in the refrigerator). If you have any longer than that, then put it in the refrigerator. You can freeze it up to 3 months as well. I shaped mine flat to mimic some of “gourmet” scones I’ve seen, but it actually might come out better if you mound it in the traditional dome shape.

As much as I love warm scones, gluten-free baked goods tend to have a weaker structure and often crumble easily. This is one of those, so it’s best if you let it cool completely before cutting into it. But if you want it warm, go ahead and dig in right away, just be aware that it will crumble. But, then, you may like that! Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Flour Scones

Makes one 9-inch round scone.

1 cup sweet potato flour
1 cup rice flour
½ cup almond flour
¼ cup tapioca starch
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon maple crystals

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together sweet potato flour, rice flour, almond flour, tapioca starch, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt.


Cut the butter into little pieces and add to bowl. Using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your fingers, blend the butter into the flour until you have coarse crumbs.


Stir in cranberries. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk and add the rest to the bowl, along with the egg and honey.


Gently combine just until all dry ingredients are moistened and you have a soft dough.


Transfer to the baking sheet and shape it into a round loaf. Brush with some of the reserved buttermilk and sprinkle maple crystals on top. Score the top with a knife (optional).

IMG_3803Bake for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 375 and bake another 15 minutes, or until golden brown and top feels firm (but not hard!). Transfer with parchment to a rack and let cool completely.



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