Miz Chef

Food Is Sexy—Therefore, I Cook


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Liquid Gold from Greens

My friend, Linda, asked me recently for suggestions on what to do with the water she had used to cook kale. This water, known as pot liquor (sometimes spelled potlikker), has set many a cook’s heart aflutter because it’s loaded with flavor. Not only that, it’s also packed with nutrients from the kale, or whatever greens you have cooked in it.DSCF0005

Pot liquor is a U.S. Southern speciality, usually made from collard, mustard, or turnip greens, and can be used in place of water or broth in almost anything. Here are some ways to use it:

* In soups, stews, or chilis

* To cook rice, quinoa, or any other grain

* To braise vegetables or fish

* In a vegetable casserole

* In a vegetable smoothie

* In place of broth in a pan sauce

* If you have enough of it, you can reduce it and add a roux for a sauce, too. This would go very well with grilled/baked/sauteed tofu or tempeh.

* Add it to your pet’s food—it’s nutritious for our furry friends, too!

So, get yourself a nice big bunch of greens—any greens—and cook it down. The best way is to sauté greens in a pan with garlic and oil. But you can also use a small amount of water to boil them. That way, you get the nutrient-packed water without leeching everything out of the greens themselves. Place the greens in a large skillet or dutch oven and add about a cup of water and salt. After the greens are cooked, remove them and save the liquid. To sauté in oil, follow the recipe below, then reserve the pot liquor. It will have incredible added flavor from the garlic and spices.

(By the way, I was very tempted to call this blog “Pot Liquor,” but I was afraid it would draw the wrong kind of traffic. :-) As it is, I expect to get a lot of garbage from spammers who are keying in on the words “pot” and “liquor.”)

Sauteed Greens

1 large bunch greens, washed, drained
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Coarsely chop the greens.

2. Heat the oil in a wide pan; add garlic and cook 1 minutes. Add paprika and red pepper lakes and immediately add the greens.

3. Add ½ cup water, salt, and pepper and mix well. Cover the pan and cook until greens are tender. The time will vary, depending on the type of green it is. Add more water if it starts to get dry.

4. Use tongs to remove the greens and garlic. Reserve the pot liquor for use in other recipes.

 

 

 

 


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Chinese Noodle Stir-Fry with Chickpeas

This week, I’d like to share my recipe for Chinese Noodle Stir-Fry with Chickpeas. There’s nothing like a bowl of noodles, no matter what type of cuisine you’re cooking. It’s comforting and satisfying with layers of flavors and textures. The great thing about noodles is that you can a have them with anything and add anything to them.IMG_2595

One of my favorite way to have noodles is stir-fried with lots of vegetables. I particularly like cabbage, so I start with that and build from there.

I also had some fresh chickpeas and green peas that I had shelled from their pods and needed to use them, so I threw those in as well. Green peas are often found in stir-fries and Asian noodle dishes, but chickpeas not so much. I found them to work beautifully in a stir-fry, especially since I’m a little clumsy with chopsticks and was able to pick up the chickpeas fairly well. Their meaty, firm texture also made a nice contrast to the tender noodles and vegetables.

So, here’s the recipes. Enjoy!

Chinese Noodle Stir-Fry with Chickpeas

2 teaspoons coconut or sunflower oil
10 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 10-ounce package Chinese noodles (your preference)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
2 cups sliced cabbage
1 small carrot, diced small
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
½ chickpeas, black-eyed peas, or soy beans
¼ green peas
2 cups greens (spinach, chard, kale, amaranth leaves, etc.)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 sliced scallions for garnish

1. Heat coconut oil in a wide skillet. Add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and set aside.

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2. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.

3. In same pan, add 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a wok or large. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes. Add cabbage, carrot, and pepper and stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add beans, peas, mushrooms, and soy sauce and continue stir-frying another 2 to 3 minutes.

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4. Add greens cook until wilted. Stir in remaining sesame oil.

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5. Add the cooked noodles and stir to combine. Divide between 2 bowls and garnish with scallions.

Makes 2 servings.

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Sorghum Stir-Fry

When I step back momentarily from my hectic life, I realize that I’ve packed so much into my days, weeks, and months that lose control of what’s happening. I lose my grip on the reins and things just go all cray-cray.

Sorghum Stir-Fry

Sorghum Stir-Fry

And it’s because of this cray-cray-ness that it’s been such a struggle for me lately to blog regularly. I keep vowing that I will get back on track—and I always mean it—but I succumb to the insanity again and again.

Sorghum

Sorghum

One of the consequences is that I haven’t been able to cook much. I mean, I cook to test recipes or photograph for my cookbooks, but not simply for the pleasure of it. So, I have all these products in my pantry that have been just sitting there, particularly grains. But last weekend, I was determined to pull something out of the pantry and use it. It turned out to be sorghum.

Sorghum is a great gluten-free grain to have as a substitute for rice. It has a firm, meaty texture and it’s difficult to overcook. It can tend to be dry, but paired with the right ingredients, it works really well for an alternative grain fix. I prepared it on its own, then added it to a stir-fry in place of rice and the result was excellent. Now, I chose to use some cooked veggies that I had in the refrigerator, but you can use whatever vegetables you want. If you don’t pre-cook them, then make sure you stir-fry them until tender before adding the beans.

Sorghum Stir-Fry

½ cup sorghum
1 tablespoon coconut or other cooking oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
½ small onion, sliced
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1½ cups chopped roasted squash
1 small cooked Japanese yam, peeled and diced
½ cup chopped roasted eggplant
1 (15-oz) can white beans
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 tablespoon soy sauce

Bring 1¼ cups water to a boil. Add sorghum; lower the heat, cover, and cook for about 20-25 minutes, or until sorghum is tender but firm. If water is absorbed but sorghum still seems hard, add a little more water and keep cooking until tender.

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Heat coconut oil and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add onion and garlic and sauté until softened. Add squash, yam, and eggplant and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add beans and peas; mix in well.

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Add soy sauce and remaining sesame oil and stir in. Add sorghum and mix well. Cook for 5 minutes. Add salt if desired.

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Makes 4 big servings.


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Apple Corn Muffins

You know me—always picking up some odd thing or another in the plethora of ethnic markets throughout New York City.IMG_2510

This time, it was canned apples in sugar syrup from my favorite Indian market in Jackson Heights, Queens. Normally, I don’t buy canned fruit, much less anything in sugar syrup. But it just caught my attention on the shelf and I was curious about what they tasted like and what their appeal was. So, I bought a can.

Okay, now I know that it states right there on the can that they’re packed in sugar syrup. But I was not prepared for the cloying sweetness that almost put me into a diabetic coma. Yowza.

So, this is what I did. I drained the apples from the syrup and threw together a quick cornbread mix and made muffins. I found that the cornbread balanced out some of that sweetness. Keep the syrup for another recipe (for example, poke holes in a cake and pour the syrup over the top, or strain it and use it for a cocktail).IMG_2512

Here’s my recipe. It’s really easy and quick and a great way to use those canned apples that everyone has lying around. I mean, don’t you have them in your pantry?

Do not add sugar to the cornbread mix—it will make the muffins over-the-top sweet. Let me know what you think. Enjoy!IMG_2522

Apple Corn Muffins

1 cup fine cornmeal
¼ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
pinch salt ¼ cup milk
1 egg
1 container apples in syrup, drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 6-cup muffin tin.

In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk together.

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Add milk and egg and whisk in. Fold in apples just until all apples incorporated.

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Divide batter into cups of muffin tin.

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Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes; turn out onto wire rack.

Makes 6 muffins.IMG_2523

 

 

 


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Warm Black-eyed Pea-Spinach Wheat Berry Salad

It’s been a kooky few months for me. I’ve been really busy cooking and photographing my food for volume two of my revised cookbook, now called Vegetarian Italian: Traditions. The Kindle version of volume one is currently on Amazon, and I’m waiting VegItalCover FINAL_Page_1for the print version to be available.

The thing is, all other cooking has been put on the back burner (no pun intended). I’ve even put off photographing dishes for my next cookbook, just to get volume two of Vegetarian Italian done.

Well, I’m almost there. I actually have one dish left to photograph, and this weekend, I found myself able to cook a little for the fun of it—something I haven’t done in a very long time.

I had some cooked wheatberries in the freezer, left over from a batch I had made a couple of months ago, as well as some black-eyed peas, and decided to use them.

A wheat berry is the entire wheat kernel (except for the hull)–meaning, it has its bran, germ, and endosperm intact. That makes them healthy whole grains. There are several varieties: winter and spring, hard and soft, red and white. Soft wheat is considered to have higher protein and, thus, less gluten. So, if you have wheat sensitivities (as opposed to Celiac disease) and want to use wheat berries, you’re better off using soft wheat. 

In the end, I wanted to do something simple but tasty, and this is what I came up with. I hope you like it.IMG_2509

Warm Black-eyed Pea-Spinach Wheat Berry Salad

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced 3 cups cooked wheat berries
½ teaspoon paprika
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 cups cooked, chopped spinach
1 ½ cups cooked black-eyed peas
1 cup peas
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon walnut oil

Heat the oil in a wide pan; add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about one minute.

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Sprinkle in the paprika, then immediately add the tomatoes. Stir and sauté 2 or 3 minutes.

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Stir in the spinach, black-eyed peas, and peas and sauté another 3 minutes.

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Add the wheat berries and peas, mix and continue cooking until heated through. Season with salt and pepper; adjust to your taste.

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Transfer to a serving bowl; drizzle walnut oil over the top.

Makes 6 servings.IMG_2507


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Gorgeously Green Pasta Salad

So, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and green is the official black for that holiday. The foodIMG_0445 world, too, suddenly turns green. We see  green bagels, green cake, and even green beer. But if all of that turns you green, here’s a recipe that keeps that particular tradition going but is a lot better for you and is gorgeously green naturally.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and may the Luck o’ the Irish be with you!

Gorgeously Green Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is open to many variations—you can add anything you want, as long as it’s green! It has several components to it, but if you’re willing to spend a little time on it, the result will truly be gorgeous, not to mention delicious. Aside from the broccoli florets, I split the string beans in half, used only the green part of the zucchini, and garnished it with zucchini curls.

1 medium head broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more
2 small zucchini, diced small
2 ½ cups cut string beans
2 cups peas (if frozen, thawed)
1 lb short pasta
½ lb arugula
¼ lb watercress
1 cup sliced scallions (white part only), divided
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium green bell pepper, diced small
½ cup chopped parsley

Garnish: zucchini, scallion greens, broccoli florets

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1. Cut the broccoli into florets. Set aside as many “pretty” florets (they should be similarly sized). Chop the remaining florets, stems, and pieces. Blanch and shock the florets. Cook the remaining broccoli until crisp-tender; drain well.

To blanch and shock: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Set a bowl of ice water on the counter. Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water and cook for a minute or 2, until broccoli is slightly tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

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2. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium skillet; add the onion and salt, and sweat (cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Do not brown.)

3. Zucchini: Saute in 2 teaspoons just until tender. Transfer to a bowl; let cool.

4. String beans: Bring pot of salted water to a boil; add string beans and cook just until tender. Transfer to the ice water and let cool. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside ½ cup.

5. Peas: If fresh, cook in boiling water until just tender. If frozen, boil briefly. Drain well.

6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well and let cool.

7. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a food processor or blender, combine the arugula, watercress, ½ cup string beans that were set aside, ½ cup scallions, garlic, salt and pepper. With the machine processing, slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil until a sauce forms.

8. When pasta has cooled but is still slightly warm, add the sauce and mix well. Add the green pepper, the chopped broccoli, onion, cooked zucchini, peas, remaining string beans, and remaining scallions. Mix well. Blend in parsley. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add whatever herbs or spices you like.

IMG_0436Makes 14 servings.

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Chocolate Cake with Avocado Mousse

This week, I wanted to offer my recipe for Chocolate Cake with Avocado Mousse. It received raves when I made it and I’m finally getting around to posting it.

The first ingredients is a chocolate sheet cake. You can certainly make it from scratch, but if you’re pressed for time, you can go and buy one from the store.

Rich chocolate cake paired with a zesty avocado mousse makes a luscious sweet-tart flavor combo. The white chocolate chips give it a gratifying chewy element without competing with the cake. Besides, with antioxidants in chocolate and omega-3 fatty acids in avocado, who can argue that this is a decadent dessert with health benefits? And it’s vegan!

Chocolate Cake with Avocado Mousse

1 chocolate sheet cake (9×13”)
2 Haas avocados
1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon citrus zest (orange, lemon, lime or a combo)
1 teaspoon maple crystals
1/3 cup white chocolate chips

1. Trim off about 1 inch from each end of the cake. Split the cake in half, lift off the top half, and set aside.

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2. Combine avocados, lime juice, vanilla, honey, citrus zest, and maple crystals in a food processor and process until completely smooth. (Stop the machine and push down the mixture with a rubber spatula, if necessary.)

3. Spread the avocado mixture evenly over the bottom half of the cake. Sprinkle the chips evenly over the avocado. Replace the top half of the cake.

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4. Cut into 12 squares, or use a 2 1/2-inch ring mold to cut out circles. Serve as is or sprinkle powdered sugar over the top.

Makes 12.

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