Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Battered Squash Blossoms

Last week, I offered a recipe for Squash Blossom Frittata. Squash blossoms are the flowers that grow on any squash plant, including zucchini, butternut, pumpkin, sweet dumpling, and others. They’re used frequently along the Mediterranean—particularly popular in Italy, Greece, and Turkey—and in Mexico, where they’re called flor de calabaza (squash plants are native to the New World).

They’re a summer delicacy that can easily be obtained…if you grow your own squash or know someone who does. Otherwise, you’ll have to seek them out at farmers’ markets or specialty markets.

They’re not sold in most markets because they’re extremely fragile and don’t last very long. Handle them gently and use them quickly, preferably within 2 days. To clean them, cut off the stems close to the base. Open them gently with your fingers and check for insects. If you see insects, shake them out. If necessary, run them under a fine stream of running water and then  shake them out gently. If you can, remove the stamens (the long piece inside) as they can harbor insects.

Let them sit on paper towels to dry. If you’re not using them right away, place them in a plastic bag and close it loosely. Store them in the refrigerator.

In Italy, they’re called fiori di zucca. Although they are used in many different ways, the traditional, and most popular, way to use them in Italian cuisine is to batter and fry them. That’s the recipe I’m offering today.

Enjoy!

Battered Squash Blossoms

2 dozen squash blossoms
4 large eggs
Pinch sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour

Cooking oil (See Note below)

Clean the squash blossoms by gently shaking out insects and running the blossoms under a gentle stream of water. Lay them out on paper towels or kitchen towel to dry.

Place a large platter or a couple of large plates near the stove and line them with paper towels.

Beat the eggs together with the salt and pepper.Place the flour in a shallow dish.Heat about a half inch oil in a wide frying pan.

While it’s heating, prepare a few blossoms. Dip a blossom in the egg, coating both sides. Let the egg drip off. Next, dredge it in flour; shake off the excess. Do a few more and set them aside.When the oil is very hot, place a few blossoms in the pan and cook until the undersides are lightly browned, about 30 to 40 seconds. Turn them over with tongs and cook until other sides are lightly browned, another 15 to 20 seconds.Transfer them to the paper towels. Continue with the rest of the blossoms. Serve hot.Store any leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Heat in the oven or a toaster oven.Note: If you want to bake them instead of frying them, lay them out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Batter the blossoms as instructed above. Using a pastry brush, pat the blossoms with oil. Bake them at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes, or until lightly browned.

I like to open the larger flowers out before placing them in the oil. It makes for a lovely presentation.

 

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Caramelized Onion Rings with Chipotle Cream and Mimolette

 

So, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend several events hosted by The French Cheese Board in New York City. This past month, I attended a soiree at their new location in in Little Italy. (Although, judging from the hip space and chic crowd, I’m tempted to call it a Soho party.) There was an amazing selection of cheeses and I had my fill, for sure.

Anyway, the very nice people at The French Cheese Board were gracious enough to offer me some cheeses to experiment with. And who am I to turn down such generosity? No one, that’s who. I requested three kinds of cheeses, and below is the first recipe I came up with. This one uses one of my new favorite cheeses, Mimolette.

Mimolette is a sharp cheese, and has nutty, fruity undertones. It’s easily spotted within a selection of French cheeses because it’s the color of cheddar (except more vibrant), and has a thick, granular-looking crust.

I thought that both the color and flavor would go well with vegetables, so I decided to make Caramelized Onion Rings with Chipotle Cream and Mimolette. Caramelized onions are incredibly divine, but if you’re not a fan, try this with grilled asparagus or grilled or roasted sweet potatoes slices. Continue reading


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Husk Cherry Salsa

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So, what exactly are husk cherries? That’s what I wanted to know when I spotted them at the Union Square farmers’ Market in Manhattan. At first I thought they were gooseberries because they looked exactly like gooseberries—they were golden globes covered in a paper-thin, skin-like husk.

But the sign said “husk cherries.” Naturally, I bought some.img_6445

Native to the New World, husk cherries are not cherries at all. Sometimes also called husk tomatoes, Cape gooseberries, and ground cherries, they’re a type of flowering plant belonging to the nightshade family.

Their flavor is quite unique. It’s like a cross between a tomato, a papaya, and a pineapple. Sweet and savory at the same time. The easiest and no-brainer way to use them is in a salsa, which is exactly how Native Americans peoples used them, as well as eating them out of hand.

I think if food-loving people were smart, they’d introduce themselves to husk cherries and make them better known to the world. They’re really a great little fruit/vegetable. If you ever see them, buy a small bagful and give this recipe a try.

Enjoy!

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Husk Cherry Salsa

Makes approximately 1½ cups.

1 cup husk cherries
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced chile of your choice
¼ minced cilantro
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
¼ teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Remove the husks from the cherries by peeling the husks back and twisting them off. Rinse the cherries in cool water and set on paper towels to drain. Cut the cherries in half and place them in a bowl.img_6451Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with tortilla chips or pita bread, or use as a relish for fish, chicken, pork, or vegetables.img_6455

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Release of World Party!!

World Party Front CoverAt long last, I can finally announce the release of my latest cookbook, World Party: Vegetarian Appetizers, Hors d’oeuvres and Party Plates.

Thai Peanut Dumplings

Thai Peanut Dumplings

This is both an excitement and a relief because this book has been on a long and arduous trip. I first got the idea for it, and began researching recipes and cuisines for it, in 2002. I spent many years testing and developing recipes to duplicate the dishes I’d read about and sampled, but in such a way that they would stay true to the originals as much as possible while making them meatless.

M'Baazi

M’Baazi

I started with a list, and that list grew and grew. Over the years, I added recipes, deleted recipes, changed recipes, and in a few cases I was so determined to make a particular recipe work that I just kept testing and testing until I came up with the right result. Sometimes a recipe simply didn’t work and I tossed it. Occasionally I would discover that I’d confused one dish for another, and sometimes I had a recipe that I couldn’t find the proper name for in its originating culture. In those cases, I researched high and low on the internet and in books and magazines, asked friends and coworkers if they knew, asked friends to ask their friends and coworkers if they knew, posted questions in special interest groups on Facebook, etc. I found out the answers to some, and found out that I had others all wrong.

An Indian Feast

An Indian Feast

As I met and talked to more and more people from different cultures, my list expanded but, oddly, also shrank. So many cultures have more common threads than we imagine, and as I started to examine my recipes, I began to realize that there were more similarities than differences. It was a fascinating and educational journey I went on.

Pot Stickers

Pot Stickers

The one thing I’ve learned from this project, if nothing else, is that no matter what clothing people wear, what religion they practice, what rituals they perform, what kinds of jobs they hold, or how much money they have, we are more similar than we are different. You can see this in the very similar dishes that are shared between nations, with maybe just a spice or two, or a cooking method, differentiating them.

Arepitas with Black Bean-Corn Salsa

Arepitas with Black Bean-Corn Salsa

Eating is the one thing that every single human being on earth must do to survive, so it’s no wonder that food is the common bond across the planet. No matter where you go in the world, a signal that you are welcome is the offer of food. When you are a guest at someone’s home, it always gives your hosts tremendous pleasure to feed to. It is the global sign of hospitality, and many customs and rituals were created around food. In some places, to refuse food is an insult, or to not finish it all is a sign of poor manners. Some cultures expect you to belch loudly when you’re done to show that you are satisfied.

Food always brings brings people of the world together.

Australian "Roo" Burgers

Australian “Roo” Burgers

It’s my hope that through food, we can find common ground and sit at the table together to share a meal.

So take a trip around the world. If you can’t do it physically, do it in your kitchen and at your table. Try new recipes and explore new flavors, and invite your friends and loved ones to share in the journey. Most of all, enjoy it. Peace.

A Spanish Feast

A Spanish Feast

 

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White Bean Hummus with Garlic Scapes

white bean hummus garlic scapesBecause garlic scapes have such a short season (early summer), I’ve been on a garlic scape kick, using them in as many ways as I can. Last week, I made Lentils with Garlic Scapes and the week before that, I made Beet Greens with Garlic Scapes.

All delicious. But this week I decided to use the scapes in its purest form: raw.Garlic scapes Continue reading


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Amaranth-Dal Patties

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My pantry is stuffed to the gills with all sorts of items that the average cook with raise an eyebrow to. In fact, I’ll bet I have a few items in there that the average cook has possibly not even heard of, let alone used. If you were my neighbor and needed something for a recipe you were cooking or baking, chances are I’d have it. Anything at all. Need some flour? What kind? All-purpose? Whole wheat? Pastry? Spelt? Soy? Buckwheat? Barley? Teff? Oat? Fava bean?

Need rice? Currently, I’ve got brown, basmati, brown basmati, jasmin, Thai black, rosematta, glutinous Thai, and Japanese short grain.

Looking for grains? Choose from white and red quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, sorghum, millet, and teff.

So, what am I saying here? That I am constantly looking for ways to use up all of that stuff! And so here is what I came up with to use both amaranth and some mixed dal I had. I could’ve just made a soup, but I wanted to do something different. This is what I came up with—Amaranth-Dal Patties. If you’re not familiar with amaranth, they’re tiny little grains that are gluten-free and high in iron and lysine. Here’s a link for more information.

Amaranth

Amaranth

You can season the patties with whatever herbs or spices you like, and/or dress them with any kind of sauce, from raita to salsa to piri piri (just make sure to pair the seasonings and dressing appropriately—you wouldn’t want to use garam masala as a seasoning and then dip them in Asian soy dipping sauce!). You can also substitute the flour for something that is gluten-free. Continue reading


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Cheese-Inspired Cocktails

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One of the nice things about the holiday season is all the festivities and food. On Wednesday, December 9, I got to do something a little different—I went to a cheese-tasting event at The French Cheese Board on 39th Street in Manhattan. It’s a chic, clean, modern space where you can purchase your favorite French cheeses.IMAG3515

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Wheel of Raclette

The event was promoted by The Baddish Group, a PR firm that specializes in food and beverage marketing, and they offered a sumptuous spread of several different cheeses, from Camembert and brie to Raclette and butter made with sea salt. They were all so fresh and flavorful that I couldn’t help going back for more. I watched as others kept going back as well, which made me feel kind of bad for the kitchen staff. They were definitely being kept hopping trying to replenish the table. A server came by with a few different hors d’oeuvres: Mac & Mimolette, Brie and Grapes on a canape, and Raclette & Potatoes. The mac ’n’ cheese was so good in its simplicity, cheese and grapes is a classic combination that can never go wrong, and a potato slice with a piece of Raclette on top was divine.

IMAG3504It was a warm, friendly gathering of people in different segments of the food industry. A couple of us were food bloggers, while others were buyers, chefs, and marketers. I’m sure that other professions were represented. Despite the incredible and uncharacteristic warm weather, a simple, lovely Christmas tree along one wall reminded us that it was the holiday season. I think that always puts people in a better mood.

Mimolette

Mimolette

My favorite cheese, by far, was the Mimolette, a pumpkin-colored cow’s milk cheese. It’s a firm cheese, which is my favorite kind, but I really liked it for its smooth, sweet flavor. Which leads me to my favorite drink of the evening.

They asked mixologist Natasha David from Nitecap, a bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, to come up with some cheese-inspired cocktails for the event.IMAG3516

Natasha created cocktails that were not only inspired by cheese but that actually used cheese. And not just in the final concoction—her creations were made with spirits that were infused with cheese.

I asked Natasha what her method for the infusions was, and here’s what she said:

The infusions were quite simpleI let the cheese sit in the booze for a certain amount of time, then strained them and froze them so that all the fat would rise to the top and then strained again. I did that twice over 48 hours.

For the Mimolette RindI used 50 g of rind to 1 750 ml bottle of Calvados for 7 hours.

For CamembertI did 60 g of Camembert to 1 750 ml bottle of Dorothy Parker gin for 5 hours.

For BleuI did 50 g to 1 750 ml bottle of Linie for 2 hours.

From there, the mixologists at the event concocted the three drinks below to accompany the hors d’oeuvres. I’m going to give an infusion a try at some point—it will definitely be a new experience for me. If you do it yourself, let me know how it turns out. Enjoy!IMAG3506

Cheese-Infused Cocktail Recipes

Cocktail #1: To accompany the Mac & Mimolette, a Mimolette Rind-Infused Calvados cocktail

2 oz. Rind-infused Busnel Calvados
0.75 oz. Lemon Juice
0.5 oz. Simple Syrup
1 barspoon Bon Mama Fig Preserves
Egg White

Method:      Shake, Strain
Glass:        Double Rocks glass with Big Block of Ice
Garnish:     Grated Mimolette

 

Cocktail #2: To accompany Brie and Grapes, a Camembert-infused Gin cocktailIMAG3508

2 oz. Camembert-infused Dorothy Parker Gin
0.75 oz. Lemon Juice
0.5 oz. Ginger Syrup
1 barspoon Lingonberry Preserves
Seltzer

Method:      Shake, Strain, Top w/ Seltzer
Glass:        Highball with Kold Draft
Garnish:     Candied Ginger

 

Cocktail #3: To accompany Racelette & Potatoes, a Bleu d’Auvergen-infused Aquavit

1.5 oz. Blue-infused Linie Aquavit
0.75 oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
0.75 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth
1 tsp. Pickled Tomato Brine

Method:      Stir, Strain
Glass:        Nick and Nora or Martini
Garnish:     Blue cheese stuffed Pickled Tomato

This is my friend Tucker. He wanted to do something classy this holiday season.

This is my friend Tucker. He wanted to do something classy this holiday season.