Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life

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Pear-Pignoli Salad with Cranberry Sauce Vinaigrette

Do you still have cranberry sauce left over after the holidays? I know some of you do. Admit it.  You’ll see lots of sites and professional chefs telling you that everything should be thrown out three days after the holiday. I have news for you—if you’ve stored it properly, that cranberry sauce is probably still good. The thing is, because of the sugar content, cranberry sauce has a long shelf life. It’s just like a jar of jam or preserves in your refrigerator. (Of course, if it smells or tastes funny, or if it has mold on it, throw it out.) For those of you who prefer the stuff that comes in cans (you can admit that, too, don’t be ashamed), you can use those up as well, so that they don’t sit in your pantry for another year.

There are many things you can do with leftover cranberry sauce. One way to use it up is to make a dressing with it, and I’ve done just that. I paired homemade cranberry sauce here with baby greens and Anjou pears. So that the cranberry doesn’t overwhelm the delicate ingredients, I strained the dressing.

So, why not start out with plain cranberry sauce (such as what comes in a can) instead of whole berry sauce, you ask. Because I think that whole berry sauce has so much more depth of flavor than flat cranberry sauce. Plus, chances are that if you have a significant amount left over, it’s probably the homemade kind, which is most likely going to be chunky.

You can adjust the recipe to any flavor profile you like. Enjoy!

Cranberry Sauce Vinaigrette

Makes ¾ cup dressing.

1 cup whole berry cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon stone-ground mustard
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine the cranberry sauce, balsamic vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and ¼ cup water. Drizzle in the oil and whisk together well. Using a rubber spatula, strain the dressing through a mesh strainer into another bowl. Taste for seasoning and adjust if you like.

Pear-Pignoli Salad with Cranberry Sauce Vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings.

2 Anjou pears (ripe but still firm)
6 oz. mixed baby greens
¼ cup pignoli (pine nuts), toasted
¼ cup Cranberry Sauce Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

Slice the pears about ¼ inch thick. You want them somewhat thin, but not so thin that they fall apart in the salad. Place them in a large bowl. Add the greens and pignoli and toss gently. Add the dressing and again toss gently. Transfer the salad to a serving platter and arrange neatly. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top.

Serve immediately.



Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Kale & Creamy Avocado Dressing

Summer is finally here, and with the coming of sunshine and warm breezes comes the need for pasta salad. After all, you need something easy to bring to all those picnics, barbecues, and beach parties, right?

Pasta salad, however, need not be fattening or unhealthy. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. This pasta salad calls for whole wheat pasta, which already is healthier than regular pasta salad, but you can use gluten-free pasta as well. Rather than mayo or other fat-laden dressing, this one uses avocado. It makes the pasta creamy, rich, and loaded with nutrients (plus some good fat). Add raw kale to the mix and you’ve got a healthy, but delicious, alternative.

Kale can be tough, but squeezing kale with avocado softens the leaves. The salt in the dressing further breaks down the cell walls of the kale, helping it along its journey to tenderness.

This is an excellent start to the summer. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Kale & Creamy Avocado Dressing

Makes 4 servings.

8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups whole wheat pasta
2 teaspoons table salt
2 Haas avocados
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 packed kale leaves, shredded*
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
¼ cup grated parmesan

Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil in a small bowl. Spread the tomatoes out on a small baking sheet lined with foil and roast until soft and charred, about 20 minutes.Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and table salt and bring to a boil. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente, about 8 to 12 minutes (depending on what pasta you choose). Drain and set it aside while you prepare the sauce.

In a food processor, combine the meat from the avocados, lime juice, 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Process until smooth.Place the kale in a medium bowl. Pour the avocado sauce over it and squeeze the kale with your hand until everything is well blended. Mix in the balsamic and red pepper flakes, if you’re using it.Add the cooked pasta and parmesan and mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust it to your liking.Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

*To shred kale, first strip the leaves off the stems by lightly pinching the stem and running your fingers down the stem to the tip, pulling the leaves off along the way. Stack a few leaves and roll them up into a tight log. With a sharp knife, slice the kale thinly.

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Husk Cherry Salsa


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.



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




Cranberry Sauce with a Sorghum Twist

cranberry enhancedA few years ago, I introduced a recipe for Cranberry Sauce with a Sorghum Twist. I think using sorghum syrup is a great way to enjoy traditional dishes without using white cane sugar.

In my cranberry sauce, it also adds a different dimension to the flavor. And it’s still one of my favorite cranberry sauce recipes.

So, below is a reprint of my original post from 2013. I hope you like it. Have a fun, safe, and peaceful Thanksgiving.

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A World Party

Hi, everyone. In lieu of a recipe or story, this week I’d like to share with you something different. My latest cookbook, World Party: Vegetarian Appetizers, Hors d’oeuvres and Party Plates, is going to be released soon, and one of the fun things I’ve put together for it is a playlist.

To give you an idea of what the book is about, here’s the back blurb:

World Party: Vegetarian Appetizers, Hors d’oeuvres and Party Plates offers more than 200 recipes from 82 countries around the world. Traditional, classic, and beloved, they can be found at bazaars, on food carts, and in the homes of everyday cooks. These authentic dishes have been tweaked to be meatless options but no one will miss the meat, and they will become part of your go-to repertoire for any party. Travel the world and entertain with international fare right in your own home.World Party Front Cover

I spent years putting together the recipes for this book. It was at times frustrating, infuriating, pocket-gouging, and exhausting, but above all, it was so much fun. A cookbook is a labor of love to begin with, but when the topic is something that you pulled out of the depths of your heart and worked on it with your soul, it becomes a part of you.

I have no idea how well this book will be received, or how many it will sell, but it’s something that I was driven to do, and I’m very proud of the results. What a journey I went on! From all the testings, prodding people for their recipes, trying new dishes in both restaurants and people’s homes, I have memories and experiences that will always stay with me.

In the invisible pockets of this book are snapshots of my friends gathered around my table, tasting my experiments; reams and reams of paper with changes, edits, and stains of various juices and purees; and little envelopes of emotion—disappointment when a recipe failed, elation when something worked, and something else unnameable when I was told again and again that I’d never get this published because I was a nobody.

So much went into it, but it was worth it. I will be announcing the official release soon. Look for it from all online retailers.

So, about the playlist. This is a great list to play while you’re cooking and definitely while you’re entertaining. It’s a collection of world music, with a few familiar favorites thrown in (that are nonetheless appropriate). So have a listen. I hope you enjoy it. You can also follow this link to Spotify.

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Oat Noodle Salad with Umeboshi Plum Dressing


Yes, I’m still on a noodle kick. This time I’ve created a recipe using oat flour noodles. The nice thing about gluten-free noodles is that they’re lighter than wheat noodles, but like wheat noodles, they can be used in a variety of ways.IMG_6043

For some reason, these noodles are sold in packages with the odd weight of 13.4 ounces. I don’t know how or why they came up with that number, but it makes it awkward to create a recipe. (They probably started with 380 grams and it just happens to convert to 13.4 ounces, but why 380?) Well, I used approximately 10 ounces, which is three of the bundles that come in the package in the photo.

In this recipe, I’ve paired oat noodles with string beans and Japanese yams (although, if you can’t find Japanese yams, you can use sweet potatoes). The noodles and yams will soak up the dressing very efficiently, so if the salad is too dry for your tastes, you can add a little more olive oil, but the salad will not be oily in the slightest.

Ume Plum

Ume Plum

For the dressing, I used an umeboshi plum. Umbeboshi plums, a Japanese specialty, are ume plums (but more closely related to apricots) that have been salted and fermented. In the world of natural healing, umeboshi plums are considered miracle workers. If you divide foods into acidic, alkaline, and neutral, umeboshis are alkaline and can adjust imbalances in your body. It’s been used in Asia, particularly, Japan, China, and Korea, for centuries for a variety of ailments, including fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, colds, indigestion, headaches, and hangovers, among other things. Samurai soldiers were given umboshi as part of their field rations. They not used the plums to help them battle fatigue, they also used them to flavor foods such as rice and vegetables. Umeboshis also acted as a water and food purifier. Continue reading

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Cauliflower Steak with Sun-Dried Tomato-Olive Sauce

IMG_5504Cauliflower steak is a mainstay of many vegetarian and vegan restaurants. I think it’s because once you’ve worked your way through a big slab of cauliflower, you find yourself full and satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming that a cauliflower steak gives the same feeling of satisfaction that of a regular steak or that it’s a comparable substitute in any way, but for vegetarians, it’s a hearty and delicious option.

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Enter the Green Goddess

I can’t believe that summer is almost over. How can that be possible? With the crazy weather we’ve had this year, it seems as though our summer was given to us in short spurts, and people are scrambling to enjoy what’s left of it. Everyone seems to be making end-of-summer getaway plans, throwing impromptu barbecues, and packing in those picnics that didn’t happen earlier in the season.

So what do you bring for the stop-over during the car ride? What can you easily make to bring to that last-minute barbecue or picnic? Pasta salad is always a good choice. It’s easy to make and people love it.

There are so many ways to make pasta salad, so many ingredients to choose from. And so many dressing you can use. This time around, why not use green goddess dressing?

Green goddess dressing, as you might imagine, is so name because of the green ingredients, chopped up finely and sparkling like gems throughout the dressing. It’s traditionally made with mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, tarragon, parsley, lemon juice, anchovies, and, depending on who you ask, chervil. Many people have taken to using avocado in their green goddess, which enhances its green color and lends it a buttery creaminess. I’m all for that.

My Green Goddess Dressing

My Green Goddess Dressing

The creation of green goddess dressing is attributed to the Palace Hotel, built in 1875, in San Francisco. Now known as the Sheraton-Palace, it is considered San Francisco’s first “grand” hotel. As the story goes, in 1923, actor George Arliss was in the City by the Bay to star in a play called The Green Goddess, by writer/critic William Archer. Arliss starred in the 1923 silent film adaptation of the play, also called The Green Goddess. Then it was remade in 1930—Arliss reprised his role—and was one of the first “talkie” films ever made. The 1923 version is only one of three of Arliss’ silent films that are known to have survived.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

The executive chef at the Palace, Philippe Roemer, wanted to make something special for the banquet that was being prepared in honor of Arliss, so he created the green goddess dressing. It’s actually a variation of an already established dressing created by a chef of the Court of King Louis XIII of France in the 17th century. The sauce was indeed green, hence its name—au vert—but was served with seafood, particularly eel. There’s even a recipe for it in the iconic epicurean tome Larousse Gastronomique, by Prosper Montagne, first published in 1938.

In the 1970s, Seven Seas (now part of the Kraft company) came out with a bottled version of green goddess, and Annie’s Naturals has a vegetarian version (i.e., no anchovies). It’s still a popular dressing on the West Coast.

Below is my (anchovy-less) recipe for Green Goddess Dressing. Because fresh tarragon may be hard to find if you’re not close to a really good market or not, say, living in Provence, I make mine with basil. (On that note, tarragon is one of those herbs that are worth growing yourself.)

This is what I mean whenever I say that food is steeped in history (which I say often in my cookbook, What, No Meat? Traditional Italian Cooking the Vegetarian Way). It’s closely intertwined with politics, folklore, culture, social mores, war, economics, psychology, geography, and superstitions. What we eat did not just land on our plates one day. It took a journey—sometimes a short, uneventful one, sometimes a long, complex one. This is the stuff I share in my book. It’s really amazing what we take for granted.

Next time you have a salad with green goddess dressing, remember what a grand debut in the world it had. Cherish it. Praise it. Kiss it. Okay, don’t do that. Just appreciate the food you have and how lucky you are to have it. Not everyone in the world is that lucky.

Have a great week, and may Mother Nature take pity on us and give us a good rest of the summer.

Roberta’s Green Goddess Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup minced chives
1/4 cup minced parsley
2 tbsp minced basil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Kosher or sea salt to taste
White pepper to taste (preferably freshly ground)

Whisk together all ingredients until well blended. Refrigerate until needed. If it’s too thick, thin it out with a little water or canola oil.