Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Farro Linguine with Asparagus and Lemon-Pepper Sauce

This recipe is a combination of two classic Italian pasta dishes: aglio e olio (garlic and oil) and asparagus with lemon-pepper sauce. (Both individual recipes, by the way, can be found in my pasta edition of the Vegetarian Italian: Traditions ebook series.)

One night after work, I was contemplating dinner. I wanted to do something a little different, but I wanted to keep it easy, and not stray too far from familiarity (I was tired and irritated from work, so simplicity and comforting were my top criteria).

Pasta is always easy, always comforting, and I had just happened to buy a bunch of pencil-thin asparagus. I also had lemons…and so I came up with this. Two savory Italian classics in one delicious dish, and the combo is not any more work than just one recipe alone.

Farro is an ancient Italian grain that is related to spelt and emmer, but is not actually spelt, as some believe. It’s commonly used in Italy, but is becoming more available in the U.S. Farro pasta is nutty, nutritious, low in calories, and is often well tolerated by people with gluten sensitivity (although those with Celiac disease should avoid it). Farro pasta can be found in Italian groceries, as well as gourmet shops. And, of course, online. Try it—I think you’ll find it an addicting alternative to whole wheat pasta.

Enjoy.

Farro Linguine with Asparagus and Lemon-Pepper Sauce

1 pound asparagus
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ lb. farro linguine (or other long pasta)
2 large garlic cloves, sliced

½ teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Zest from 1 small lemon

Grated parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Snap or cut off the woody bottom stems of the asparagus and discard. Place the asparagus on a platter, drizzle with half the oil, sprinkle with half the salt, and gently toss. Try to keep the asparagus all facing the same direction (this will make it easier to handle).Place the asparagus on a baking sheet lined with foil and roast until tender and lightly browned (the time will vary depending on the thickness of the asparagus, but anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes). Remove them from oven and chop them into bite-size pieces.Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and remaining salt and bring it to a boil, stirring often, until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain. Transfer the pasta to a serving platter. Add the chopped asparagus.Pour the remaining olive oil in a small pan with the garlic. Heat until the garlic is fragrant and just starts to color, about 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the paprika, swirl it, then immediately pour it over the pasta. Season with more salt and grind on as much black pepper as you like.Sprinkle the lemon zest over it. Top with the grated parmesan and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil. Serve.

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Pasticcini di Pasqua (Little Easter Buns)

Pasticcini di Pasqua, Little Easter Buns

This Sunday is Easter Sunday, which is traditionally a day filled with of various types of sweet breads (by that, I mean actual breads that are sweetened, not the other kind of sweet breads).

In my book, Vegetarian Italian: Traditions—Bread, I offer a recipe for Pasticcini di Pasqua (Little Easter Buns). I’d like to share that with you here, just in time to bake some for Sunday.

You can get many other Italian bread recipes in that volume, and lots of other great Italian recipes in the other books in that series: Appetizers, Pasta, Soups & Stews, Pizza & Focaccia, Entrees & Sides, Rice & Potatoes, and Desserts. (These were originally in one volume, in several editions, but those are no longer available.)

Happy Easter to all those who celebrate. Enjoy!

Pasticcini di Pasqua (Little Easter Buns)

Makes 4 buns.

2 packages active dry yeast
1¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
2 eggs, divided
¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter, softened
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Few drops food coloring of your choice
4 soft-boiled eggs, shells intact
2 tablespoons colored jimmies or sprinkles (optional)

In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over ¼ cup very warm water. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour and mix well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit 1 hour.

Place remaining flour in a large bowl. Add yeast mixture. Beat one of the raw eggs and add to bowl, along with sugar, butter, salt, and orange and lemon zests. Mix well until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 or 6 minutes. Put dough back into bowl, cover with a cloth towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, or overnight in refrigerator.

Grease a baking sheet with butter or nonstick spray, or line it with parchment paper, and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 2 or 3 drops food coloring on each soft-boiled egg and use a pastry brush or your finger to spread color over entire eggs. Set aside.

Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten into ¼-inch-thick disks. Place on baking sheet. Press center of each with your fingers to make an indent and gently place an egg into indents. Gently press dough around egg. Beat other raw egg and brush dough. Sprinkle jimmies or sprinkles, if using, around tops of dough and eggs. Bake until buns are golden brown and puffed up, about 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in a plastic bag or container in refrigerator.

Serve these on Easter morning at room temperature. Remove egg from center, peel, and enjoy.

 

 


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Cipolline in Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Cipolline Onions)

As we’re coming into the fall season—and I say that lightly because we’ve been having higher-than-normal temperatures for this time of year—we’re beginning to see the first offerings of the autumn harvests. A little.

Anyway, at my farmers’ market, I spotted cipolline, which are a specific kind of onion and very popular in Italian cuisine. I usually buy a batch and make cipolline in agrodolce (sweet and sour cipolline) for Thanksgiving. But since I spotted these way too early for the holidays, but couldn’t resist buying them, I decided to experiment with my recipe a little. The difference here is booze. I wanted to see what a little alcohol would do to the mixture.

The question was, what type of alcohol did I want to add? I debated between bourbon, vodka, and a liqueur. Ultimately, I went with apricot brandy. It gave the onions a sweet but—not surprising—boozy edge. In short, they’re really good. Give it a try.

Cipolline in Agrodolce (Sweet and Sour Cipolline Onions)

1 pound cipolline onions, outer skin removed
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
½ cup apricot brandy
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon peppercorns
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon oregano

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the onions and lower the heat. Simmer for about a minute or two and drain. When the onions are cool enough to handle, trim them and peel off the tough outer layer.

Combine the sugar and ¼ cup water in a medium pot. Bring it to a boil; lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Add the vinegar and bring to a boil again. Simmer until thickened.Add one cup water, the cipolline, and the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Simmer about 45 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let them cool. Transfer everything to a jar or sealable bowl and refrigerate.

Cipolline will last about a week.


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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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Butternut-Black Bean Tacos

Why butternut and black bean tacos? Why not? Butternut squashes are fabulous. Anything inside a taco is fabulous. So butternut squash in a taco is…well…doubly fabulous.

Butternut squash is my favorite squash because it’s so versatile, and its flavor is so delicately sweet. It’s not fun to peel, but once you get past that part, you can do pretty much anything with it. So for this recipe, I’ve paired it with black beans, not just for the protein but because the two ingredients make such a beautiful contrast. Throw in some red bell pepper and it’s a sight to behold.

So, yeah, tacos. What’s not to love? Continue reading


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Pancit Bihon Noodles with Snow Peas

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Pancit bihon noodles are long, thin noodles made from cornstarch and are used widely in Philippine cuisine. They’ve got a nice firm texture and can be used in pretty much any recipe that calls for long, spaghetti-like noodles. And they are gluten free.img_6471

Noodles were introduced to the Philippines by the Chinese. It’s said that the word pancit comes from Hokkien, a southern Chinese dialect: pian e sit, which means “something conveniently cooked.” Pancit noodles became a staple—in fact, national—dish of the Philippines.

The recipe I offer here today is a basic Asian noodle dish, and you can add or remove anything you like. Look for pancit bihon in Asian markets.

Pancit Bihon Noodles with Snow Peas

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

½ lb. snow peas
8 oz. pancit bihon noodles
2 teaspoons cooking oil (such as grapeseed or sunflower)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Sea salt, if desired

Trim the snow peas and either cut into strips or just chop coarsely.img_6470Bring a medium-large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and stir them in. Cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.img_6478Drain in a colander and run under cool water to stop the cooking. Set aside.img_6479In a wok or wide frying pan, heat the cooking oil, then add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the snow peas and sauté a few minutes until softened but still crisp.img_6480Add the noodles, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Mix well with tongs.img_6481Taste for seasoning and add a little salt, if needed. Serve hot.img_6485

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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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