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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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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Tuscan Kale-Bean Soup with Fregola

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Tuscan Kale

Tuscan kale is a beautiful specimen of the kale family. The leaves are long and dainty looking, and look really pretty in a garden. But like standard kale, the leaves are hearty and the stems tough. Thick stems should be cut off and the leaves need to cook for a substantial amount of time (versus greens such s spinach or chard, which cook down in a few minutes).

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Picnic Posole Salad

posole text

I’ve been making posole salad for picnics, parties, and barbecues years. I think people enjoy it because it’s both something different from the usual fare, while offering something familiar and not too “out there.”

hominy

Dried hominy

So what is posole (or pozole)? Not everyone outside of the Latin community is familiar with posole. Posole means “hominy” (from the Nahuatl word pozolle), and actually refers to a stew, popular in Mexico and made with hominy and pork or chicken. But it is sometimes also used (loosely and unofficially) to refer to the hominy itself, which is properly called mote. Corn, in general, is known as maize.

Mote is maize that has had its hulls removed through a process known as nixtamalization. This involves boiling the kernels in a water-and-lime (or ash) solution. The resulting product is used in many traditional dishes throughout Latin America, the most commonly known being posole stew, a dish that goes back to the pre-Colombian Aztecs. Continue reading


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Chilean Tomato and Sweet Onion Salad

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One of the best things about summer is all the beautiful, luscious tomatoes that become available. So this is the season for tomato salads. It’s almost not even worth it to make tomato salad any other time of the year.

This is a simple Chilean version, which gets a bit of a kick from minced Serrano or jalapeno pepper. But if you like, you can omit it. Choose any tomatoes you like—there are so many options this time of year! Heirloom varieties make a stunning salad, but good old beefsteak tomatoes do better than fine. Continue reading