Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Strozzapreti—Priest-Chokers with “Salsify” Sauce

Emilia-Romagna

Ah, caught your eye with that title, didn’t I? Strozzapreti, which literally means “priest-chokers” (strozza=to choke or strangle; preti=priest) is a type of pasta, and it stars in this week’s recipe in my 20 Regions of Italy project, based on the book La Cucina—The Regional Cooking of Italy by Accademia Italiana della Cucina (The Italian Academy of Cuisine).

Here’s the thing: Some pasta names refer to different shapes, depending on what region of Italy you go to, and so it is with strozzapreti. In some regions, strozzapreti look like twisted ropes, whereas in other regions, it refers to various shapes that are large and grow larger as they cook, and can easily be used to choke the local cleric. There are different theories for the origin of the name, from accidental choking to intentional suffocation, but it’s one of the best pasta shape names. (It seems to me that since this name is widespread throughout the country, choking priests must have been a common practice.) In Emilia-Romagna, they resemble what my people from Basilicata referred to as “macaroni.” I looked for something in the supermarket to replicate this and the closest I came was casarecci, or “house-style noodles.” You can also use gemelli, or anything similar. In the case of this specific recipe (i.e., according to the book), this pasta got its name from its white color, due to the lack of eggs, and reminiscent of priests’ collars.

Lischi/agretti

The recipe is from the nineteenth century, but the title of this recipe is misleading. When I first saw it, I assumed I’d be using salsifythat long, black-skinned root vegetable, called scorzanera in Italian (scorza=peel, nera=black). But I was wrong. What this dish actually requires is a marsh grass known in Italian as lischi, agretti or Barba di Frate. The authors of this book (or perhaps the translators) seem to think that lischi are the young leaves of the salsify plant, but I’ve researched it and I’ve come up with no evidence to support this. Maybe somewhere in the translation, they ran across lischi’s latin name, Salsola soda, and confused it with salsify.

Having said all that, lischi is almost impossible to get locally in the U.S., unless you’re lucky enough to encounter

it at a farmers’ market somewhere, grow it yourself, or order it online. The book suggests using Swiss chard leaves as a substitute, but that comes nowhere near replicating lischi. I scoured the many offerings of Asian markets, looking for something similar. Lischi have a grassy, slightly bitter taste, and are long. They look almost like Chinese long beans, only with an oceanic sheen to it, similar to algae, or seaweed. Neither of those things, however, seemed appropriate. In the end, I settled for chives. Not the smallish French, or onion, chives (the kind that you snip on top of your hors d’oeuvres), and not flowering chives, but long, flat-leaf chives, known as garlic chives. The garlicky flavor is very mild when it’s cooked, and it has a similar strand-like appearance to the lischi.

 

The result was pretty good, and definitely a change of pace from the typical pasta dish.

Flat-leaf chives

Strozzapreti

Priest-Chokers with Salsify Sauce

Makes 4 servings.

½ pound strozzapretti (or other short pasta)
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 ounces pancetta, diced
4 ounces lischi (or flat-leaf chives)
1 cup dry red wine, preferably Sangiovese di Romagna)
2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, about 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the type you use. Drain well.

Meanwhile, place the lischi (or chives) in another pot and cover with water. Bring it to a boil; lower the heat and simmer until the the vegetables are tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well.Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium pan; add the pancetta and saute over low heat until the pancetta has lightly browned. Add the lischi and wine. Simmer over medium heat. When the wine has evaporated, add the cooked strozzapreti and the rest of the butter. Toss to heat. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

 


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Chieti Cookies

Abruzzo

This is the third recipe in my Regions of Italy project. It’s a cookie that comes from the town of Chieti in Abruzzo. It is unique in that it calls for dry red wine.

I really want to say that these cookies are awesome. Unfortunately, this recipe was a complete disaster right from the start. Here’s why.

The original recipe said to make a well with flour, and in the well, to put sugar, oil, and salt. Then, you start adding wine to form an elastic dough. This couldn’t possibly make an elastic dough because it’s basically a sugar cookie. There’s no yeast, no rising, no kneading involved. Bread dough is elastic. Pizza dough is elastic. Cookie dough is not elastic. But I thought, maybe they just used the wrong word in the translation. What they really wanted to say, I surmised, was a dough that comes together, that stays together as a whole. Continue reading


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Winter Eggnog Pancakes

So, the holidays have come and gone. You’ve shopped until you dropped, partied hardy, and eaten every holiday goodie there was.

Now you’re settling back into a regular routine again. The decorations have come down (maybe), you’ve made your resolutions (possibly), and you’re starting to eat normal and/or healthy food again (hopefully). You open up your refrigerator and find that container of eggnog that never got finished is still there, with still enough eggnog in it that makes you feel bad about throwing it away.

You don’t have to.

There are many ways to use up leftover eggnog, but one of the simplest is pancakes. Eggnog pancakes are kind of like buttermilk pancakes, but they’re richer and more complex.

Okay, so pancakes don’t have to be complex. But it’s really, really great if they’re tasty and satisfying. Made with eggnog, they are.

So, if you’re like me and hate to throw out even a scrap of food, try this recipe with that leftover eggnog. It’s a great post-holiday treat.

Enjoy!

Winter Eggnog Pancakes

Makes 16 pancakes.

1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon maple or coconut palm sugar
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch allspice
1½ cups eggnog
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the eggnog, egg, and melted butter. Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix gently just until blended.Heat a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Place several mounds of the batter, a scant ¼ cup each, into the pan about an inch apart. Spread the batter out just a little to ensure even cooking (the eggnog makes the batter thick and it may not spread on its own).Let them cook until bubbles form on top and the bottoms have browned, about 2 minutes. Flip them over and continue to cook until the bottoms have browned and there’s no wet batter on the sides, about another 1 to 2 minutes.Serve with real maple syrup, fruit, jam, or whatever toppings you like.

 

 


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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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Giant Pear Squash with Cannellini

The squash family has many variations. There are the well-known types, such as butternuts, sweet dumplings, kabocha, spaghetti, zucchini, pattypan, and numerous others. But there are so many lesser know varieties, some you would never see except when they appear in neighbors’ gardens.

Giant pear squash

If you visit farmers’ markets, you can find some other squash varieties, but you won’t generally find them in most stores. However, every once in a while, an unusual type will show up in my local produce market. And that’s exactly what happened with the giant pear squash.

Giant pear squash is so called because…well, take a look at it. It’s aptly named. (Yes, it really is as big as it looks in the photo. The photo is not distorted in any way.) It has a very mild flesh, somewhat similar to yellow summer squash. It can easily be used in any dish that requires a mild squash, or as a substitute for zucchini.

You want to cut out the spongy core of the giant pear squash. Not because it’s inedible, but because it contains seeds that are too hard to eat. They kind of look like chulpe, a Peruvian dried corn (see photos below).

Squash seeds, fresh

Squash seeds, dried

Chulpe corn

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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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Peanut Butter & Cranberry Sandwich

img_6566

A while back, while scrolling through photos of food on Instagram,  I came across a picture of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was enticing.

Let me just say that while I love peanut butter, I’m not fond of jelly. So, ever since I was a kid, I’ve been eating peanut butter sandwiches, sans jelly.

But the PB&J in this photo was so delicious looking, so scrumptious, that it made me think for a moment that maybe I’d been wrong. Maybe I’d judged jelly too harshly. Maybe I should give it another try.

img_6560

Mmm, no. I’m old enough to know what I like and don’t like. Honey, yes. Jelly, no.

Then, a thought hit me. What if…now, hear me out…what if I made a peanut butter and cranberry sandwich? I had a jar of homemade cranberry sauce left over from Thanksgiving. I’ve used cranberry sauce for many things—why not a sandwich?

And, so, I did. And it was crazy good. I mean crazy AND good.

No, I was right the first time. Crazy good.

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