Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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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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Whole Wheat Penne with Kale Pesto

IMG_6035When people hear the word pesto, it conjures up images of big bowls of fragrant pesto, bulbs of fresh garlic, and creamy pignoli nuts. (Doesn’t that make your mouth water?) As good as that combination is, pesto has crossed boundaries into new territory. These days, pesto can be made with a variety of ingredients.

I made this pesto with kale. Kale is great to use for pesto because not only is raw kale packed with nutrients, but it’s a sturdy vegetable that holds up very well against the blade of a processor or blender, and it’s flavorful enough to really give a sauce some heft and legitimacy.

But rather than process the greens with raw garlic, as you would with traditional pesto, I sautéed some white onion and garlic in olive oil and added that to the kale. It gave the pesto some sweetness and cut down on the sharpness that the raw garlic would give it. Of course, that sharpness is what many people love about pesto, but the thing about kale is that it’s a heavier, stronger flavor than basil and it can stand to be mellowed out a bit. I also added a handful of cooked green beans to soften the sauce further. But after all is said and done, this is still a flavorful, hearty sauce. You can use it on meats and fish, spread it in sandwiches, or add it to soups, as you would a pistou. For this recipe, I used it with whole wheat penne.

Give it a try. If you like pesto, I think you’ll really enjoy this.

Whole Wheat Penne with Kale Pesto

Makes 4 servings.

2 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup chopped white onion
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups kale
½ cup cooked green beans
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cups whole wheat penne
¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Remove from heat.IMG_6015Place the kale in a food processor or blender.

IMG_6018Add the onion and string beans, salt, and pepper. Begin processing.

IMG_6020Feed the extra virgin olive oil through the feed tube and process until finely minced.

IMG_6023If necessary, stop the machine, scrape down the sides, and continue processing. It should only take a minute or two.

IMG_6028Bring a medium pot of water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well and transfer to a bowl. Mix in the pesto. Divide between 4 bowls, sprinkle the cheese on top, and serve.IMG_6036


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Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Bake

Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Bake

Some people don’t know what to do with spaghetti squash. It’s an odd vegetable. It’s a squash but has a crispy texture and comes apart in strands. So, while you can certainly prepare it they way you would prepare it they way you’d prepare other squash, the result will be very different.

But because the flesh comes apart in strands, many people use it in place of spaghetti, with tomato sauce, cheese, and everything. And, along those lines, the squash can be used in place of pasta in other ways.IMG_5993

Here I decided to do a modified mac and cheese, combining spaghetti squash with actual pasta. But it’s not a true mac and cheese becuase it contains no milk of any kind. But it does have 2 kinds of delicous cheese, so I call it a Cheesy Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Bake.

By using 2 kinds of cheese, you get a deeper, more complex flavor. The cheeses I chose are Manchego and Jarlsberg, but you can substitute any other 2 cheeses you like. Or you can go the traditional route and do straight-up Cheddar.IMG_5996 Continue reading


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Black Rice Noodle Pie

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Hey, all. Gluten-free noodle time again! Those black noodles I bought and made last time turned out so good, I wanted to do something else with them. But what? Pasta pie, of course!

Pasta pie is nothing new, but I wanted to give it a new spin by using the black rice noodles. It’s not only tasty, but visually stunning as well. Texturally, of course, it’s a different experience than regular pasta pie, as it always is when replacing regular pasta with gluten-free noodles. The result is a tender, yielding pie, and it won’t sit in your stomach like a brick.

Look for black rice noodles in Asian markets and give this a try. It’s beautiful, fun, and, most important, delicious. Enjoy!

Black Rice Noodle Pie

Makes 8 servings

Approx. 14 oz. black rice noodles (or other gluten-free noodles)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup milk
2 medium eggs, beaten
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 to 8 slices deli provolone cheese (about ¼ lb.)

IMG_5881Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch springform cake pan with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.IMG_5882IMG_5883

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles, stir, and cook until firm-tender, about 8 minutes. Drain well.IMG_5868

Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the remaining olive oil and mix throughout the noodles. Add the milk, eggs, ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, and pepper. Mix well. The noodles will clump together, so stir well. Tear a couple of slices of the provolone into small pieces to make ¼ cup and stir that into the noodles.IMG_5884

Lay 2 or three slices of provolone on the bottom of the cake pan.IMG_5887

Pour the noodles into the pan (scrape the bowl to get any bits of cheese). Lay 3 or 4 slices across the top of the noodles, then sprinkle on the remaining Parmigiano.

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Bake until set (a knife inserted should come out just barely wet) and the cheese is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let it sit 5 to 10 minutes.IMG_5889

Remove the ring from the pan and invert the pie onto a plate. Remove the bottom and the parchment paper and invert it again onto a serving plate.IMG_5896IMG_5899

Cut into 8 wedges. Serve hot.IMG_5905

 

 


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Black Rice Noodles with White Beans & Cauliflower

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I’m on noodle kick. If you read my blog last week, you know that I wrote about noodles then as well. That blog was about the mung bean noodles that I found in an Asian market. Well, in that same market, I found black rice noodles, and, as usual, I couldn’t resist trying them.

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Black foods are not only striking to look at, but they’re typically high in antioxidants because of they’re high levels of pigments. Black rice is high in Vitamin E, which helps the immune system and protects cells from free radical damage. According to a study from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, black rice contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than blueberries, making it an even healthier choice than brown rice. As a result, black rice is considered one of the new superfoods. And let’s not overlook the fact that these noodles are gluten free! Here’s more about it at Livestrong.com.

The unfortunate part of using black rice noodles is that once they’re cooked, they’re no longer black but a dark purple. But that’s okay—they’re still pretty to look at. And they still stand out beautifully against white beans and vegetables, which is exactly what I did with this recipe. Continue reading


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Italian-Style Mung Bean Noodles

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Mung Beans

Mung bean noodles are noodles that are made from dried, ground mung beans. Mung beans have been consumed since antiquity but are unfamiliar outside of Indian and Asian communities. They are an important part of Ayurvedic cuisine, and are popular for sprouting. (Many of the bean sprouts that come with your salad or in your Asian take-out come from mung beans).IMAG3683

Mung beans are a high source of protein—about 3 grams per tablespoon, or 14 grams per cup. They’re also rich in manganese, potassium, magnesium, folate, copper, zinc and some B vitamins. They’re low on the glycemic index, and high in antioxidants. They’re considered a good food in the battle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, inflammation, and obesity.

Mung beans can be found in Indian and Asian markets, but are slowly starting to find their way onto supermarket shelves as well. You can get mung bean noodles in Asian markets. The logical conclusion would be to use them in a dish with Asian flavors, right? However, I chose to go Italian style with these, and it worked out beautifully. I simply made them the way I would make a dish of traditional Italian pasta—with olive oil, garlic, and vegetables.

Mung Bean Noodles

Mung Bean Noodles

Like many non-wheat noodles, these will not come out al dente, like traditional pasta. Mung bean noodles come out soft and somewhat sticky, so the eating experience will be different than what you get from eating traditional pasta, but it’s pleasant and delicious with a slightly nutty flavor. I like to add a little extra virgin olive oil at the end not only for the extra flavor boost but also to counteract the stickiness of the noodles.

I hope you enjoy them.

Italian-Style Mung Bean Noodles

Makes 2 servings.

1 small head broccoli, cut into florets
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 to 8 ounces mung bean noodles
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons grated cheese
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the broccoli out on a baking sheet. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes. Stir and continue roasting until tender when pierced with a knife and browned, about another 10 to 15 minutes.IMG_5797

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the mung bean noodles and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.IMG_5795IMG_5802

Split the noodles between 2 bowls, and add broccoli to both, and mix well.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a small pan. Add the garlic and sauté just until it becomes fragrant and starts to color.IMG_5796

Add the paprika, swirl it around, and immediately pour equally over the two the bowls of noodles and broccoli.

IMG_5800Sprinkle grated cheese over the top, then the extra virgin olive oil, and serve.

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Spinach Fettuccine with Roasted Cauliflower-Almond Sauce

Spinach Fettuccine with Roasted Cauliflower-Almond Sauce

I’ve been roasting cauliflower a lot lately because it’s a very versatile vegetable. Once roasted, you can use it in a variety of dishes, and this is one of them.

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Spinach Fettuccine nests

Even if you aren’t a fan of cauliflower, I guarantee that you will like it roasted. Roasting brings out both a sweetness and a smokiness, not to mention a fabulous umami flavor. You can certainly start from scratch and roast the cauliflower specifically for this purpose, but I love the idea of roasting a whole head and having it in the refrigerator to use for the whole week. Then, when you’re ready to make dinner, take some out and add it to whatever you’re making. It will taste great. (You can refer to my blog on Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Bisque on how to roast the cauliflower.)

On this particular evening, I made Spinach Fettuccine with Roasted IMG_5559Cauliflower-Almond Sauce. Pasta with cauliflower and nuts (particularly pine nuts, or pignoli) is a typical Italian dish, and is especially popular in Sicily. My version calls for the roasted cauliflower and toasted almonds. The spinach fettuccine that I had came in the form of “nests,” but you can use any kind or brand of spinach fettuccine. Continue reading


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Umbrian Cicerchia Soup

cicerchia soupThere’s one thing I love about Eataly, the Italian market in Chelsea in New York, and it’s not the prices. It’s the fact that you can get products that have been imported from Italy, things that you wouldn’t otherwise find, at least not easily.IMG_5261

During one particular perusal of the market, I found cicerchia, an Umbrian hybrid of chickpeas and fava beans. Ceceri means chickpeas, so I imagine that cirechia is a playful word meaning “in the realm of chickpeas.” Italians love playing with their words almost as much as their food.

It’s probably a good thing, though, that cicerchia isn’t available widely. According to Vorrei Italianfood, they contain a neurotoxin and should not be eaten every day over a prolonged period of time (alhough I don’t know what that means.)IMG_5245

I wasn’t sure what to do with them, though, as this was not a common product, at least not in the region where my family is from (Basalicata). Ultimately, I decided to use them in a typical Umbrian dish: chickpea soup.

If you’re able to get your hands on cicerchia, try this recipe—it’s light but filling and scrumptious.
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Gorgeously Green Pasta Salad

So, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and green is the official black for that holiday. The foodIMG_0445 world, too, suddenly turns green. We see  green bagels, green cake, and even green beer. But if all of that turns you green, here’s a recipe that keeps that particular tradition going but is a lot better for you and is gorgeously green naturally.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and may the Luck o’ the Irish be with you!

Gorgeously Green Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is open to many variations—you can add anything you want, as long as it’s green! It has several components to it, but if you’re willing to spend a little time on it, the result will truly be gorgeous, not to mention delicious. Aside from the broccoli florets, I split the string beans in half, used only the green part of the zucchini, and garnished it with zucchini curls.

1 medium head broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1/2 teaspoon salt plus more
2 small zucchini, diced small
2 ½ cups cut string beans
2 cups peas (if frozen, thawed)
1 lb short pasta
½ lb arugula
¼ lb watercress
1 cup sliced scallions (white part only), divided
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium green bell pepper, diced small
½ cup chopped parsley

Garnish: zucchini, scallion greens, broccoli florets

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1. Cut the broccoli into florets. Set aside as many “pretty” florets (they should be similarly sized). Chop the remaining florets, stems, and pieces. Blanch and shock the florets. Cook the remaining broccoli until crisp-tender; drain well.

To blanch and shock: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Set a bowl of ice water on the counter. Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water and cook for a minute or 2, until broccoli is slightly tender. With a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to the ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

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2. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a medium skillet; add the onion and salt, and sweat (cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent. Do not brown.)

3. Zucchini: Saute in 2 teaspoons just until tender. Transfer to a bowl; let cool.

4. String beans: Bring pot of salted water to a boil; add string beans and cook just until tender. Transfer to the ice water and let cool. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside ½ cup.

5. Peas: If fresh, cook in boiling water until just tender. If frozen, boil briefly. Drain well.

6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well and let cool.

7. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a food processor or blender, combine the arugula, watercress, ½ cup string beans that were set aside, ½ cup scallions, garlic, salt and pepper. With the machine processing, slowly add the extra-virgin olive oil until a sauce forms.

8. When pasta has cooled but is still slightly warm, add the sauce and mix well. Add the green pepper, the chopped broccoli, onion, cooked zucchini, peas, remaining string beans, and remaining scallions. Mix well. Blend in parsley. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add whatever herbs or spices you like.

IMG_0436Makes 14 servings.

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Romanesco Cauliflower

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a romanesco cauliflower, or broccoli, but it’s a gorgeous vegetable. Its shape is what they call “fractal.” Merriam-webster.com defines fractal as “any of various extremely irregular curves or shapes for which any suitably chosen part is similar in shape to a given larger or smaller part when magnified or reduced to the same size.” I’ll just say that it’s amazing. I mean, take a look at it.Romanesco

Also known as broccoflower and Roman cauliflower, romanesco is part of the brassica family, which includes cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, etc.) and was first seen in Italy around the 16th century. Although its color is closer to broccoli, its texture and flavor is that of cauliflower.

It’s such a visually stunning vegetable that whenever I see it, I can’t pass it up. Nature is a wonderous thing.Romanesco

This is a very simple old Italian recipe that usually uses regular cauliflower, but romanesco is easily substituted.

Pasta with Romanesco Cauliflower and Pignoli

1 small head romanesco cauliflower
1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti
3 teaspoons kosher salt plus more
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pignoli,  toasted
1 teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Grated parmigiano or pecorino romano

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and 3 teaspoons salt; and cook until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, cut up cauliflower into florets. Heat olive oil in a large pan; add garlic and saute for one minute; sprinkle in paprika then immediately add cauliflower. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water; cover the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook until tender but firm, about another 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in the pignoli and salt to taste.

When the pasta is cooked, drain well and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour the cauliflower mixture on top and mix. If the pasta seems dry, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top and mix. Sprinkle some parmigiano or pecorino over the top and serve hot.

Makes 2 servings.