Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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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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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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Papalo, the Unsung Cilantro

I just love finding new items to try. I was at the farmer’s market one day and saw something called papalo. I’d never heard of it and had no idea how to use it, but I bought a bundle and did some research.

Papalo leaf

Papalo leaf

Turns out that papalo is an herb that grows wild in Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Most popular in Mexican cooking (although it’s also used in South American cuisines), it’s been compared closely to cilantro. It looks nothing like cilantro but its flavor is mildly cilantro-like with citrus overtones. In fact, it is often used in dishes in place of cilantro. It tends to be used in raw applications more than cooked ones, and is especially popular in salsas and guacamole.

There’s a traditional Puebla sandwich made with meat, avocado, and chiles, varying with tomatoes, cheese, and onions, and always papalo. As far as I’ve been able to determine, this sandwich is called a cemita, which is also a general word (in Spanish) for “sandwich.”

The word papalo comes from the Native American Nahuatl word for butterfly, papalotl. (Interestingly, it’s similar to the French word for butterfly, papillon.) But I’ve come across numerous names for papalo, including Bolivian coriander (coriander being the word for cilantro in many countries), butterfly weed, pápaloquelite, tepegua, quillquiña, quirquiña, and killi.Papalo

Despite the prevailing belief that papalo should not be cooked, I used it in a batch of vegetarian chili and, predictably, it gave it a citrusy note. The chili seemed somehow “fresher” and more summery. That’s obviously my own association with the flavor profile of the chili but the papalo definitely gave it a nice little zing.

Here’s a recipe for a simple tomatillo salsa, using papalo. Let me know what you think.

Simple Tomatillo Salsa with Papalo

½ lb. tomatillos, husked and rinsed
1 small jalapeno, stemmed, seeded and finely minced
¼ cup minced papalo leaves
¼ cup finely minced white onion
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Sea salt to taste

Finely chop the tomatillos and place in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Chill for at least ½ hour to allow the flavors to blend.

 


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Liquid Gold from Greens

My friend, Linda, asked me recently for suggestions on what to do with the water she had used to cook kale. This water, known as pot liquor (sometimes spelled potlikker), has set many a cook’s heart aflutter because it’s loaded with flavor. Not only that, it’s also packed with nutrients from the kale, or whatever greens you have cooked in it.DSCF0005

Pot liquor is a U.S. Southern speciality, usually made from collard, mustard, or turnip greens, and can be used in place of water or broth in almost anything. Here are some ways to use it:

* In soups, stews, or chilis

* To cook rice, quinoa, or any other grain

* To braise vegetables or fish

* In a vegetable casserole

* In a vegetable smoothie

* In place of broth in a pan sauce

* If you have enough of it, you can reduce it and add a roux for a sauce, too. This would go very well with grilled/baked/sauteed tofu or tempeh.

* Add it to your pet’s food—it’s nutritious for our furry friends, too!

So, get yourself a nice big bunch of greens—any greens—and cook it down. The best way is to sauté greens in a pan with garlic and oil. But you can also use a small amount of water to boil them. That way, you get the nutrient-packed water without leeching everything out of the greens themselves. Place the greens in a large skillet or dutch oven and add about a cup of water and salt. After the greens are cooked, remove them and save the liquid. To sauté in oil, follow the recipe below, then reserve the pot liquor. It will have incredible added flavor from the garlic and spices.

(By the way, I was very tempted to call this blog “Pot Liquor,” but I was afraid it would draw the wrong kind of traffic. 🙂 As it is, I expect to get a lot of garbage from spammers who are keying in on the words “pot” and “liquor.”)

Sauteed Greens

1 large bunch greens, washed, drained
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Coarsely chop the greens.

2. Heat the oil in a wide pan; add garlic and cook 1 minutes. Add paprika and red pepper lakes and immediately add the greens.

3. Add ½ cup water, salt, and pepper and mix well. Cover the pan and cook until greens are tender. The time will vary, depending on the type of green it is. Add more water if it starts to get dry.

4. Use tongs to remove the greens and garlic. Reserve the pot liquor for use in other recipes.