Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Paparot—Spinach-Cornmeal Soup

Fruili-Venezia Giulia

I’m just barely one-third through the regions of my Regions of Italy project, based on La Cucina—The Regional Cooking of Italy by Accademia Italiana della Cucina (The Italian Academy of Cuisine). I skipped a few recipes because of seasonal availability of ingredients, but I’ll get back around to those later. Right now, I’m in Fruili-Venezia Giulia, at the very high point of Italy.

This is another simple but unique recipe. Cornmeal is a common ingredient in this region of Italy, and it figures heavily in a traditional soup called Paparot. It’s a thick, hearty soup, but made properly, it’s silky and luxurious. Although it is traditional to serve it with crusty toasted bread, you can also add some rice or noodles.

Paparot

Spinach-Cornmeal Soup

Makes 6 servings.

2 pounds spinach, washed, large stems removed
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 or 2 large garlic cloves, peeled but whole
¾ cup all-purpose flour
8 cups broth
2/3 cup fine cornmeal
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Boil the spinach in a large pot of water with ¼ teaspoon salt just until wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well and squeeze out as much water as possible. Chop the spinach and set aside.

In the same pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the garlic and saute until golden on all sides. Remove the garlic and add the spinach. Whisk in the flour. Pour in half the broth, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. If any lumps form, work them out with the back of a wooden spoon.Pour in the remainder of the broth, then whisk in the cornmeal. Work out any lumps that form with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook over medium-low heat 30- to 40 minutes, stirring frequently and pressing out lumps, until the soup is thick. Season with salt and pepper.

 

 


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Minestra di Zucca

Fruili-Venezia Giulia

Welcome back to my Regions of Italy project, based on La Cucina—The Regional Cooking of Italy by Accademia Italiana della Cucina (The Italian Academy of Cuisine). This week’s recipe moves us into Fruili-Venezia Giulia, which is in the most northeastern corner of Italy. It borders Austria and Slovenia and it’s cuisine is influenced by those cultures. It uses a lot of root vegetables and hearty grains. The first recipe from the region I offer is a very simple one: butternut squash soup.

You’ve had butternut squash soup before, right? So have I. It’s a pretty common dish. There’s something a little different about this one, though. After the squash is cooked, a cup of ricotta is stirred in, creating a unique soup. The recipe is straight-forward and I don’t have too much to say about it, except for one thing. The original recipe instructs to “squeeze dry” the squash. I don’t know what they mean by this, but I put the squash in a sieve and pressed on it with a wooden spoon to release excess water. I further tweaked the instructions for clarity, and I thought the soup needed salt (not given in the original recipe). Other than that, it’s all pretty easy. Give it a try. Enjoy.

Minestra di Zucca

Squash Soup

Makes 6 servings.

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks
½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 cup ricotta
1 tablespoon grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Pinch ground cinnamon
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the squash in a pot large enough to hold it all and cover with water. Add ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the squash is tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the squash into a sieve set over a bowl to catch the water. Press the squash to release as much liquid as possible. Reserve the cooking water.Return the pot to the heat. Combine the oil and butter, and heat until the butter has melted. Add the garlic, then whisk in the flour.Add the squash and mash it with a potato masher or a stick blender. Stir in the ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, cinnamon, pepper, and salt. Stir in some of the reserved cooking water until it reaches a consistency to your liking. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

 


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Red Bean-Vegetable Chili

There are so many ways to make a vegetarian chili. Some people, of course, will argue and say that unless there’s meat in it, it can’t be chili, that it’s just a vegetable stew. Whatever. If it tastes like chili, then it’s chili. Or call it vegetable stew. It doesn’t really matter, as long as it tastes good. And this dish does.

It’s also another example of what can be done when you have a little of this and a little of that left over in your fridge and pantry. But trust me, this is worth going out and buying the ingredients for.

Enjoy! Continue reading


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Butternut Bisque with Roasted Snow Peas and Caramelized Mushrooms

I love butternut squash soup. There’s a savory sweetness to it that’s like nothing else. There are various ways to make it—smooth or chunky; with only broth or with cream; cream or almond milk; plain or with other ingredients, such as greens or beans; etc.

I chose to make this batch a plain bisque with only broth…but with additions. I decided to try roasting snow peas because roasting is my favorite way to prepare vegetables. I’d never roasted snow peas, however, and had no idea how they would turn out. I was pleased at the result. They have a roasty smokiness with just a hint of a pleasant bitterness. I thought they would make a nice topper to the bisque. And caramelized mushrooms? I don’t really think I need to sell that.

Butternut Bisque with Roasted Snow Peas and Caramelized Mushrooms

Makes 2 servings

3 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
4 cups cubed butternut squash
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1½ cups vegetable broth
6 ounces snow peas
6 ounces cremini mushrooms
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minutes. Sprinkle in the paprika. Add the squash and 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 or 4 minutes. Pour in the broth. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes.Meanwhile, combine the snow peas with 1 tablespoon of the oil and one teaspoon of the salt and spread them out in a baking pan. Roast until nicely brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. Stir them  halfway through cooking time.Heat the remaining oil in a medium skillet. Add the mushrooms and remaining salt. Sauté over medium-high heat until the mushrooms are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes. They will release water after about 6 or 7 minutes; after the liquid evaporates, the mushrooms will begin to brown.When the squash is done, puree it by either with a stick blender or by putting the contents of the saucepan into a blender. Stir in the black pepper. Taste the soup for seasoning and adjust, if necessary.Ladle the soup into 2 bowls. Arrange some of the snow peas and mushrooms on top and serve.


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Fresh Tomato Soup

All of my life, I never liked tomato soup. It always tasted like watered-down ketchup to me. Granted, my experience with tomato soup had been the canned variety, but I also had once or twice tried it in a restaurant or catered affair situation (I can’t remember which) and thought it was equally distasteful.

Then, I found a recipe for tomato soup using fresh tomatoes…and it changed my world. Now I knew what tomato soup was supposed to taste like. And I never looked back.

This is my recipe for fresh tomato soup. The  ingredients are extremely simple and the focus is on the tomatoes. It’s best to make this in summer, when tomatoes are at their peak. It doesn’t much matter which variety you choose, as long as they’re ripe and fresh. Enjoy! Continue reading


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Vegetable-Bean Stew with Spaghetti Squash

Very often, my stews and chilis are built on whatever produce is in season and available at the farmers’ markets. I’ll be honest—I don’t get everything at farmers’ markets. I’d be constantly broke. But I’ll find one or two or three items that are in season, sometimes only briefly, and that look particularly good. In this case, I had some gorgeous greens from a couple of bunches of beets, beautiful red onions, and bright, fresh out-of-the-ground carrots. I gathered a few more vegetables and assembled this stew.

But the beautiful thing about vegetable stew is that it’s wide open to ingredients. You can use whatever vegetables you like, whatever beans you like, and whatever herbs and spices you like. Or omit any of those things.

I had the good fortune of having several cloves of garlic in the refrigerator that I had pan roasted. I chopped those up and added them. If you want to add an extra depth of flavor, you can pan roast a few cloves before you begin the stew.

Vegetable-Bean Stew with Spaghetti Squash

1 small spaghetti squash
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
3 to 5 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup red wine, broth, or water
2 cups chopped green pepper
2 cups chopped, seeded tomatoes
1 ½ cups chopped carrots
4 cups vegetable broth or water
3 cups beans of your choice (such as Great Northern, pinto, cannellini, etc.)
4 cups (cleaned) chopped greens (such as beet greens, kale, chard, etc.)
1 teaspoon kosher salt*
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup freshly chopped herbs of your choice (basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, etc.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Split the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and strings from the center. Place the halves face down on a baking sheet. Roast until the tip of a knife goes through the flesh easily, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven. When they’re cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape out the flesh. Place it in a bowl and set it aside.Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 o 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.Add the tomato paste and stir it in until it’s well blended. Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes. When the bottom of the pot starts to get dark streaks, pour in the wine and stir it in. Scrape up the dark bits from the bottom of the pot.Add the green pepper, tomatoes, and carrots. Stir and cook 5 minutes. Pour in the broth and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender but still firm, about 10 to 13 minutes. Add the beans, greens, salt, and black pepper. Stir and cook another 5 minutes, or until the greens are tender. Stir in the herbs. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary.*Salting is best done in stages. Add a little bit of salt whenever you add a new ingredient. This gives each item a chance to absorb the salt, and it builds layers of flavor. This kind of instruction is difficult to impart in a recipe, but I have faith in you, my dearest readers.


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Green Tea Noodle Soup

I found green tea noodles the other day and wanted to immediately try them. Green and slender, they not only looked pretty in the package, but I imagined that they would look very appetizing cooked. And I was right. The pale green of the cooked noodles makes for a striking and unique-looking dish. Unlike many noodles made with products other than flour, you can actually taste the green tea in these. It’s sutble, but eaten without other ingredients to mask it, it’s definitely there. While it’s not the best way to cosume green tea, it is another way to benefit, even if just a little, from green tea’s antitoxin properties.Another ingredient in this dish is ume vinegar is a Japanese vinegar made from umeboshi plums. Umeboshi are pickled and are considered an amazing preventative and curative for various ailments, including fatigue and digestive issues, and eliminates toxins from the body. Ume vinegar gives the soup a sweet-sour fruity note. If you can’t find ume vinegar, simply omit it—you don’t have to substitute anything.

Enjoy!

Green Tea Noodle Soup

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

2 bunches scallions, sliced (white and light green; dark set aside)
2 teaspoons oil
1 cup finely diced carrot 10 oz. green tea noodles
2 cups shredded cabbage
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 cups vegetable broth
8 oz. green beans, chopped
1 ½ cups shelled edamame
10 oz. green tea noodles
1 teaspoon ume vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari, shoyu, or soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Slice the white and light green parts of the scallions and set aside in a small bowl. Slice the dark part of the scallions and set aside in another small bowl.

In a medium-large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the white/light green scallions and sauté until softened, 1 to 2 minutes.Add the carrot, cabbage, and salt, and sauté until softened, about 5 to 7 minutes.Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Add the string beans and edamame. Cook until tender, about 8 minutes.Add the noodles and cook until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the shoyu and sesame oil.Divide the soup among serving bowls and sprinkle green scallion over the top. Serve hot. If you like your soup with more liquid, add more broth or less noodles.