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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Homemade Veggie Stock Infographic

Hi there. It was homemade vegetable stock day here at Chez Roberti, so I wanted to offer a quick and easy way to make your own. Just follow along on the infographic below and you’ll be all set.

A note on salt: Traditionally, salt is not used in stock because it’s supposed to act as a base to support other flavors. By not adding salt, you control the salt content in a recipe later on. However, if you’re going to use this stock as a basic soup broth, you can add some kosher salt, if you want.

Soup Stock Infographic


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Parsnip-Butternut Soup

IMG_5468My parents’ garden comes up with great stuff every year. This season, they got butternut squash, and I took a cute little one for myself. The farmers’ market had great-looking parsnips, so I decided to make parsnip-butternut soup.

Because it’s October and I don’t have any fresh herbs left my garden, I turned to my dried herbs. You can use whatever dried herbs you have on hand or particularly like for soup. I used thyme and savory.

Also growing in my parents’ garden is celery. But it’s a kind of wild celery—in fact, it’s probably lovage, a relative of celery that has big leaves and small, thin stalks. I put some of these leaves into the soup and pureed everything together. It unexpectedly turned my soup green, so it kind of looks like split-pea soup. If I hadn’t done that, I would have ended up with something that looks more like typical butternut squash soup.

Regardless, it’s delicious. The parsnips give the soup an earthy tone, while the squash sweetens it up. It was just what I needed on a brisk autumn day. You can have it with croutons or chopped walnuts or little cooked cubes of butternut.

Give it a try. Enjoy!IMG_5452

Parsnip-Butternut Soup

Makes 4 servings.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt
3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried spices (see instructions)
1 teaspoon garlic salt
2 cups cut-up parsnip (from 1 large parsnip)
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups cut-up butternut squash (from 1 small squash)
Fresh herbs, if available
Black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and salt and cook until translucent.IMG_5454Add the garlic, bay leaf, dried spices (I used 1/2 teaspoon each thyme and savory), and garlic salt. Stir and continue cooking another 2 minutes.IMG_5455Add parsnips and saute, stirring often, until parsnips starts browning.IMG_5456IMG_5457Add broth. Bring to a boil.IMG_5458Add squash and any fresh herbs you want. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife. Add black pepper.IMG_5460IMG_5461Transfer to a blender and puree. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.IMG_5463IMG_5464Serve hot.IMG_5467


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Tomato-y White Beans

IMG_5305Sometimes you go through your pantry or refrigerator and see a bunch of stuff that you know you have to use or it will go bad. It’s been that way with me and all of these dried beans I realized I had. And since it’s summer, I also find myself with a steady influx of tomatoes.IMG_5298

I’m a whiz at utilitarian cooking. And I say that because it really doesn’t take much to be a whiz at utilitarian cooking. You basically just throw a bunch of stuff you have together and that’s it. And, usually, it works out better than any pre-meditated, planned, plotted, and plated dish you can conjure.

Okay, sometimes it doesn’t work out, but it usually does. I wouldn’t tell you about the stuff that doesn’t work out, anyway.

So, I cooked up a mess of Great Northern beans, added some fresh tomatoes from my mother’s garden, and got this: tomato-y white beans. It’s really simple, so I hope you give it a try.

Tomato-y White Beans

Makes about 6 servings.

1½ cups dried Great Northern beans
2 bay leaves
4 large garlic cloves
½ large onion, sliced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
¼ cup white wine
3 or 4 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable broth
Fresh herbs (whatever you have available)

Place the beans in a bowl and cover with water by about 3 inches. Cover and soak overnight.IMG_5297The next day, drain the beans and place them in a medium pot. Add water to cover by about 2 inches. Add the bay leaves. Smash two of the garlic cloves and add them to the pot, along with half the onion, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low; partially cover the pot, and simmer until the beans are tender but still firm, about 45 minutes.IMG_5299Drain the beans in a colander and remove the bay leaves and garlic and discard. Finely chop the rest of the garlic.IMG_5300Heat the oil, in a wide pan. Add the rest of the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté one more minute. Add the wine and let it cook until it’s evaporated. Add the tomatoes, the rest of the salt, pepper and sauté 5 minutes.IMG_5302Add the beans, broth, and herbs (I had basil, savory, and parsley), and cook for about 5 minutes, or until it thickens.IMG_5303IMG_5304You’re ready to eat. Have it over rice, pasta, or with crusty bread. IMG_5306

 

 


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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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Split Chickpea Soup

IMG_4715So, I was perusing the bean shelves in my favorite Indian market and found roasted split chickpeas (chana dalia). I’d never seen them before and wondered if they could be cooked just like split green peas. I bought a package and this recipe is the result of my experimentation.IMG_4693The resulting soup is very thick—not just in the viscosity of the soup but the pureed chickpeas themselves leave a thickness on the tongue. Unlike pureed split pea soup, it has a somewhat grainy—but not unpleasant—texture, and the flavor is intensely nutty.IMG_4690

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Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Bisque

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I had no plans for cauliflower over the course of my very busy weekend, but when I saw big, beautiful heads of cauliflower in the store the other day, I couldn’t resist buying one.

It’s cold, snowy, wintry weather, and days like this just scream soup, and what I wanted was a creamy bisque. But before I get to my recipe, let’s talk a bit about this wonderful cruciferous vegetable.

Cauliflower is part of the Brassicaceae family and is related to cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choi, collard greens, and some other leafy green vegetables. In my cookbook, Vegetarian Italian: Traditions, Volume 1, I talk a little bit about the history of cauliflower and its health benefits:
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Celeriac Bisque with Mustard Greens and Chick Peas

 

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This week’s catch at the farmer’s market was a nice big knob of celeriac and red mustard greens.IMAG2330

I’ve had celeriac (also known as celery root and knob celery) before, and I’ve really enjoyed it. It has a great celery flavor to it, but a little sweeter and more intense. It also has parsley notes, and that’s because it’s part of the parsley family, and not the root of the celery plant.  Like other root vegetables, it has a long shelf life (6 to 8 months in a cool place).

Celeriac is not a beauty queen, and many Americans have no clue what it is or what to do with it, but it’s a flavorful addition to anything. You can cut them up and roast them. You can add them to chilis and stews. Or you can do what many chefs do with them, and what I’ve done for the recipe below: make a bisque. It’s wonderfully creamy when pureed and combined with either apples or pears, it has a rich, complex flavor.

They’re good for you, too. Celeriac contains antioxidants, and is very a good source of vitamin K, phosphorus, iron, calcium, copper (good for the immune system, prevents anemia, and required for bone metabolism), and manganese. And it contains some B-complex vitamins, such as pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin, and some vitamin C.IMAG2335

The red mustard greens are new to me, though. They are Chinese in origin, but are also cultivated in Japan. They’re lovely to look at and just as nutritious as other mustard greens, all part of the Brassica family, along with broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, etc.

Celeriac is not found everywhere simply because they are an unfamiliar item for many people. But most larger stores, like supermarkets, carry a few, as do gourmet stores, and, of course, farmer’s markets. Enjoy!

Celeriac Bisque with Mustard Greens and Chick Peas

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 lb. celeriac (celery root), peeled and diced
3 small celery ribs, coarsely chopped
2 medium apples or Bartlett pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
¼ teaspoon sea salt
4 cups vegetable broth
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley
Freshly ground pepper to taste
8 oz. mustard greens (or other greens), washed and chopped
2 cups cooked chick peas
Garnish: chopped fresh parsley (optional)

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Heat oil in a medium-large sauce pan. Saute onion and garlic until translucent. Add celeriac, celery, apples or pears, and salt and saute another 5 minutes.

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Pour in broth and bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer until vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork.

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Transfer to a blender; add parsley and puree (the soup is hot so be careful to hold the lip of the blender with a hand towel.

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Pour back into pot. (Alternatively, you can add parsley to pot and use a stick blender).

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Add fresh pepper, mustard greens, and chick peas. Cook another 5 minutes. Check for seasoning and serve. Sprinkle parsley on top for garnish.IMAG2342

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Makes 4 servings.

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Broccoli Potato Soup with Beans and Greens

IMG_3498I love it when leftovers come together so beautifully that they make a healthy, delicious meal. Yep, this is another one of my everything-in-the-refrigerator concoctions. And it turned out pretty damn good.

I love soup, and it’s one of the easiest ways to utilize leftovers. In this case, I had a few potatoes, a piece of broccoli, and some leftover greens. So, this is what I came up with. I hope you give it a try and enjoy it.

Broccoli Potato Soup with Beans and Greens

2 teaspoons olive oil
½ cup chopped white onion
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups chopped potatoes
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups chopped broccoli
2 cups cooked beans
2 cups greens, washed

Heat the oil in a medium pot. Add onion and ¼ teaspoon salt and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute another 2 minutes.

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Make a space in the pot and place the tomato paste in that spot. Stir it for about 30 seconds then stir it into the onions and garlic. Mix well.

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Add potatoes and stir them in. Let cook about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
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Pour in the broth and add broccoli and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes and broccoli are tender, about 15 minutes.

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Using a stick blender or blender, puree the soup. If you want a completely smooth soup, puree the entire pot (in a couple of batches). If you prefer it chunky, puree only half of it. If you’ve used a blender, pour the soup back into the pot.

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Stir in beans and greens and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

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Ladle into bowls. You can serve with black or red pepper, grated cheese, or croutons, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.