Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Chilean Tomato and Sweet Onion Salad

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One of the best things about summer is all the beautiful, luscious tomatoes that become available. So this is the season for tomato salads. It’s almost not even worth it to make tomato salad any other time of the year.

This is a simple Chilean version, which gets a bit of a kick from minced Serrano or jalapeno pepper. But if you like, you can omit it. Choose any tomatoes you like—there are so many options this time of year! Heirloom varieties make a stunning salad, but good old beefsteak tomatoes do better than fine. Continue reading


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Oat Noodle Salad with Umeboshi Plum Dressing

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Yes, I’m still on a noodle kick. This time I’ve created a recipe using oat flour noodles. The nice thing about gluten-free noodles is that they’re lighter than wheat noodles, but like wheat noodles, they can be used in a variety of ways.IMG_6043

For some reason, these noodles are sold in packages with the odd weight of 13.4 ounces. I don’t know how or why they came up with that number, but it makes it awkward to create a recipe. (They probably started with 380 grams and it just happens to convert to 13.4 ounces, but why 380?) Well, I used approximately 10 ounces, which is three of the bundles that come in the package in the photo.

In this recipe, I’ve paired oat noodles with string beans and Japanese yams (although, if you can’t find Japanese yams, you can use sweet potatoes). The noodles and yams will soak up the dressing very efficiently, so if the salad is too dry for your tastes, you can add a little more olive oil, but the salad will not be oily in the slightest.

Ume Plum

Ume Plum

For the dressing, I used an umeboshi plum. Umbeboshi plums, a Japanese specialty, are ume plums (but more closely related to apricots) that have been salted and fermented. In the world of natural healing, umeboshi plums are considered miracle workers. If you divide foods into acidic, alkaline, and neutral, umeboshis are alkaline and can adjust imbalances in your body. It’s been used in Asia, particularly, Japan, China, and Korea, for centuries for a variety of ailments, including fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, colds, indigestion, headaches, and hangovers, among other things. Samurai soldiers were given umboshi as part of their field rations. They not used the plums to help them battle fatigue, they also used them to flavor foods such as rice and vegetables. Umeboshis also acted as a water and food purifier. Continue reading


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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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Fresh Chickpeas with Kale, Sweet Onions and Rice

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It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I knew that fresh chickpeas—in the pod—could even be had. One day, I entered an Indian market in Jackson Heights, and there was a bin of what looked like little individual pea pods, shorter and squatter. What are these, I wondered?

The handwritten sign at the top of the bin said chana. I knew that chana meant chickpeas. What?! No way. I picked one up, popped it, and there it was. A fresh, firm, beautiful chickpea. I bought a bunch and cooked my very first batch of chickpeas right out of the shell. It was all very exciting.fresh chickeas in pod

But fresh chickpeas (also known as garbanzos) are not available all the time. In fact, they can only be found in spring. So when I saw them again, I bought some for myself and my mom (I knew she’d love them).

When you have fresh beans like this, not much needs to, or should, be done to them. Fresh beans are meaty, savory, nutty, and have a great feel in the mouth. Plump and pale green, chickpeas are packed with protein, and are a good source of vitamin C, calcium, and iron. They’ve been shown to be a great food to help fight diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol, and inflammation, and promote healthy digestion.IMG_5976

Between the chickpeas and the kale, this dish is not only filling and delicious, but healthy, substantial, and physically satisfying. The addition of the rice (whatever kind you like), rounds it out for a truly filling meal.

Enjoy!

Fresh Chickpeas with Kale, Sweet Onions and Rice

Makes 2 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon paprika
1 cup fresh chickpeas
1 cup chopped sweet onion
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup vegetable broth
3 cups chopped kale
1 cup cooked rice
¼ cup grated parmigiana (optional)

In a wide skillet, heat the oil with the garlic. When the garlic is fragrant, add the paprika and chickpeas. Sauté 5 minutes.IMG_5981Add the onion and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Continue sautéing until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.IMG_5983Pour in the broth, then add the kale and remaining salt. Cover and cook until kale is tender, about another 5 to 7 minutes. Stir occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.IMG_5984IMG_5986Transfer vegetables to 2 bowls and stir ½ cup rice into each. Top with a little parmigiano, if desired.IMG_5992


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Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Grapefruit Butter

IMG_5944Green beans are a versatile vegetable. You can use them in many different ways. For those of you who have only had mushy green beans that have been boiled to death, I feel sorry for you. But I’m here to tell you, there’s something else. (That’s my small, brief homage to Prince.)

I had purchased a bag of green beans for a diet that I was going on and found myself with lots of leftover beans. I had just roasted a batch the week before, and as much as I love roasted green beans, I wanted to do something different. I also had these beautiful pink grapefruits in the refrigerator, so I came up with this recipe.

It’s a little different but simple enough to make easily and quickly. There are very few ingredients and very few steps involved, yet the taste is fresh and flavorful, but not overpowering. See what you think. Continue reading


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Broccoli and Beans Braised in Saffron Broth

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Saffron

I’ve been so busy lately that I have a stack of magazines that have been piling up, waiting to be read. I finally read the holiday issue of Saveur magazine. There was an interesting article in there by Andy Isaacson about saffron. What made this particular article different was that it talked about domestic saffron, and, in particular, saffron grown by the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Skunky saffron

Skunky saffron

Yeah. Who know that Amish people grew saffron? Apparently, it’s part of their heritage. And that got me thinking about how very little Americans use saffron, while in some cultures it’s an integral part of their cuisine. Of course, cost is a factor—saffron is the most expensive spice in the world (anywhere from $1500 to 10,000 per pound). I almost laughed myself silly when I saw some saffron in an Asian market for $1.99. It was the skunkiest saffron I’d ever seen and wondered what it really was (it looked like singed gorilla hair).

Well, that in turn reminded me that I still had some great saffron that my brother brought me from Morocco, and I was inspired to use it in this dish. In this recipe, you have protein, heart-healthy vegetables, and the exotic saffron to give it a special flavor, aroma, and color. Enjoy!

Broccoli and Beans Braised in Saffron Broth

2 cups dry white beans
3 cups vegetable broth
Pinch of saffron
1 large head broccoli, cut into large florets
1 large onion, sliced
3 or 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

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Clean the beans by rinsing them and picking out any stones or debris. Place them in a medium saucepan pot and cover with water by about 3 inches; bring it to a boil. Let it boil for about 2 minutes, then shut the heat and let the beans set for about an hour. IMG_5909

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Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Crush the saffron into the broth and let it sit for a few minutes.

Drain the beans.

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Transfer the beans to a large casserole dish. Pour in the broth. Combine the broccoli, onions, salt, and pepper and place them on top of the beans. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 1 hour.IMG_5919

Stir the contents, and bake another 20 minutes to thicken. If it seems dry at this point, add another 1 cup of broth or water.IMG_5921

Serve with brown rice or noodles.IMG_5924

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