Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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White Bean Hummus with Garlic Scapes

white bean hummus garlic scapesBecause garlic scapes have such a short season (early summer), I’ve been on a garlic scape kick, using them in as many ways as I can. Last week, I made Lentils with Garlic Scapes and the week before that, I made Beet Greens with Garlic Scapes.

All delicious. But this week I decided to use the scapes in its purest form: raw.Garlic scapes 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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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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Mediterranean White Bean Spread

IMG_5318I recently found myself with an abundance of dried Great Northern beans, and if you stopped by here last time, you saw that I took some of those beans to make Tomato-y White Beans.

I had cooked up a huge batch, so I needed to come up with something else. And, as I also said last time, because it’s summer, I’ve had access to a bunch of tomatoes. Well, both they went into a food processor for a white bean spread. With a few additional ingredients, this is a flavorful, filling, yet light, snack. It’s also perfect to taking to a picnic or barbecue.IMG_5309

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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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Sautéed Rainbow chard with Roman Beans

IMG_5114I found the most beautiful rainbow chard at the farmer’s market this week. In fact, it was so beautiful, I hated to cook it. The leaves were so plump and full and the stems so colorful and vivid, I wanted to just look at them all day. They were ruby red, fuchsia, lemony yellow, and light orange. Nature does stunning work.IMG_5081IMG_5087But, alas, uncooked chard soon becomes not so beautiful. So cook it, I must.
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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.


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Kale-Bean Soup with Amaranth

IMG_3431With all the greens flourishing right about now, I’ve been having a craving for bean soup with greens. Why in the world would I crave soup in the dead heat of summer, you ask. I can have soup any time of the year. I absolutely love it. Yes, it can be warm and comforting in winter, but summer also calls for comfort of a different sort.

Plus, studies have shown that eating warming dishes such as soup can actually acclimate you better to the heat by elevating your body temperature, thereby making the weather more tolerable.

Anyway, someone gave me a tiny little bunch of kale and I thought that it was the perfect opportunity to make that beans-and-greens soup. I decided to add some amaranth to it—I love pasta and grains in my soup and amaranth is an exceptionally healthy choice.

Amaranth has been grown in Central and South America and consumed by the regional people for hundreds of years. It’s been an important source of protein for the indigenous people of those regions, and it is less expensive and, consequently, less controversial than quinoa.

Amaranth is a very rich source of protein, and it is more digestible than that of other grains. It’s also an excellent source of lysine, an important amino acid. Amaranth has the most calcium of any grain next to teff. It also is a better source than other grains of magnesium, iron, copper, and fiber. Amaranth is a good source of zinc, potassium, phosphorus, folate, niacin, and riboflavin, and vitamins A, C, E, K, B5, and B6, as well as antioxidants, which fight cancer. It has been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and—don’t hold me to this—helps prevent premature graying. For carb counters, it’s lower in carbs than other grains and it’s gluten free.

So, here’s my impromptu recipe for Kale-Bean Soup with Amaranth. These are approximate amounts, so use however much you like of anything. Soup is very forgiving where quantities of ingredients are concerned. Enjoy.

Kale-Bean Soup with Amaranth

Makes 4 servings.

1 small bunch kale
2 teaspoons olive oil
¼ cup diced onion
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth (or 2 cups water + 2 bouillon cubes)
¼ cup amaranth
1 cup cooked beans (whichever you prefer)

Wash the kale and remove thick stems. Chop into bite-sized pieces.

In a medium pot, heat oil; add onion, garlic, and salt. Sauté until onion is translucent, about 2 or 3 minutes.

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Add tomatoes and sauté another minute.

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Pour in broth and let it come to a boil. Add amaranth; lower heat to medium-low and simmer until is cooked, about 10 minutes.

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Add kale and beans and continue cooking until kale is tender (this can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the size and “toughness” of the kale). Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve as is or with grated cheese and/or crusty bread.