Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Zimino di Ceci

Liguria

Hello. This week for 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’m in Liguria. Liguria sits in a crescent along the Mediterranean coastline on the west side of Italy.

My first recipe for this region is Zimino di Ceci, or Chickpea Stew. This is a pretty easy recipe, and quick, if you don’t count the overnight soaking time. The ingredients list calls for a few items that require prep (although minimal) before using them in the recipe. So I’ve moved the prep instructions for these items to the recipe itself. The other thing I did was to add the mushroom soaking liquid to the stew, which gave it a nice depth of flavor.

Enjoy.

Zimino di Ceci

Chickpea Stew

Makes 4-6 servings.

1½ cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight*
½ teaspoon sea salt, plus extra
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
3 or 4 ripe plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
¾ pound Swiss chard, chopped
Toasted bread (optional)

Drain the chickpeas and rinse them. Place them in a large pot and cover them with fresh water by about 3 inches. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and bring to a boil; lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until they’re tender, about 2 to 2 ½ hours.

Meanwhile, soak the mushrooms in water for about 15 minutes. Drain them and pat them dry with paper towels or a kitchen towel. Chop and set them aside.Bring a pot large enough to fit the tomatoes and fill with water. Cut an “x” into the top of the tomatoes and place them in the water for about 10 to 15 seconds (until you see the skin splitting apart). Scoop them out and let them cool. When they’re cool enough to handle, peel off the skin, remove the seeds, and chop them. Set them aside.Drain the chickpeas in a colander set over a bowl and reserve the liquid.Wipe out the pot. Add the oil and heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic, and mushrooms (reserve the liquid), and ¼ teaspoon salt. Sauté until onions and celery are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes (and any liquid they gave off). Then add the chard. Cook 2 minutes.Add the chickpeas and cook 10 minutes. Add 1 cup of the reserved chickpea liquid. Carefully pour in the reserved mushroom liquid, making sure to leave any sediment in the bowl. Cook another 5 minutes. If you want it more brothy, add more of the chickpea liquid until it reaches the consistency you like. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if needed.Serve with toasted bread, if desired.

*Place the chickpeas in a bowl and cover them with water by about 3 inches. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours.

 

 

 


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Ertuti—Beans and Grains

Lazio

Hi there. This week on my journey through the Regions of Italy project, based on La Cucina—The Regional Cooking of Italy by Accademia Italiana della Cucina (The Italian Academy of Cuisine). I’m once again in Lazio, this time making a soup. This soup is called Ertuti. I wasn’t able to find any information on this dish, or why it’s called ertuti, but it’s rustic fare at its best. A quintessential peasant dish, it’s bulked up with beans and grains with some cured meats thrown in. (You can omit the meats if you like; I used only a small amount of prosciutto.)

Now, as far as the beans and grains themselves are concerned, the original recipe calls for a pound of mixed legumes, and they included farro in this ingredient. Why, I don’t know. Farro is not a legume; it’s the grain in this beans-and-grains combo. So, in order to make the ingredients list less confounding, I’ve split each legume called for in the original and the farro into separate and equal items. However, if you prefer one more than others, go ahead and change the quantities. Or change out the types. You can also change the grain, if you like. Farro is a hearty whole grain and can be substituted with barley, wheat berries, spelt berries, kamut, triticale, or any hard berry.

Finally, while this is a fairly simple recipe, the instructions were somewhat vague and assumed a certain level of understanding of cooking. I’ve expanded on the instructions to make everything a bit clearer.

Ertuti

Beans and Grains

¼ pound dried chickpeas
¼ pound dried lentils
¼ pound dried fava beans
¼ pound farro
1 tablespoon finely chopped prosciutto
¼ cup finely chopped pancetta
1 small piece salame, chopped (optional)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Slices of whole wheat bread

Soak the chickpeas, lentils, fava beans, and farro separately in water, covered, overnight. Pour out the water and place each in a separate pot. Fill with enough water to cover by 3 inches.Bring to a boil; lower the heat and simmer until tender (each one will vary in time). When tender, drain each legume and farro and reserve some of their cooking liquid (you can use liquid from one pot or combine them).In a large pot, heat the prosciutto, pancetta, and salame until they start to brown.Stir in the tomato paste. Work it in until it’s well blended.Add the beans and farro and stir. Add about ½ cup of the cooking liquid and stir. Cook 20 minutes to combine the flavors. You can add more bean cooking liquid as needed if the pot dries out, or if you want a looser consistency.Season with salt and pepper to your liking. Serve with the whole wheat bread.


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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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Spanish Spinach & Chickpeas

IMG_5396I was in Seattle this past week and as it usually is when I return from a trip, I found myself with an empty fridge. Well, what I consider empty, anyway. So, I went to the produce market to see what vegetables looked good. I was surprised to be irresistibly drawn to some spinach.

I say surprised because, although I like spinach, I don’t exactly go wild for it. But this particular store had bunches of spinach on sale for $1. And they were nice-looking bunches, too. Not wilted or dried, but fresh and green. So, I bought a couple of bunches.

After giving a little thought to what I might want to do with it, I quickly decided that I wanted to make a Spanish tapa staple: Espinaca con Garbanzos. Or Spinach with Chickpeas.

What makes this dish delectable is the bread crumbs, which turns the flavorful, garlicky spinach liquid into a thick, scoopable sauce. If you are gluten intolerant, you can use gluten-free bread crumbs. You can change the flavor profile very easily by adding any kind of spices you like. And best of all, this is a low-cal, low-fat, high-nutrient dish that is savory and comforting all at once.
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Chickpeas and Beet Salad

IMG_1024Despite the fact that I have less and less time to cook for myself these days, when I walk past the farmer’s market, I’m seduced by the beautiful vegetables. So, then I find myself with vegetables that I have no time to cook, but must.

This week, I had beets. The beets were firm and bright and the leaves were full and green. I couldn’t help myself. But I had to deal with them quickly. So, I went to my go-to beet recipe: Chickpea and Beet Salad. It’s simple, it’s fast (once the beets are cooked), and it’s satisfying.

The greens? My go-to greens recipe: sautéed in olive oil and garlic.

The reason for my lack of time? Well, apart from my work/commute issue, I have multiple projects happening at the same time. One of those is volume 2 of Vegetarian Italian: Traditions, which is finally under way after a very long delay at my publisher. It’s slated for release in April 2016. With any luck, that will be the case.

This beet recipe, by the way, appears in volume 1 of Vegetarian Italian: Traditions, and it’s just one of many delectable dishes straight from the Mediterranean. Continue reading


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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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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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