Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Celery Root Bisque with Oats

 

Celery root, also known as celeriac or knob celery, is one of those vegetables that confounds many people. What is it? Is it really the root of the celery plant? What do you do with it? What does it taste like?

Celery root is related to celery, but it’s a different variety. Whereas celery is cultivated for its stalks and leaves, celeriac is cultivated for the root. Its flavor is definitely celery-like, only deeper and earthier. It’s kind of off-putting in its appearance—big, bulbous, knobby, and usually dirt-encrusted—and is not used as commonly as other root vegetables. But like so many overlooked vegetables, it’s rising in popularity.

As to what you can do with it, many things. You roast them, saute them, gratinee them, use them in soups and stews, and, as in this recipe below, puree them for a smooth, silky bisque.

Celery root bisque is often thickened with potatoes, but I’ve chosen instead to use oats, a trick I learned in culinary school. Oats not only increases the soups nutrition factor, but also makes it less starchy.

Speaking of nutrition, celery root contains vitamin C, vitamin K,  vitamin B-6, potassium, phosphorus, and fiber. It’s been shown to be beneficial for bone health, heart health, and lowering the risk of diabetes.

Enjoy!

Celery Root Bisque with Oats

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

2 large celery root knobs
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chopped celery
½ cup chopped shallots
1 tablespoon kosher salt
5 cups vegetable broth
1/3 cup rolled oats
½ cup parsley*
2 tablespoons fresh thyme*
Freshly ground pepper to taste

*Don’t worry about chopping the herbs or if you have some stems. They’re going to be pureed.

Peel the celery root with a knife or vegetable peeler. Cut up the roots into cubes (you should get about 10 cups). Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the celery and shallots and ½ teaspoon of the salt and sauté until softened, about 5 or 6 minutes.Add the celery root and 1 teaspoon salt and stir. Pour in the broth and add oats. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, until the celery root is tender, about 40 minutes. Stir occasionally.Stir in the parsley and thyme and remaining salt.Transfer the soup in batches to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour each batch into a bowl. When all the batches are in the bowl, stir it to blend. Add pepper and stir. Taste the soup for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if desired.If you’ve made the soup ahead of time, pour it back into the pot and heat gently over medium-low heat before serving.

Keep it stored covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

 

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Going Flakey with Quinoa

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I call Jackson Heights, Queens, the United Nations because half of the world’s cultures, nationalities, and identities can be found there. And where there are ethnic enclaves, there are markets that cater to those enclaves.IMG_3474

This New York neighborhood is home to just about every Central and South American nation you can find on the map, and I’m always going home with some new product I’ve never seen or tried before.

My forays into various ethnic markets have introduced me to many different grains in many different forms, from rice flakes to lotus nut puffs (okay, not technically a grain) to cracked corn. This past week, I found quinoa flakes.

The package recommends putting a couple of tablespoons into a smoothie or yogurt, and I’ve read suggestions to put it in baked goods in place of flour or oats. But I figured it would make a good breakfast porridge, too. I cooked a small quantity by itself, just to see what it was like. It tasted like…well…quinoa. It even had the little signature “strings” of cooked quinoa. But I found it to be a bit blah. Kind of like baby food.IMG_3484

So then I blended it with rolled oats and made a half-and-half porridge. I added some maple syrup to give it some flavor, and topped it off with some chopped pecans for texture. It turned out much lighter than regular oatmeal, but because quinoa has protein, it’s filling nevertheless. And because it’s lighter, I think it would make a great breakfast for someone who is sick or has stomach issues.

Here’s the recipe for my preparation:

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Quinoa-Oat Porridge

½ cup quinoa flakes
½ cup rolled oats
Pinch salt

Optional toppings:
Maple syrup
Honey
Chopped nuts
Fruit

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Add quinoa flakes, oat, and salt; lower heat, cover, and simmer 5 minutes, or until desired thickness. You can add more water if you want it looser.

Transfer to 2 bowls. Top with whatever toppings you like.

 


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September is Better Breakfast Month

How many times have you heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? A million times since you were a kid, right?

I’ve never been much of a breakfast person. I can’t really eat first thing in the morning. My stomach just will not accept food when I first get up. It amazes me to know that some people roll out of bed, shuffle into their kitchens, and start eating. My routine is, I go to work, have a cup of coffee, and right around 10:30 or so, I’m ready to eat a little something. I know that’s not a great way to start my day, but it’s the best I can do.

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Multigrain Morning Porridge

What I do try to do, however, is to make it a good, energy-inducing breakfast: oatmeal with walnuts or pecans; yogurt with fruit and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, chia, and flax); whole grain bread with some kind of nut butter. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of green smoothies. The point is not only to curb hunger but to give your body and brain the proper fuel to do what it needs to do throughout the day. It appalls me to see people eating doughnuts, crullers, sugary muffins, and soda for breakfast. (I think muffins are good if they have nutritional components to them, like high-protein flours, nuts, and natural sugar alternatives.)

Breakfast porridges are a great choice and can be made with any grain you like, such as steel-cut oats, quinoa, millet, and barley. Below is my recipe for multi-grain porridge. I had the original recipe for this porridge in my collection for a while but never gave it a try. Not because it didn’t appeal to me (otherwise, I wouldn’t have clipped it), but because I so rarely make homemade porridge for breakfast. During the week, I never eat breakfast at home—I prepare whatever it is I’m going to have the night before and take it to work. On the weekends, I still don’t have time and usually just grab leftovers from the fridge. But whenever I can, I’ll make some kind of porridge. IMG_0151

I made some modifications to the recipe, based on what I had on hand and my personal preferences. The good thing is that this stays well in the fridge for a few days, so I can make a big batch and just reheat it.

Clockwise from upper right: Wheat berries, grits, amaranth, oats.

Mulitgrain Morning Porridge

Adapted from “Multigrain Breakfast Porridge” by
Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, Cooking Light, Oct. 2007

½ cup wheat berries, rinsed
¾ teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup steel-cut oats
3 tablespoons regular grits
¼ cup amaranth
¾ cup coconut or almond milk
¼ maple syrup
¼ cup dried blueberries or other dried fruit
½ cup chopped walnuts or other nuts

Bring 5 cups water to a boil. Add the wheat berries and salt; reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered until almost tender, 20 to 30 minutes.IMG_0153

Add the oats, grits, and amaranth and stir. Continue simmering until all grains are tender, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in coconut milk, maple syrup, and fruit and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in nuts. Serve hot.

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This porridge will keep for several days in the refrigerator. To reheat, stir in a little more coconut milk or water until it reaches the desired consistency. Heat over medium-low heat or in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes.

Makes 4 servings.