Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Puntine with Beet Greens

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Pasta comes in so many shapes and sizes, from monstrous, long tubes to the tiniest little dots. Puntine (pronounced poon-TEEN-eh) means “little points,” and that’s what these are. It’s a kind of pasta that’s perfect for soups and dishes like the one I’m offering here today.img_6377

This recipe starts off as sort of a pilaf, but ends as a creamy vegetable melange. The addition of beet greens gives it a great flavor and texture, and makes it a healthful dish with plenty of vitamin C and antioxidants.

If you can’t find puntine, a good substitute is orzo. They’re almost the same, except that orzo is a little bigger.

Enjoy!

Puntine with Beet Greens

Makes 4 servings.

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ tablespoon unsalted butter
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon paprika
½ cup puntine or orzo

2 ½ cups vegetable broth
3 cups chopped beet greens

In a medium pan, heat the oil and butter until the butter is melted. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.img_6382Sprinkle in the paprika. Add the puntine and toss so that all the pasta is coated. Toast the puntine for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.img_6385Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low, cover, and let it cook until the broth has been absorbed and the puntine is tender. If the broth is fully absorbed but the pasta isn’t cooked, add a little more water (about ¼ cup) and let it continued cooking until tender.img_6387

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Add the beet greens and stir them in.img_6389Add another ¼ cup water and cover. Let it continue cooking until greens are tender, about 5 minutes. If the puntine starts to stick to the pan at any point, add a little water and stir. Grind in some pepper. If you feel that it needs salt, add some to your taste. Serve.img_6402

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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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Italian-Style Mung Bean Noodles

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mung beans

Mung Beans

Mung bean noodles are noodles that are made from dried, ground mung beans. Mung beans have been consumed since antiquity but are unfamiliar outside of Indian and Asian communities. They are an important part of Ayurvedic cuisine, and are popular for sprouting. (Many of the bean sprouts that come with your salad or in your Asian take-out come from mung beans).IMAG3683

Mung beans are a high source of protein—about 3 grams per tablespoon, or 14 grams per cup. They’re also rich in manganese, potassium, magnesium, folate, copper, zinc and some B vitamins. They’re low on the glycemic index, and high in antioxidants. They’re considered a good food in the battle against heart disease, cancer, diabetes, inflammation, and obesity.

Mung beans can be found in Indian and Asian markets, but are slowly starting to find their way onto supermarket shelves as well. You can get mung bean noodles in Asian markets. The logical conclusion would be to use them in a dish with Asian flavors, right? However, I chose to go Italian style with these, and it worked out beautifully. I simply made them the way I would make a dish of traditional Italian pasta—with olive oil, garlic, and vegetables.

Mung Bean Noodles

Mung Bean Noodles

Like many non-wheat noodles, these will not come out al dente, like traditional pasta. Mung bean noodles come out soft and somewhat sticky, so the eating experience will be different than what you get from eating traditional pasta, but it’s pleasant and delicious with a slightly nutty flavor. I like to add a little extra virgin olive oil at the end not only for the extra flavor boost but also to counteract the stickiness of the noodles.

I hope you enjoy them.

Italian-Style Mung Bean Noodles

Makes 2 servings.

1 small head broccoli, cut into florets
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons olive oil
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 to 8 ounces mung bean noodles
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
2 tablespoons grated cheese
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the broccoli out on a baking sheet. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes. Stir and continue roasting until tender when pierced with a knife and browned, about another 10 to 15 minutes.IMG_5797

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the mung bean noodles and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain.IMG_5795IMG_5802

Split the noodles between 2 bowls, and add broccoli to both, and mix well.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a small pan. Add the garlic and sauté just until it becomes fragrant and starts to color.IMG_5796

Add the paprika, swirl it around, and immediately pour equally over the two the bowls of noodles and broccoli.

IMG_5800Sprinkle grated cheese over the top, then the extra virgin olive oil, and serve.

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Spinach Fettuccine with Roasted Cauliflower-Almond Sauce

Spinach Fettuccine with Roasted Cauliflower-Almond Sauce

I’ve been roasting cauliflower a lot lately because it’s a very versatile vegetable. Once roasted, you can use it in a variety of dishes, and this is one of them.

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Spinach Fettuccine nests

Even if you aren’t a fan of cauliflower, I guarantee that you will like it roasted. Roasting brings out both a sweetness and a smokiness, not to mention a fabulous umami flavor. You can certainly start from scratch and roast the cauliflower specifically for this purpose, but I love the idea of roasting a whole head and having it in the refrigerator to use for the whole week. Then, when you’re ready to make dinner, take some out and add it to whatever you’re making. It will taste great. (You can refer to my blog on Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Bisque on how to roast the cauliflower.)

On this particular evening, I made Spinach Fettuccine with Roasted IMG_5559Cauliflower-Almond Sauce. Pasta with cauliflower and nuts (particularly pine nuts, or pignoli) is a typical Italian dish, and is especially popular in Sicily. My version calls for the roasted cauliflower and toasted almonds. The spinach fettuccine that I had came in the form of “nests,” but you can use any kind or brand of spinach fettuccine. Continue reading


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Romanesco Cauliflower

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a romanesco cauliflower, or broccoli, but it’s a gorgeous vegetable. Its shape is what they call “fractal.” Merriam-webster.com defines fractal as “any of various extremely irregular curves or shapes for which any suitably chosen part is similar in shape to a given larger or smaller part when magnified or reduced to the same size.” I’ll just say that it’s amazing. I mean, take a look at it.Romanesco

Also known as broccoflower and Roman cauliflower, romanesco is part of the brassica family, which includes cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, etc.) and was first seen in Italy around the 16th century. Although its color is closer to broccoli, its texture and flavor is that of cauliflower.

It’s such a visually stunning vegetable that whenever I see it, I can’t pass it up. Nature is a wonderous thing.Romanesco

This is a very simple old Italian recipe that usually uses regular cauliflower, but romanesco is easily substituted.

Pasta with Romanesco Cauliflower and Pignoli

1 small head romanesco cauliflower
1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti
3 teaspoons kosher salt plus more
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pignoli,  toasted
1 teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Grated parmigiano or pecorino romano

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and 3 teaspoons salt; and cook until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, cut up cauliflower into florets. Heat olive oil in a large pan; add garlic and saute for one minute; sprinkle in paprika then immediately add cauliflower. Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water; cover the pan, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook until tender but firm, about another 5 minutes. Uncover and stir in the pignoli and salt to taste.

When the pasta is cooked, drain well and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour the cauliflower mixture on top and mix. If the pasta seems dry, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top and mix. Sprinkle some parmigiano or pecorino over the top and serve hot.

Makes 2 servings.