Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Farro Linguine with Asparagus and Lemon-Pepper Sauce

This recipe is a combination of two classic Italian pasta dishes: aglio e olio (garlic and oil) and asparagus with lemon-pepper sauce. (Both individual recipes, by the way, can be found in my pasta edition of the Vegetarian Italian: Traditions ebook series.)

One night after work, I was contemplating dinner. I wanted to do something a little different, but I wanted to keep it easy, and not stray too far from familiarity (I was tired and irritated from work, so simplicity and comforting were my top criteria).

Pasta is always easy, always comforting, and I had just happened to buy a bunch of pencil-thin asparagus. I also had lemons…and so I came up with this. Two savory Italian classics in one delicious dish, and the combo is not any more work than just one recipe alone.

Farro is an ancient Italian grain that is related to spelt and emmer, but is not actually spelt, as some believe. It’s commonly used in Italy, but is becoming more available in the U.S. Farro pasta is nutty, nutritious, low in calories, and is often well tolerated by people with gluten sensitivity (although those with Celiac disease should avoid it). Farro pasta can be found in Italian groceries, as well as gourmet shops. And, of course, online. Try it—I think you’ll find it an addicting alternative to whole wheat pasta.

Enjoy.

Farro Linguine with Asparagus and Lemon-Pepper Sauce

1 pound asparagus
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ lb. farro linguine (or other long pasta)
2 large garlic cloves, sliced

½ teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Zest from 1 small lemon

Grated parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Snap or cut off the woody bottom stems of the asparagus and discard. Place the asparagus on a platter, drizzle with half the oil, sprinkle with half the salt, and gently toss. Try to keep the asparagus all facing the same direction (this will make it easier to handle).Place the asparagus on a baking sheet lined with foil and roast until tender and lightly browned (the time will vary depending on the thickness of the asparagus, but anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes). Remove them from oven and chop them into bite-size pieces.Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and remaining salt and bring it to a boil, stirring often, until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain. Transfer the pasta to a serving platter. Add the chopped asparagus.Pour the remaining olive oil in a small pan with the garlic. Heat until the garlic is fragrant and just starts to color, about 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the paprika, swirl it, then immediately pour it over the pasta. Season with more salt and grind on as much black pepper as you like.Sprinkle the lemon zest over it. Top with the grated parmesan and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil. Serve.

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Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Kale & Creamy Avocado Dressing

Summer is finally here, and with the coming of sunshine and warm breezes comes the need for pasta salad. After all, you need something easy to bring to all those picnics, barbecues, and beach parties, right?

Pasta salad, however, need not be fattening or unhealthy. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. This pasta salad calls for whole wheat pasta, which already is healthier than regular pasta salad, but you can use gluten-free pasta as well. Rather than mayo or other fat-laden dressing, this one uses avocado. It makes the pasta creamy, rich, and loaded with nutrients (plus some good fat). Add raw kale to the mix and you’ve got a healthy, but delicious, alternative.

Kale can be tough, but squeezing kale with avocado softens the leaves. The salt in the dressing further breaks down the cell walls of the kale, helping it along its journey to tenderness.

This is an excellent start to the summer. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Kale & Creamy Avocado Dressing

Makes 4 servings.

8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups whole wheat pasta
2 teaspoons table salt
2 Haas avocados
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 packed kale leaves, shredded*
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
¼ cup grated parmesan

Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil in a small bowl. Spread the tomatoes out on a small baking sheet lined with foil and roast until soft and charred, about 20 minutes.Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and table salt and bring to a boil. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente, about 8 to 12 minutes (depending on what pasta you choose). Drain and set it aside while you prepare the sauce.

In a food processor, combine the meat from the avocados, lime juice, 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Process until smooth.Place the kale in a medium bowl. Pour the avocado sauce over it and squeeze the kale with your hand until everything is well blended. Mix in the balsamic and red pepper flakes, if you’re using it.Add the cooked pasta and parmesan and mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust it to your liking.Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

*To shred kale, first strip the leaves off the stems by lightly pinching the stem and running your fingers down the stem to the tip, pulling the leaves off along the way. Stack a few leaves and roll them up into a tight log. With a sharp knife, slice the kale thinly.


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Roasted Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese

There’s something about mac ‘n’ cheese that makes people crave it, and it’s become American comfort food. It’s a humble, simplistic dish, but it’s such a part of our culinary landscape that everyone from famous chefs to food bloggers have “elevated” it to something grand. But whether you shave truffles in it, top it with a sunny-side egg, mix in cheese that was made by celibate monks in a cloistered hut in the Himalayas, or garnish it with gold dust, it’s still mac ‘n’ cheese.

But you can definitely make it your own. Use different cheeses and vegetables. If you’re a meat eater, you can add meat as well. Change up the pasta—you can go with the traditional elbows, or choose something more fanciful like gemelli, pipette, or campanelli. The only rule here is that you don’t cook it past al dente (tender but still firm), because it will cook a little more in the oven, and nothing ruins a mac ‘n’ cheese more than wimpy, mushy pasta.

You can use any kind of orange winter squash you like. I happened to have a piece of a round, squat variety that came out of my mother’s garden.

Some days are harder than others, and it’s those days when you need mac ‘n’ cheese. Enjoy!

Roasted Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Makes 4 to 6 servings

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
½ medium squash (butternut, kabocha, or similar)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. short pasta (elbows, gemelli, shells, campanelli, pipette, etc.)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1¾ cups whole milk
2 teaspoons dry mustard
Pinch of nutmeg
3 cups shredded cheddar
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons plain dry breadcrumbs (regular or whole wheat)

Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter to grease a 1½-quart baking dish. Set it aside. Line a large baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.Peel the squash and cut it into small pieces. Place the squash in a bowl; add the oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper to taste. Mix well. Spread the squash out on the baking sheet. Bake until it’s tender and starting to brown, about 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the squash to the baking dish. Lower the heat to 350 ˚F.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and table salt; cook until the pasta it’s al dente (varies depending on what pasta you use, but generally 8 to 10 minutes).  Drain thoroughly and add it to the squash.Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a medium pan. Stir in the flour and whisk for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, whisking often, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add the mustard, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and black pepper to taste.Stir in the cheddar and let it melt in. Pour into the baking dish with the squash and pasta. Mix well.Melt the remaining butter in a small pan. Add the parmesan and bread crumbs and stir to coat. Spread this over the mac ‘n’ cheese. Bake until it’s bubbly and a bit browned on top, about 30 to 35 minutes. Enjoy!

 


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Tomato Tagliolini with Fresh Peas, Asparagus & Squash Blossoms

The fun thing about pasta is that it comes in many shapes, sizes, and flavors. You can play around with it almost endlessly. When I saw this particular pasta, I was drawn by its beautiful red color, which comes from tomatoes. Once it’s cooked, it retains a soft reddish color and a mild tomato flavor. Continue reading


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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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