Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life

Lentils with garlic scapes


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Lentils with Garlic Scapes

Lentils with garlic scapesGarlic scapes are one of summer’s treasures and if you have a farmers’ market near you, try to find some. They’re available for a short time in early summer. Scapes can be used in many different ways—basically, any way you would use garlic or onions. Last week, I used them with beet greens (very tasty!).

Garlic scapes

For this recipe, I used garlic scapes as the flavor base for lentils. Scapes lend the dish a mellow garlic-like taste but there’s more complexity to it. The addition of fresh herbs really elevate this to a gourmet meal, but the simplicity can’t be beat. The final result is so flavorful and something really special. Continue reading


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Beet Greens and Garlic Scapes

beet greens with garlic scapes

I was just commenting to someone that I sometimes feel that I cook more in summer than in winter. That seems counter-intuitive, but there’s a reason for this. With summer comes all the beautiful vegetables that you can’t get in winter (or they’re not as good in winter), and I definitely want to take full advantage.

One of those things is garlic scapes, which are available for a short while in early summer.garlic scapes

At the farmers’ market this week I found garlic scapes, as well as beets with beautiful lush leaves. Usually I cook beet greens with garlic, so I thought that garlic scapes would work well too. And they do. 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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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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Homemade Veggie Stock Infographic

Hi there. It was homemade vegetable stock day here at Chez Roberti, so I wanted to offer a quick and easy way to make your own. Just follow along on the infographic below and you’ll be all set.

A note on salt: Traditionally, salt is not used in stock because it’s supposed to act as a base to support other flavors. By not adding salt, you control the salt content in a recipe later on. However, if you’re going to use this stock as a basic soup broth, you can add some kosher salt, if you want.

Soup Stock Infographic


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Baby Beets with Balsamic Reduction

IMG_5544Once again, I was lured by the Siren’s song of the farmers’ market. I picked up some lettuce, some carrots, some cipolline onions. But what caught my eye this week was the box of baby beets. Gigantic red globes can be found anywhere, but baby beets are not quite as easily found. At least not for me. So I pounced on them.IMG_5528

When I was doing my internship at the James Beard House, I worked with different chefs each week. One week, I worked with the crew from Blackberry Farm in North Carolina. They did a plate of roasted baby beets that were like sparkling jewels. And the memory of those little gems is what inspired me to make this recipe.

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Cauliflower Steak with Sun-Dried Tomato-Olive Sauce

IMG_5504Cauliflower steak is a mainstay of many vegetarian and vegan restaurants. I think it’s because once you’ve worked your way through a big slab of cauliflower, you find yourself full and satisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming that a cauliflower steak gives the same feeling of satisfaction that of a regular steak or that it’s a comparable substitute in any way, but for vegetarians, it’s a hearty and delicious option.

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Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whet-Your-Whistle Bar

IMG_5525Yeah, that would be MY bar. It’s a cart in the corner of my dining room loaded up with various alcoholic delights. Don’t judge me.IMG_5509

Anyway, we hit a little cool snap here last week on the East Coast and suddenly people with gardens found themselves having to make some quick decisions about their remaining vegetables. My parents still had a garden full of tomatoes that had to be taken in.

There’s no better opportunity to make fried green tomatoes.

Although fried green tomatoes are associated with the American South, according to an article on Smithsonian.com and this article from Bon Appetit, they’re actually from the North and Midwest, possibly of Ashkenazi Jewish origins. But the use of cornmeal is probably a Southern contribution to the dish, and I think that the flavor and texture of the cornmeal are what makes the tomatoes so tasty and unique.

Fried green tomatoes are really easy to make and can be flavored with whatever spices you like.

Enjoy!

Fried Green Tomatoes

1½ pounds green tomatoes
1 medium egg
2 teaspoons milk (any kind)
¾ cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt

freshly ground pepper to taste
Coconut oil

Line a large plate with paper towels and place it by the stove.

Slice the tomatoes into ½-inch-thick slices.IMG_5512Beat the egg with the milk in a medium bowl. Combine the cornmeal, garlic powder, paprika, salt, and pepper on platter. Place a few of the tomato slices in the egg and coat both sides. Then put them in the cornmeal and coat both sides.IMG_5517Heat about ½ inch oil. Gently shake off excess cornmeal from the tomato slices and place them in the oil. Fry, flipping them over once, until golden brown on both sides, about 3 or 4 minutes per side. Transfer to the paper towels.

Repeat with the remaining tomatoes. Replenish the oil in the pan as needed.

Serve with a creamy dressing, sour cream, or salsa.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Beet Green Rolls Stuffed with Millet and Eggplant

IMG_5427This recipe is another example of just how good leftovers can be. You can transform the things you have in your refrigerator and pantry, the little bits and pieces that remained behind, into something new and interesting.

I had purchased beets from the farmers’ market and wanted to do something different with the leaves than the usual saute with olive oil and garlic. As much as I like that particular dish, I think I’ve O.D.d on it. So I started thinking about other ways of using them.IMG_5398

I also happened to have leftover roasted eggplant slices and some millet in the pantry. After some thought I came up with this recipe: beet green rolls stuffed with millet and eggplant. Millet is the perfect grain for stuffing because it’s sticky and you won’t have little individual grains skittering across your plate. It will hold everything together. It’s also gluten free, so those of you with (or who have loved ones with) Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, this is a great recipe for you. Further, beet greens are loaded with iron, vitamin C, beta carotene, and antioxidants.

Since I will assume that you don’t just happen to have roasted eggplant slices already in the fridge, or perhaps not even millet in your pantry (even if you do, I doubt you’d have both at the same time), I’ve written this recipe so that you can start from scratch. Btu it’s a very easy recipe—you can even make the eggplant a few days in advance so that you can just jump right into this recipe.

This is the perfect autumn/winter dish—hearty, delicious, and great to bring to gatherings. You can serve it as an appetizer, a main course, or side dish. Enjoy!

Beet Green Rolls Stuffed with Millet and Eggplant

½ cup olive oil, plus extra
1 medium Italian eggplant
¾ cup millet
Greens from 1 bunch beets
1 tablespoon grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. If you’re using foil, grease it with some of the olive oil.

Cut the eggplant into 1/2-inch-thick slices lengthwise and lay them on the baking sheet (use more than one baking sheet if you have to). Set aside 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and use the rest to brush both sides of the eggplant slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, turning over once, until browned on both sides, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Chop up the eggplant finely and measure out 2 cups. Reserve the rest for another recipe.IMG_5411Meanwhile, place the millet in a small saucepan with 1½ cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 10 minutes.IMG_5399If the water hasn’t been all absorbed, drain the millet in a mesh strainer. If it needs to cook some more, you can add a little more water and continue simmering.IMG_5402Transfer the millet to a bowl. Add the eggplant, parmesan, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper; mix well.IMG_5412IMG_5413Place the beet greens in a large bowl of water and wash the greens in several changes of water.

IMG_5400Pick out the largest, nicest leaves (you’ll need about 14) and place them on a kitchen towel to dry.IMG_5408Cut off the stems of the leaves. You may need to cut out a little bit of the ribs a the bottom if you find the leaves difficult to roll. IMG_5415Place 1/4 cup of the filling—less, if the leaf is smaller–at the base of a leaf and roll the leaf up. (It’s okay if the leaf tears a bit or the rib pokes through—you’re not making rolls that people will eat with their hand. These are fork rolls!)

IMG_5414Place it on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining leaves. Pack the rolls close together. Gently brush olive oil over them.IMG_5419Cover tightly with foil. Bake 15 minutes. Transfer them to a serving platter, sprinkle more parmesan over the top, then drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil.IMG_5423Serve hot or at room temperature.

Makes about 14 rolls.IMG_5430