Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Garlic Scapes with Fresh Peas & Israeli Couscous

IMG_5159Garlic scapes come around once a year for a short period of time and I’ve generally only seen them at farmer’s markets. So when I do see them, I make sure to grab some.

The first time I bought garlic scapes, I used them raw in a pesto. It was delicious but incredibly strong. Very garlicky. So after that, I used them only cooked.IMG_5110When I was at the farmer’s market this past week, I not only found garlic scapes, I found fresh peas as well (also quick to come and go at the market). I decided to combine them with some whole wheat Israeli couscous and the result was fabulous.

IMG_5118Here’s the recipe. I guarantee you’ll love it.
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Sautéed Rainbow chard with Roman Beans

IMG_5114I found the most beautiful rainbow chard at the farmer’s market this week. In fact, it was so beautiful, I hated to cook it. The leaves were so plump and full and the stems so colorful and vivid, I wanted to just look at them all day. They were ruby red, fuchsia, lemony yellow, and light orange. Nature does stunning work.IMG_5081IMG_5087But, alas, uncooked chard soon becomes not so beautiful. So cook it, I must.
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Roasted Cabbage

IMG_5071Roasting is probably my favorite way to prepare vegetables. They get golden brown, charred here and there, and caramelized for sweet, intense flavor.

I have never, however, tried roasting cabbage. It’s just never occurred to me. So, I had this head of cabbage sitting in my refrigerator and I was trying to decide what to do with it. Cabbage has may possibilities—I could boil it, steam it, saute it, make soup with it… But I was bored with all those options. I wanted to do something different.

And that’s when it hit me. Roast it. I cut it up, coated the pieces with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then I roasted them at 350 F. The result? Delicious. The cabbage was tender, toasty brown, and so flavorful. I ate it all week long.

Here’s what I did. Give it a try.

Roasted Cabbage

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the cabbage in half through the core, then each half in thirds. (If you have a particularly large cabbage, you may want to cut the pieces even further.)IMG_5059Lay the pieces a baking sheet. Pour ¼ cup olive oil over the pieces and use your hands to coat them thoroughly. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.IMG_5067Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.IMG_5068Turn the pieces over and cover again with foil. IMG_5070Bake another 15 minutes.Uncover the pan and roast 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender (it will depend on the size of your pieces).IMG_5075


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Bok Choy 2 Ways

IMG_4972Bok choy is part of the brassica family, also commonly called cruciferous vegetables. Other members of the brassica family are broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. Cruciferous vegetables are known for their many health advantages, such as fighting cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, strokes, and bad cholesterol. They are high in soluble fiber, antioxidants (vitamin C and beta-carotene), and the B vitamins.

Most Americans are familiar with bok choy as a vegetable in their stir fries. But it’s also great as a side dish on its own. Here are two very simple and quick ways to prepare bok choy to have with rice or noodles or on the side of just about any entrée.

There are many different types of Asian cabbages, and in an Asian market, you will find many different kinds side by side. All of them can be prepared in these two ways.

For 1 pound bok choy, wash thoroughly (grit gets trapped inside the leaves).

Recipes make approximately 6 servings. Enjoy!

SteamedIMG_4968

Bring about 1 to 2 inches of water to a boil in the bottom of a steamer pot. Place bok choy in the steamer rack. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until bok choy is tender when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes.Transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, as desired. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil. Serve hot.IMG_4977

Roasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. F.

Thoroughly dry bok choy on kitchen towels. Place bok choy in a roasting pan. Pour about ½ cup olive oil over them, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mix everything together with your hands, making sure that all bok choy leaves are coated with oil. Spread them out as evenly as possible in the baking pan.IMG_4974

Roast until they’re tender and begins to brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn them over and roast another 5 minutes to brown other side. Transfer to a serving platter. Serve hot. IMG_4981

 


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Sorghum Pilaf

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Sorghum is technically a grass (but for culinary purposes is classified as a grain) that is native to Africa, and was introduced to to the U.S. in the 1800s. It’s always been an important food crop around the world, but in the U.S., it’s been used primarily as animal feed. The exception to this is in the U.S. South, where sorghum molasses is a traditional sweetener, used much in the same way as honey or maple syrup. However, with the rising interest in gluten-free and ancient grains, sorghum is becoming more and more popular as human food in the U.S.IMG_4625

The great thing about sorghum, apart from the fact that it’s gluten free, is that it doesn’t have an outer shell that has to be removed to make it edible. That means that it’s a whole food, and that means that it’s healthy and just plain awesome.
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Cooking with Cambrays

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Cambray onions, also known as spring onions, are related to scallions. In fact, they look like a cross between scallions and Texas onions—long green stems with big round bulbs.

I’d seen them before but had never purchased them, so when I saw them this past week, I grabbed a few. I learned that they are a popular onion in Latin cuisine (in which they are referred to as cebollitas de Cambray or cebolla Cambray), and almost always appear on mixed grill platters.

They can be used in many types of preparations, from salads to onion tarts to tacos. Being that this was the first time I was eating them (to my knowledge, anyway), I did what I often do with a new-to-me vegetables—I roasted them. I like to do this because it allows me to sample the new vegetable in its basic form with no added ingredients, besides olive oil, salt, and pepper. Plus, once you’ve grilled a vegetable, you can then add it into many other dishes.

So, I roasted the Cambrays until they were caramelized and tasted one by itself. It was sweet and creamy and I could imagine throwing them, cut up, into a dish of pasta or adding them to a stew or chili. I put a few pieces on some flat bread, drizzled some extra virgin olive oil over it, sprinkled a little more salt and pepper, and finished it with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Very simple and very good.

IMG_4430Roasted Cambray Onions

Several Cambray onions
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Trim onions by slicing off roots and removing outer layers that look brown or funky.

Lay onions on a baking sheet. Drizzle oil over onions and rub them to coat with oil. Sprinkle on salt and pepper.IMG_4423Roast about 15 minutes; turn them over and roast another 10 minutes, or until both sides are golden brown.IMG_4427


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Spigarello, the Secret Broccoli

My parents have a vegetable garden. In the days when both my parents were fully healthy, so was their garden. They grew numerous things, and several varieties, including tomatoes, squash, peppers, lettuce, eggplant, basil, parsley, and mint. These days, my parents are elderly and my father’s health issues keep him from moving around too much. Consequently, their garden is kept down to whatever little they can handle. Which makes me sad on numerous levels.Spigarello

Every now and then, they tried something new, and have even gotten things growing in there that they had not planted, or they planted what they thought was one thing but got something else. A couple of summers ago, they wound up with a peach tree. To this day, they don’t know where it came from. It made the most beautiful, delicious peaches. But easy come, easy go—as mysteriously as the tree appeared, it died for no apparent reason that same year. Bizarre.Spigarello

This year, they planted what they thought was kale. But this strange leafy plant grew instead. It kind of has kale-ish leaves, but it is not kale. The plant also closely resembles broccoli rabe, but it does not have broccoli rabe’s signature mini broccoli-like heads. Nor does it have broccoli rabe’s bitterness. It just tastes kind of herbal and grassy. So, we all just happily ate this mystery plant.

Then, this past week, my friend Linda gave me something out of her CSA box. (For those of you not familiar with CSAs, it stands for community-supported agriculture. Local farms prepare boxes each week of whatever is ready to be harvested. You pay a fee and go pick up your box each week. You don’t know what you’re getting until you pick it up, and the surprise is half the fun.) This item was listed as spigarello. She had no idea what it was or what to do with it, so she gave it to me. Imagine my surprise when, upon investigation, that this is the stuff growing in my parents’ garden! Mystery solved.Spigarello

Native to southern Italy, spigarello (aka spigariello) is an heirloom broccoli variety and has been called by some websites as the “parent of broccoli rabe.” I’ve read that it’s all the rage right now in California but has been featured by some top restaurants here in New York as well, including Tom Collichio’s Craft.

Because spigarello is kin to broccoli rabe, it can be used like it. You can sauté it, put it into soups, or bake it in casseroles. But since it does not have the bitterness of broccoli rabe, it can also be used in salads without sending the bitter part of the  taste belt on your tongue into orbit.

So, here is my favorite (and the most classic) recipe for broccoli rabe (which appears in Vegetarian Italian: Traditions, Volume 1), prepared with spigarello. Thanks to Linda for providing the clue.

Sauteed Spigarello with Garlic and Red Pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Crushed red pepper to taste
1 pound spigarello (or broccoli rabe)
½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

In a large pot, combine the oil, garlic, and red pepper and sauté over medium heat until the garlic is well browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the stems off the spigarello, and remove any blackened or yellowed leaves. Cut large pieces into edible lengths.

Add the spigarello, salt, and ½ cup water to the pot and stir. Continue cooking until the spigarello is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. If it gets dry, add a little more water. Transfer the spigarello and the juices to a serving platter. Season with more salt, if desired.

Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature with crusty pieces of Italian bread.

Keep leftovers in a sealed bowl in the refrigerator up to 5 days.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

 

 


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Purple Haricot Vert Salad

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A couple of friends of mine receive CSA boxes. For those of you who don’t know what a CSA box is, it stands for “community-supported agriculture.” You have to join a CSA program and every week, you go and pick up your box, in which there will be a collection of produce based on that week’s crops. It’s basically a “what’s ready” box. You’re getting farm-fresh local and seasonal produce and you are supporting your local farmers.

As much as I believe in local and organic produce and sustainable farming, CSA boxes are not practical for me because when I do have time to cook, I have to focus on recipes that I must make. If you’re a food writer like me, you know exactly what I’m talking about: There are specific recipes that need to be tested, dishes to be photographed, events to cook for… We cook with an agenda, and cooking just for pleasure is a luxury.IMG_3180

At any rate, these friends were going away for a week and would not be able to use all the produce in their CSA box. They offered me a few items, including some beautiful purple haricot vert.

It was my brother’s birthday this past week and my mother wanted to cook him a special lunch with the whole family, and I thought it would be a nice to bring a fresh green bean salad, using the purple haricot vert. This salad is simple and fresh and you can appreciate the grassy notes of the beans. Note that purple beans will, sadly, turn green once cooked. It’s such a shame that they can’t retain their dazzling color. The vinegar will at least keep it a vibrant green.IMG_3183

Haricot Vert Salad

1 lb. purple haricot vert (or other fresh green beans)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
½ small white onion, thinly sliced
½ pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil; add the beans and vinegar. Return to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until tender but still firm. Drain and run under cold water. Drain well and place in a serving bowl.

Add remaining ingredients and gently stir. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.

Makes 6 servings.IMG_3196


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Liquid Gold from Greens

My friend, Linda, asked me recently for suggestions on what to do with the water she had used to cook kale. This water, known as pot liquor (sometimes spelled potlikker), has set many a cook’s heart aflutter because it’s loaded with flavor. Not only that, it’s also packed with nutrients from the kale, or whatever greens you have cooked in it.DSCF0005

Pot liquor is a U.S. Southern speciality, usually made from collard, mustard, or turnip greens, and can be used in place of water or broth in almost anything. Here are some ways to use it:

* In soups, stews, or chilis

* To cook rice, quinoa, or any other grain

* To braise vegetables or fish

* In a vegetable casserole

* In a vegetable smoothie

* In place of broth in a pan sauce

* If you have enough of it, you can reduce it and add a roux for a sauce, too. This would go very well with grilled/baked/sauteed tofu or tempeh.

* Add it to your pet’s food—it’s nutritious for our furry friends, too!

So, get yourself a nice big bunch of greens—any greens—and cook it down. The best way is to sauté greens in a pan with garlic and oil. But you can also use a small amount of water to boil them. That way, you get the nutrient-packed water without leeching everything out of the greens themselves. Place the greens in a large skillet or dutch oven and add about a cup of water and salt. After the greens are cooked, remove them and save the liquid. To sauté in oil, follow the recipe below, then reserve the pot liquor. It will have incredible added flavor from the garlic and spices.

(By the way, I was very tempted to call this blog “Pot Liquor,” but I was afraid it would draw the wrong kind of traffic. 🙂 As it is, I expect to get a lot of garbage from spammers who are keying in on the words “pot” and “liquor.”)

Sauteed Greens

1 large bunch greens, washed, drained
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Coarsely chop the greens.

2. Heat the oil in a wide pan; add garlic and cook 1 minutes. Add paprika and red pepper lakes and immediately add the greens.

3. Add ½ cup water, salt, and pepper and mix well. Cover the pan and cook until greens are tender. The time will vary, depending on the type of green it is. Add more water if it starts to get dry.

4. Use tongs to remove the greens and garlic. Reserve the pot liquor for use in other recipes.

 

 

 

 


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Chinese Noodle Stir-Fry with Chickpeas

This week, I’d like to share my recipe for Chinese Noodle Stir-Fry with Chickpeas. There’s nothing like a bowl of noodles, no matter what type of cuisine you’re cooking. It’s comforting and satisfying with layers of flavors and textures. The great thing about noodles is that you can a have them with anything and add anything to them.IMG_2595

One of my favorite way to have noodles is stir-fried with lots of vegetables. I particularly like cabbage, so I start with that and build from there.

I also had some fresh chickpeas and green peas that I had shelled from their pods and needed to use them, so I threw those in as well. Green peas are often found in stir-fries and Asian noodle dishes, but chickpeas not so much. I found them to work beautifully in a stir-fry, especially since I’m a little clumsy with chopsticks and was able to pick up the chickpeas fairly well. Their meaty, firm texture also made a nice contrast to the tender noodles and vegetables.

So, here’s the recipes. Enjoy!

Chinese Noodle Stir-Fry with Chickpeas

2 teaspoons coconut or sunflower oil
10 ounces cremini or baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 10-ounce package Chinese noodles (your preference)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
2 cups sliced cabbage
1 small carrot, diced small
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
½ chickpeas, black-eyed peas, or soy beans
¼ green peas
2 cups greens (spinach, chard, kale, amaranth leaves, etc.)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 sliced scallions for garnish

1. Heat coconut oil in a wide skillet. Add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and set aside.

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2. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.

3. In same pan, add 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a wok or large. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes. Add cabbage, carrot, and pepper and stir-fry until crisp-tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add beans, peas, mushrooms, and soy sauce and continue stir-frying another 2 to 3 minutes.

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4. Add greens cook until wilted. Stir in remaining sesame oil.

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5. Add the cooked noodles and stir to combine. Divide between 2 bowls and garnish with scallions.

Makes 2 servings.

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