Saturday, January 28, 2012

Vegan Sloppy Joes

The only thing in this healthy sloppy joe update that's from a can is maybe the lentils if you don't have time to soak your own. 

Vegan Sloppy Joes
(makes 8 sandwiches)
20 ounces of any combination of mushrooms (diced)
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
1 white onion, diced (about a cup)
1 Not-Beef bouillon cube
1/4 cup white wine
2 large diced carrots (about a cup)
2 stalks of diced celery (about 1/2 cup)
1 diced green bell pepper (about a cup)
1 1/2 cups of prepared lentils
1 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons vegan Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon mustard
olive oil
salt and pepper
8 whole wheat buns
In a large 12-inch frying pan. sauté the mushrooms in a 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat until browned and liquid has evaporated. Remove from pan and set aside.
In the same pan, sauté the onion and the bouillon cube in one tablespoon of olive oil until onion is translucent. Deglaze the pan with white wine. Cook until wine has evaporated (about 4 minutes). Add the carrots, celery, and bell pepper. Cook on medium until carrots have softened -- about 5-7 minutes.
Return mushrooms to the pan with the vegetables and add the lentils,  Turn heat to low and stir and heat the mix through. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon a cup or so of the mixture onto warmed Kaiser rolls and have some napkins ready.

Saffron Egg Drop Soup

What is this recipe doing here? you may ask. How does one arrive at a Chinese/Spanish fusion soup in the South? I think back happily to the times when, as a child, I would go out to lunch after church every Sunday with my family. Most weeks, we'd end up at a place called Nam King on Summer Avenue in East Memphis. My dad would order something like deep-fried chicken feet just to watch us all squirm, but I would always order egg drop soup.
I was fascinated by the airy texture of the egg, and I loved the crunchy fried noodles on the side; however, the thing I picture most is the color of the broth: such a deep yellow it almost seemed like a cartoon drawing of what this particular soup should look like. With this recipe, I wanted to recreate the color, and I did that by using saffron threads in the broth. I felt like I had committed to a Spanish flavor profile, so adding manchego and the sherry vinegar sealed the deal. I updated this traditional soup even more so by replacing the crunch of the fried noodles with diced vegetables.
Saffron Egg Drop Soup
(serves 4)
1 small red pepper (about 1/2 cup)
1 small purple onion (about 1/2 a cup)
1 green tomato (about 1/2 a cup)
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley (chopped)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
saffron broth (recipe follows)
3 eggs (beaten)
1/2 cup shredded manchego cheese
salt and pepper (to taste)
Finely dice pepper, onion, and tomato and place into a mixing bowl. Finely chop parsley and add it to the mixture along with a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of olive oil, sherry vinegar, and sugar. Set this mixture aside; it is the garnish for the soup.
Bring the broth to a rolling boil. Add beaten eggs to the boiling broth -- one small spoonful at a time -- until all the beaten eggs are used. (The 'splintering' effect is really cool to watch!) To serve, spoon egg and broth mixture into a bowl, top with a spoonful of the vegetable mixture, and then grate a bit of the manchego on top.
Saffron Broth
1 1/2 quarts of vegetable stock (like Imagine No-Chicken Stock)
5 cloves of garlic (minced)
zest from one lemon
zest from one orange
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
sherry vinegar
Over medium-high heat, add the vegetable stock and garlic to the pot. Add the zest, water, saffron, and about a teaspoon of sherry vinegar. Simmer over medium heat until the broth has reduced by about 20 percent. Add black pepper and salt as needed.

Simple and Easy Porcini Mushroom Veggie Burgers

I've experimented with lots of recipes for homemade veggie burgers, and I must say that this is one great veggie burger. It may even be 'the one'! The tempeh and portobellos add just the right amount of texture while the mustard and worcestershire sauce bring in an unmistakable depth of flavor. 

These are rich and meaty thanks to the addition of a mere tablespoon of dried porcini mushrooms. If you've never tasted porcini, be sad because you are missing out on something great. There's really nothing else like it in the plant world. Chefs will often use dried porcini to give already meaty stews and sauces a meatier flavor if that tells you anything about this powerful, pungent mycelium.

You can find dried porcini mushrooms at Whole Foods. They are about nine dollars for a one-ounce bag, which sounds really expensive, but it's not -- I use them all the time, and that tiny bag lasts about five months. They are great in stocks, soups, stews, and veggie burgers.
Porcini Mushroom Veggie Burger

(Makes 4 veggie burger patties)

1  8-ounce package of tempeh (crumbled)
1 1/2 cups portobello mushrooms (very finely diced)
1 tablespoon dried porcini (minced)
1 cup smoked provolone cheese (shredded)
1/2 cup shallot (minced)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon vegetarian worcestershire sauce
cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon grainy or creole mustard
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup of canola oil for frying
4-6 ounces cheddar (sliced)
1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
1 tomato sliced
1/4 cup sliced shallot
1/2 cup dill pickle slices
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup mustard

Mix all ingredients, save for the oil, in a large bowl and work it all through with your hands until all ingredients are throughly mixed. Allow the mixture to rest in the fridge for at least ten minutes before forming the patties. In a 10-inch frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Portion patties using a 1/2-cup measuring cup. Form a 3 1/2 inch patty using your hands pressing the sides with your thumb so they are smooth and not craggy. This will help keep your burger together. Once you have formed the patty place it directly into the hoot oil. Pan-fry in the oil for about 4-5 minutes per side or until they're lightly browned and the egg has set. Remove patties from the pan and serve immediately or set them aside on a paper towel-lined plate until you are ready to take the optional step of grilling the burgers.
Once you have all of your toppings ready, preheat your outdoor grill to 500 degrees. Cook burger patties for about 3 minutes per side -- or until well-marked by the grill grates and heated through. This step adds a depth to the flavor. Top burgers with cheese, and allow the heat from the burgers to melt it. Serve on a soft sesame bun with romaine lettuce, sliced tomato, thinly sliced shallot, dill pickle slices, mustard, and mayonnaise.

Vegetarian Roasted Red Pepper + Olive Muffuletta

I've visited New Orleans more than any other city. I really love that place! Every time I go, I have to grab a muffuletta (or three). Many people argue over who makes the best one --Central Grocery? Frank's? -- but really, they are all delicious. What's not to love when there's light bread, meaty olive dressing, spicy creole mustard, and melty cheese...

Before you make this classic sandwich, be sure to visit the olive bar at almost any specialty store. It's best to select a mix of many different kinds of olives in order to add to the complexity of the dish. In addition, be sure to grab plenty from the spicy bin to give your olive dressing some kick. I like to use fresh cauliflower and carrots in place of pickled ones. This cuts down on the salt in the dish and makes it more enjoyable, in my opinion. This is a great dish to make for a party.

(Know that the muffuletta bread may be tough to find outside of the South; if it isn't available at your local deli, just use a light focaccia bread in its place.)

Vegetarian Roasted Red Pepper + Olive Muffuletta
(serves 8)

3 cups spicy, pitted olives (green, black, and kalamta)
2 stalks of celery (about 1 cup, sliced)
2 cups thinly sliced cauliflower
1 large carrot (about 1 cup sliced)
2 teaspoons good Italian seasoning mix (such as Penzey’s brand)
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 cup olive oil
1 cup white vinegar
2 10-inch muffeletta breads
2 tablespoon mayo
4 tablespoons creole mustard
4 roasted red peppers (fresh or from a jar)
14 ounces sliced cheese (provolone or Swiss)
Sliced tomatoes and chopped romaine lettuce (optional)
12 peperoncini peppers (on the side)

Using the slicer blade on your food processor, slice the olives, celery, cauliflower, and carrots. Place sliced vegetables into a 2-quart container; add the Italian seasoning mix, crushed garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. Allow mixture to marinate and the flavors to meld for a day or so --seriously! The longer you leave it, the better it will be.

Next, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice muffuletta breads in half. On the bottom half of each, spread half of the olive dressing. On the top slices, spread one tablespoon of mayo and two tablespoons of  creole mustard, and then add half the cheese on each in an even layer.
Place dressed bread open faced on a baking sheet in the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove and add roasted red peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes to each sandwich. Place the top on each sandwich. Slice into quarters. Serve immediately.

Triple Tomato Soup + Toasted White Cheddar Crouton

Why let French onion soup have all the fun? So many soups are good served with that same crunchy, gooey crouton up on top. Here, boring old tomato soup gets a serious upgrade. The deep flavor of this soup comes from three tomato sources: the smokiness of roasted Roma tomatoes, the complexity of sun-dried tomatoes, and the sweetness of tomato paste. 

(Thinking back, I vividly remember that one of my favorite meals as a kid was grilled cheese and tomato soup. I'd dunk the grilled cheese into the soup, but I'd save the last bit of the sandwich to mop up the bowl. This recipe is a grown-up combination with the inelegant but essential 'dunk' built right into the dish.)

Triple Tomato Soup + Toasted White Cheddar Crouton
(Serves two as a meal or four as a starter)

5 large Roma tomatoes (peeled*)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon butter (divided)
1 sweet onion (thinly sliced, about 2 cups)
2 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup dry packed sun-dried tomatoes (sliced into 1/4-inch strips)
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup water
3 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (4 sprigs)

salt and pepper (to taste)
4 slices whole grain bread
1 cup shredded white cheddar

Turn oven's broiler on high. Slice peeled tomatoes lengthwise and place face-down on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush each tomato with olive oil and place under the broiler until the tomatoes start to blacken. (This should take eight to ten minutes; keep your eye on them.) Once they're done, set the baking sheet aside and allow the tomatoes to cool.
In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat one tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat. Once butter has melted, add the sliced onion. Allow the onion to sweat down and start to brown; this should take about 15 minutes. Add the brandy and the Worcestershire sauce to the pot and raise the heat to medium. Allow most of the liquid to evaporate, and then add the sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, water, broth, and the roasted Roma tomatoes. Smash the roma tomatoes against the side of the pot using the back of a wooden spoon. This produces a texture that matches well with the onion. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce to low. Allow soup to simmer, covered, for at least twenty minutes. Add fresh thyme, salt, and pepper just before serving.

To serve, slather toasted bread with melted butter. Turn your oven broiler on medium. Divide soup between two bowls, float slices of bread on top of the soup, and cover toast with the white cheddar. Place bowls under the broiler for two to three minutes or until cheese is bubbling. Serve immediately.
*One of my favorite kitchen tools is a serrated peeler. It allow you to peel soft skinned fruits like tomatoes without having to boil water and prepare an ice bath. It’s a real time-saver.

Warm Asparagus + Egg Salad

Oui, oui, monsieur et madame, it's definitely true: we love cooking up a French-inspired dinner sometimes. French, I"ll admit, is not my best subject in real life or in the kitchen, but it's so pretty that I think it's fun to try it out every once in a while. Besides, whenever us Southerners want to put on the dog we always dredge up a recipe that at the very least sounds French.  Triple Tomato Soup soup goes well with this wonderful asparagus and egg salad that's actually exceptionnellement simple.

2 eggs
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup salt
1 bunch asparagus (about a pound)
1 roma tomato (small dice)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
juice of 1 lemon (about a tablespoon)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1/8 cup olive oil
First hard boil the eggs by place the eggs vinegar, salt and one quart of water in a cold medium saucepan. Bring everything to a boil over high heat. Once the water is at a roiling boil, shut off the heat and cover the pan. Allow eggs to sit in the hot water for exactly ten minutes. Remove eggs and peel under cold running water.
In a large large soup pot, blanch peeled asparagus in some super-salty water (slightly saltier than sea water) for about 3 minutes. Place warm, drained asparagus on a serving platter. Mix diced tomato with the  sugar, the lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and some cracked black pepper. Whisk in 1/8 cup of olive oil. Arrange slices of hardboiled egg over the top of the asparagus, and then garnish with the dressed tomatoes. Finish the dish with a pinch of salt and a little cracked black pepper.

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Torta

To me, a torta is just the perfect food: tasty, filling, portable, and full of endless possibilities. I have to tell you that it's just as delicious as it is simple to make, it's a good excuse to bust out your grill, no matter what season it is. 

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Torta
(serves 4)
2 cups prepared black beans (drained)
2 cloves garlic (roasted for milder flavor)
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
juice from half a lime
2 poblano chilies (roasted, peeled, seeds removed)
1-2 medium sweet potatoes (peeled and then sliced 1/8-inch thin by a mandolin)
1-2 medium zucchini (sliced 1/8-inch thin using a mandolin)
olive oil
1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
salt and pepper (to taste)
4 torta buns (hoagie buns are a good sub)
3-4 ounces queso fresco (or soft goat cheese)
2 avocados (peeled, seeded, quartered)

1/2 cup shredded cabbage
2 sliced roma tomato
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/2 cup cilantro
1/4 cup mayo
hot sauce
lime wedges

Using a food processor, blend the black beans, garlic, chipotle powder, and lime juice together until this forms a thick paste. You may need to add a tablespoon of water or stock to get the mixture moving. Brush both sides of the sweet potato and the zucchini with a generous amount of olive oil, sprinkle both sides with ancho chili powder and salt. Preheat your grill. Grill sweet potato and zucchini for 3-5 minutes per side or until well marked by the grill grates.
Warm buns so they are nice and crispy on the outside. Slice buns in half and pull out the excess bread from the top half of the bun. (This creates a handy chamber that will make for a neater sandwich.) Starting at the bottom, spread black beans on the bun, top with roasted poblano, zucchini, sweet potato, cilantro, green onion, tomato slices, cabbage, avocado, hot sauce, cheese, and mayo.

Roast Beet Sandwiches + Horseradish Sour Cream

This is a funny little riff on a deli classic, the roast beef sandwich. In this version, I traded in the roast beef for beets to make it vegetarian-friendly, and I used smoked swiss cheese in place of plain swiss cheese to add a smoky note that plays nicely with the sweetness of the beets. Other than that, I didn't monkey around with any other elements. There is still plenty of horseradish sour cream, crisp lettuce, sliced tomato, and pickles on a kaiser roll.
This is the perfect weekend lunch, quick dinner, or perhaps even something to take on a little impromptu picnic. Once you've made the beets, it's just a matter of assembling the sandwich -- and what's easier than that? I served this cold like you'd find in a deli, but I'd be willing to bet that it would be a great hot sandwich as well. Just stack the hot beets on a buttered, toasted bun and melt the cheese under the broiler. Slather the top with horseradish sauce, and then it's all set.
Roast Beet Sandwich + Horseradish Sour Cream
(makes 4)
4 seeded kaiser rolls
4-8 slices of smoked swiss cheese
Roast Beets (recipe follows)
horseradish sauce (recipe follows)
2-3 cups butter lettuce
1 tomato (sliced)
1 cup dill pickle slices
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Place cheese on the bottom part of the toasted bun; this will keep the bread from turning pink from beet juice. Stack 5-6 beet slices (about 1 beet) on top of the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Follow that by stacking the lettuce, tomato, and dill pickle slices. Smear the top bun with horseradish sauce. You are now ready to enjoy your (very first?) roast beet sandwich.

Roast Beets:
5 medium red beets 
1/2 cup white wine
4 cloves garlic (smashed)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
8 sprigs thyme
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2  tablespoon olive oil
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Trim 1/8 inch from both the stem end and the root end of the beet. Place beets in a small casserole dish along with the wine, garlic cloves, soy sauce, thyme, pepper, salt, and olive oil. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Allow beets to cool completely. Peel skin from the beet by rubbing it with a damp paper towel just as though you're polishing it -- the outer skin will rub right off. Slice beets in 1/4-inch slices. Discard cooking liquid or use it to make a colorful salad dressing.
Horseradish sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream
1-2 teaspoons of freshly grated horseradish
small pinch of sea salt
cracked black pepper
Mix ingredients together and there you have it: an easy, spicy, from-scratch horseradish sauce. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mexican Corn Chowder

One of my favorite things in the world is a dish known as elote con mayonesa. It's Mexican street food at its best: boiled corn brushed with mayo, then sprinkled with cotija cheese, chili salt, and a squeeze of lime. I developed this chowder recipe with the same flavor combination. We really, really enjoyed it. This is something I will make again and again.
Mexican Corn Chowder
(serves four)
8 medium ears of corn (about 4 cups of kernels)
1 1/2 cups diced onion (about 1 medium)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups vegetable broth
1-2 chipotle pepper (about a tablespoon, minced)
3 cloves garlic (smashed)
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup cotija cheese
1 lime (sliced into wedges)
First peel the corn and remove all the silks by running a wet paper towel over the kernels. Remove the kernels by standing the ear in its end and carefully running a sharp knife down the length of the ear of corn on all sides. Do this operation over a large bowl. In a large soup pot over medium high heat, sweat the onion in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Once the onion starts to brown, add the broth, chipotle pepper, garlic and 3/4 of the corn kernels. Bring the soup up to a boil by raising the heat to medium-high. Allow mixture to cook for about ten minutes. Blend the mixture smooth with an immersion blender. Return soup to the pot and add the remaining corn for texture. Mix the ancho chili powder and the sea salt together in a small bowl to make chili salt. Ladle chowder into a bowl and top with a 1/4 teaspoon of chili salt, a tablespoon of cotija cheese, a few cilantro leaves, and a squeeze of lime.

Does this need more richness in the form of some cream?

Honeycrisp Apple + Parsnip Soup

Parsnips look like pale carrots, something Bunnicula got ahold of and completely drained of color. They have a spicy bite of flavor and taste earthy and bright, a little bit like mild horseradish. Parsnips have started showing up more and more this fall, and I had heard they're great with apples. (In the recipe, I found a use for the Honeycrisp apples that are out now. I figured there must be something great about an apple harvest that calls for a giant banner and so much in-store signage excitement.)
Honeycrisp Apple + Parsnip Soup
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cup diced white onion (1 medium)
1 cup sparkling wine
2 large parsnips (peeled, roughly chopped, about 2 cups)
2 large Honeycrisp apples (peeled, roughly chopped, about 2 cups)
1 russet potato or white sweet potato (peeled, roughly chopped, about 1 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup half-and-half
salt and pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup sliced green onions (to garnish)
In a soup pot or dutch oven sauté onions in butter over medium heat until translucent, and then add wine. Allow the mixture to reduce unntil most of the liquid has evaporated, and then add parsnip, potato, apple, and sage to the mixture. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until vegetables have softened and have taken on a slight color. Add the stock and reduce heat to medium-low. Bring the stock up to temperature.  Slowly add the half-and-half to the warm mixture. Do not allow soup to boil after adding the half-and-half as it could curdle. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture smooth. Add enough stock or water to achieve the consistency you desire up to another full cup. Garnish with sliced green onion.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich + Smoked Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli

So, tomorrow is Labor Day, and most everyone you know will be eating BBQ in the form of pork, beef, or chicken. It's time for you to plan ahead. Make a few of these classic vegetarian sandwiches to take along with you to whatever cookout you make be attending -- unless, of course, you thoroughly enjoy eating a plain coleslaw sandwich. If your family is anything like mine, even the avowed meat-eaters are going to be curious to try what you're eating!

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches + Smoked Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli
(Makes 4)
1 large red pepper (or a jar of roasted red peppers)
1 medium eggplant (in 1-inch slices)
4 large portobello mushrooms (stems trimmed)
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 1/2 cups whole-milk mozzarella (shredded)
4 sesame kaiser rolls (toasted)
Smoked Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli
1 large tomato (sliced)
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
Roast the pepper over a high flame on the outdoor grill or your indoor gas burner turning until the skin blackens all over. Allow them to cool and then peel off all the charred skin under running water. Using your hands, pull out the stem and seeds. Divide pepper into quarters and set aside. Simply drizzle the vegetables with the balsamic vinegar and plenty of olive oil. Season each side with salt and pepper. Allow vegetables to soak in the oil and vinegar for about ten minutes. Preheat your grill to high. Grill vegetables (mushrooms gill-side-down) for about 4 minutes per side or until they are nicely marked by the grill grates. The mushrooms may take a little longer. Once you have cooked the underside of the mushroom flip it over and sprinkle the cheese on the gill side of the mushroom caps as they continue to grill in order to melt the cheese. Stack the vegetables: mushroom with the cheese, slice of eggplant (or two), one quarter of the roasted red pepper. Serve on a toasted bun with spinach, tomato, and Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli (recipe follows).
Smoked Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli
1/4 cup smoked sun-dried tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup mayo
sea salt + cracked black pepper to taste
It's simple -- just blend the tomatoes, garlic, zest, mayo, salt, and pepper until smooth. This is also great on so many other things such as wraps, eggs sandwiches, and tortilla de papas.

Fried Green Tomato Po' Boy

This sandwich takes me back to the first time I walked into a sandwich shop in New Orleans and asked if they could make me a vegetarian po' boy. The lady behind the counter told me that the original po' boy was made with french fries, lettuce, and tomato, and they'd be happy to make this historic sandwich for me. I walked in to the same shop the next day and they had added the french fry po' boy to the menu board.
This fried green tomato po' boy is just perfect. The dredge has a hint of nutmeg, and the N'awlins sauce puts it over the top...way over the top. This one should be on the menu, too!
When selecting the bread for this sandwich you should look for a baguette that has a crunchy exterior and is light for its size not one that is soft and chewy. Not only is it more authentic, it’s easier to eat. French baguette should be available at most grocery stores, but certainly specialty stores such as Fresh Market.
Fried Green Tomato Po’ Boy
(serves 4)
1 crusty baguette (about 3 feet long)
4 ounces soft goat cheese 
N’awlins Sauce (recipe follows)
2 cups spinach
2 medium red tomatoes (sliced)
Fried Green Tomatoes (recipe follows)
1/2 cup sliced green onion (to garnish)
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
To assemble the sandwich, slice a crusty french loaf in half leaving one long side intact. This hinge will help keep the sandwich together as you bite into it. Pull the bread out of the top half creating a channel for the ingredients. Spread creamy goat cheese on the bottom part of the inside and Naw'lins sauce on the top. Layer in fresh spinach, sliced red tomato, and the fried green tomatoes. Slice into 6-inch sections. Then...crunch! So good.
Fried Green Tomatoes:
4-5 medium green tomatoes (sliced into 1/2-inch slices)
1 egg (beaten)
1 cup all-purpose flour
about 1 cup of water (to make it as thick as pancake batter)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
scant 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups canola oil (for frying)
Pour canola oil into a sauce pan (oil should be about 2 inches deep). Heat oil to medium-high (350 degrees). Make the batter by whisking together the egg, flour, and enough water (about a cup) in a medium bowl to make the mixture as thick as pancake batter. Now make the dredge by tossing the cornstarch, cornmeal, salt, paprika, nutmeg, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper together in a separate bowl. Using a pair of tongs, dip each green tomato slice into the batter and allow excess to drip off leaving a think coating of batter on the tomato. Then sprinkle dredge over tomato allowing excess to go back into the bowl. do this just before placing each tomato into the oil. Fry in batches for 5-6 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
N'awlins Sauce
1/4 cup mayo
2 tablespoon creole mustard
1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire
Tabasco or Louisiana hot sauce (to taste)
Mix mayo, mustard, Worcestershire, and hot sauce in a small bowl until well incorporated.

Fried Chick Pea Sandwich + Blue Cheese & Tomato

In Sicily, they call these simple little chickpea fritters panelle, and they're typically served as street food on a bun with a scoop of ricotta. I thought it might be fun to take the idea out of Italy and bring it down South.
In this version, chickpeas stand in for fried chicken. The sandwich is dressed with spinach, tomato slices, blue cheese, and sliced shallot. This recipe below makes quite a few fritters, enough for about 6 sandwiches or more, which is a good thing considering they are quite addictive.
A little magic happens when these things begin to cook. The outside layer becomes craggy and crispy, the next layer is slightly chewy, and the center is creamy. They are so good that they're worth a few extra a calories. 
Fried Chickpea Sandwich
(serves four)

2 cups broth
2 cups chickpea flour
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups canola oil (for frying)
1/4 cup mayonnaise 
6 soft sesame buns
2 cups fresh spinach
6 tomato slices
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallot
4 ounces blue cheese (crumbled)
In a medium saucepan, add chickpea flour to cold broth and whisk. Gradually bring the mixture up to a low boil as you whisk. Once the mixture becomes thick, add the water and whisk some more. Allow mixture to cook, covered, on low for 10 minutes stirring occasionally so the bottom doesn’t scorch. In an olive-oil-coated 9x12 casserole pan, quickly spread the warm mixture evenly to the edges. Use a sheet of waxed paper to press the mixture into place. 
Once the mixture has cooled completely, turn it out onto a cutting board. Cut into two-inch squares and then cut each square in half to form triangles. Bring canola oil up to medium-high heat (350 degrees) in a sauce pan. Fry chickpea patties in batches if five for about five minutes a piece or until they pass golden brown and are more toasted brown in color. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper. 
To serve (immediately!): toast buns, spread with a teasppon of mayo, pile on 3-4 fritters, a handful of spinach, a slice of tomato, a few sliced shallots, and a little blue cheese. 

Roasted Red Pepper Soup + Sambal and Cinnamon

At lunch on Friday, I saw a friend eating a bowl of thin, bright, gorgeous red pepper soup, and it looked so perfectly spicy, so very fall, that I swore I was going to make something like it this weekend. It helped that peppers are still at the markets -- actually, I was surprised by the amount of produce still going strong right now -- so we picked up a bunch of red peppers from Whitton Farms for this, a Moroccan spin on red pepper soup.
Sambal, the spicy ingredient in this recipe, sounds exotic, but it’s available at most grocery stores now. Just look for the jar with a rooster on it and a bright green plastic top. It’s basically a spicy, chunky, garlic sauce seen most of the time on the table at Asian restaurants. Pick some up next time you are at the store. It’s great in everything!
Roasted Red Pepper Soup + Sambal and Cinnamon
(serves four as a starter or two as a meal)
6 red bell peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil (more for garnish)
2 cups sliced white onion (1 medium)
6 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sambal (more to taste)
1/2 cup of white wine (We used chenin blanc.)
1 1/2 cups chopped tomato (1 medium)
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon local honey
2 cups vegetable stock
sea salt and crushed black pepper (to taste)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (to garnish)
Roast the peppers over a high flame on the outdoor grill or your indoor gas burner turning until the skin blackens all over. Take them inside to cool and then peel off all the charred skin under running water. Using your hands, pull out the stem and seeds. Set roasted red peppers aside. Sauté onion in olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until they're soft and starting to turn brown. Add the garlic cloves, cinnamon, and sambal. Once the mixture is fragrant (about a minute) add the white wine. Continue to cook until most of the wine has evaporated. At this point add the roasted red peppers to the pot along with the tomato, vinegar, honey and vegetable stock. Carefully blend the soup with an immersion blender. Allow mixture to simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes. If it’s too thick, whisk in a bit more stock. Taste it to check the salt and pepper before serving. Ladle soup into a bowl and top with 1/4 cup crumbled feta. For a little extra richness drizzle the top with good quality olive oil. 

Curried Cauliflower Soup

My mother-in-law makes a delicious cauliflower soup every year at Christmastime. The problem is that she will only make it once a year. She always makes me my own special batch with vegetable stock rather than the chicken stock the recipe demands. I have tried to convince her that she could just make the whole batch with vegetable stock since there is no other meat in the soup, but she is a stick-to-the-recipe kind of gal, so I get a pot all to myself. I never understood how curried cauliflower soup became a part of the family tradition, but somehow it did. Here is my version with red curry paste and basil oil that is sure to make an appearance on your table this holiday season.

Curried Cauliflower Soup:
(serves four as a first course, two for a light dinner)
1 large head cauliflower (broken into florets, stems chopped, about 4-5 cups)
3 tablespoons canola oil (divided)
1 1/2 cup diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
1 tablespoon red curry paste (available at Whole Foods)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 can light coconut milk
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped green onions or chives (to garnish)
1 tablespoon basil oil
thinly sliced hot peppers (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss cauliflower in a two tablespoons of canola oil and spread onto a large baking sheet; roast until the tips of the cauliflower are golden brown (15-20 minutes). Remove cauliflower from the oven and set aside. In a large soup pot over medium heat, sweat onion in a tablespoon of canola oil until translucent (this should take about three minutes).  Add the curry paste and lemon zest. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the wine. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated.
Add all of the cauliflower stems and half of the florets to the pot along with the vegetable stock, coconut milk, vinegar, and sugar. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. Check for seasoning adding salt if needed. Ladle soup into a bowl, top with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the roasted cauliflower florets, a drizzle of basil oil, and a sprinkling of chives.

Crispy Eggplant Sandwiches + Roasted-Garlic Ricotta Spread

I love sandwiches.  They are nearly the perfect food. Many days I eat them for breakfast and lunch, but rarely do I eat a sandwich for dinner. This sandwich counts as dinner. The key to this particular sandwich is to get a good eggplant. The fresher the better. Look for a smooth skin and no soft spots. Here I pair the crispy eggplant with arugula, tomato sauce, and roasted garlic ricotta spread. 
While taking a shortcut preparing a batch of eggplant parmesan, I left out a step. I typically dry out-bread in the oven before pulverizing it into crumbs which I use to coat the slices of eggplant. This time I tore up a 1/2 of a fresh baguette and stuck it into the food processor. The result was a moist breadcrumb unlike any I had ever used. When the eggplant emerged from the oven, the outside was crispy and crunchy, but the inside was soft and moist and in between is a rich layer that tastes like it has been batter-coated. With dry breadcrumbs the outside may be crisp but the inside not yet cooked. This way all the components are done at the same time. When you take a new path, even if it is a shortcut, you always make a discovery.
Baked Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches
(serves 4)

1 medium eggplant (makes about a dozen slices)
3 cups torn fresh bread (use extra ciabatta or kaiser)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning mix (Penzney’s makes a good one)
1 cup of flour (for dredging) 
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (more for garnish)
2 cloves of roasted garlic
1/2 cup  of ricotta
2 cups arugula or spinach
1 cup good-quality tomato sauce
4 ciabatta or sesame kaiser rolls

Crispy Baked Eggplant:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make breadcrumbs from the fresh bread by adding the torn bread and the Italian seasoning to the work bowl of your food processor. Pulse until the bread has broken down into a fine crumb. Place breadcrumbs in a medium bowl and set aside. Slice the eggplant between 1/4 to a 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle each slice with salt and pepper to taste. Set up a line of 3 medium bowls (cereal bowls will do fine here). The first bowl should contain the flour, the second the egg, and the third the breadcrumb. Dredge eggplant slices in the flour, shake excess flour off, dip each in the egg, and then roll them in the bread crumbs to coat. Arrange the eggplant slices on a large, parchment-lined, baking sheet. Drizzle each with about 1/8 teaspoon of olive oil and put them into the oven. After 15 minutes, flip the slices and drizzle each slice with more olive oil and continue cooking for another 15 minutes for a total of 30 minutes of cooking time. 
Roasted Garlic + Ricotta Spread:
The fast way to roast garlic is to put the garlic cloves skin-on into a dry, hot skillet. Allow it to cook until the skin is blackened. Let it cool, and inside the burnt skin you'll find a soft smoky, sweet clove of garlic. Mix the ricotta, roasted garlic cloves, and parmesan together using a fork or food processor.

To assemble the sandwiches, throw your bread into the warm oven. Once the bread is warm assemble the sandwich like this: arugula, three slices of eggplant, 1/8 cup warm tomato sauce, sprinkle of parmesan. Spread some Roasted Garlic + Ricotta Spread on the underside of the top bun and you are in for a treat. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vegan Migas Tacos + Poblano & Tomatillo Salsa

A recent Mother's Day brunch at Brother Juniper's reminded me of how good scrambled tofu could be. They have a few versions of this vegan classic that are all served with chopped mushrooms, peppers, and onions. The deliciousness of my breakfast made the wait totally worthwhile.

At home, I decided to make my favorite egg dish, migas tacos, vegan. I did this by subbing a simple scrambled tofu for the scrambled eggs. If you're not familiar with migas, they're typically made with eggs scrambled with tortilla chips. It's not always an easy dish to find when you're out to eat, so you should try making it at home some time.

I pulled out all the stops for my version of migas tacos using fire-roasted poblanos, tomatillos, tomatoes, green onions, and, of course, corn tortilla chips. There is so much good stuff going on in this's so spicy, crunchy, and rich that you just have to love it.

Vegan Migas

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Poblano and Tomatillo Salsa (recipe follows)
Scrambled Tofu (recipe follows)
2 cups corn chips (crumbled)
4 flour tortillas
1 avocado (sliced)
hot sauce (to taste)
cilantro (to garnish)

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat olive oil to temperature. Using a mesh strainer, strain the salsa and discard liquid. Mix the scrambled tofu mixture with the vegetables from the salsa. Scramble tofu and salsa mixture for a few minutes until warmed through. Add the chips and stir to incorporate. Serve immediately on flour tortillas with sliced avocado, hot sauce, and cilantro. This also goes nicely with a side of rice and black beans.

Poblano and Tomatillo Salsa:

1 poblano pepper (fire-roasted, peeled, seeded)
2 roma tomatoes (peeled)
2 small tomatillos (peeled)
2 green onions (sliced)
1 jalapeno (seeds removed, minced)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar

Dice the peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos. Add in the sliced onion, minced jalapeno, salt, sugar, and vinegar. 

Scrambled Tofu:

1 block extra-firm tofu (crumbled)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon black salt (or sea salt)
2 tablespoons vegan mayo
pinch of sugar (to balance the bitterness of the turmeric)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Mix tofu, turmeric, black salt, mayo, sugar, and black pepper together in a medium bowl. Using a fork, break up any large chunks of tofu.