Sunday, February 26, 2012

Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie

This is one of my absolute favorite things in the whole world, and it is so simple to make. Plus, it's a great way to use up those bananas that have gone a little dark. Just peel them and throw them into a food storage container and place them in the freezer. They'll be ready next time you want this good-for-you frozen treat.

The ripe bananas have plenty of natural sweetness, and the peanuts are a great source of protein. The texture of the blended frozen bananas is a lot like an ice cream milkshake, so enjoy! It can be your breakfast in a cup or the perfect thing to cool down after a run when, like me, you're just trying to stay on the cute side of chubby.

Peanut Butter + Banana Smoothie

3 frozen bananas
1/4 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky)
1 1/2 cups soy milk (or milk)
1/2 cup 2% greek yogurt
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped roasted peanuts

Throw a few frozen bananas into a blender cup along with the peanut butter, soy milk, yogurt, honey, and salt. No need to be to fussy about it. Blend until smooth. Top each with a teaspoon of chopped peanuts.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Natchitoches Umami Pies + Yogurt Chimichurri

This is a dish that was a collaboration between me and Kelly; we served these at the collaborative brunch at Restaurant Iris this past June. I make my pies with black beans and pickled peppers. Kelly makes his with ground beef and allspice. Even the sauce splits the difference. I usually serve mine with a chunky chimichurri, and Kelly does a spicy buttermilk dip. Here is a creamy, yogurt-based chimichiurri. We found a happy middle ground and a whole new dish for both of us when we combined the two styles. I just know you'll enjoy it.

Natchitoches Umami Pies
(Makes about 20 small pies) 

1 cup dry black beans
2 cups broth
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup 
finely diced onion (about half of one large)
1/2 cup finely diced celery (about one large rib)
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup 
finely diced carrot (about two medium)
1 cup finely diced sweet potato (about one small)
1/4 cup chopped pickled cherry peppers (about 4-5)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon flour
Pie Crust Dough (recipe follows)
Egg wash (one beaten egg mixed with one tablespoon water)
Yogurt Chimichurri (recipe follows)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (for garnish)

Place the dry black beans, two cups of broth, allspice, thyme, and garlic powder in a medium sauce pan over high heat. 
No need to soak the beans first. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer for an hour or until the beans are tender. In a 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and celery until translucent and beginning to brown. Deglaze the pan with the wine and reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the carrot, potato, peppers, and soy. Cook for five minutes stirring frequently. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to incorporate. This should tighten up any juices in the pan. Using a potato masher, lightly mash half of the mixture. Set mixture aside to cool. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out on a floured surface to approximately a 12 x 16 inch rectangle. Using a drinking glass, cut as many circles out of the dough as you can. Pick up a disk of dough and place it into the palm of your hand. Spoon one to one and a half tablespoons of filling into the  center of the round. Fold both ends up so it looks like a little taco. Pinch the open sides together with your fingers until sealed. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all dough has been used. Place in the oven for 20 minutes. Brush the tops with egg wash and return pies to the oven for another fifteen to twenty minutes or until lightly browned.

To serve, place pies on a serving platter alongside the Yogurt Chimichurri sauce. Garnish with smoked paprika.

Pie Crust Dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup organic shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
about 1/2 cup cold water

Place the all-purpose flour, shortening, and salt into the food processor. Turn it on and allow it to run for a few seconds so the shortening becomes incorporated into the flour. Add the cold water one teaspoon at a time until the dough comes together by forming itself into a ball and rolling around the inside of the work bowl. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes.

Yogurt Chimichurri

2 cups loosely packed parsley
1-2 cloves garlic
juice from 1 lemon (1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 cup 2% Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
cracked black pepper to taste

Place parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and sugar into the work bowl of your food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil slowly as the food processor runs. Add the yogurt, salt, and pepper. Blend until very smooth. Place into a small serving dish and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

Sambal Pepper Jelly + Savory Cheddar-Pecan Cookies

This is inspired by two guilty pleasures here in the South: pepper jelly and cheese straws. These two things are ever-present at any gathering of merit. I, of course, had to put my spin on it. Pepper jelly is typically served with cheddar on plain crackers. Cheese straws are just for snacking. I made an unholy marriage of the two.

This pepper jelly is different than most you'll find around these parts. I borrow a few ingredients from Asia: rice vinegar and sambal*, sriracha's chunkier cousin. The result is what my wife says is "the best pepper jelly I've ever had -- and I've had some pepper jelly." She also told me to use the natural pectin present in citrus peel as the gel in this concoction. To my surprise, it worked.

The cookies are the perfect vehicle for the jelly. Serve this at your next gathering and see if your guests don't think you are the sweetest thing they've ever seen.

Sambal Pepper Jelly
(Makes a half-pint)

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup minced red bell pepper (1 small)
1 tablespoon sambal
peel from one lemon

Place the sugar, vinegar, red pepper, sambal, and lemon peel into a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly as you gradually increase the heat until you bring the mixture to a boil. Continue to stir as it boils for two minutes. Pour mixture into a half-pint jar. Stir occasionally to distribute the chopped pepper as it all starts to cool and gel. Keep refrigerated for up to a month.

Savory Cheddar-Pecan Cookies
(Makes about 2 dozen)

1 cup pecans
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon smoked salt, cracked black pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar
2 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons water

Place pecans, flour, and smoked salt in the work bowl of your food processor. Turn it on and let it run until the pecans and the flour are indistinguishable from one another. Add the cheddar and the butter and turn it on again. Drizzle in the water one tablespoon at at time until the dough forms a ball and rolls around inside of the work bowl; know that you may not need all the water.

On your work surface, roll the dough into a seven-inch log. Place the log on a plate in the freezer for thirty minutes to harden so you can slice it. While it's in the freezer, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove the dough and slice into 1/4-inch slices. Place onto a 12 x17 parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for twenty-five to thirty minutes or until lightly browned. Allow cookies to cool before serving.

* Sambal can be found in most grocery stores now. I know it's available at Whole Foods.

Vegetarian Meatballs

This recipe makes use of our very versatile mushroom meat. This is the stuff we use in place of ground beef in any recipe in order to vegetarianize it, and it's much more natural than commercially available ground beef substitutes. These meatballs made with mushroom meat are a hit over and over again in our house. We serve them on top of spaghetti, my wife's favorite, but mostly, I prefer sneaking them one at at time, popping a really too-hot-to-eat meatball into my mouth while the pasta is cooking. They also make a great little vegetarian appetizer for a party. How would you serve them?

Vegetarian Meatballs
(makes about 3 dozen small meatballs)

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 cups mushroom meat
2 large eggs (beaten)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less if you don't like spiciness)
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil (for drizzling)
about 1/2 cup of good-quality tomato sauce (for brushing)

In a large mixing bowl, combine cheese, breadcrumbs, mushroom meat, eggs, tomato paste, half and half, red pepper flakes, oregano, and parsley. Allow mixture to stand for twenty minutes so that the breadcrumbs soak up the flavor of the other ingredients. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Using a small ice-cream scoop (about one tablespoon), scoop a portion of the mixture onto a parchment-lined, 12 x 17 inch, rimmed baking sheet. (You will want to portion them fairly close together as this makes a whole bunch of little meatballs.) Repeat until all of the mixture has been used. Drizzle the meatballs with olive oil. Place pan in the oven for a total of 20 minutes. After ten minutes, take the tray out and brush the tops of the meatballs with tomato sauce. Return the pan to the oven to finish cooking.

Serve these with your favorite pasta and spaghetti sauce garnished with plenty of parmesan cheese and minced parsley. You could also make these into little sliders on a soft bun with ricotta and tomato. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nannie's Blueberry Pie

My grandmother Nannie is a very talented baker. She sells her pies and pound cakes every week in Mississippi and always has something amazing for us to try when we visit. There's sure to be a lemon-glazed, faintly coconut-flavored pound cake waiting in the Tupperware carrier on top of the fridge, and also, a surprise so she can tell the story of the new recipe and ask for our feedback.

Eating this blueberry pie has been as natural to my family as breathing. It's not super-sweet, it stains everything in sight, and it must be served cold. Nannie hand-writes recipes for me in her beautiful cursive, and I have saved them all. She would shake her head and be pretty exasperated if she knew I used a little less sugar and added a few more blueberries in my version, but everything else is exactly the same.

Nannie's Blueberry Pie


3 cups blueberries
3/4 cup cane sugar (+ one tablespoon)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Rinse berries and set out to dry. Sift the flour over the berries and add sugar, salt and lemon juice. Mix gently. Use this to fill an 8-inch pie crust. Dot the blueberry mixture with small, cut-up squares of butter before adding the top crust. (It helps to loosely wind each crust around a rolling pin and then they'll unroll/drape easily into the pie pan.) Fold the edges of the top crust under the bottom crust and crimp the edges using your knuckle. Cut at least 5 slits in the top crust and sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar over the top. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, and then lower the temp. to 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Let it cool and then refrigerate it 3 hours or overnight before cutting a slice, or it will be too runny.

Pie Crust:

(My grandmother assumes that everyone knows how to make a pie crust; it is not explained in her original recipe. I figured out that this pie uses this classic shortening crust that is vented and sugared on top before baking. It's a classic recipe from my favorite cookbook.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Brown Rice & Brown Butter Crispies

This recipe is due to a mistake that first annoyed me but then made me wonder if I was on to something. I had some vegan marshmallows in a pan on the stove and accidentally scorched them because I didn't add the butter in with them at the time. It was a mess! But it smelled kind of great in a weird, s'mores way, so I went ahead and made crispies with them anyway. They were good! I couldn't stop marveling at the results of my dumb mistake. So I started to think about getting a similar, smoky effect -- but on purpose this time.

Brown butter is everywhere lately, so I had to see what all the fuss is about. For these crispies, start with brown butter and add in a bag of (gelatin-free!) marshmallows, and use those arm muscles to incorporate some healthy brown rice cereal. These taste even better than the ones from childhood.

Brown Rice & Brown Butter Crispies

4 tbsp. unsalted butter
4 1/2 cups of puffed brown rice cereal
1 pkg. vegan marshmallows (I used a 10-ounce package of Chicago Soydairy Dandies.)
1/4 teaspoon Maldon salt (crushed)

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly. You want a toasty color, and you cannot turn your back on it for a second; once it's too dark, it's gone. Once you see some browning, take it off the heat and add in the marshmallows. Stir constantly and put on low heat to melt. (This takes at least 3-4 minutes.) Take off the heat again and add about 4 1/2 cups of puffed brown rice and salt. Stir it up until cereal is coated and then press the mixture tightly into an 8 x 8 pan. Wait about 30 minutes to cut them.

Mushroom Meat

I used to rely on heavy-handed meat substitutes to give my meals that old, familiar texture and flavor that we all grew up on as the center of our 1980's meat-and-three dinners. As I shy away from more and more processed foods, I began looking for a way to get that same familiar result from my own kitchen. The solution for me was to take two things I already love, mushrooms and eggplant, and turn them into a multi-purpose "meat." It's so simple and requires little hands-on time. Make this in large batches, freeze what you don't use, and defrost it to add to tacos or burritos, fill ravioli, or cobble together a homemade veggie burger.

Mushroom Meat
Yields about 4 cups

3 cups finely chopped eggplant (about one medium, peeled)
3 cups finely chopped portobello mushroom (about three medium)
2 cups finely chopped white onion (about one)
bouillon cubes (like Not Beef brand)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. This is so simple if you use your food processor to do the chopping. Add roughly-chopped mushrooms, stems and all, to your food processor and pulse three or four times until finely chopped. You do not want to find the vegetables into a paste. The pieces should be about the size of a black-eyed pea. Dump processed mushrooms onto a large, parchment-lined, rimmed sheet pan (12x17). Pulse the roughly-chopped eggplant in the food processor in the same manner and dump it onto the sheet pan with the mushrooms. Repeat this process with the onion. 

Crumble the bouillon cubes on to the pile of processed vegetables. Drizzle the mound of mushrooms, eggplant and onion with the olive oil and vinegar. Using your hands, toss it all together. Spread the mixture evenly over the sheet pan. Sprinkle the mixture with garlic powder and pepper. Pop it into the oven for a total of 20 minutes. Remove and allow it to cool in the pan. Some eggplant will contain more water than others. If there is excess moisture in the bottom of the pan drain it off using a colander. Reserve the liquid to add to soups or stews. It's very flavorful.

For an Italian variation, add fresh herbs from the garden. To make a Mexican version, I add cumin to the mix along with a palmful of ancho chili powder and chipotle pepper. The possibilities are endless. Sub this for any recipe that calls for ground beef.

* cut olive oil in half 2/20

Portobello Mushroom Deli Slices

I'm no good with rejection, but I persisted because I knew I had a good idea. So I simply kept trying. I would walk up to the deli counter at various grocery stores with a bag full of portobello mushrooms and discreetly ask if they would slice them up like lunch meat for me.

"I don't think we're supposed to do that," I would hear. "It's just gonna tear them up," was another common sentiment. Finally, I discovered an approach that worked. I let a few George Washingtons do the talking for me, and I let my partner in crime know that I would buy the mushrooms even if trying to run them through the slicer tore them up. It always worked out just fine. Yes! Now I have my own meat slicer so, I can make this dish any time I wish. If you can't get the mushrooms sliced, just slice them as thin as you can using a sharp knife. Tip: freeze the mushrooms for twenty minutes before slicing to make the job easier.

Once you have successfully obtained your medium-thin sliced mushrooms in any way you see fit, you are well on your way to a new world of lunch-y deliciousness. It is best to make a bunch of these slices and use them for sandwiches throughout the week. This recipe made enough for about 5 sandwiches for today's park picnic for 20+ folks; people who like pickles and this amazing stout mustard seemed pleased. Plus you have the scraps of the mushrooms left over for use in a tomato sauce or carbonara.

(I also learned that sandwiches with this homemade pimento cheese were in much higher demand than I expected. Noted, people. I will bring more next time.)

Portobello Mushroom Deli Slices
(makes enough for 4 hearty sandwiches)

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons mustard (spicy brown or stout)
1 teaspoon (vegetarian) worchestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic (microplaned)
pinch of salt
plenty of black pepper
4-6 large portobello mushrooms (very thinly sliced)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the first 7 ingredients together until incorporated. Stack mushroom slices into an oven-safe dish and drizzle a little of the dressing between every other layer. Pour remaining dressing over the top of the stacks. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Allow mushrooms to cool throughly before placing them into a covered container and placing in the fridge.

The flavor is very meaty and the texture is perfect. This slices are great for lunch on rye bread with mustard and swiss. They would also make a fantastic reuben. This recipe tastes so much better and is much better for you than the typical processed meat substitute slices. This is something you should try today.

Beer Pizza Crust

Pizza may be my favorite food in the whole wide world. It's also the great equalizer when one's considering what to feed a mixed crowd of vegetarians and non-vegetarians. It's rare that anyone is ever disappointed in a pizza no matter what's on top, so serving it to a crowd is usually a no-brainer. 

Sometimes I like to par-cook my homemade pizza crust. It allows me less time in the kitchen when friends and family are over, and it assures a good product. All you do is throw the dough, slide it undressed onto the stone, and cook it for just a few minutes. When it's time to eat, top your par-cooked crusts with sauce and cheese and slide 'em into the oven to crisp up.

Beer Pizza Crust
(makes two 12-inch pizzas)

1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon Fleishmann’s Rapid Rise yeast
9–12 ounces of your favorite beer

Pour beer into a microwave-safe glass and heat for 1 minute. Place flour, salt, and honey into a stand mixer, turn it on low, and add the yeast. Slowly add the beer until all the dry flour has been incorporated. You will need between eight and ten ounces of beer. (You will have beer left over.) Mix for 5 minutes 'til dough looks smooth.

Divide the dough in half. Roll each piece into a ball; place each in its own airtight container with plenty of space for the dough to rise. Set containers out on the countertop. Leave the dough alone for 1 hour. In the meantime, place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 500° degrees. 

Turn the dough ball out on to a lightly floured pizza peel. Begin to dimple the dough using three fingers. The middle of the dough should look like the surface of a golf ball. Leave a half-inch on the outside undisturbed—this will become the crust. Turn dough over and repeat the process. Pick up the dough and let it stretch over your fists until it is about 12 inches in diameter, or toss it in the air like a pro—your call. Make sure your have enough flour on the peel so that the pizza can slide around and into the oven. You may alternately use a piece of parchment paper instead of flour, which is easier for a beginner. Place raw crust on a sheet of parchment. Spread about 1⁄3 cup of tomato sauce over the crust, and then top with ½ – 1½ cups of cheese. Add  any other topping that you like at this point. Using the pizza peel, slide the raw pizza onto the hot stone and let it cook for about 7 minutes. Remove the pizza once the top starts bubbling and it begins to brown around the edges. The best part: cut and serve.

No-Bones-About-It Vegetarian Broth

Why ever would you want to take on the task of making your own vegetarian broth? Well, it's fresh, it's better than anything in a can or a carton, and really, it's not that hard. The process is simple: use a food processor to allow the maximum amount of flavor to be extracted from the veg in a minimum amount of time. Then boil. Strain. Simmer. Done.

Soups taste so much better this way. This broth is great in tomato sauce, curries, grits, and beans as well. You can make a big batch of this broth, use some, and freeze the remainder until you need it.

No-Bones-About-It Vegetarian Broth

1 onion (roughly chopped)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 carrots (roughly chopped)
4 ribs celery (keep leaves on)
2 bell peppers
2 roma tomatoes
full bulb of garlic (unpeeled -- remove the root end!)
parsley (a handful or two)
5 springs thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons red miso
palmful of whole black peppercorns
4 quarts water
1 lemon, halved

Sauté the chopped onion in olive oil and on medium-high heat until it's translucent and starting to brown around the edges. In batches, process all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor. Put all the veg and garlic, herbs, miso and pepper into a large soup pot, and then fill it with 4 quarts of water. Squeeze the lemon halves into the pot and then drop them right in with the other ingredients. Bring it all up to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Let it cool and then strain out the veg. Return the liquid to the soup pot and reduce by half on medium-high heat. This could take up to 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

*A variation on this is to add 12 ounces roasted or dried mushrooms; this will make it more 'beefy' and savory.

20-Minute Tamales

I love tamales, but they are pretty time-consuming to make. Even just steaming them takes an hour to an hour and a half. I knew there had to be a better way.

One day while cleaning out my fridge, I came across some leftover grits that had taken on the form of the container in which I had stored them. I took them out and heated them up, but they remained in that same stubborn shape. That's when it hit me: why not cook the masa, the corn grits used to make tamales, on the stovetop and then roll it in the corn husks with the filling? I gave it a shot, and it worked perfectly. Using this method knocks a good hour off the time it takes to make this dish.

20-Minute Tamales

4 cups vegetable broth
1/8 cup olive oil
zest from one lime
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups masa (for tamales)
12 corn husks (soaked in water for one hour until soft)
2 1/2 cups tamale filling (recipe follows)

Bring broth to a boil and add the oil, lime zest, chile powder, and baking powder. Stir and then add masa a little at a time so you don't get any lumps. Cook masa for 20 minutes stirring often to develop a creamy texture. While masa is hot, spread about 1/4 cup on the center of a corn husk, place two spoonfuls of filling in the center of the masa, and roll it up; I didn't even fold the ends up because the masa was so thick it stayed in place. Allow them to cool. To serve, simply heat them in the microwave for a few minutes, top hot sauce and your choice of salsa, and enjoy.

Tamale Filling

2 1/2 cups mushroom meat
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder

Mix mushroom meat, cumin, ancho, and chipotle powders together in a small bowl and set aside until ready to use.

Green Smoothies

I had been wanting to give mythical green smoothies a shot for a while before I actually gave them a shot. The question that lingered in my mind was a daunting one: could a green drink I made myself possibly be any good? I wondered if I would really taste the spinach or the kale in these, but they're barely detectable since only a natural sweetness comes through. It didn't even beg for a shot of honey or agave.

Green smoothies, it turns out, aren't all that attractive-looking compared to the pleasing colors of typical fruit smoothies, but the point is that just a few simple ingredients pack a healthy punch, so that's okay. Fitting in an extra vegetable in the morning and getting an energy boost after drinking one of these couldn't be a bad thing, right? At some point, we might even commit to having one day for a while...

Spinach + Strawberry Green Smoothie

3 cups of baby spinach (loosely packed)
1 large frozen banana (or 2 small bananas; either way, peeled and cut into a few pieces)
4 strawberries
juice from 3 oranges
ice (optional)

Blend until all ingredients are fully combined.

Kale + Berry Green Smoothie

1 1/2 cups curly kale
a handful of raspberries
a handful of blueberries
juice from 3 oranges
1 large frozen banana (or 2 small bananas; either way, peeled and cut into a few pieces)
ice (optional)

Blend until all ingredients are fully combined.

Grilled Vegetable Terrine

Imagine a grocery bag brimming with fresh vegetables: squash, eggplant, mushrooms, red peppers, and spinach. Now picture it all being compacted into the size of a cheesecake. This terrine was my attempt to compete with the turkey -- yes, I have this very same showdown every year. It's the centerpiece vegetarian dish I made for Thanksgiving, and I wanted it to be beautiful to look at without looking anything like a meat substitute.

It took 24 hours, 2 foil-wrapped bricks, and a little bit of babying, but I don't mind. In my view, that's what a Thanksgiving meal should entail: ritual and presentation. Each layer is seasoned, grilled, and bursting with smoky flavor; egg and goat cheese add richness in between it all.

Grilled Vegetable Terrine
(serves 8)

2 Not-Beef bouillon cubes
white wine vinegar
6-7 large portobello mushroom caps
4 medium zucchini
3 medium yellow squash
1 medium eggplant
6 red bell peppers (roasted and peeled)
20 ounces fresh spinach (blanched and squeezed dry)
4 ounces goat cheese
4 eggs
1 cup fresh parsley  (loosely packed)
2 cloves garlic
olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Mix bouillon cubes with 1/3 cup of olive oil and 1/2 cup of white wine vinegar. Pour mixture over the gill-side of the mushrooms and set aside. Run the zucchini, eggplant, and squash over a mandolin. (Each slice should be about 1/8 inch thick, so adjust your mandolin accordingly.) Lightly sprinkle each slice with salt and pepper.

Now fire up your outdoor grill. This would be a great time to roast the red peppers first. Next, grill the sliced vegetables over a high flame for about 3 minutes per side. (You will need to do this in batches.) Set vegetables aside to cool. Finally, grill mushrooms gill-side-down for about 4 minutes, then turn them, weigh them down with a brick, and grill for another 4 minutes.

Into a food processor, add the spinach, goat cheese, eggs, garlic, parsley, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend mixture until smooth. Now you're ready to start assembling the terrine.

I formed my terrine in a spring-form pan, but you could use a loaf pan or even a casserole dish. I started with the zucchini just because it looked pretty; the first layer you put down will be the top of the terrine. Other than that, the order is unimportant. Between each layer of vegetables, spoon about 1/4 cup of the spinach mixture. Continue until you have used all of your vegetables.

Place the spring-form pan on a pizza pan or rimmed baking sheet, place a slightly smaller pan on top of the terrine, and stack two foil-wrapped bricks on top of that. Allow this crazy-looking contraption to sit in the fridge overnight. The next day, remove everything from the top of the terrine, pour off any excess water that has been pushed out of the terrine during the compression, and bake it in a 350 degree oven for 2 hours. Allow it to cool completely before turning it onto a serving plate. Slice with a sharp knife. It's delicious served with a little ricotta and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. 

Roasted Butternut Squash Fettuccine + Goat + Thyme

This unassuming little pasta dish packs quite a flavorful punch. The roasted garlic and minced olives hiding in the dressing add a depth of flavor that goes very well with the sweetness of the roasted squash. All I can say is that this is one of my favorite plates of pasta. It's a keeper.

The fun of pasta is that it is a blank canvas that calls for you to paint with many flavors. Mix whatever vegetable is fresh and in-season with some garlic and olive oil, and there you have it, a new pasta recipe. The possibilities are truly endless. 

Roasted Butternut Squash Fettuccine + Goat Feta + Thyme

1 medium butternut squash (about 3 1/3 cups, peeled, seeded, diced)
6 cloves garlic
olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
10 kalamata olives (minced)
1 large shallot (diced)
1 large tomato (about 1 1/2 cups, diced)
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 sprigs of thyme (stems removed, plus more for garnish)
3/4 pound fettuccine
4 ounces feta (crumbled) 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss diced butternut squash and whole cloves of garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil, spread out on a rimmed baking sheet, and then season with salt and pepper. Place baking sheet into preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until the edges of the squash begin to caramelize.

In a large bowl, mix the olives, shallot, tomato, sugar, vinegar, parsley, thyme, a pinch of salt, some black pepper, and a few tablespoons of olive oil. Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool. Smash the roasted garlic hard with the side of your knife and stir the paste into your dressing. Cook pasta according to package directions. Toss pasta and butternut squash with the dressing. To serve, use tongs to transfer pasta to plate and garnish with crumbled goat feta and thyme leaves.

Enoki Mushroom Ceviche

 I had an idea for a mushroom ceviche floating around in my head for a while, but I didn't know which mushroom to use. I wanted to stay true to the raw nature of ceviche, but raw mushrooms were, well, unappealing to me to say the least. Then I remembered the mild enoki: the perfect match.

Enoki Mushroom Ceviche
(serves 6 as an appetizer)

1 5.25 ounce package enoki mushrooms (about 1 cup, sliced)1/4 cup sliced sea beans
juice from 1 lime (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 cup diced avocado (1 medium)
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced jalapeño (about 1 medium, seeds discarded)

1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 teaspoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 cup cilantro leaves (to garnish)

Trim the bottom 1/3 off of the stem end of the mushrooms and discard. Cut mushrooms into one-inch sections and place into a medium mixing bowl. Add the sea beans to the mushrooms along with the lime juice, avocado, bell pepper, jalapeño, chives, agave, and olive oil . Allow that mixture to sit for 20 minutes so the flavors marry. Add the cilantro and a pinch of salt just before serving alongside crispy tortilla chips..

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Vegetarian Chicken + Parsley & Olive Oil Dumplings

Our grandmothers made chicken and dumplings all the time like it was nothing. One would appreciate a little begging before she got out the flour and the milk; the other shrugged and made just dumplings after 3 of the grandkids went vegetarian at the same time. We love our sweet grandmothers, and we got a huge part of our love of cooking from them. This is a dish that really brought us back.

Vegetarian Chicken + Dumplings
(serves 4-6)

1 package chicken-style seitan (torn into bite-sized bits)
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
6 cups vegetarian stock (like Imagine No-Chicken Stock)
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 cup minced flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
1/8 cup minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sugar

In a large soup pot or dutch oven, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. In a medium bowl, toss the seitan with the two tablespoons flour, and then sear the seitan in the butter until crispy and brown. After three minutes, turn once and brown the other side for three minutes. Add garlic powder and black pepper. Pour stock over the seitan; whisk out any flour lumps, and reduce heat to low.

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix baking powder, one cup flour, and one teaspoon salt together.  Add 1/8 cup parsley, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and milk to the dry ingredients. Stir just enough to mix because if you stir too much, the dumplings will become tough. 

Bring the six cups of stock and seitan up to a slow boil. Drop dumpling batter into stock one tablespoon at a time. (You should have 10-12 dumplings.) Place a lid on the soup pot and reduce the heat to simmer for fifteen minutes without disturbing the pot. During this time, the dumplings will plump, and the sauce will thicken. It's a little Southern magic.

Make the garnish while the dumplings cook. Toss the carrot, celery, and parsley with olive oil, champagne vinegar, sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon sea salt in a small bowl. Mix to incorporate. To serve, spoon 2-3 dumplings and a few pieces of seitan along with some broth into a soup bowl and garnish with the fresh vegetable mixture.

Roast Beet Salad + Sea Salt Granola + Honey Tarragon Dressing

This is one of our favorite salads here in the Chubby Vegetarian home kitchen. The addition of granola to a salad seems unusual, but to me, its nutty flavor and crunchy texture are right at home atop sliced beets and goat cheese. What more can I say? I love it.

Don't be deterred by the amount of steps as it's really quite simple to put together. Also, there is little hands-on time. Just make sure to make the beets ahead of time since they cook for an hour and a half.

Roast Beet Salad + Sea Salt Granola & Honey Tarragon Dressing 
(serves 4)

Roast Beets (recipe follows)
1/2 cup Sea Salt Granola (recipe follows)
Honey Tarragon Dressing (recipe follows)
4 cups lettuce (Boston or baby romaine)
4 ounces soft goat cheese (crumbled)

Follow the directions below to make the beets, granola, and dressing. The beets and the dressing are proportioned correctly for this recipe, but the granola will make way more than you need for this dish. I guarantee it will be eaten. That stuff is addictive. Once your components are made, all that's left to do is assemble the salad. Start by layering beets and lettuce together like you would a caprese salad -- oh, and I think each serving should get about 5-6 slices of beet. Next, drizzle the assemblage with about a tablespoon of the Honey Tarragon Dressing. Finish with an ounce of crumbled goat cheese and 1/8 cup Sea Salt Granola.

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.

Sea Salt Granola
(makes about 5 cups)

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup brown rice syrup*
1/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups oats
1/3 cup sliced almonds (raw, unsalted)
1/3 cup pecans  (raw, unsalted)
1/3 cup pepitas/pumpkin seeds  (raw, unsalted)
1 tablespoon sea salt (no substitutions)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the sugar, syrup, oil, vanilla, and salt. Add dry ingredients and combine. Spread it all out on a baking sheet. Bake it for 10 minutes, stir it up, and then bake it for 10 more minutes. It should be toasted and ready by then. It'll last about a week.

*Brown rice syrup is a key ingredient here, so make the effort to find it. It's not too difficult to locate. It is always in stock at Whole Foods and other natural foods stores.
Honey Tarragon Dressing

1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon minced tarragon
1.2 teaspoon minced chives
1/4 teaspoon Maldon salt 
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

In a small bowl, add the lemon juice, honey, tarragon, chives, salt, and pepper together. Drizzle the olive oil into the mixture as you whisk to emulsify the dressing. Set mixture aside.