Wednesday, March 14, 2012

BBQ Portobello Mushroom Sandwich + Smoked Gouda

The Blondises are good folk. They run Central BBQ here in Memphis, and it's a definite favorite of many Memphians. I'm sure they serve their fair share of tourists, but that actual Memphis residents love this place is in itself is a high honor. I always look forward to going there to eat BBQ. (Don't be confused -- I'm not talking about pork or chicken! Central offers a stellar BBQ portobello sandwich. We vegetarians really appreciate it.)

My good buddy J.C., manager at Central, was kind enough to share their secret recipe with me, so now you can make this amazing sandwich at home. It's the perfect thing to make in the backyard this summer -- especially if you expect to have a few vegetarians drop by. However, there is nothing like sitting on the front porch at Central BBQ with a tall, cold, beverage and enjoying this sandwich as hickory smoke wafts through the air. Yum!

At Central, they make their own Italian dressing, and their house made BBQ sauce is killer. I've simplified the recipe here so you can make this in a hurry and feed the masses.

BBQ Portobello Mushroom Sandwich + Smoked Gouda

1 16-ounce bottle Italian dressing (like 365 Organic from Whole Foods)
6 large portobello mushroom caps (stems trimmed)

1 tablespoon Memphis BBQ Dry Rub (recipe follows)
BBQ Slaw (recipe follows)
6 large slices smoked gouda (about 1/2 pound)
1/2 cup BBQ sauce for serving (store-bought is fine for this at-home version)
6 hamburger buns

Wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth to clean them. Choose a bottle of Italian dressing that is emulsified, meaning that it doesn't separate in the bottle. Marinate the mushrooms by pouring the Italian dressing over them and placing them in a sealed container in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to twenty-four hours.

Pre-heat your outdoor grill to high. Remove the mushrooms from the marinade and place them onto a sheet pan. Sprinkle both sides of each mushroom with my Memphis BBQ Dry Rub seasoning. Grill mushrooms gill-side-down for about seven minutes or until lightly charred around the edges. Flip the mushrooms over and place the cheese onto the gill-side of the mushroom. Grill mushrooms another three minutes or until the cheese has melted and the mushroom is nicely marked by the grill grates.

Serve each cap on a bun topped with a teaspoon of BBQ sauce and about a 1/4 cup of BBQ Slaw. 

Memphis BBQ Dry Rub

Mix together one teaspoon of each: chipotle, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, garlic powder, salt, cumin, black pepper, brown sugar, thyme, oregano, and ancho chili. Store extra in an airtight container for six months.

BBQ Slaw

5 cups shredded cabbage
1 tablespoon mustard
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 cup mayo
1 cup BBQ sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients until well incorporated.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Toasted Coconut Muffins

I used to think ill of dried coconut. The only use I could see for it was on one of those grinning Easter bunny cakes with jellybean accents and licorice whiskers. But I have had a bag of unsweetened coconut flakes in the cupboard for a while now, and much to my surprise, it's been an ingredient I use a lot. Toasted coconut muffins are so much better than regular old banana bread! They are the muffins you can pretend to be eating for breakfast on your imaginary island vacation.

Toasted Coconut Muffins
2/3 cup coconut flakes
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg
1/3 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons soy margarine, melted 
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon canola oil (for muffin pan)
For the topping:
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, chopped (not toasted)
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast the coconut at 350 for about 10 minutes and set it aside to cool. Whisk together the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and sea salt and set aside. Now stir the cane sugar, light brown sugar, egg, and mashed banana together. To this, add coconut milk, sour cream, soy margarine, coconut oil, dark rum, and vanilla. Set aside. 
Roughly chop the 2/3 cup toasted, cooled coconut. Gently fold together wet and dry ingredients along with the chopped coconut, but be careful not to overmix. Brush the muffin pan with canola oil and fill the cups almost to the top. Mix the 4 ingredients for the topping, light brown sugar, coconut flakes, pecans, and sea salt, and sprinkle this evenly over the muffins before you put them in the oven. Bake for at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Vegetarian "Chicken" + Waffles

This idea was born out of the Truffled Scotch Egg Chef Andrew Adams and I concocted and served at the Farmer Mixer. He, in all of his culinary awesomeness and food magic,  showed the wife and I how to deep-fry an egg without overcooking the center. His method is incredible and yielded a perfect egg: crispy on the outside with a slightly set yolk. It was the hit of the evening.

I wanted to figure to how to get the same result at home, but I don't have an immersion circulator or an industrial fryer (or an incredible kitchen staff full of talented chefs, for that matter). I tried soft boiling the egg and then tossing it in the flour mixture, but I kept breaking the yolk. It was a mess; we ate it anyway. Then I figured out how to poach the egg with the flour mixture already in place. That's the ticket. It works every time. Plus, it's super easy.

The crispy egg spiked with the kinds of seasoning you'd normally find in fried chicken plus a little truffle salt makes a really special version of this soul food classic. 

Vegetarian "Chicken" + Waffles

1/4 teaspoon black truffle salt
1/2 teaspoon dried sage

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

4 12 x 12 inch squares microwave-safe plastic wrap
4 large eggs 
4 four-inch pieces of kitchen twine
canola oil for frying
4 Belgian waffles (freshly made -- or frozen like Van's)
1/2 cup warm maple syrup
1/8 cup parsley for garnish
Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring a pot of water at least three-and-a-half inches deep to a simmer. In a small bowl, mix together the truffle salt, sage, thyme, garlic powder, pepper, flour, and panko breadcrumbs. 

Now lay the four sheets of plastic wrap flat on your work surface. Scatter 2 tablespoons of the spiced flour in a single layer over the center five inches of each plastic wrap sheet. Crack one egg on the center of each. Gather the corners of the plastic wrap. Place the corners into one hand. With the other hand, grab the egg bundle and twist while being sure to push out any air. Tie the twisted portion with the string. Repeat for each. 

Prepare an ice bath in a medium bowl. Place egg bundles into the simmering water for five to seven minutes. At five minutes, the white will be set, but the yolk will still by very runny. (If you leave it in for seven minutes, the yolk will be more set if that's how you generally like your eggs.) At the end of five to seven minutes, remove egg bundles and place them in an ice bath while they're still wrapped in the plastic.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring canola oil up to 350 degrees. The oil should be at least two-and-a-half inches deep in the pan. Using your kitchen shears, snip the plastic just below where it was tied. Carefully unwrap the egg. Using a slotted spoon, lower the egg into the oil for a total of one minute or until it's golden brown.

To serve, place one egg atop a warm waffle. Garnish with parsley, salt, and pepper, plus a drizzle of maple syrup. 

*If you're serving this to friends or at a dinner party, you can do all the steps up to the frying beforehand. Then when your guests are hungry, dinner can come together really quickly.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Vegetable-Packed Tomato Sauce

Save your odds and ends from your cooking for the month -- mushrooms, bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, spinach, greens, pesto, pine nuts, red wine, olives, and so on -- and freeze them for the base of this amazing tomato sauce.

Vegetable-Packed Tomato Sauce
Up to 8 cups vegetable trimmings (from the freezer)
1⁄4 cup olive oil (divided)
2 medium carrots (chopped)
2 ribs of celery (chopped)
1 large white onion (chopped)
1/2 cup white wine
4-6 cups diced tomatoes
1 tube tomato paste
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 head of garlic (8-12 cloves, peeled)
Preheat oven to 425°.  Place frozen vegetable trimmings (stems and cores removed) on a 12 x 17 rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1/8 cup olive oil. Cook for thirty to forty-five minutes or until the vegetables begin to brown on top. Remove and set aside. Put 1⁄8 cup of olive oil into a large stockpot on medium heat and place chopped carrots, celery, and onions in the pot. Sweat vegetables until onions are translucent. Add Italian seasoning and white wine, vinegar, and sugar and reduce for 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add diced tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a simmer. Add the roasted vegetables. Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until smooth. Add water or stock to adjust the thickness of the sauce. Add sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Cook sauce for an hour.

Apple + Kale Ravioli

It's been ravioli night over here every Monday for weeks, and I've kept it pretty classic up until now. However, after an assignment photographing what goes on in the kitchen on No-Menu Monday at Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen this week, I felt liberated and ready to push the boundaries of ravioli. I saw the guys stuffing handmade tortellini with creamed corn and serving it with shaved black truffles. Yeah!

So, I thought about what I could do differently in my own kitchen. Apples, onions, walnuts, and kale called out autumn. They came together really well; here's how it went.

For the pasta dough:
1 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs

Make a well with the mixed flours. Crack the eggs in the middle and mix with your fingers until dough forms. The moisture from the eggs may not pick up all of the dry flour. This is fine. Knead it for 5 minutes. Wrap it in plastic and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes to rest.

For the filling:
1/2 cup sliced white onion
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 Pink Lady apple, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1 bunch kale (veins and stems removed, blanched in salted water, squeezed dry)
1 clove of garlic
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
6 whole walnuts
1/4 cup ricotta
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
zest from one lemon

In a medium-sized pan over medium heat, sauté the onions in the olive oil. You want them to caramelize (this should take about ten minutes). Once the onions begin to brown, add the white wine and then the apple slices. Place the onion-apple mixture, blanched kale, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, pecans, ricotta, bread crumbs, and lemon zest in food processor and pulse until it's well incorporated but still slightly chunky. Set aside in the fridge.

For the sauce:
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced white onion
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups chopped tomatoes (preferably green zebra)
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Heat the olive oil in a medium pan over medium-hight heat. Add the onion and celery. Cook until onion is translucent and beginning to brown. Add the wine and reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, and sugar. Cookmixture until tomatoes begin to break down (about ten to fifteen minutes). Add the butter and stir to melt just before tossing with the pasta.

Roll out this dough to a #6 on the pasta maker. Trim the raggedy edges with a pizza cutter. Add about 2 teaspoons of the filling to the along the sheet of pasta but leave an inch on each side of filling: you are going to fold the top over. Use a pasta tool to seal the front edge and sides. Cook in salty boiling water; as soon as they float, keep them in for another minute. Remove with slotted spoon and put them straight into the sauce. You may want to top it with parsley and parm. 

Southern Benedict + Wilted Spinach + Espresso Red Eye Gravy

I think I dreamed about this one early Sunday morning because I popped right out of bed and got to work. It looks like a lot to do, but the steps are really simple. Plus, you'll have more biscuits than you'll need for this dish. You know what that means...snack while you cook!

The espresso in the gravy adds instant oomph. That paired with the mushrooms makes for a super-savory gravy that you'll make again and again. Underneath you have a poached egg with a runny yolk, plenty of wilted greens, and a craggy biscuit supporting the whole dish. It's got a lot of appeal.

This is the perfect thing to make if your friends are coming over for brunch. I can guarantee they've never had anything like this before, and you can make everything ahead of time so all you have to do is heat and assemble when it comes time to eat.

Southern Benedict +  Wilted Spinach + Espresso Red Eye Gravy

8 medium eggs
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup vinegar
3-2-1 Buttermilk Drop Biscuits (recipe follows)
Wilted Spinach (recipe follows)
Espresso Red-Eye Gravy (recipe follows)
smoked paprika (for garnish)

In a large pan over medium heat, bring an inch and a half of water to a simmer. Add the salt and vinegar to the water and return it to a simmer. Poach eggs three to four at a time by slowly cracking the egg into the simmering water and allowing it to cook for four to five minutes or until the white is set. Remove egg from the water and set aside on a paper towel until ready to serve.

Split a buttermilk biscuit in half and place onto a plate open-faced. Place 1/4 cup of wilted spinach on each half. Top each half with a poached egg and about a 1/4 cup of the Red-Eye Gravy. Garnish with smoked paprika. Repeat.

3-2-1 Buttermilk Drop Biscuits
(Makes 10-12 biscuits.)
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 - 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Using your fingers, cut in the shortening until pieces are no larger than a pea. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the milk. Using a rubber spatula, fold the milk into the dry ingredients -- but use as few strokes as possible. The less you stir the dough, the more tender your biscuits will be.
Using a medium ice cream scoop, scoop up a 1/4-cup portion of dough and drop it onto a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all dough has been used. (You should get about a dozen biscuits from this recipe.) Be sure to leave an inch or so between each biscuit, but don't be too particular about their shape -- drop biscuits are supposed to be rustic. Bake for 15 minutes or until the craggy edges are brown and crispy.

Wilted Spinach

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup diced shallot
12 ounces fresh spinach (two 6 ounce bags)
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the diced shallot and cook until translucent; this should take three to four minutes. Add the fresh spinach one handful at a time; stir the greens in between each addition so that the heat from the pan wilts them down. Once the greens are wilted, turn off the heat and set aside.

Espresso Red-Eye Gravy

2 tablespoon butter (divided)
1 cup diced portobello mushroom
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
salt (to taste)
1/4 cup espresso (or strong coffee)
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/8 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 teaspoon maple syrup
In a medium pan over medium-high heat, melt one tablespoon of butter. Add the mushrooms and the black pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt to the pan and cook until mushrooms begin to brown (about five minutes). Add the espresso to deglaze the pan. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Push the mushroom mixture off to one side of the pan. In the clearing, add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Once it's melted, add the flour and whisk the two together. Allow this mixture to cook for a minute until the flour becomes fragrant. Whisk in the milk, liquid smoke, and maple syrup. Stir constantly until mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook an additional five minutes until mixture is thick.

Smoked Coconut Bacon

When I first heard about coconut bacon, I pinballed around the internet to see what I could find. I landed on The Food Network site and watched a video of Chef Jesse Kimball of The Memphis Tap Room, which is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, make this amazing looking, crunchy, smoky, non-bacon bacon.

I have been looking for a vegetable medium or process that will have that crispy crunch like bacon. Along the way, I've stumbled upon some pretty cool things, but I think that this coconut idea is the Holy Grail. So, inspired by Chef Jesse's brilliant idea, I whipped up a batch using a bag of shaved coconut we had in the pantry. I added soy sauce, vegetarian worcestershire, and maple syrup to the mix for that sweet Southern bacon-y flavor. And, hey, it worked! The coconut takes the smoke beautifully, and when it's baked, it the inherent fat in the coconut crisps the flakes. The best part is that they stay crispy. You can make a big batch of this and have it for lunch all week.

We have used this many different ways since first making it: as a garnish for an omelette, on pesto flatbreads, and on top of grits, but my favorite has to be my avocado BLT. All you do is load up two slices of seeded whole wheat with sliced heirloom tomatoes, olive oil mayo, crunchy romaine, sliced avocado, and plenty of Smoked Coconut Bacon. It's beautiful to hear the crunch of the bacon when you slice the sandwich in half.

At the Memphis Tap Room, Chef Jesse Kimball has half of his menu devoted to delicious vegan and vegetarian food. He serves a Smoked Coconut Club with lemon garlic tofu and herbed mayo. It's good enough to win over anyone's palate. 

Smoked Coconut Bacon
(makes 3 1/2 cups)

3 1/2 cups coconut flakes (available at Whole Foods in the baking aisle)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetarian worcestershire
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon  liquid smoke (only of you don't smoke the coconut on the grill top)
Smoke the coconut flakes for four minutes using my grill-top method. Four minutes don't sound like a long time, but the coconut really soaks up the smoke quickly. This ain't no pork belly, y'all!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the smoked coconut into a large mixing bowl and add the maple syrup, soy sauce, pepper, worcestershire, and sesame oil. (Only add the liquid smoke if you didn't smoke the coconut. This is just an option for people without access to a smoker.) Toss to coat. Spread the dressed coconut into a single layer on a parchment-lined 12-by-17-inch sheet pan or two smaller pans. Cook coconut for ten minutes, stir it around and spread it back out on the sheet pan, and cook it another five minutes or until coconut is nice and dark brown.

Southern Caesar Salad + Cornbread Croutons

I've had this dish written on a piece of paper on my desk for, like, six weeks now. It's next to scrawled notes that read stuffed hush puppies, boiled peanut cmilis (I can't read my writing), and Carolina Gold arancini. I'll get around to those eventually, but I sure am glad I made this particular dish tonight because it's an unexpected marriage that actually works. The creole mustard and the cornbread take this salad way down South for a trip you're not likely to forget...especially if you make it using my Smoked Cheddar Jalapeño Cornbread. 

Southern Caesar Salad + Cornbread Croutons
(serves 4 as a first course)

4 cups cubed cornbread
juice from 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon creole mustard
2 tablespoons  mayonaise
1 medium garlic clove (minced)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon local honey
pepper to taste
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce (about 7 ounces)

1/2 cup grated parmesan (to garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cornbread cubes on a parchment-lined sheet pan in a single layer. Put cornbread cubes into the oven for a total of fifteen to twenty minutes or until golden brown. In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, mayonnaise, garlic, worcestershire sauce, honey, and pepper. Using tongs, toss the romaine lettuce and the cornbread croutons in the dressing. Divide among plates and garnish with parmesan.

Smoked Cheddar and Jalapeño Cornbread

The worst insult that any can give your cornbread in the South is that it's "just a little dry." No one will ever say that about my version. I've packed with good stuff like buttermilk, local honey, and best of all, smoked cheddar. The smoked cheddar gives the cornbread an authentic quality that's missing in many bacon-grease-less cornbread recipes.

Smoked Cheddar and Jalapeño Cornbread
(serves 4-6)

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup smoked cheddar
1/8 cup minced jalapeño (1 large, optional)
1/4 cup butter + 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons local honey
2 eggs (beaten)
1 cup buttermilk

Place a 10-inch cast-iron skillet into a cold oven and preheat it to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together the cornmeal, 
all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, cheddar, and jalapeño. In a medium bowl, melt 1/4 cup of the butter. Add the honey, eggs, and buttermilk to the melted butter and whisk. 

Next, add the wet ingredients to the dry. Stir until just incorporated. Using a sturdy, reliable oven mitt, carefully remove the hot cast-iron skillet from the oven and place it onto a trivet. Place the remaining tablespoon of butter into the skillet and swirl it or use a silicone brush to coat the bottom of the pan. Pour the batter into the pan and place the pan into the oven for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Run a knife around the edge and turn the cornbread out onto a cutting board. Serve hot with beans and black eyed peas.

Vegetarian Boudin Sausage

A vegetarian blood sausage sounds absurd, and I guess it is a little crazy. However, I'm only taking inspiration from the original, not attempting to recreate it in any way. Traditionally, boudin, a regional New Orleans ingredient, is more like a rice and sausage casserole stuffed into a casing than what you expect when you hear the word 'sausage.' So, it kind of makes perfect sense to me to take the spices and the texture of the rice and add another savory flavor altogether.  Here, smoked sun-dried tomatoes -- not pork -- provide the umami for this sausage.

Once I made this, I couldn't stop thinking about it. It's that good. And, unlike store-bought sausages of any sort, you know exactly what's in it. 

It's good to make a double batch of this and freeze it. It goes well with red beans, or just slice it and put on a sandwich. The best way to serve it is like a hot dog on a french roll with sautéed onions and green peppers. Add a bit of my N'awlins sauce and some celery leaves to garnish. Make it and you'll consider yourself one lucky dog!

Vegetarian Boudin Sausage
(Makes six large sausages.)

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano,
sea salt, and cracked black pepper (to taste)
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 cups (dry-packed) smoked sun dried tomatoes*
1 cups cooked rice
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten

Heat the canola oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery to the pan. Cook until the onion is translucent and beginning to brown. Add the thyme, red pepper, paprika, garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the wine and allow the mixture to reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove pan from the heat and place the cooked vegetables into the work bowl of your food processor. Add the parsley and sun-dried tomatoes. Pulse the mixture eight to ten times or until everything is finely chopped yet still distinct. Place the mixture into a large bowl along with the cooked rice and vital wheat gluten. (The wheat gluten is the binder that will hold the sausages together.) Mix it all vigorously by hand for at least two minutes.

Pull out six pieces of foil in 
four-inch sections. Place a 1/2 cup portion (for smaller sausages, use 1/4 cup) on each foil and form it roughly into a log shape. (No need to be too precise.) Roll the foil into a tube and twist the ends like a Tootsie Roll; each sausage should be between four and five inches long. Repeat the process until all of the mixture has been used. Place foil-wrapped sausages into a steamer basket and steam them for 45 minutes. (My steamer is just a metal colander that fits nicely into my stockpot.) They will plump and take shape when steamed. Remove sausages and allow them to cool completely. 

When ready to serve, brush each sausage with canola oil before grilling. Grill on high for two to three minutes per side or until well-marked. Serve on a warm French roll with sautéed peppers and onions, plenty of N'awlins sauce, and celery leaves for garnish. 

*Smoke regular sun-dried tomatoes for four minutes using THIS method or buy them pre-smoked. (I also have found them pre-made at Fresh Market.)

Spiced Pink Lady Apple Baked Doughnuts

The best kind of apple is a Pink Lady apple. They're reddish-pinkish-yellow-and-green. They are really sweet and really sour. Sometimes, they're hard to find, and I'll have a Fuji or a Honeycrisp instead, but I always come back to my favorite. The other day it dawned on me that out of all the baking I do with apples, I never bake with the Pink Lady variety. These apple doughnuts have plenty of warm spices and apple flavor due to the grated apples, apple sauce, apple butter, and a hint of apple cider vinegar. (If you don't have a doughnut pan handy, I think the recipe could be tried out with muffins, no problem.)

Spiced Pink Lady Apple Baked Doughnuts
(Makes about 8 full-size doughnuts)

Wet ingredients:
2 Pink Lady apples (about 1 1/2 cups peeled and shredded apple)
1/2 cup applesauce
2 tablespoons apple butter
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg (beaten)
2 tablespoons sorghum
1/2 cup light brown sugar
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

Dry ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon clove
1 tablespoon butter (melted)

To coat warm doughnuts:
3 tablespoons melted olive oil margarine
3 tablespoons cane sugar
1 tablespoon pure maple flakes (crushed)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pulse the shredded apple in the food processor a few times in order to break up any long strips, but don't make it apple sauce. Mix it with apple sauce, apple butter, canola oil, egg, sorghum, light brown sugar, lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and clove. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients; be sure not to over-mix; stop mixing when you can barely see the flour in the mixture. Use a silicone brush to lightly coat the doughnut pan with melted butter. Spoon in the batter and bake for about 15-20 minutes until the tops of doughnuts are golden brown. While they're baking, make the coating mixture. Melt the margarine and set aside. In another bowl, mix cane sugar, crushed maple flakes, cinnamon, and sea salt and set aside.

Take them out and let them cool for a few minutes before loosening the edges of doughnuts with a non-metal implement like a plastic lettuce knife so you don't scratch the pan. Place them on a wire rack and brush them with melted butter before you spoon the dry coating mixture over them in a deep bowl or put some of the coating mixture into a bowl and swirl it around with the doughnut and press doughnut into it.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

3-2-1 Drop Biscuits + Cheddar and Buttermilk Variations

3-2-1 Drop Biscuits
3 tablespoons baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening using your fingers until pieces are no larger than a pea. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add milk. Using a rubber spatula, fold the milk and cheese into the dry ingredients; use as few strokes as possible. The less you stir the dough, the more tender your biscuits will be.
Using a medium ice cream scoop, scoop up a 1/4-cup portion of dough and drop it onto a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Repeat until all dough has been used. (You should get about a dozen biscuits from this recipe.) Be sure to leave an inch or so between each biscuit, but don't be too particular about their shape -- drop biscuits are supposed to be rustic. Bake for 15 minutes or until the craggy edges are brown and crispy.

To make Cheddar 3-2-1 Drop Biscuits add one cup of shredded cheddar to the dry ingredients.
To make Buttermilk 3-2-1 Drop Biscuits substitute 1 1/4 cups buttermilk for the whole milk 

Bari-Style Broccolini + Mushroom Pasta

Bari is one of my favorite restaurants in Memphis. Think coastal Italian cuisine focused on traditional dishes from Southern Italy --- plus so many wonderful vegetarian options. This is no accident. Chef Jason Severs and his wife Rebecca often opt for meatless meals when cooking for their own family. The couple even put on an all-vegetarin wine dinner at Bari last year. What a memorable experience!

I typically start with eggplant fritters and fava beans to share, and then I move on to a grilled radicchio salad. For my entrée, I almost always get the Pasta con Fungi, Broccoli e Formaggio di Capra. I know it sounds fancy, but it's as straightforward as you can get: a few good ingredients expertly prepared and served, which is representative of Jason's cooking both at Bari and his great new place on Broad Avenue, Three Angels Diner.

Bari Style Broccolini + Mushroom Pasta

1 large portobello mushroom (thinly sliced)
8 ounces dried penne pasta
3 cloves of garlic (sliced)
lemon zest
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup milk
2 cups broccolini (briefly blanched in super-salty water)
1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

In a large pan over medium-high heat, fry the slices of mushroom in olive oil until brown. (This is best done in batches.) Remove mushrooms and set aside. In the same pan, cook garlic until lightly browned, and then add the lemon zest, white wine, and some cracked black pepper. Reduce the wine by half, and then lower the burner to medium-low.

Add the milk and cream to the pan and allow that mixture to come up to temperature. Cut the broccolini into bite-sized pieces. Add in the mushrooms, broccolini, and the cooked pasta. Turn the heat off and add most of the cheese reserving some for garnish. Stir until the cheese has melted into the sauce and the pasta is coated. Serve pasta in a warm bowl. Garnish with parsley, grated cheese, and tiny drizzle of good olive oil.