Monday, March 29, 2010

100% Handmade Pizza

For this amazing pizza I made everything (and I mean everything) from scratch. The cheese was made using THIS simple recipe. The sauce is simply peeled and seeded roma tomatoes that have been tossed in olive oil and roasted in a 400 degree oven. The crust is my own recipe for beer-spiked pizza dough. Finish it with fresh basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.

The weird shape can be blamed on a drop of olive oil on my pizza peel.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Soba Noodles with Baked Tofu + Toy Choy

This is one of my favorite lunches. It's filling, delicious, fast, cheap, and healthy. What more could you ask for?

The recipe is that there really is no recipe. Take any good vegetable broth and spike it with some soy sauce, grated fresh ginger, minced garlic, a pinch of cinnamon, and a splash of mirin. Bring that up to a boil and drop in the greens of your choice. You could use spinach or kale or mini bok choy as I have here. Remove the greens after a few seconds and set aside.

Cook soba noodles directly in the broth rather than plain water for more flavor. They only take a few minutes to cook so keep your eye on them. Remove noodles from the broth and place them into a soup bowl. Arrange greens and other toppings on to the noodles. Chopped tofu makes a good topping, but I also like a fried egg on this as well. Garnish with sliced green onion or sprouts then add the broth. Serve with sriacha for an extra kick. You will need both a spoon and chopsticks to eat this dish.
A word on soba noodles: soba are Japanese noodles made from buckwheat flour. They're more toothsome and hearty than rice noodles, and they have a dry texture that is quite appealing. I buy the packaged ones from the Asian market. They are about 3 bucks for a two-month supply, and I think they are delicious. When we had some friends over the other night, I tried to get all fancy and make my own soba noodles. It was a kitchen disaster. The noodles were a gross, soggy, falling-apart mess. It was the first time I had ever made them from scratch...I'm sure I"ll figure it out eventually. Until I get my nerve up to try hand-made soba again, the inexpensive, store-bought kind will do just fine.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Spicy Fruit Salsa Brunoise

I needed to practice my brunoise skills since they were getting kinda rusty.

Ha! Really, I have never brunoised properly before, but since I just learned the basics of how to do it, I amuse myself by dropping brewn-nwah' into conversation. And I like the tiny-perfect-squares result, too. So even though my try is with fruit, not veg, and my squares are still a little clunky, it made for a very uniform (and eventually spicy) fruit salad.

We'd recently picked up a pale green and purple-striped pepino melon from the big international section of the remodeled Kroger at Poplar and Kirby. (Everyone kept raving about this place; it really is neat.) I had been thinking about using the pepino as a starting point and had to come up with something to build around it.

The melon took a while to ripen, so that was brunoised along with strawberries and English cucumber. Tara's really, really spicy fruit salad (with jalapenos!) from last summer was on my mind, too. For this, though, I added a couple of tiny pinches of cayenne, plus agave nectar and a squeeze of lemon to round the salsa out. We had it with salty tortilla chips for a nice contrast, but I think it could be a good spring dessert, too.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Grilled Marinated Artichoke Hearts

Here is a fast way to spruce up pasta night. Grab a few whole marinated artichokes from the olive bar and split them lengthwise with a sharp knife. (I think the large ones with the stem attached are prettier.) I found these at The Fresh Market. Throw them cut-side-down into a hot cast-iron grill pan. Allow them to cook for about 3-4 minutes per side or until they are nicely marked and heated through. Place them atop any simple pasta recipe with some chopped parsley and shaved parmesan. There you have it! In three minutes, you've gone from plain ol' spaghetti to pasta with grilled artichoke hearts.

I'm excited to announce that The Chubby Vegetarian ( is featured on 101 cookbooks' list of favorite websites. I consider it an honor. Click HERE to view the entire list.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Olive + Clementine Pita Wrap w/ Toasted Almonds

This sandwich is so simple to make, but the flavor is very complex. The idea was born from a salad I like to make to go along with paella or empanadas. You are just a few ingredients away from a hearty, vegan lunch.

5 sicilian olives (quartered)
1 clementine (peeled and segmented)
1 parsley sprig
a few thin slices of red onion
lettuce mix
a drizzle of olive oil
6 toasted almonds (roughly chopped)
1/4 lemon
whole wheat pita

Mix the first six ingredients in a bowl making sure the olive oil gives everything a shiny coat. Place mixture in the center of a warm pita, top with almonds, squeeze the lemon on top, and roll it up. This sandwich has a wonderful sweet and sour flavor profile. It may or may not need salt depending on how salty your olives are. This delicious and quick sandwich is a must-try.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Delicata and Acorn Squash + Sage Lasagna

I've been wanting to make a white lasagna for a while now, and I've seen delicata squash crop up as a new ingredient, so, this weekend, on a long, interminably boring afternoon when TCV was away on a shoot, I thought, here we go! Here is Martha's recipe, which I used as a starting point.

This was one of those first stabs at a dish that worked surprisingly well, possibly due to my liberal use of olive oil every step of the way. Be forewarned that this takes a good long while to make; I didn't eat lunch until 3:00 in the afternoon since I had to give all the squash a thorough oven-roasting first. Dealing with my hunger headache was worth it, though, in the end because this lasagna actually tastes a lot lighter and more interesting than the typical and meaty red-sauce version.

The squash layer:

1 acorn squash
2 delicata squashes
olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tsp. dried sage

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Next, carefully cut each squash down the middle. (Ideally you would do this by slicing off a bit of the rounded side of each squash in order to have it lie flat and then, using the safe-bagel-cutting method of placing a hand on top to steady the lying-flat, horizontal squash and cutting horizontally.
Then you can de-seed the halves, brush them with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast them face-down in a baking dish at 400 degrees for one hour. Once they cool off, scoop out the insides and whisk them all together with a tablespoon of olive oil, dried sage, and more salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

The ricotta layer:

1 15-ounce tub of part-skim ricotta
1/4 cup grated mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

Grate the two cheeses and mix all the above ingredients; set aside.

Layering all the layers:

olive oil
flat no-bake lasagna noodles (I like the Whole Foods store brand in the small green box)
fresh sage leaves

Brush your baking dish, preferably ceramic, with olive oil, and set down 3 noodles. Spread the squash mixture, then 3 more noodles. Spread the ricotta mixture in one layer, and then, of course, more noodles. End with the squash layer and more noodles and grate some mozzarella and parm on top. Arrange 12 or so fresh sage leaves on top. Drizzle top -- especially hitting the sage leaves for a fried effect -- with a little olive oil and cover with foil. Bake for an hour until top is browned. Let it cool and serve, or refrigerate after cooling. We thought it worked well reheated for dinner, so you could very well make it ahead.

Meyer Lemon-Vanilla Madeleines

Our high-minded little selves are catching up on our Proust this week. (Okay, okay, so we're starting with just an excerpt.) This is due to the recent acquisition of our first-ever madeleine pan, a nonstick one, with a good starter recipe on the packaging.

So, good could these little cakes be? Are they worthy of the very pretty paragraphs and endless modern-day references that they spawned? Yeah, well, they kind of are that good. They are mostly butter; it's impossible to go wrong there. They are light and spongy like cake but with the crunchy browned edges of a cookie. They take about two seconds to make. And they were so transporting that we devoured them all immediately, hence the pic of just the empty pan.

Meyer Lemon-Vanilla Madeleines

1/3 cup flour
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 beaten egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla paste
small pieces of zest from one Meyer lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and brush the pan with a little canola oil. Whisk dry ingredients together, make a well, and then add butter, beaten egg, vanilla, and lemon zest. Fold until just mixed. Fill indentations in pan about 3/4 full. Bake for 10 minutes or until springy to the touch and slightly brown around the edges. They pop right out, and you can sift some powdered sugar over them once they cool a bit.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Breakfast at Au Fond

Just ate breakfast at Au Fond in Cooper-Young today. After our plates arrived and we'd started our meal, we so wanted tell everyone who came in after us how excited we were for them because we knew they were going to be thrilled, too.

Breakfast is tough in this town. You can wait in line at one of the two mainstays on Southern or Summer, or you can take the easy route and just fix it yourself at home. There was such a relaxed, homey vibe at Au Fond, and the sophisticated take on food was curiously different from what we've ever had before at a breakfast joint in Memphis: an airy, giant wheat pancake with scattered berries, a cup of pimento cheese grits, egg sandwich made like a panini but on a soft bun, housemade cinnamon roll, perfect eggs, biscuits and red-eye gravy, herbed potatoes, and our own container of French press coffee at the table...I guess you could say we indulged. You should, too. Reluctantly, we refrained from talking feverishly about all this to the people at the other tables, but we just had to tell you!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

20-Minute Tamales

I love tamales, but they are 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 stubborn tupperware shape. That is 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. It goes a little something like this:
8 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
zest from one lime
2 tsp. ancho chile powder
2 Not Chick'n bouillon cubes
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 cups masa (for tamales)
24 corn husks (soaked until soft)
3 cups tamale filling of your choosing (I used THIS)

Bring water to a boil and add the oil, lime zest, chile powder, cubes, 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 with hot sauce, and enjoy.

The Baking Cabinet Transformed

I'm far too embarrassed to show you what my baking cabinet looked like before, but look at it now. It's all neat and organized. Now the trick is to keep it this way.