Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ginger + Chocolate Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches

This is a super-fast dessert that is perfect for a hot summer day because you can eat this tiny ice cream sandwich before it melts all over your hands. The ginger adds a some heat, which makes these sandwiches just a bit grown-up -- but not too much.

Ginger-Chocolate Filling

1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons chocolate sauce (Ah!laska is good.)
1 tablespoon cane sugar
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Back to Nature Madagascar vanilla wafers

Whip cream until slightly stiff and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix to incorporate. Apply about 1 tablespoon of filling to the flat side of a vanilla wafer and then top with another wafer. Repeat until you run out of filling. Stick then in the freezer to harden for about an hour before serving. Makes about a dozen mini ice cream sandwiches.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Grilled Corn + Chimichurri

It is one of my favorite times of the year: the moment when fresh corn starts to come into season. When it does, I like nothing better than to peel back the silks and throw a few ears onto the grill. I did just that for lunch today, albeit with a little twist. I brushed the corn with a simple chimichurri right as it was just about ready to be taken off the fire. This mildly spicy, herbal dressing seemed to be the perfect complement to the sweet, roasted flavor of the yellow corn.


2 cups flat-leaf parsley (loosely packed)
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
zest of one lime
1 clove of garlic
1 jalapeno (seeds removed)
pinch of sea salt
cracked black pepper
pinch of cane sugar
1/4 cup olive oil

Whir up everything from parsley to sugar in the food processor. Keep it running and add olive oil so it emulsifies.

Peel corn and throw it on a hot fire for just a few minutes per side or until some of the kernels start to caramelize. Brush dressing over grilled ears of corn before removing them from the grill. As an extra treat, grate a little manchego cheese over each warm ear of corn.

Here are a few more suggestions to help with your Memorial Day grilling plans:

Sweet Potato + Black Bean Torta

Monday, May 23, 2011

Baked Lemongrass Tofu + Coconut Jasmine Rice

This dish gets its fragrant kick from a mixture of fresh herbs that you may have in your garden this time of year. The lemongrass, which can be found at your neighborhood health food store or Asian market, adds a floral note while the garlic and soy sauce add depth. This particular mixture would make even your shoe taste delicious. Luckily, we have a better plan for it than that.

Don't be deterred by the length of this recipe; it's really quite simple when you break it down. Make the spice mixture, toss it with the tofu, bake, sauté onions, add coconut milk, and it's done. It's healthier than the deep-fried stuff you get when you go out -- and you also know exactly what's in this.

Baked Lemongrass Tofu + Coconut Jasmine Rice

1 can of light coconut milk
1 cup jasmine rice
2 fat stalks of lemongrass
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger
3 cloves of garlic
tsp. of sugar
1/4 cup mint
1/4 cup basil
zest from 1 lime
1 tablespoon sambal (or sriracha)
1/4 cup of canola oil
2 blocks firm tofu (cut into bite-sized cubed, patted dry)
1 onion (sliced into 1/2 moons)
Braggs (or soy sauce)
1 head of butter lettuce (torn)
1 large tomato (sliced)
1 cucumber (thinly sliced)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. On the stovetop, bring one cup of the coconut milk and one cup of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the jasmine rice and cover. Reduce heat to low to allow the rice to simmer. It will take about 20 minutes for the rice to cook through and absorb all of the liquid.

Now comes the fun part: smack the stalks of lemongrass on the countertop to soften them and then split them open. Pull out the pliable inside part and place it in a food processor. The rest of the stalk goes into the compost pile. Add the ginger, garlic, sugar, mint, basil, zest, and, sambal to the food processor and crank it up. You want these ingredients very finely chopped.

In a large bowl, toss the lemongrass mixture together with the canola oil and tofu and throw in a pinch of salt. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tofu to a silpat-lined baking sheet and arrange the cubes into a single layer. Reserve the lemongrass/oil mixture that's at the bottom on the bowl. Bake tofu 20-30 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Don't let the garlic burn! Keep a close eye on it.

While that is cooking in the oven, sauté the onion in a large frying pan over medium using the reserved lemongrass/oil mixture. Once the onion is soft and translucent, remove pan from the heat. Add a tablespoon of Braggs or soy sauce to the onions. Once the tofu is done, remove it from the oven and toss it into the pan with the onions along with the remaining coconut milk. Mix and heat through. Serve over butter lettuce with sliced cucumbers and tomatoes and coconut rice.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Marinated Roasted Red Pepper Pasta + Seared Artichoke Hearts

These marinated roasted red peppers are not only good as the star of a cheese plate, they can also be a wonderful addition to any sandwich and pretty killer atop polenta, but I like them best blended and tossed with warm pasta for a comforting and simple weeknight meal.

This slightly sweet, smoky red pepper sauce is a nice change of pace from the usual what-are-we-gonna-have-for-dinner spaghetti with tomato sauce. The pan-seared artichoke hearts with their meaty texture sends this one out of the park.

Marinated Roasted Red Pepper Pasta + Seared Artichoke Hearts

2 tablespoons olive oil
medium onion (diced)
1/4 cup white wine
3 roma tomatoes (peeled, chopped)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 servings fettuccine pasta
parmesan cheese, parsley (garnish)

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté onion until translucent; this should take about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with wine and allow most of the liquid to evaporate. Add the tomatoes, the marinated roasted red peppers (but not the marinating liquid), the red pepper flakes, and the tomato paste. Simmer for 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce until smooth. Toss cooked pasta in the sauce until it's coated. Top with seared artichoke hearts, parsley, and parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nannie's Pound Cake

We rarely made this when I was growing up because Nannie always made it for us. Lately, she makes pronouncements about the very one everyone's busy eating. "This is my last pound cake," she says. Sometimes the reason is because the cake is heavy and she has to have help getting it into the oven. Sometimes it's because the price of cream cheese has gotten too high. I suspect that she loves it when we protest and beg her to keep making it for us, so there hasn't been a last one yet.

Maybe she floats that idea just to make us so happy when we have the next amazing piece. For me, this will happen in early June at my next visit. Looking forward to this time is what's getting me through the craziness that sums up May every year.

When I visit, I know it is going to be on top of the fridge in a tall cake carrier, and I know I will have progressively bigger slivers of it along with my mom and my sister as the trip unspools. I know Nannie will wrap up a couple of pieces for my dad, who will be sure to say, 'Oh, my goodness!' when I bring it to him. And even though I eventually hounded Nannie out of all her secret pound cake tips, such as setting every ingredient out for an hour so that they're all room temperature and putting the cake into a cold oven then heating it, not to mention the direct order not to halve the recipe (which, oops, I do anyway, and I do tweak the recipe just a little but not overly much), I always know my own attempt will never measure up to the pound cake she makes.

People, she sells this cake to everyone in town, and she ups the prices because she's mildly annoyed that the orders keep coming in and she sort of tired of everyone talking about it, and people in Columbia, Mississippi still fall all over themselves to buy it. It is the first thing gone from the table at the church suppers I've attended with her. I love dessert, and in all honesty, this stands as the best dessert I have ever had.

Make one. You'll see. Once I texted my family that I had it in the oven, they flipped. The desire to eat five pieces in a row was mentioned. This is a serious cake.

Nannie's Pound Cake

1 stick of butter
4 ounces neufchatel cheese
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated shortening
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups cane sugar
1 1/2 cups AP flour (sifted)
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 teaspoon coconut extract

First, measure and set out all ingredients on the counter. Wait an hour. Now you can begin! Beat butter, neufchatel cheese, and shortening well. Add eggs and beat well. Add sugar and flour. Add vanilla and coconut. Pour into buttered loaf pan or small bundt pan. Put the cake in the oven and then heat it to 325 degrees. Bake cake for 1 1/2 hours or until golden brown.

Lemon Glaze

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tbsp. butter
3-5 teaspoons of milk
1/2 teaspoon of lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste

Whisk all the ingredients together; just add the 3 tsp. milk and then increase the amount if needed so that you get a thick-enough-to-pour consistency in the end. Pour this glaze over warm cake -- set the cake on a rack so it doesn't get soggy -- and let it set an hour or two before serving.

*You can also check out another classic: Nannie's Blueberry Pie.

Monday, May 16, 2011

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, it typically made with eggs scrambled with tortilla chips. It's not an easy dish to find around Memphis, but The Happy Mexican serves a proper version of it on their lunch menu. You should try it 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, you just have to love it.

Vegan Migas

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Poblano and Tomatillo Salsa*
Scrambled Tofu**
2 cups corn chips
flour tortillas, avocado, hot sauce, and cilantro

In a large frying pan over medium heat, heat olive oil to temperature. Mix the scrambled tofu mixture with the vegetables from the salsa, but leave out the liquid part of 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 really 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. Taste it and adjust seasoning if needed.

Scrambled Tofu**:

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

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blackberry-Lemon Frozen Cheesecake Pops

Love blackberries; hate those pesky seeds. I can deal with them if I must, but I would rather just have the flavor of blackberries without the hard-to-chew roughage. Pickiness comes in to play with cheesecake, too. I like vegan cheesecake, and I like it very plain. But with these pops, all of my silly preferences flew out the window. The marbled effect makes them look more painstaking than they actually are, and it takes no time at all to cook a bunch of the blackberry syrup in order to have extra on hand for adding to lemonade.

Blackberry-Lemon Frozen Cheesecake Pops

Blackberry Syrup

1 pint blackberries
juice of one lemon
1/3 cup cane sugar

Simmer berries along with lemon juice and sugar. Stir often to break them down. When they are broken and syrupy, let them cool. Run it all through a food mill or a fine mesh strainer to catch the seeds. Set aside.

Lemon-Cheesecake Base

1 4-ounce container of Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. neufchatel cheese
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp. whipping cream
1/4 cup honey
zest from one lemon
1/4 cup cane sugar
pinch of sea salt
small bamboo skewers (optional)

Whisk all ingredients together well. As soon as that's completed, tilt the bowl and spoon in a couple of spoonfuls of blackberry syrup; pour it into the molds while helping it to marble by swirling your spoon around a little bit. (Mine set up in a $1 silicone mold found here. They're honestly better for this kind of thing rather than for ice.) Freeze for 1-2 hours. You can eat the cheesecake bites like bon-bons or pierce them with bamboo skewers for pops.

Monday, May 9, 2011

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.

Now I'll admit, I get New Orleans wrong all the time. I mean, I know where it is on a map. I love that city, and I know what the food should taste like, but I often miss the mark flavor-wise when I make Big Easy cuisine in my own kitchen.

Not this time, though! 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!

Fried Green Tomatoes:

4-5 medium green tomatoes (sliced into 1/2-inch slices)
fried green tomato batter*
fried green tomato dredge**
canola oil

Pour 2 inches of canola oil into a soup pot. Heat oil to medium-high. Dip each green tomato slice into the batter and allow excess to drip off. Sprinkle dredge over tomato allowing excess to go back into the bowl. Fry in batches for 5-6 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Fried Green Tomato Batter*

1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
about 1 cup of water (to make it as thick as pancake batter)

Whisk these ingredients until smooth and set aside.

Fried Green Tomato Dredge**

1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Mix all ingredients together. The cornstarch adds crunch, and the cornmeal adds texture. It's the perfect dredge.

N'awlins Sauce

2 tbsp. vegan mayo
1 tbsp. mustard
1/2 tsp. vegetarian Worchestershire
dash of hot sauce

Mix until well incorporated.

To assemble the sandwich, slice a crusty french loaf in half. Pull the bread out of the top half creating a channel for the ingredients. Spread some creamy goat cheese with chives (4 ounces of goat cheese mixed with 1/4 cup chives) on the bottom and some Naw'lins sauce on the top. Layer in fresh lettuce or spinach, sliced red tomato, and 3 or four fried green tomatoes. Then...crunch! So good.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Zucchini and Red Pepper Flower

My mother-in-law came over today for an early Mother's Day / farmers' market lunch, and in the midst of present-opening, Cleveland shuffling, and dog-walking, we also managed to have a great, sprawling meal. For the main, we made this tortilla, and due to a permanent request, also included a "big salad" like the one Elaine Bennis liked. Dessert was another version of strawberry shortcake sliders with orange zest and lemon thyme.

The real treat, though, came at the beginning with these roasted red peppers and zucchini ribbons fashioned into a flower. (The ladies loved it.) This was great with Cucina baguette and soft goat cheese with chives from Bonnie Blue. This was a fun Mother's Day menu, and we hope you also get to cook for someone you love this weekend!

Zucchini and Red Pepper Flower

2 red pepper
2 zucchini
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 cloves of garlic
Maldon salt
cracked black pepper
cane sugar

First, roast the red peppers (see technique here). Peel and seed them. Slice them into 8-inch strips. Put them in a container with the olive oil, garlic, vinegar, pepper, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of sugar. Set this aside.

Next, use your vegetable peeler to break down the zucchini into thin strips. (Leave the skin on for this.) In a lightly oiled pan over medium heat, sear them off for 10 seconds apiece on one side only. Sprinkle the strips with salt and pepper. Allow them to cool. To make the shape, fold each strip in half and loosely roll one end to the other.

For the flower, place zucchini around the edge of a small, flat-bottomed ramekin. Pile the peppers in the middle. Put some bread and cheese on the board with this and you've got it done.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Smoked Shiitake Bacon over Sweet Potato Grits

I just love a meal like this: three simple, flavorful components that really complement one another all stacked up on the plate. The parts of this recipe could easily be broken up and used in many creative ways. For instance, I often use the shiitake bacon to make a stellar version of a pimento cheese BLT. The grits are great for breakfast topped with a poached egg and buttered toast, and the greens are a good respite from a typical cold salad any day.

Everything you see here is from the farmer's market. As you can see, Memphis in the springtime is a wonderful place to be. The variety of produce that is available is astounding: mushrooms, onions, sweet potatoes, grits, cheese, eggs -- all provided by local farmers who we know on a first-name basis. It's unbelievable!

Smoked Shiitake Bacon

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

2 cups shiitake mushrooms (sliced)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon smoked salt

Place a large frying pan over high heat. Once the pan is heated through, add the oil. Once the oil starts to smoke, add the mushrooms in one layer. (Do not crowd the pan; if you don't have a large frying pan, do this in two batches.) Allow mushrooms to cook for two minutes or until nicely browned on one side. Flip the mushrooms and add the brown sugar, black pepper, and smoked salt. Toss mixture to coat mushrooms. Remove mushrooms from the pan immediately as the sugar will easily burn.

Sweet Potato Grits

3 cups milk

1 cup grits

1 cup sweet potato (finely grated)

1 shallot (finely diced)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

2 eggs (beaten)

olive oil

Bring milk to a boil. Add the next seven ingredients and work out any lumps with a whisk. Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to cook for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Temper the eggs into the grits. Brush olive oil into the cups of a silicone muffin tin. Pour grits 3/4 of the way into each muffin cup. Bake for 20 minutes or until set. Allow to cool for ten minutes.

White-Wine Braised Swiss Chard

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small shallot (finely diced)

3 sprigs thyme (leaves pulled from the stem)

zest from 1 lemon

1/2 cup white wine

1 teaspoon sugar

2 bunches swiss chard (tough stems trimmed, roughly chopped)

sea salt and cracked black pepper

Sauté shallot in olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Once the shallot begins to brown, add the thyme, zest, wine, and sugar. Turn the heat up and reduce mixture by about 1/3. Turn the heat to low. Just before serving, toss the chard into the braising liquid and cover it with a lid. Leave covered for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place one sweet potato grits cake on the plate, top with about 1/4 cup of greens and then a handful of the shiitake bacon. Drizzle some of the braising liquid over the top. I also love to finish this dish off with a bit of smoked feta cheese.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Chubby Vegetarian Brunch at Iris

Kelly English, Food & Wine best new chef and chef/owner of Restaurant Iris, asked me, The Chubby Vegetarian, to collaborate with him on a brunch menu. Needless to say, I am thrilled about this awesome opportunity. It'll be a part of a series of Sunday brunches hosted by Kelly; he invites chefs into his kitchen at Iris to create a one-off brunch menu. He has had some fantastic people join him in the kitchen such as Jennifer Chandler, author of Simply Salads and Simply Suppers, and Jonathan Magallanes of Las Tortugas.

You may have noticed that we are featuring more than a few brunch-y looking dishes on the blog lately -- it's because we're preparing for the big day. In addition to all of this awesomeness, Michael Hughes will be on hand mixing up some tasty cocktails, and a portion of the proceeds from brunch will go to support the Memphis Farmer's Market.

I know you all want to know what we will be serving. Well, I can't say exactly what the menu will be, but it is sure to be exciting. I hope to see you there!

The Chubby Vegetarian Sunday Brunch, June 12, 2011
For reservations, call Restaurant Iris at 901.590.2828.