Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bourbon with Basil + Lemonade Granita

I bet your herb garden is full of basil and you've had it up to here with pesto, but I know you don't want to let all that summery goodness go to waste! May I suggest basil and lemonade granita? 

This is the perfect after-dinner libation for these waning days of summer -- especially if you're looking to make the last painful stretch of Southern heat (somewhat) bearable. This is one to sip slowly on the front porch as the summer sun sets in the west.

Basil + Lemonade Granita

2 cups basil leaves
2 cups water
1/2 cup cane sugar
2 tablespoons of agave
2 tablespoons of honey
juice from 6-7 lemons

Boil the basil leaves in the water, sugar, and agave for 5 minutes. Allow mixture to cool. Strain out the leaves and add the lemon juice. Place the mixture in a pan or a wide-mouth bowl and stick it in the freezer. Scrape the surface with a fork every hour until the whole thing is frozen solid. This should take 3-4 hours. Serve an ice cream scoop full per person with a little bit of ice and some sparkling water, or use a rocks glass and add an ounce and a quarter of your favorite bourbon.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Wellington

There's not much to say about this mushroom main dish except that it is incredible. The meatiness of the grilled mushroom is perfectly complemented by the richness of the stuffing. The puff pastry adds a nice crunchy texture to the dish, and it all comes together nicely.

We served this wonderful dish with a baked sweet potato topped with brown sugar and butter and a side salad that included local pears and blue cheese. Think of it as an updated version of an 80's throwback dinner menu that's easy enough for a weeknight, but fancy enough to serve to guests.


1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon red miso
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper

Whisk ingredients together until well incorporated. Pour mixture over the gill-side of two large (or 4 small) whole portobello mushroom caps. Allow mushrooms to marinate for a half hour. Starting gill-side-down, grill mushrooms over a high flame for about 4 minutes per side. While mushrooms are cooking, place a brick or cast iron pan on top to flatten them.


knob of butter
1 leek (cleaned, trimmed, and sliced)
1/2 cup apple juice
1 cup button mushrooms (sliced)
2 sprigs thyme
2 oz. soft goat cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup panko
salt & pepper
puff pastry (or phyllo dough)
olive oil

Preheat your oven to 375. Over medium heat, slowly cook the leeks in the butter. This should take about 15 or 20 minutes. Once the leeks have softened, turn up the heat and add the apple juice to deglaze the pan. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Place leeks in a mixing bowl to cool. Now sauté mushrooms in the hot pan until brown. Add mushrooms to leek mixture and allow mixture to cool. Add the remaining ingredients and mix to incorporate. The mixture should be thick, not loose. Divide stuffing among the mushrooms and place on a baking sheet. Cut puff pastry into rounds that equal the size of the mushroom, brush each round generously with olive oil, and place on the baking sheet. When the pastry is brown, the filling should be coked through. This should take about 20 minutes. To serve, top each stuffed mushroom with a puff pastry.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tiny Yogurt Parfaits

Okay, so we're a little late to the shot glass dessert trend, but we wanted to try it once we rounded up the right materials. The tall, skinny shot glasses were found at Pier 1, and tiny appetizer spoons were unearthed at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. We found that two parfaits per person seemed about right, and since it's made with low-fat yogurt, raspberries, almonds, and just a little bit of vanilla wafer crumbs, it's a fairly healthy dessert.

Tiny Yogurt Parfaits
(Makes about 6)

1 cup Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
1 small container of Chocolate Underground yogurt
1 pint raspberries
juice from half a lemon
2/3 cup almonds (toasted and chopped)
Back to Nature Madagascar vanilla wafers (crushed to crumbs)

Prepare the layers: whisk the Greek yogurt and honey in a bowl, whisk the chocolate yogurt in a bowl, and smash the raspberries with the lemon juice in a bowl. Put the chopped almonds and the crushed cookies in separate bowls as well. Add a small spoon to each bowl, and you'll be organized and ready to go! Layer the 5 things -- I like putting a few of the almonds on top -- and chill for at least an hour before serving. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TCV Says: Eat Plants!

                                                                   Photo by Mike Maple
Hey, check out this article about our cooking and what goes in the vegetarian pantry in today's edition of the Commercial Appeal. Thanks for giving me the opportunity, y'all!

(Once you're there, scroll down for a few of my recipes: Smoky Lentil Tacos, Portabella Mushroom Deli Slices, Kale + Apple + Walnut Ravioli, and Socca with Artichoke and Pine Nuts.)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Peach + Tarragon Pesto Pizza

Recently, my sister-in-law and I were brainstorming pizza ideas for a party over at the in-laws' house. "Smoked mozzarella and roasted tomatoes," I said. "Zucchini and goat cheese," she countered. Then she exclaimed, "Peach and tarragon pesto!" "What? That sounds awesome," I said. I have to say it turned out to be my favorite peach dish of the summer.

Peach + Tarragon Pesto Pizza:

1 ball of olive-oil pizza dough*
1/2 cup tarragon pesto**
4-5 ripe peaches (peeled, pitted, and sliced into half moons)
3 ounces soft goat cheese (crumbled)
salt and pepper
manchego (to garnish)

Preheat your oven (with the pizza stone in place) to 550 degrees. Stretch, toss, or roll out your dough to about a 10-inch circle. Place a small amount of flour on your pizza peel, place the dough round on the peel, and slide it into the oven. Allow it to cook for about 2 minutes.

Pull the dough out of the oven and top it first with the pesto, then the peach slices, and finally the soft goat cheese. Slide the pizza back onto the stone for another 5-7 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little grated manchego cheese.

Olive Oil Pizza Crust* (makes two 10-inch crusts):

1 cup bread flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
1/8 cup olive oil
about 8-10 ounces of warm water

The flour, salt, and yeast go into the food processor with the dough blade attached. With the food processor running, pour the olive oil in and then slowly add enough water to bring the mixture together into a ball; you will see it right away when this happens. Roll the dough into a ball and cut in half. Roll each half into a ball and set it on a plate covered by a large bowl to rise for an hour or so.

Tarragon Pesto**

This recipe will make more than you need, so feel free to cut it in half or make the whole thing. It's great on sandwiches, or thinned out and used as a salad dressing, or as a dip for some crunchy vegetables.

1 cup zucchini (chopped)
4 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup tarragon (about 5 stems)
zest of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Put everything except the olive oil into the food processor, and whir it up until it has a smooth texture. Next, drizzle the olive oil into the food processor while it's running; this emulsifies everything and makes it thick. Set pesto aside.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mexican Corn Chowder w/ Sweet Potato + Black Bean Quesadillas

One of my favorite things in the world is a dish known as elote con mayonesa. It's Mexican street food at its best: boiled corn brushed with mayo, then sprinkled with cotija cheese, chili salt, and a squeeze of lime. I developed this chowder recipe with the same flavor combination. We really, really enjoyed it. This is something I will make again and again.

Corn Chowder:

8 ears of corn (boiled, cooled, and kernels removed)
1 onion (diced)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 chipotle pepper (minced
3 cloves garlic (smashed)
olive oil
chili salt (equal parts ancho chili powder and salt)
cilantro leaves
cotija cheese
lime wedges

Over medium high heat, sweat the onion in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Once the onion starts to brown, add the broth, pepper, and 3/4 of the corn kernels. Heat through and then blend smooth with an immersion blender. Strain the solid parts out of the soup using a mesh sieve. Return soup to the pot and add the remaining corn. Ladle some into a bowl and top with a sprinkle if chili salt, a touch of cotija cheese, a few cilantro leaves, and a squeeze of lime.

Sweet Potato + Black Bean Quesadillas:

1 large sweet potato (baked until tender)
1/2 onion (diced and rinsed in cold water)
1 cup prepared black beans
1 small chipotle chili (minced)
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (chopped)
1/2 lime (juiced)
2 large wheat tortillas
olive oil
chili salt (mix equal parts ancho chili powder and salt)

Mash sweet potato with a fork and divide between two tortillas. Toss onion, beans, chili, cilantro, and lime juice together in a large bowl. Sprinkle mixture over sweet potato spread. Add chili salt to taste. Fold tortilla in half and brush with a tiny bit of olive oil. Grill in a frying pan over medium heat until lightly browned. Cut in half and serve with corn chowder.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chef Joe Morris

Most days, Joe Morris quietly works behind the scenes. He chops, preps, and prepares Chef Ben Smith's creations inside the kitchen of Tsunami, one of Memphis's best restaurants.

However, to get a real sense of who Joe Morris is as a chef, you'll have to do some digging. He and his clean, elegant, understated cuisine have become a star of the Memphis underground restaurant movement. He has put on several dinners with Glenn Hays of Cafe 1912, and he put together a high-concept, nine-course, vegetarian dinner for the eaTABLE group. What's next for Joe? He's taken on the fun challenge of catering a private event in October. I can't wait to see what Joe creates next.

I asked Joe for his favorite vegetarian recipe, but instead I got something more valuable...a philosophy. 

So, I’m going to be honest; I don’t know if I have a favorite vegetarian recipe. There are certain dishes that I think work better without meat, like lasagna, but I don’t know if I’ve ever followed an exact recipe. Cooking for me is about taste, feel, and instinct. Of course, I have an idea of what I want to accomplish, what I want to emphasize or convey, but it’s the process of getting to that end result which is ultimately the thing I love about cooking. In that vein, it’s also important for me to constantly re-invent that process -- or subvert it. To learn, get better, to try new things.  I’m not going to lie, I fail. I fail a lot. But I learn. It’s part of the same process of failing better. Albeit a new flavor profile, technique, or conceptualization of a dish, it’s a process.

As I’ve matured as a cook, largely through becoming a more experienced ‘eater,’ I’ve come to appreciate clean, simple flavor profiles. It’s cliché, but I think it’s important to showcase the quality of an ingredient and really buttress that flavor. I think some of the best dishes are tiny microcosmic re-interpretations of themselves. For example, when I roast beets, I’m left with a beautiful jus that I can use to add another beet ‘element’ to the plate. I’ve made vinaigrette with balsamic for use in a salad with the cleaned beet greens. I’ve turned the jus into a braising liquid for the greens. A beet sorbet, jelly, chopped raita. Anything. I’m constantly trying to create a little environment whereby the flavor is taken and elevated using the most humble of ingredients: the actual thing itself.

I was going to post a recipe for peach gazpacho that I copped from Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park; it is simple with great flavors and utilizes many ingredients that are available to us locally, but the Chubby V was all over this one. What I love about Humm’s gazpacho is that beyond the (perhaps not so) obvious use of peaches, cucumbers, tomato paste, and vinegar, the rest is up to you. Cilantro, basil, mint -- they all work. Almonds? Sure. More Tabasco?  Why not. If you want more of a peach flavor, add more peaches! 

It sounds trite, but it’s true: find yourself in the recipes you love. To finish the dish, Humm garnishes his puree with all the ingredients he used to create the dish; cubed peaches, garlic croutons, olive oil, herbs, almonds. It’s great, and best of all, it’s perfect every time.

The thing to take away is that every dish becomes, in some small part, an extension of you.  So have fun with it!

Roast Beets

2 lb. baby beets
½ c   water
splash white wine

Preheat oven to 350.  Place beets in a baking pan add ½ cup water with splash of wine and cover with foil.  Cook until tender (about 90 minutes).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sunflower Cookies

I like the savory side of sweets and have wanted to make something with sunflower seed butter for a while now. It's so earthy and distinct, but it isn't as thick as peanut butter is; while you could have it on toast for sure, it's also fun to be inventive with it and work with instead of against its runny texture.

(Looks like sunflower seeds have a decent amount of protein in comparison with other grains, nuts, and seeds, so runners and athletes might see the benefit of trying these out.)

This easy recipe was my guide -- hey, while you're there, be sure to check out the crazy end-result picture due to the addition of baking soda! I added a few things so the cookies were recognizably sunflower-y. Our niece has nut allergies, and we like that with no worries, she could enjoy a seed butter cookie with a cold glass of milk.

Sunflower Cookies

1 cup sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup cane sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. Maldon salt, crushed

Topping for the cookies:

1 cup raw, hulled sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
pinch of two of Maldon salt

Mix up the first six ingredients and chill dough in the fridge for at least an hour -- more time chilling is fine, too. Once that's done, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Next, spread the raw sunflower seeds on a plate and mix the brown sugar and salt together in a bowl. Roll the dough into one-and-a-half-inch spheres, flatten with your hands, and press discs into the seeds. Transfer them seed-side-up to a silpat-lined cookie sheet and lightly sprinkle them with the sugar-and-salt mixture. Bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

*Since they crumble easily when they're hot, be sure to let them cool for 5 minutes or so before picking them up with a metal spatula and transferring them to racks or plates.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Whole Wheat Naan + Garlic & Parsley

What's the best thing about going to your favorite Indian restaurant? Correct! It's the naan, that warm garlicky bread they bring out with the meal. What could be better? Parts of the bread are crisp, other parts chewy, there is the perfect amount of char, and it's always fresh out of the tandoori.

This is a great version of this Indian staple that you can make at home without investing in a tandoori oven. I have made this a bunch of times, and it turns out great. The whole wheat pastry flour adds a bit of nuttiness, and the yogurt lends a nice richness to the dough. Make this the next time you whip up a curry, or use this recipe to make my naan bread pizza.

Whole Wheat Naan

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast
1/4 teaspoon Maldon salt
3/4 to 1 cup 2% Greek yogurt

The dry ingredients go into the food processor with the dough blade already in place. Turn the processor on and spoon in the yogurt until the dough clumps into a ball and rolls around the bowl. (You may not use the whole cup of yogurt.) Stop the processor, grab the dough, cut it in half, and then cut each half in half again to form four pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover dough with a large bowl, and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Place pizza stone on the upper-middle rack of the oven. Turn the broiler on medium high and preheat for 20 minutes; this sounds strange, but it mimics the effect of a tandoori oven. Using all-purpose flour to prevent the dough from sticking, roll each dough ball out into an oblong shape that is about 12 inches on the longest side. Pull out the rack containing the stone, place dough directly onto the pizza stone, push the rack back in, and shut the oven door. Allow each bread to cook for about 2-3 minutes or until the top is blistered and brown. Remove naan from the oven. Brush with garlic butter (1 tablespoon melted butter with 1 large clove minced garlic) and sprinkle with Maldon salt and chopped parsley. Serve immediately. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Homemade Tofu

A chef friend of mine said, "You don't like processed food, right? But you like tofu?" I said, "Yeah, but no one makes their own tofu." Just as soon as I said it, I knew that I would. I'm not one to back down from a challenge -- that was a challenge, right? -- so I set out on a journey to make my own tofu.

I hit the books. Once I stared to read about the process, it immediately seemed familiar. It's exactly like making homemade cheese, but with one huge extra step...first you have to make the milk. As if they could somehow read my mind, Food & Wine magazine included an in-depth recipe in their July issue about how to make soy milk form dried soy beans and then transform that milk into tofu skins, silken tofu, or firm tofu.

I have to admit it: I'm terrible at following recipes. I just get sidetracked, I guess, or maybe I just like to be adventuresome in the kitchen, or possibly it's because I never ordered some strange key ingredient in tofu making called nigari (magnesium chloride). Whatever the case may be, I used 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar in place of the nigari when making my firm tofu and, lo and behold, it worked.

What did I do with my precious, hard-fought, homemade tofu? I kept it simple. I grilled slices of tofu that had been sprinkled with a little Old Bay seasoning and sea salt. When they came off the grill, I squeezed a lime juice on them and drizzled the tofu filets with olive oil. The homemade grilled tofu made for delicious "fish" tacos with purple cabbage, avocado, and chipotle sour cream.

Was it worth it? I think so. It was messy, and it was time consuming, but it was fun and it was a success. The resulting tofu had a ton of flavor. Will I be making my own tofu again soon? Probably not, but you just never know...