Monday, October 31, 2011

Fried Chickpea Sandwich + Blue Cheese & Tomato

In Sicily, they call these simple little chickpea fritters panelle, and they're typically served as street food on a bun with a scoop of ricotta. I thought it might be fun to take the idea out of Italy and bring it down South.

In this version, chickpeas stand in for fried chicken. The sandwich is dressed with spinach, tomato slices, blue cheese, and sliced shallot. This recipe below makes quite a few fritters, enough for about 6 sandwiches or more, which is a good thing considering they are quite addictive.

A little magic happens when these things begin to cook. The outside layer becomes craggy and crispy, the next layer is slightly chewy, and the center is creamy. They are so good that they're worth a few extra a calories. 

Fried Chickpea Sandwich

2 cups broth
2 cups chickpea flour
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups canola oil (for frying)
olive oil mayonnaise 
6 sesame buns
fresh spinach
6 tomato slices
1/4 cup sliced shallot
4 ounces blue cheese (crumbled)

In a medium saucepan, add chickpea flour to cold broth and whisk. Gradually bring the mixture up to a boil as you whisk. Once the mixture becomes thick, add the water and whisk some more. Allow mixture to cook on low for 15 minutes. In an olive-oil-coated 9x12 casserole pan, quickly spread the mixture evenly to the edges. Use a sheet of waxed paper to press the mixture into place. 

Once the mixture has cooled completely, turn it out onto a cutting board. Cut into two-inch squares and then cut each square in half to form triangles. Bring canola oil up to medium-high heat in a sauce pan. Fry chickpea patties in batches if five for about five minutes a piece or until they pass golden brown and are more toasted brown in color. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper. 

To serve (immediately!): toast buns, spread with a bit of olive oil, pile on 3-4 fritters, a handful of spinach, a slice of tomato, a few sliced shallots, and a little blue cheese. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

La Montagne-style Tofu Fajitas

Way back in August of 2009, I promised that I would publish chef John Bragg's La Montagne tofu fajitas recipe after The Memphis Flyer published our story. Well, I just plain forgot! A recent email or two jogged my faulty memory. So here it is -- the long-awaited, much-anticipated recipe for La Montagne's tofu fajitas:
olive oil for pan
one red onion
one chopped red pepper
1 cup chopped button mushrooms
1 cup chopped red tomato
1 teaspoon ground cumin
chili powder to taste
fried tofu (in strips)
pico de gallo (chopped tomatoes, lime juice, onion, and cilantro)
warmed tortillas
chopped lettuce

Coat a frying pan with olive oil and add onion, red pepper, mushrooms, and tomato. Toss at medium heat. Add cumin, chili powder, and then the fried tofu strips. Serve on top of lettuce with tortillas and pico de gallo on the side.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Okra Fritters with Creole Mustard Sauce

This dish is requested over and over again by my father-in-law. He is the farmer who grows a lot of the wonderful produce we feature here at The Chubby Vegetarian; anytime he makes a menu request, we do our best to fill it.

I can almost assure you that these will be a hit even among okra skeptics. They don't have any of the sliminess that normally turns people away from okra in the first place. How do I know this? After she proclaimed "I don't eat green things," I watched my five-year-old niece eat these okra fritters and exclaim, "I love okra!" Now that's a victory.

You can serve these any number of ways. They're great as a salad on a bed of arugula that's been dressed with my Creole Mustard Sauce, and topped with fresh dill, parsley, and chopped tomatoes. It's also great as a sort of okra Po' Boy slider on a french roll with lettuce, tomato, and dill. You can also just dip the fritters right into the Creole Mustard Sauce as a simple appetizer.

Okra Fritters (makes 8-10 fritters)

2 cups okra (sliced into 1/4 inch pieces)
1/2 cup onion (sautéed in 1 tablespoon butter until translucent)
1/8 teaspoon each: garlic powder, nutmeg, paprika, sea salt, cracked black pepper
2-3 dashes hot sauce

1/8 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup flour
1/8 cup cornmeal
1 egg
canola oil for frying

Mix everything (save for the oil) together in a large bowl. Heat 1/2-inch of canola oil in a 
10-inch frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, you are ready to add the okra mixture. Using an ice cream scoop, place a portion of the okra mixture into the oil. Cook 3-4 at a time for about 2 minutes per side until all of the mixture has been used. Makes one dozen.

Creole Mustard Sauce

2 tablespoons mayo
2 tablespoons mustard
1 teaspoon ketchup
Squeeze of lemon (about a teaspoon)
pinch of sea salt 

cracked black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Done!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cheddar 3-2-1 Drop Biscuits + Thyme Scrambled Eggs & Smoky Tomatoes

A big breakfast is something everyone needs every now and again. Sure, this biscuit sandwich is portable, but it's so much better to actually sit down, have coffee, eat without rushing, and enjoy the time to relax. All three components, the cheddar biscuit, the eggs with thyme, and the smoky tomatoes, provide big flavors for your next big breakfast.

Cheddar 3-2-1 Drop Biscuits

3 tablespoons baking powder
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup organic shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening using your fingers until there are pieces no larger than a pea. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the cheese and 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 an ice cream scoop, scoop up a portion of dough and drop it onto a 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.

Thyme Scrambled Eggs

1 tablespoon butter
5 eggs
1 tablespoon cream
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (3-4 sprigs)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon of Maldon salt

Place butter in a cold, non-stick frying pan and then place it over medium heat. Whip the eggs, cream, thyme, and pepper together in a bowl. Once the butter is just melted, add the egg mixture. Stir constantly with a heat-proof rubber spatula. It will take about 4-5 minutes for the eggs to be done; it's a relatively slow process, but it yields very creamy eggs. Once the eggs start to come together, add the salt and stir. Serve immediately.

Smoky Tomatoes

2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon applewood-smoked salt
1/4 teaspoon Maldon salt
2 roma tomatoes (sliced)

Mix spices together in a small bowl. Sprinkle sliced tomatoes with spice mixture. You won't need all of it, but keep it on hand because it's great on everything.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Big Pot of Black Beans

One of the most common questions I'm asked when it comes to preparing good vegetarian food is how to makes beans tasty and flavorful without the addition of pork. My answer is that I throw in a little of this, and a lot of that, followed by a pinch of something-or-another. The truth is that no one wants to hear that. They want a recipe. So, this time I measured it all out and wrote it down just for you. This pot of beans has everything: smoky, spicy, deep, bright, and rich. 

It looks like a lot of ingredients, but really, it's a very simple recipe. Over the next week or so, I'll show you a few different ways to use these magic beans in ways you may not have thought of. 

First up is black bean soup. Simply take the prepared beans and blend them about 2:1 with water or broth to thin it to the proper consistency. Heat and serve topped with guacamole and hot sauce. We love this dish served along side a simple quesadilla made from smoked provolone and goat cheese.

A Big Pot of Black Beans

1 1/2 cups dry beans
3 cups water
2 tablespoons canola
2 cups onion
1/2 teaspoon chipotle
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 tablespoons miso
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

Soak the dry beans in 3 cups of water for at least 6 hours -- this is best to do overnight. Drain off the soaking water. In a large dutch oven over medium-high heat, sauté the onion in the canola oil until the onion is translucent. Add the chipotle, cumin, ancho, and garlic powders. Stir and allow spices to cook for two minutes. Add the soaked beans and the remaining ingredients except the salt. Simmer for one hour. Add the salt, stir,  and simmer another hour.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chicken-Fried Portobello + Mushroom & Shallot Gravy

"Everything's better chicken fried," my buddy Aaron exclaimed when I told him what I had made for dinner last night. I had to agree. In this recipe, a meaty portobello mushroom graciously stands in for steak in this vegetarian take on a Southern classic, chicken-fried steak. 

I used to eat chicken-fried steak all the time when I was a kid. My grandmother would make it, and we'd have the same conversation every time. "What is it, Mamaw?" I'd ask, "chicken or steak?" She joke around and tell me it's both. Now the answer is neither. Though her food was always delicious, I like this meatless version best.

Chicken-Fried Portobello Mushroom

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon each: salt, garlic powder, black pepper, and sweet paprika

2 eggs (whisked)
1/8 cup cream
3 portobello mushroom (stemmed, trimmed)

1 cup canola oil
Shallot and Mushroom Gravy*

chopped parsley

Combine the flour with the spices in a mixing bowl large enough to accommodate one mushroom at a time. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the eggs and cream. 

Now trim the mushrooms by removing the stems and the part of the cap that hangs over the gill side; doing this will create a flat surface, which will make it much easier to pan-fry your mushrooms. Reserve the trimmings because you will use them in the gravy. 

Heat the oil to medium high in a 12-inch frying pan. Depending on the size of the mushrooms, this pan should accommodate all three at once. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees. Now, batter the mushrooms using a three-step process: toss them in the flour mixture, coat them with the egg mixture, then dredge them in the flour mixture. This should help plenty of spiced flour to adhere to the mushroom. Fry mushrooms for about two minutes per side. 

Place mushrooms on a baking sheet and finish cooking them through in the oven. This should take about 15 minutes, which is the perfect amount of time to make your gravy.

To serve, smother mushroom with gravy and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with your favorite side vegetable. We had garden-grown green beans with garlic and tomatoes.

*Shallot and Mushroom Gravy:

1 tablespoon of butter
trimmings from the mushrooms
1/2 cup shallot (minced)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup strong broth (preferably mushroom)
1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
sea salt 

Melt butter in a 10-inch frying pan over medium heat. Add the trimmings and shallots. Once the shallot is translucent, add the flour and cook until nutty and fragrant. Add the broth and milk as you whisk. Slowly bring mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Mixture should be thick like pancake batter after a few minutes. Season with black pepper and sea salt.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Lime Truck's Corn Cake with BBQ Slaw

I'm so excited to present to you a recipe from Jason Quinn of the Lime Truck. As you may know, The Lime Truck won the second season of The Great Food Truck Race. This dish was one they served as a part of a vegetarian challenge in Memphis, and this week, Jason was kind enough to share the recipe with me. 

The concept is simple but creative, and their execution is always spot-on. I could totally see making miniature versions of this dish for a party and serving them like little Southern blinis. 

Corn Cake

Creamed corn*
1.5 cups pancake mix (I used multigrain.)
2 eggs (beaten)
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter

Mix the creamed corn, pancake mix, eggs, and milk until just combined. Do not overmix. On a non-stick griddle over medium-low heat, melt a pat of the butter. Spoon about 1/3 cup of the batter onto the griddle. Allow it to cook for about four minutes or until the top looks like it has set. Flip and cook another two minutes. Makes one dozen corn cakes.

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.

To serve, heap a corn cake with about 1/2 cup of BBQ slaw; garnish with chives and a touch more BBQ sauce. Eat it with a fork like a civilized person -- or pick it up like a taco as Jason instructed.

Creamed Corn*

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup onion (diced)
2 cups corn (cut away from the cobb)

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cream

Sauté onion in butter over medium high heat until onion is translucent. Add the corn and cook until the sugar in the corn begins to caramelize and some of the kernels begin to brown. Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper and cream. Set aside.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

eaTABLE Supper Club All-Vegan Dinner at The Live From Memphis Loft

I was asked by the eaTABLE Supper Club to create a menu for their October dinner. Immediately, I said yes! You see, we had done a dinner for them before and know what a grateful group they are. There's nothing better than making food for those who are open-minded and ready for the experience.

The host of the dinner, Chris Reyes, is a longtime vegan. I decided, out of respect for him and his home, that I would develop a menu that was in line with his morals; I really liked the challenge: make an appealing and creative vegan meal that would please 16 mostly non-vegans.

In the past, we've done a costal Mexican vegetarian feast, an all-tomato dinner, and an all-vegetarian brunch at  Restaurant Iris. For this new dinner, I decided on the theme of comfort food, hence comforTABLE. I went back and pulled some of my vegan favorites: brussels sprout salad, mushroom tamales,  and Thai fried rice. I still wanted to push myself further by developing new recipes specifically for this event, like Indian nachos and panelle and caponata sliders.

The unexpected hit of the night was the pickles served alongside the sliders. Much to my surprise, members of the group requested more beet, cucumber, and okra pickles.  Between 16 of them, they ate three quarts of pickles! It was a victory for me since I'm always trying to get people to eat okra, one of my favorites.

Dessert was total comfort food, too: brown 'butter' and vegan marshmallow crispy treats two ways, ancho chili and cayenne with toasted pumpkin seeds + Maldon salt and Olive and Sinclair 75% dark chocolate. They were a total hit. Our test for a good dessert is that it is just plain gone way before anyone expects it to be, and this happened quite quickly here.

We could not have pulled off this amazing feat without the help and planning of a few key folks. First off, Stacey Greenberg is one of the hardest-working people in Memphis. She writes for every major publication in town, writes a blog called Dining with Monkeys, is involved in Rock n' Romp, Roller Derby, and runs the eaTABLE supper club. I'm convinced there are no less than three of her. Margot McNeeley, who runs a wonderful organization called Project Green Fork, not only set the tables but also helped me carry them up two flights of stairs. Last but not by any means least, Chris Hawkins pretty much cooked everything that we prepped, and in doing so, freed us up to make sure everything else went smoothly. Thanks, y'all!

The reviews are in, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Check out these reviews from Live From Memphis's Chris Reyes, and another guest at the dinner, Bianca Phillips of the blog Vegan Crunk.
Thanks for the kind words, you two.

We are looking forward to our next event -- whatever it may be.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Triple-Ginger Apple Crisp

I still cannot believe how early I used to wake up in order to go to Houston High School. It was dark, and it usually remained dark as I waited outside for the school bus, which was a more entertaining choice than driving to school alone.

In my adult life, I feel like I never have enough time, and breakfast usually consists of scarfing part of a banana in the car, making a green smoothie, or totally forgetting to eat and then rooting around for the lone, slightly crushed granola bar I just know I must've stashed somewhere in my desk.

But back then as a ravenous teenager, I always had some sort of nice, sit-down breakfast. My mom catered to us in the morning and let Lindsey demand orange juice delivery and multiple wake-up calls before she stumbled downstairs with her blankets in tow in order to sleep further on the kitchen floor. My own indulgence was always breakfast with just me at the kitchen counter with some eggs and grits, French toast, or a bowl of apple crisp, one of the mainstays.

I love making it now and then these days, even though I'll always think my mom's version is better. It's so easy to put together on a slow morning or to set up the night before and refrigerate overnight before baking. This time around, I made it vegan and also added ginger x 3 for an extra kick.

Triple-Ginger Apple Crisp


10 Granny Smith or Fuji apples (peeled and sliced into inch-long chunks)
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons apple juice
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup vegan cane sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon Earth Balance with olive oil (for pan)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all filling ingredients well. Butter a shallow baking dish and then pour filling into it. Bake apples for 30 minutes.

Crumble Topping:

1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup Earth Balance olive oil margarine
2 small pieces of crystallized ginger (minced)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon clove
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt
1/3 cup olive oil margarine (melted)
1 tablespoon olive oil (for drizzling)

Combine all dry ingredients from oats to salt and stir. Add melted margarine to the dry ingredients and incorporate. Spread topping across the pan of apple filling and then drizzle it with olive oil; it's also good to sprinkle it with a little more salt to counter the sweetness. Spread topping across the top and then bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes; the topping will brown, and the apples will bubble when it's ready.

*You also can top it with honeyed yogurt: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Honeycrisp Apple + Parsnip Soup

Parsnips look like pale carrots, something Bunnicula got ahold of and completely drained of color. They have a spicy bite of flavor and taste earthy and bright, a little bit like mild horseradish. Parsnips have started showing up more and more this fall, and I had heard they're great with apples. (In the recipe, I found a use for the Honeycrisp apples that are out now. I figured there must be something great about an apple harvest that calls for a giant banner and so much in-store signage excitement.)

Apple-Parsnip Soup

1 white onion (diced)
a knob of butter
1 cup sparkling wine
2 large parsnips (peeled & roughly chopped)
2 large Honeycrisp apples (peeled & roughly chopped)
1 white sweet potato (peeled & roughly chopped)
1 tsp. rubbed sage
1 cup half-and-half
sea salt
green onions and white cheddar

Sauté onions in butter until translucent, and then add wine. Allow the mixture to reduce, and then add parsnip, potato, apple, and sage to the mixture. Add a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or until vegetables have softened and have taken on a slight color. Reduce heat and add half-and-half. Do not allow soup to boil after adding the cream as it could curdle. Using an immersion blender, blend the mixture smooth. Add enough water to achieve the consistency you desire. Garnish with sliced green onion and shredded white cheddar.