Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oyster Mushroom Rockefeller

This genius little dish was dreamed up by my good friend Michael Hughes. He did a version of it when he was the chef of a supper club dinner that I was lucky enough to attend. 

I love the play on words: oyster mushrooms stand in for oysters in this Rockefeller. Come on, it's awesome! Besides that, it tastes really great, and they are fun to eat. This dish would make the perfect appetizer for your holiday party. The rich spinach bumps up against the meaty mushroom. The whole thing is topped with crunchy parmesan and breadcrumb topping.

Oyster mushrooms can be found at Whole Foods and Fresh Market. However, to get the biggest and best (not to mention least expensive) mushrooms, it's best to seek out your local Asian foods market.

Oyster Mushroom Rockefeller
(makes a dozen)

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil (more for drizzling)
12 large oyster mushroom caps (woody stems trimmed off)

salt and pepper
1/4 cup shallot
1 tablespoon garlic
splash of Pernod
1 tablespoon vermouth
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup whole milk (or cream)

5 ounces fresh spinach (blanched, squeezed dry, chopped)
1/2 cup parmesan
1 tablespoon bread crumbs
lemon slices

chopped parsley

In a 12-inch frying pan over medium heat, melt a tablespoon of the butter and add the olive oil. Once the oil has come up to temperature, sear the mushroom caps until lightly browned on both sides. This should take about 2 minutes per side. Remove mushrooms from the pan and set aside on a separate plate. Season them with salt and pepper to taste.

Into the same pan with the remaining oil and butter, add the shallot and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the shallot has softened. Be sure to keep the mixture moving so the garlic does not burn. Add the Pernod and vermouth to the pan. Once the alcohol has evaporated, remove the shallot and garlic mixture, and set aside in a separate bowl.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the pan. Add the flour and whisk until fragrant. This should take about two minutes. Whisk in the milk making sure there are no lumps. Once the mixture starts to thicken, add the spinach and the garlic and shallot mixture. Check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now mix the parmesan and breadcrumbs together in a separate bowl. Turn your oven on medium broil. You are now ready to assemble the dish. Gather 12 ceramic soup spoons. Into each place 1 tablespoon of the spinach mixture, one large oyster mushroom cap, a tablespoon of the parmesan mixture, and a drizzle of olive oil. Broil for four minutes or until browned. Keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve. Serve with lemon slices and chopped parsley.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Vegetarian Syrian Pizza

My buddy Aaron's family has some really great and surprising recipes. Given that their roots chiefly are Italian, it's interesting to see dishes like quasi-Eastern European cabbage and dumplings and Syrian pizza recipes being handed down through the generations. 

I've been lucky enough to be in the kitchen with Aaron's mom on several occasions, and she has taught me how to make a few Brame family favorites. Syrian pizza is not one of the dishes that she showed me how to make, but Aaron talks about it often enough that I thought I had a pretty good sense of how it's put together. I took several liberties with my version, but I really think it turned out great. I even got a thumbs-up from Aaron, who stopped by to try it.

Vegetarian Syrian Pizza
(makes 4 small pizzas)

1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shallot (diced)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
zest from one lemon (about a teaspoon)
1 1/2 cups mushroom meat (or your favorite crumbled meat substitute)

olive oil
4 pitas
1 small container 2% Greek yogurt

Place chopped tomatoes in a colander and toss in the salt to coat them. Allow the salt to draw moisture out of the tomatoes; this should take about 10 minutes. Toss in the shallot, parsley, and lemon zest. Gently squeeze the vegetable mixture to release any lingering moisture. In a large bowl, mix vegetables with the prepared mushroom meat to make the topping. 

Now preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Brush both sides of pitas with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Smear each pita with about a tablespoon of Greek yogurt and top with about a 1/2 cup of the topping. Drizzle each with a teaspoon more olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes or until pita is crispy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mushroom Meat

Click HERE for an updated version of the Mushroom Meat that we cook on P. Allen Smith's Garden to Table.  

Click HERE for the final version that appears in our book, The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table

I used to rely on heavy-handed meat substitutes to give my meals that old, familiar texture and flavor that we all grew up on as the center of our 1980's meat-and-three dinners. As I shy away from more and more processed foods, I began looking for a way to get that same familiar result from my own kitchen. The solution for me was to take two things I already love, mushrooms and eggplant, and turn them into a multi-purpose "meat." It's so simple and requires little hands-on time. Make this in large batches, freeze what you don't use, and defrost it to add to tacos or burritos, fill ravioli, or cobble together a homemade veggie burger.

Mushroom Meat
Yields about 4 cups

1/4 cup black olives
5 cloves garlic
6 drops liquid smoke
1/4 cup olive oil
16 oz mushrooms (any kind)
4 cups eggplant (peeled, diced)
1 cup onion (diced)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In your food processor, make a paste out of the olives, garlic, liquid smoke, and olive oil. Set mixture aside in a bowl. 

Add mushrooms, stems and all, to your food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Dump processed mushrooms onto a large, rimmed sheet pan. Pulse the eggplant in the food processor in the same manner and dump it onto the sheet pan with the mushrooms. Repeat this process with the onion. 

Drizzle the mound of mushrooms, eggplant and onion with the olive and garlic paste, and using your hands, toss it all together. Spread the mixture evenly over the sheet pan. Sprinkle the mixture with salt and pepper. Pop it into the oven for a total of 30 minutes; turn the mixture over a few times with a spatula. The mixture will release a lot of juice, and then it will start to dry out. Once most of the liquid had evaporated or been absorbed, the mixture is ready. Allow it to cool in the pan. 

For an Italian variation, add fresh herbs from the garden. To make a Mexican version, I add a few poblano peppers to the mix along with a palmful of ancho chili powder. The possibilities are endless. Sub this for any recipe that calls for ground beef.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

We have a few ideas for what to have at your vegetarian Thanksgiving meal! Here are some of our favorite dishes from the past few years:

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Vegetarian Dumplings

*Also, we're wondering...what are you making today or tomorrow for the Thanksgiving holiday? 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vegetarian "Chicken" Pot Pie

The old version of this, Unreal Chicken Pot Pie, is one of the most popular posts here at the TCV blog. This new, even more tasty version is what we'll be making for the vegetarian main dish this year at Thanksgiving. Feel free to substitute diced-up Tofurkey if you please! Either way, it will be a hit.

Vegetarian "Chicken" Pot Pie
Serves 4

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup organic non-hydrogenated shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
cold water

Add the flour, shortening, and salt to the bowl of a food processor and turn it on. Slowly add the cold water a teaspoon at at time until a ball forms. Stop the motor and pull the dough ball out. Place it in a covered bowl in the fridge for at least 20 minutes to rest.

For the filling:

1 pound seitan (diced)
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons canola

1 cup carrots (about three, diced)
1 cup green pepper (diced)
1 1/2 cup potato (peeled, diced)
1 1/2 cups green peas
1/2 cup parsley (minced)
1/2 cup shallot (diced)
1/2 cup celery (two ribs, diced)

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup stock

sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Toss diced seitan and flour together in a bowl. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the canola oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the seitan that has been coated in the  flour mixture. Allow it to cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Stir the pot and allow mixture to cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove the crispy seitan from the pot and set it aside on a paper towel to drain. Immediately add the carrots, pepper, potato, peas, parsley, shallot, celery, salt, thyme, garlic powder, and vinegar to the pot and stir.

After the vegetables have been cooking for 3-4 minutes, push the vegetables up against the wall of the pot in order to form a well in the center. Add the flour and butter to the well and whisk until they form a paste. Cook the paste, also known as a roux, another two minutes until fragrant and lightly browned. Add the milk, stock, and the reserved seitan to the pot. Stir, bring to a quick boil by raising the temperature, then remove from heat.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the rested dough ball in half. Roll one half out to about 

11 1/2  inches or enough to cover the bottom of a 10-inch pie pan. Place the crust in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Pour in the prepared filling. Roll the second half of the dough out to 11 inches for the lid. Place the lid on the pie. Cut off the excess and crimp the edges with your finger to seal them to the lower crust. Using kitchen shears, cut eight vents in the top of the pie. Place pie on a baking sheet in case it over flows in the oven. Cook pie 20 minutes. Brush the top with an egg wash, a sprinkle of sea salt, and bake another 10 minutes until the top crust is golden brown.

*Stay tuned for more vegetarian Thanksgiving ideas here tomorrow as we begin the countdown to the big day. We've been nominated to host the in-town family, and it is sure to be a great day. Looking forward to some fun cooking time ahead of us; we'll be sure to share the details of it with you as we go

So give us some ideas -- what do you cook for the holiday?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Simple and Easy Porcini Mushroom Veggie Burgers

I've experimented with lots of recipes for homemade veggie burgers, and I must say that this is one great veggie burger. It may even be 'the one'! The tempeh and portobellos add just the right amount of texture while the mustard and worcestershire sauce bring depth. It is rich and meaty thanks to the addition of a mere tablespoon of dried porcini mushrooms. If you've never tasted porcini, you are sadly missing out. There is really nothing else like it in the plant world. Chefs will often use dried porcini to give already meaty stews and sauces a meatier flavor if that tells you anything about this powerful, pungent mycelia.

You can find dried porcini mushrooms at Whole Foods. They are about nine dollars for a one-ounce bag, which sounds really expensive, but it's not. That bag will last you quite a while. I use them all the time, and that tiny bag lasts about five months. They are great in stocks, soups, stews, and veggie burgers.

Porcini Mushroom Veggie Burger

(Makes 4 veggie burger patties)

1  8-oz. package of tempeh (crumbled)
1 1/2 cups portobello mushrooms (diced)
1 tablespoon dried porcini (minced)
1 cup smoked provolone cheese (shredded)
1/2 cup shallot (minced)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon vegetarian worcestershire sauce
cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon Creole mustard

1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup of oil for frying

Mix all ingredients, save for the oil, in a large bowl and work it all through with your hands until all ingredients are throughly mixed. In a 10-inch frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Portion patties using a 1/2 cup measuring cup. Pan-fry in the oil for about 2-3 minutes per side or until lightly browned and the egg has set. Remove patties from the pan and set aside until you are ready to serve them. 

Once you have all of your toppings ready, preheat your outdoor grill to 500 degrees. Cook burger patties for about 3-4 minutes per side or until well-marked by the grill grates and heated through. Serve on a soft sesame bun with romaine lettuce, sliced tomato, pickles, thinly sliced shallot, mustard, and mayonnaise.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grilled Beer Bread Pimento Cheese Sandwiches + Arugula & Tomato

In the South, you never hear anyone say, "That pimento cheese was just okay." The truth is, any combination of cheese and mayo is going to be at least pretty good. Like any proper Memphian, I think my version of this omnipresent cheese spread is the best. It is bright and herby due to the addition of lemon zest, thyme, and soft goat cheese. There are a million ways to eat it, but the following recipe just may be the best.

The grilled pimento cheese sandwich has become a modern Southern classic. You will find it on almost every lunch menu in Memphis. Many times you will see this sandwich served like a grilled cheese, but in my humble opinion, the warm pimento cheese has a tendency to get too soft and squishy. In this version, I grill the buttered bread on a cast-iron grill pan before I spread on the pimento cheese to preserve the consistency of the cheese. I've also omitted the bacon you usually find on this sandwich; however the rich, smoky beer bread more than makes up for it.  This dish has it all; smoky grilled bread, creamy pimento cheese, and crisp toppings.

Grilled Beer Bread Pimento Cheese Sandwiches + Arugula & Tomato

Special equipment: cast-iron grill pan
Serves four

Whole Wheat Beer Bread (made with Tumbler Ale)
2 tablespoons melted butter
Lemon Zest + Thyme Pimento Cheese (can sub in white cheddar!)
2 medium tomatoes (sliced)
2 cups fresh arugula
salt and pepper to taste

Slice beer bread into 1/2-inch slices and brush one side of each slice with melted butter. Heat the cast-iron grill pan over medium high heat until it begins to smoke. Grill each slice for about a minute and a half or until well-marked by the grill pan, then give each slice 1/4 turn and grill another minute if you want those cross-hatched grill marks. Repeat until all slices are grilled.

Spread two spoonfuls of pimento cheese on a slice of the grilled bread, top with tomato, salt and pepper to taste, a little arugula, and then crown it with another slice of grilled beer bread.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Artichoke Hearts + Succotash over Smoked Cheddar Grits

I set out to make a vegetarian version of creole shrimp and grits that's just as good or better than the original. The artichoke hearts are a perfect stand-in for the shrimp as they are 
region-appropriate. The truth is that I could talk about this dish all day long, and I still couldn't convey to you how delicious it is. Each component is wonderful on its own: the smokiness of the cheddar grits, the spicy heat of the vegetables, the crunch of the artichoke.  It all comes together when all these flavors are woven together with a simple mustard sauce. This is perfect dish to make for company...but you may want to keep it all to yourself.

Smoked Cheddar Grits

2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups milk
1 cup yellow corn grits
4 cloves garlic (minced)
2 cups smoked cheddar (I used white goat cheddar, but any smoked cheddar will do)
1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Bring the stock and milk to a boil together in a saucepan. Add the grits slowly as you stir so there are no lumps. Add the garlic, cover, and allow the mixture to cook on low for twenty minutes stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Stir in the cheddar, salt, and pepper.


1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 ear of corn (kernels cut away)
1 green pepper (diced)
1/2 cup okra (1/4-inch sliced)
1/2 cup peas (field peas or lady peas)
1 cup shallot (small dice)
scant dash of cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, nutmeg, salt, pepper

Heat butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Toss remaining ingredients together. Once the butter and oil begin to smoke, add the vegetable mixture. Allow it to cook for a minute, then toss. Allow it to cook for an other minute then toss it again. Remove vegetables from the pan but leave any charred bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. You will use this in the following pan sauce recipe.

Spicy Mustard Pan Sauce

3/4 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon creole mustard

Add stock and mustard to the pan used to cook the succotash. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any bits that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Over medium heat, reduce sauce by half. Set aside.

Pan-Fried Artichoke Hearts

1/3 cup canola oil
3 quartered artichoke hearts (make your own or use the large ones from the olive bar)
1 egg (beaten)
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste

If making your own artichoke hearts, blanch in acidulated, salted water for 10 minutes or until just tender. In a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, heat oil until it shimmers. Toss artichoke hearts in the egg and then in the flour. Shake off any excess flour. Pan fry the artichoke hearts for two to three minutes per side or until golden brown. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, spoon a cup of grits onto a warmed plate. Top with a half-cup of succotash and 3 pieces of pan-fried artichoke. Drizzle a spoonful of Spicy Mustard Pan Sauce around the plate. Garnish with chopped parsley and fresh dill. (This recipe makes four servings.)