Thursday, May 31, 2012

Caprese-Style Stuffed Tomatoes

My wife brought home some cottage cheese on impulse from the store the other day, and it just kept staring at me from the refrigerator shelf. The ingredient seemed so '80s! All I kept thinking about was that it was the kind of thing people used to eat on a diet: cottage cheese on a tomato. That wasn't really doing it for me. So, I decided to taste it. It was really good and very milky and soft, much like fresh mozzarella. All of a sudden, the tomato idea didn't seem so bad. It just needed a little update.

Any regular reader of the blog knows we love a caprese salad. We have done a salad in a jar, a vegan version with tofu, a tart, and many more versions of this combo. Now we can add Caprese-Style Stuffed Tomatoes to the growing list.

Caprese-Style Stuffed Tomatoes

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
4 medium tomatoes
1 16-ounce container of organic low-fat cottage cheese (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1/4 cup olive oil (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1 - 1 1/2 cups loose-packed fresh basil (torn or cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Maldon sea salt flakes and cracked black pepper (to taste)

In a small pan over medium-high heat, cook the balsamic vinegar until it is reduced by half. Stir constantly as the vinegar boils so as not to scorch the sugars. This should take about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Cut the top off of each tomato and run your knife around the inside to dislodge the flesh and seeds. Pull out the flesh and seeds from each tomato and reserve them for another use. Season the inside of the tomato with salt and pepper to taste. Stuff each tomato with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the cottage cheese. Drizzle the top of each tomato (and the plate) with the thickened balsamic reduction and olive oil. Garnish with basil, chives, and salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Peanut Butter Swirl Greek Fro-Yo

Obsessed with the new Ben and Jerry's Greek frozen yogurt flavors, we decided to give our own a shot. I think this recipe is close enough to call it a clone of the original. The best part about making it at home is that you know exactly what's in it. In this case, it's a mere 6 ingredients. Plus, with the addition of homemade Magic Shell, it's delicious beyond belief. This one is fun for the kids -- they'll be so amazed by watching the warm chocolate harden before their very eyes.

The best fruit to use here is slightly over-ripe bananas. When the skin is spotty and black, most of the starch in the banana has converted to sugar, and the texture is unappealing. Blending them up in a smoothie or ice cream is the best use of them. The sweetness is perfect and the texture works for this application.

Peanut Butter Swirl 
Greek Fro-Yo

2 bananas (roughly chopped)
1 17.6-ounce container 2% Greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup cane sugar (like Whole Foods 365 brand vegan cane sugar)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup peanut butter (like Whole Foods 365 brand Creamy Peanut Butter)

Place bananas, yogurt, honey, sugar, and salt into your food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour into bowl of ice cream maker and start it. Put peanut butter into a bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Once the yogurt has firmed up (about 20 minutes), turn off ice cream maker and then pour a quarter of peanut butter in and pulse ice cream maker until PB is swirled throughout but not blended. Do the same with the remaining PB so that there are swirls throughout the yogurt. Pour yogurt into a container and freeze it for at least an hour before serving. (Take it out of the freezer 5-10 minutes to soften before scooping it.)

Magic Shell at Home

1 3-5-ounce dark chocolate bar
1 tablespoon coconut oil
pinch of sea salt

Microwave chocolate and coconut oil for one minute. Stir to combine. While warm, drizzle over ice cream. It really is magic.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Veggie Chorizo-Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Corn Nuts Dust

We love it when people really enjoy the food we make.  We had family over this week and made this dish, and even a staunch meat eater was head over heels for it. The veg chorizo is similar to the texture of the real thing and would be good in a taco, burrito, in a taquito, with some Fritos -- even a incognito mosquito wouldn't veto this! 

Okay, here's the deal with corn nuts: I was looking for a non-disgusting snack at the gas station when I was on my way out to Conord Farms in Slayden, Mississippi. I picked up the Corn Nuts and, much to my surprise, they only had three ingredients: corn, oil, salt. That doesn't qualify as health food, but it was the best I could do at the time. Turns out that they are super-crunchy and delicious. (Whole Foods carries their own even-better-than-the-original version of Corn Nuts in the bulk section.) They kind of taste like the masa used to make tamales. They were the perfect thing to add a little texture and crunch to this stuffed pepper dish.

Veggie Chorizo-Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Corn Nuts Dust

4 large poblano peppers
1 medium white onion (2 cups roughly chopped)
3 large portobello mushrooms (about 5 cups roughly chopped)
1 green bell pepper (1 cup roughly chopped)
1 red bell pepper (1 cup roughly chopped)
6 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons canola

1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 cup shredded smoked mozzarella (more for topping)
1 egg (beaten)
1 cup Corn Nuts (pulsed in the for processor to produce a course crumb)
Enchilada sauce, sour cream, cilantro, diced avocado, sliced green onion (to garnish)

Roast the poblano peppers until blackened on your outdoor grill. Place into a bowl and cover until they are cool enough to handle. Run each pepper under cold water to wash away the blackened skin. Make a slit down the length of the pepper using a paring knife, pull out the seeds, and set peppers aside until they are ready to be stuffed.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using your food processor, finely chop the onion, portobellos, bell peppers, and garlic in batches and place them onto a large parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Add the vinegar, paprika, chili flakes, salt, coriander, cumin, and oregano. Using your hands, toss the ingredients to incorporate. Spread the mixture evenly on to the baking sheet and drizzle with the canola oil. Bake for 20 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the spiced vegetable mixture with the bread crumbs, smoked mozzarella, and the egg. Mix to incorporate. Stuff each pepper with a generous amount of the mixture. Place peppers into a large casserole dish, cover with foil, and bake them in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, top each pepper with more cheese and return them to the oven, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.

To serve place a spoonful of enchilada sauce onto a warm plate, place the pepper into the sauce, and top with about 1/4 cup of the Corn Nuts dust. Serve the condiments on the side so everyone can add what they like.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Herbal Lemonade

We planted almost all herbs in the raised bed this year, save for some tiny hot peppers and a couple of currant tomato starts, an exciting surprise gift from a fellow gardener. The pineapple sage, thyme, parsley, boxwood, purple, and sweet basil, nasturtiums, marjoram, tarragon, and borage have rooted, and they're all pretty much growing like crazy. It's a great time to start making lemonade with all kinds of the herbs you have available in order to kick off the summer. We had an abundance of thyme and lemon verbena, but you can substitute any wonderful combination of what runneth over in your garden bed.

Herbal Lemonade

juice of 6 lemons
20 ounces spring water
1 cup loose-packed thyme sprigs
3 6-inch sprigs lemon verbena
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons cane sugar (like 365 brand Vegan Cane Sugar)

Place all ingredients in a pitcher with a lid and shake it until the agave, honey, and sugar all dissolve. Let lemonade sit in fridge for at least 2 hours before straining it and serving over ice.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Gingersnap S'mores (from the oven!)

You don't need a campfire or graham crackers to make this modern take on everyone's childhood favorite.  Gingersnaps add a little crunch and spice and a whole lot of interest to this classic dessert. Choose your favorite chocolate bar to ensure the deliciousness of this dish. We love the Lindt chocolate bar with a hint of sea salt.

It is quite worth it to seek out vegetarian-friendly marshmallows for this dessert. (Marshmallows are typically made with gelatin, a substance made mainly from pig skin and cattle bones.) I know that Whole Foods carries a brand of vegan marshmallows, Sweet n' Sara. You can also order Chicago Soy Dairy Dandies. Take your pick since they're both amazing.

This recipe is as easy as it looks and takes a total of 4 minutes to put together. That makes this the easiest and most delicious s'more around. Give it a try.

Gingersnap S'mores

18 ginger snaps (like Lars Own)
1 3-1/2 ounce chocolate bar (broken into 9 squares)
1 10-ounce bag vegan mini marshmallows

Turn the broiler of your oven on high. Lay half of the ginger snaps on a sheet pan, top each with a square of chocolate, and about 5 marshmallows. Place the try under the broiler for about 1 minute or until the top of the marshmallows blacken. Remove and top with the remaining gingersnaps. Wait for it to cool, and eat. (Makes 9 s'mores, which is about 4 servings.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Quick & Hot Artichoke Dip

I made this dip all the time with my best friend when we were growing up and always hungry. It was our go-to snack, and to this day, I have no idea how we came up with it or when we first got the idea. Artichoke dip was just something one or both of us made just about every week and had at every gathering, whether it was just us two watching TV or a real party. This one takes about 5 minutes (at most) to prepare since everything just goes into the food processor. Once you make it yourself at home, you may not be tempted by the $9 restaurant appetizer version again; our version has a less cheese and mayo but tastes just as good.

Quick & Hot Artichoke Dip

1 can artichoke hearts (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1/2 cup canola mayonnaise
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (plus more for topping)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
blue or white corn chips or slices of baguette (to serve)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place artichoke hearts, mayonnaise, parmesan, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper into the bowl of your food processor. Pulse until combined but not completely smooth. Brush a small baking dish with olive oil and spoon the dip into it. Top with the remaining olive oil and about 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan plus salt, pepper, and paprika. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes and serve with chips or baguette slices.

Makes 2 servings.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tropical Waffles

Inspired by this recipe, we made pineapple compote this week and were thinking about how best to use it. It seemed like we had already gotten into a pint of peanut butter-banana Greek frozen yogurt every time dessert time came around, or maybe we just didn't have the right idea for pineapple. But then for Sunday breakfast, this idea seemed just right. These are banana waffles, and that plus the pineapple and coconut makes for a tropics-style breakfast that's almost like a dessert itself.

Tropical Waffles

1 banana (mashed)
2 eggs (separated)

1/4 cup canola oil (more for oiling the waffle maker)
1 cup 2% milk
2 tablespoons cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (like Whole Foods 365 brand)

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
Pineapple-Rum Compote (recipe follows)

Toast the coconut flakes in a dry pan until lightly browned. Top waffles with Pineapple-Rum Compote and coconut flakes. Plug in your waffle maker and pre-heat it.

In a medium bowl mix the banana, egg yolks, canola oil, and milk until well incorporated. In a large bowl mix the sugar, baking powder, salt, and flour. In yet another medium bowl, whip the egg whites until fluffy. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir to incorporate. Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Using a silicone pastry brush, oil both plates of the waffle maker. Spoon about 1/2 a cup of batter into each section of the waffle maker. Close the lid and cook for 4 minutes or until golden. Repeat until all of the batter is used.

To serve, place two waffles on a place, spoon 1/4 cup of the pineapple compote on top, and sprinkle with toasted coconut. Makes 6 waffles. 

Pineapple-Rum Compote

1 cup chopped pineapple
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1 tablespoon rum
pinch of Maldon sea salt flakes

Combine pineapple, butter, brown sugar, rum, and salt in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring it often; it should brown a bit and produce a sticky sauce.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Caramelized Onion + Goat Cheese Pizza

This pizza is a tribute to a dish at one of our favorite restaurants, Felicia Suzanne's, in downtown Memphis, Tennessee. Felicia is a confident and talented chef whose eponymous restaurant just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. One of our favorite things that she serves is this precious little goat cheese and onion tart. It's a piping hot mix of caramelized onions and soft goat cheese nestled inside of a corneal crust. The whole thing is topped with a ton of basil. It's heaven.

Here, that same idea is put into pizza form. The result is a quiche-like pizza topping that is pretty unique and quite delicious. We had this dish for dinner, but it would be right at home at brunch too. So, go try the original dish, and then make this one at home. You'll love both.

Caramelized Onion + Goat Cheese Pizza

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 cups thinly sliced white onion
2 tablespoons vegetarian Worcestershire

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup white wine (like Pinot Grigio)
5 ounces soft goat cheese (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1 large egg

Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 10-inch pizza crust (store bought or use our recipe)
1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (to garnish)

In a large frying pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and add the onion in an even layer. The secret to this dish to to cook the onions slowly to allow the natural sugars to come out and become caramelized. This process will yield a deep flavor. It takes some patience, but it's worth it. Allow the onions to cook undisturbed for about 30-45 minutes. Check the pan every once in a while to make sure they are browning, not burning. You want the bottom layer to have a nice deep brown color before you move on to the next step. Add the Worcestershire sauce, thyme, and the wine. crank the heat up to medium-high and start to reduce the mixture. Keep stirring so nothing scorches. Once most of the liquid has evaporated, remove pan from the heat and allow the onions to cool. They should be soft and caramel-colored at this point.

Preheat your oven to 550 with a pizza stone in place. Allow the oven to preheat for at least 25 minutes. In to the work bowl of your food processor, place the onion mixture, goat cheese, egg, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pulse food processor until all ingredients are well incorporated. Place the par-cooked pizza dough on your pizza peel that has been sprinkled with corn meal or lined with parchment. Spread the onion and goat cheese mixture evenly over the crust. Slide pizza onto the stone and cook for 5-7 minutes or until the goat cheese and onion mixture is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before topping it with basil and slicing it with a pizza cutter. (Makes 2 servings.)