Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Banana Pudding Ice Cream Cake

This idea came from various daydreams about how to make everything we like to eat during the rest of the year summer-ready. Now, banana pudding, whether it's a childhood classic or a crazy modernization, is good all the time, no question about that. But, oh my goodness, it is all of a sudden verging on painfully hot here in Memphis. And a little cold dessert just helps make that okay. 

The trick is to make your own banana ice cream first and then whip some cream; everything else is simple layering and freezing ahead of time. (Oh, this is our very first ice cream cake! We made it for Fox's baptism lunch. After the ecstatic reaction it got, we'll surely dream up another kind in the same vein soon. Like with chocolate...)

Banana Pudding Ice Cream Cake 

3 bananas (mashed well)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1/2 cup cane sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla bean (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 bananas (thinly sliced in rounds)
Vanilla wafers (crushed; about 1 cup)
Easy Whipped Cream (for topping; recipe follows)

Whisk together 3 mashed bananas, milk, cream, yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Pour into ice cream maker and while it spins, slice 2 bananas and crush vanilla wafers. Line a square pan with 2 layers of parchment paper -- it should overlap to make 'handles' that will pull out the cake once it's frozen. Start layering ingredients: crushed wafers, then bananas, and then spoon half of the ice cream on top. (It's fine, and actually works better, if it's a little melty because you're going to freeze the whole thing anyway.) Repeat layers and then finish with more wafer crumbs on top. Freeze for about four hours or overnight. When you're ready to serve, pick up paper 'handles' and flip cake onto a flat surface like a cutting board. Spread the whipped cream on top. Freeze it again for about 10 minutes and then, with a good sharp knife, cut it into squares to serve. (Serves 16 with small pieces or 8 with generous slices.)

Easy Whipped Cream

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground vanilla bean (optional)
pinch of sea salt 

In a large bowl whisk cream vigorously until slightly stiff. Add sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk to combine.  Set whipped cream aside in the refrigerator until ready to top cake and serve. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

(Lighter) Cherry Cheesecake with a Pistachio Graham Cracker Crust and Lemon-Honey Topping

When we went to Nashville for some fun Southern Vegetarian cookbook stuff a couple of weeks ago -- oh my goodness, will we ever be quiet about it? probably not for a while yet! -- we caught up with our friends Lilly and Jason. Of course, as a break from all the craziness and running around, we all decided to cook dinner together Friday night at their house. We are rarely too tired to cook! Lilly made an amazing sour cream blackberry pie for us, and it was so good that we took it as inspiration for this cheesecake.

Now, traditional cheesecake can be a bit...heavy. As a vegetarian, it's hard to justify choosing it at times since we (some of us? me in particular?) eat a little cheese on everything, and generally, we've already had our cheese allotment before it's even dessert time. So, here's a lighter cheesecake that's trying its best to lean in the right direction. Fresh cherries in the cheesecake and pistachios in the crust add some wholeness to this, and the Lemon Yogurt Topping may just be your new summer sub for whipped cream.

(Lighter) Cherry Cheesecake

1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
8 ounces neufchatel cheese
3/4 cup cane sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs (beaten)
juice from 1 lemon
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 1/2 cups cherries (pitted)

Pistachio Graham Cracker Crust (recipe follows)
Lemon-Honey Topping (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In your stand mixer, combine ricotta and neufchatel well, for about 3 minutes. Add sugar, vanilla, and eggs and mix. Add flour and salt and mix. Stir in lemon juice. Pour half of filling into crust. Add a layer of cherries. Add the remainder of the filling on top. Bake for an hour and a half. Set it on the counter to cool and then refrigerate it a few hours or overnight before cutting it. Serve with Lemon-Honey Topping.

Pistachio Graham Cracker Crust

1 sleeve graham crackers (9 crackers)
1/3 cup salted, roasted pistachios
2 tablespoons cane sugar
1/2 cup melted olive oil margarine

Combine crackers, pistachios, sugar in food processor. Mix until it's in crumbs. Add margarine and pulse. Butter a springform pan. Press crust firmly into the bottom of the pan.

Lemon-Honey Topping

(Better for you than good old whipped cream, this adds a nice citrusy kick to the finished cheesecake.)

1 cup Greek yogurt
fine zest and juice from one lemon
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of sea salt

In a medium bowl, whisk yogurt, lemon zest and juice, honey, vanilla, and salt and add to the top of chilled cheesecake.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Grilled Figs and Lemon with Gorgonzola and Honey

We planted two figs trees a few years ago and hoped that they would do something. Anything would be fine -- maybe we'd get a few fresh figs out of them one day? What a novelty! We thought that would be great.

Really didn't expect what actually happened this year. The first figs (!) grew to the size of small apples. It's sort of shocking. Maybe it's the blessed mild weather we're having here in Memphis this May and June. Maybe one very productive tree, at 9 feet tall now, is ready to show us what it's got.

We remembered a similar idea from our good friend Jennifer Chandler's Simply Grilling (a cookbook you really need to have on hand this time of year). She uses hazelnuts, vanilla, and mascarpone in hers for a great dessert. Highly recommended, y'all. For ours, we just grabbed what was in the fridge this week and it came together as an app. It's simple to make the same day you buy your first carton of black mission figs this summer. We're so ready to eat summer figs until we're completely and utterly sick of them, aren't you?

Grilled Figs and Lemon with Gorgonzola and Honey

4 large or 8 medium figs (halved)
1 lemon (quartered)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon local honey
2 ounces gorgonzola or blue cheese
sea salt flakes and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Preheat your grill to high heat. Toss figs and lemons in olive oil until coated. Grill for about 3 minutes per side or until well marked. Place figs and lemons on a plate, drizzle with honey, sprinkle with crumbled gorgonzola, and garnish with salt and pepper. Squeeze the lemons onto the figs and serve. (Serves 2.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

VeriTABLE Dinner, 6.15.13

We were so happy to be asked to cook a special dinner this Saturday night for Memphis friends we've known for quite a while. We think of them like family, and so we chose to serve the meal in a way that reflects that sentiment. We also chose the name VeriTABLE for it because it reflected our vision for the evening: a meal that is true and real. It was a beautiful June evening spent in a heavenly backyard, and we wanted to share it with you.

When we cook at home for the people we love, it's simple. It's not about wowing folks to elicit a certain reaction, but we still want to get the best flavors across while using tried-and-true techniques. It's about just being together, relaxing and talking, and sharing a meal, all the while enjoying people's company just as much as you enjoy the thoughtful, well-prepared food. We love the ease of food served family-style lately and the idea of sharing an experience in that way. It's almost officially summer, and here's to many more relaxed outdoor meals for all of us with the people we love.

The reasons why we cook are varied depending on the day or the occasion, but when it comes down to it, the main things are clear: we want to celebrate occasions big and small every single day, to create  moments of connection, and to nourish people to show them how much we care about them. We are lucky enough to cook for people who are open, willing, and grateful, and we are so thankful for them.

We are also grateful for our wonderful hosts, Margot Mc Neely and Gary Backus. They invited us into their beautiful home, set up tables, and had the yard sprayed with cedar oil -- which smells amazing, by the way -- to keep the mosquitos at bay. They worked hard to make sure everyone had a fun time. We are happy to know them.

Happy Father's Day to all of you. We hope you will be sitting down to a a great meal with your people today. As usual, that's our plan for sure.

Italian Eggplant Sausage with Fennel Pollen, Pine Nut Pureé, Pickled Blackberries, and Grilled Vegetables

Salad Course:
Kale and White Bean with Porcini Mushroom
Smoked Cauliflower with Tomato and Gremolata

Truffle Potato and Goat Cheese
Foraged Chanterelles and Corn with Provolone

Peaches and Tarragon Ice Cream Sandwiches

Thursday, June 13, 2013

TCV at Cheffie's Café: Friday, June 14

Hey! Cheffie's Café in Memphis will be serving vegan Smoked Coconut Bacon and Avocado BLT sandwiches and  Lemon Zest and Thyme Pimento Cheese sandwiches from our Southern Vegetarian cookbook.

Come have lunch and hang out with us this Friday! We'll start at 11:30 and wrap it up around 1:00. There will be copies of the book available for sale as well, so stop by and have your book signed, y'all.

There's a prize, too: Cheffie's will be giving away a $20 gift certificate to one lucky lunch-goer in attendance. (Update: Congratulations to Ann Marie T.! Your Cheffie's gift certificate will be on its way to you this week.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Seared Mushroom Tacos + Two Salsas

Sweltering weather, Mexican food, the backyard -- now that's the perfect summer dinner. Making the mushroom filling for these little tacos is simple, and if you have time, the Smoky Tomato Salsa and Charred Corn and Avocado Salsa are killer. If you don't have time to make the accompaniments from scratch, just get 'em at the store, and then this dinner will come together in a matter of minutes.

Mushrooms are a great taco filling, and the dried spices are typically things everyone has on hand. If you don't have ancho chili powder in your spice drawer, use whatever chili powder you have. The high heat is key here. It keeps the mushrooms from becoming mushy, and it imparts a great smoky flavor to the whole dish. 

Seared Mushroom Tacos + Two Salsas

Charred Corn and Avocado Salsa (served in the avocado skin)

Simple Smoky Salsa (or your favorite prepared brand)

4 cups quartered mushrooms (white button or baby bella)
1 medium onion (sliced, about 1 cup)
1 medium pobalano pepper (diced, about 1 cup)
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder

1 teaspoon granulated  garlic
1 teaspoon cumin powder
Kosher salt to taste
1 tablespoon white vinegar

2 tablespoons canola oil
about a dozen corn tortillas
1 can refried black beans (or vegetarian refried beans)
1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese
1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt or sour cream

First make the Charred Avocado Salsa and the Simple Smoky Salsa according to the recipes.

In a large bowl, mix the mushrooms, onion, pepper, chili powder, garlic, cumin, salt, and vinegar. Toss to coat. Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Add the canola oil and the mushroom mixture. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes undisturbed, toss, and contine to cook until mushrooms are browned and heated through. Set aside. 

Heat the tortillas  one at a time over an open flame and stack them until ready to assemble the tacos. Place 2 corn tortillas on a plate followed by a generous helping of refried black beans, the mushroom mixture, a sprinkling of cotija cheese, Greek yogurt, and Simple Smoky Salsa. Serve alongside Charred Avocado Salsa. 

As you eat the extras will fall into the second corn tortilla shell. You'll never have to pick up a fork. 
(Makes 6 tacos. Serves 3 to 4 people.)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Anjali's Red Bean Pudding (from Stir It Up! by Ramin Ganeshram)

A novel with recipes included = a super-fun read. There are so many great things to make in Stir It Up! by Ramin Ganeshram -- click here for details and purchasing info.-- but this pudding especially intrigued me; I've tried red bean ice cream at Sekisui Pacific Rim here in Memphis before and loved it but never had a pudding with kidney beans. What a cool thing to have in a dessert!

In the novel, narrator Anjali's family is from Trinidad but now lives in Richmond Hill, Queens. She cooks in her family's roti shop in  but also has dreams of sharing the food she thinks up herself with the world. She makes this pudding with her grandmother's help in a bittersweet scene that shows why we cook -- and how the results may not always get the reaction we expect.

Anjali's Red Bean Pudding

1 3-inch piece cassava (yucca), peeled
1 15-ounce can dark red kidney beans
1 cup water
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon mixed essence or vanilla
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
whipped cream, cinnamon (for garnish; optional)

Place the cassava in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook until fork tender, about 20 minutes. When the cassava is fork tender, drain it and set aside to cool. Rinse the kidney beans in a colander and place in a large saucepan with 1 cup water and sugar and bring to a simmer. Once the cassava is cool, cut it in half and remove the woody center. Chop into small pieces and add to the bean mixture. Allow the beans to simmer until the liquid is reduced by three-quarters. Pour the mixture into a food processor and puree until smooth. Return the bean mixture to the pan and add the coconut milk, mixed essence or vanilla, and nutmeg. Stir well and continue to cook over low heat until thickened further, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove and place in a heatproof bowl to cool. Chill in the refrigerator. Serve in bowls with whipped cream and cinnamon for garnish.