Monday, February 24, 2014

Gluten-Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Cauliflower flour, made by processing cauliflower and squeezing the water out…it's bound to be something pretty important in the near future. This stuff is like magic. You could never imagine that cauliflower could be transformed into a believable pizza crust. If you'd bet me money, I'd have thought it would fail, but then there I was eating a pizza with a crust made of cauliflower. It's bready and it's real!

So why go though all the trouble when regular old flour's waiting right there in the cabinet? For some, a gluten-free diet is a necessity, so we like to contribute to the cause when we can. For us personally, it's novel, an interesting cooking challenge. Plus, it's kind of fun to follow food trends when you develop recipes as often as we do -- it keeps things fresh. 

This is not a gluten-free house, by any means; we're not too strict about it. We still enjoy a real pizza or a sandwich on some great crusty French bread now and again. Let's just say we've cut back our gluten intake, which seems right and feels great. After all, like Thomas Jefferson said, "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."

Gluten-Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust

1 medium head of cauliflower
2 large eggs (beaten)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 teaspoon olive oil
Pizza sauce, cheese, and toppings of your choice

Remove the leaves and the end of the stem from the cauliflower. Wash, dry, and roughly chop it. In two batches, place the cauliflower into the work bowl of your food processor and grind it into a fine "sand." Place the processed cauliflower into the center of a clean kitchen towel and onto a microwave-safe plate. Microwave the cauliflower for 3 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Wring the water from the cauliflower by gathering the ends of the kitchen towel and turning the ball of processed cauliflower. Place the squeezed cauliflower into a large mixing bowl. You should have 
about 2 cups after it's processed and squeezed.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Throughly mix in the eggs, parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper until a dough-like ball forms. Line a pizza pan with a sheet of parchment paper and brush with the olive oil. Press the dough out into a 12-inch circle while keeping your fingers moist to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. Make sure the edges are smooth; this is not only more attractive, but it'll help it stay together. 

Place the crust in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the crust, bump the oven up to 425, add your sauce and toppings, and bake for about 7 minutes or until the cheese has melted on top.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Spring Roll Wrap with Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce

What's the only downside of a delicious spring roll? It's definitely the fact that they're so very small. When we get Vietnamese food, we each get an order of spring rolls because they're too good to share. We love them stuffed with noodles, seared tofu, avocado, and tons of fresh herbs like mint, basil, and green onions. This weekend, we made meal-sized spring rolls by wrapping all the tasty ingredients up in a brown rice tortilla.

Feel free to wing it a little here. There are tons of great ingredients that would be amazing in this dish. You're only limited by your own imagination, darlin'. Bean sprouts, tomatoes, and radish would be awesome here. In fact, you should never make them the same way twice. The real secret to a successful spring roll or TCV Spring Roll Wrap is tons of fresh herbs and our Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce.

Spring Roll Wrap with Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 package firm tofu (sliced into 12 pieces, patted dry)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce (recipe follows)
1 1/2 cups bean thread noodles (prepared according to package directions)*
4 brown rice tortillas (like Engine 2 brand)
1 1/2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1 large avocado (peeled, sliced)
1 medium carrot (julienned)
1 small cucumber (thinly sliced)
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 green onions (sliced)

In a large frying pan over high heat, add the oil. Once it starts smoking, carefully slide the tofu slices into the pan. Be careful, they will platter if not completely dry. Dry tofu and a hot pan assure that the tofu won't stick to the pan. Season the side of the tofu facing up with salt and pepper and allow it to cook for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes or until nicely browned. Flip tofu and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes or until browned. Remove tofu from the pan and set aside.

Prepare the Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce and bean thread noodles according to the instructions. Heat the tortillas in a dry pan until soft and pliable.

Assemble the Spring Roll Wrap by dividing the noodles, lettuce, avocado, carrot, cucumber, cilantro, mint, basil, and tofu among the tortillas and drizzle each with Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce. Roll them up and get to it. (Serves 4.)

Spicy Sriracha Peanut Sauce

2 tablespoons peanut butter (or cashew butter)
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1 clove garlic

Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend the peanut butter, mirin, soy sauce, Sriracha, and garlic until smooth. Add enough water to get a pourable but still thick consistency.

*Bean thread noodles are available at Asian markets and at Whole Foods. They are also sometimes called cellophane noodles. Just look for the thin, clear, bean noodles or use rice noodles in their place.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter Citrus Salad

Ah, supreming. It's so picky-picky but still worth it. Okay, so this salad takes a little bit of patience at the start, but after dealing with the oranges, the rest of it comes together in a flash. The payoff is how pretty it looks on the plate as well as how a few simple ingredients taste so killer together. So, there's that, but really, we made a salad mainly out of citrus say goodbye, winter, and garnished it with mint to say hello, spring! We're seriously done with the cold and dreariness, and we pine for the long, hot, lazy days of summer. A last winter salad is nice and all, but let's look ahead and bring that spring.

Winter Citrus Salad

6 citrus fruits (such as blood oranges, grapefruit, cara cara oranges, navel oranges)

1/8 cup macadamia nuts (toasted, chopped)

5 to 8 large mint leaves (minced)

Maldon sea salt flakes and cracked black pepper (to taste)

2 teaspoons good-quality olive oil

Supreme the citrus and set the pieces out in circles on the plate. Sprinkle with the nuts, mint, salt, and pepper. Drizzle the olive oil on top. (Serves 2.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pastrami-Cured Beets

There is nothing more romantic than eating something heart-shaped -- just ask anyone who has ever celebrated Valentine's Day. To mark this hotly anticipated occasion, we bring you a recipe for beets, the most human-heart-looking of al the root vegetables…and therefore, the most  swoon-worthy.

As a bonus, this dish is as easy as it is delicious; requiring only a few minutes of hands-on time, it can easily be made ahead of the big night. Serve it on a charcuterie plate before dinner with some spicy mustard and pickles or on a sandwich for a great picnic option. So really, Valentine's Day or any day, Pastrami-Cured Beets are great!

Pastrami-Cured Beets

1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 large beets (peeled)

Make the pastrami cure in a medium bowl by mixing the pepper, coriander, paprika, salt, and garlic together. Drizzle the olive oil over the beets so that they're evenly covered; this will allow the cure to stick to them. Liberally coat each beet with the cure on both sides and place in a covered container in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Wrap each beet in foil and place into a casserole dish. Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Allow beets to cool completely. Slice thinly using a knife or a mandolin. (Makes 4 servings.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Savory Seared Pear Salad with Honey-Tarragon Dressing

Here's a great and hearty salad to help get you through this dumb and annoying winter. The bright acidity of the dressing, the buttery, warm pears, and the big old punch of bleu cheese  make this dish a potent antidote for the winter blues. The pears are totally transformed by this process; when seared in a hot pan, they become smoky, softened, and almost, dare we say… meaty. 

We love to bring this to potlucks. No one else will have anything else quite like it. We brought it to our friends' house for Thanksgiving this year, and the savory pears stood out among a sea of sweet potato casseroles and stuffings. If you're struggling with the conundrum of what to make your sweetie for Valentine's Day, simply cut these pears into a heart shape and wow him or her with a beautiful presentation. 

Savory Seared Pear Salad with Honey-Tarragon Dressing

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon minced fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon minced shallot (rinsed under cold water to remove any astringency)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
3 medium red or green Anjou pears (just ripe, but still firm)
1 medium lemon
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
2 cups mache or other greens
1/2 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
1/2 cup crumbled, aged bleu cheese

Assemble the dressing in a small mason jar by adding the vinegar, olive oil, honey, tarragon, shallot, and salt and pepper to taste. Place the lid on the jar and shake until the dressing emulsifies. Set aside.

Trim each pear as if you are cutting the core into a triangle shape. This method will give you 3 good-sized pear pieces from each fruit. As you work, place pears into a large work bowl and squeeze a little lemon juice onto each slice to prevent browning. With a sharp paring knife, cut a series of cross-hatched slits into the flesh of each pear, but make sure not to cut all the way through to the skin. This method allows the dressing and seasonings to disperse nicely throughout the fruit. 

Heat a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the butter and then quickly add the pears cut-side down. Allow them to cook undisturbed for 2 minutes or until they are nicely browned. Flip them and cook for both 2 minutes to warm them through. Set aside until ready to serve.

Spread the mache on a large platter and arrange the pears on top. Drizzle the whole thing with Honey-Tarragon Dressing. Top with walnuts and bleu cheese. Finish the dish with salt and pepper to taste. (Serves 4 to 6 as a first course.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Southern Vegetarian Cookbook Giveaway + Cauliflower Couscous with Sautéed Kale and Artichoke Hearts

+++ This contest is closed. Thanks for all the great comments! +++


Commenter #6, Joan
Commenter #9, Tofu Mom (aka Tofu & Sprouts)
Commenter #8, Liquid Extrovert
You have won your very own copy of The Southern Vegetarian cookbook courtesy of Memphis Fight OnPlease private message us on Facebook with your address and we'll get the book in the mail right away. Thank you for your compassion and support.

The Chubby Vegetarian is proud to partner with Fight On, a local community of cancer survivors, current fighters, and supporters sharing stories of survival and strength. The nice folks at Fight On are giving away three copies of our book, The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table. To win your very own copy of the book, leave a comment below sharing your words of encouragement and support for those who are just beginning their fight and then go and 'like' the Fight On Facebook Page. We also encourage everyone to visit the Fight On website to learn more about this great organization. 

The three contest winners will be chosen through a random drawing and announced on Monday, February 10, 2014.  (Winners must be in the 48 continental United States. Only one winner per household. Winners will be chosen using a web-based random number generator. Enter as many times as you'd like. Comments are moderated. We will review and post them at the end of the day.)

Cancer has touched each of our lives at some point. When our friend Denny was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2010, we were all shocked. Cancer has the power to do that, you know? A tickle in the throat led to tests and more tests, which turned up the conclusion that no one wants to hear.

No one would have ever guessed that cancer would choose Denny. He's an absolute bad ass, a Marine, pilot, runner, and gym rat who is built like a brick mailbox and probably did more reps last Tuesday that I'll do all year. In addition, he eats healthier than anyone I know and always has. His plate is always loaded with fresh fruit and vegetables with a side of lean protein. So in this situation, it would be easy for anyone to throw their hands in the air and scream, "Why?" But he dug in and asked, "How are we going to fight this, and what do we need to do to win?"

"It's really a great time to have cancer," he once told me. As strange as that sounds, I understand what he means. We have so much research, information, and technology to assist us in the fight; now a diagnosis doesn't mean the exact same thing it used to mean. So he organized his game plan, which included treatment, chemo, and most of all, continuing to exercise and eat healthfully every single day.

Even when he felt weak from the treatment or nauseated by the chemotherapy, he'd show up at the gym and work out on the elliptical or train with weights. According to published reports, exercise during treatment not only doesn't harm the effectiveness of the treatment, but improves multiple aspects of one's quality of life including maintaining strength and range of motion and combating fatigue and depression. 

He knew he was on the right track. Even when he told us everything tastes "like I'm chewing on aluminum foil," he continued to eat healthfully because we all know that food is fuel for our bodies, and he was fueling up for his fight. This is where we knew we could help. To celebrate Denny's progress, we threw him a dinner party with dishes that displayed a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. On the menu: Green Pea Hummus, Watermelon and Tomato Gazpacho from our book The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes For The Modern Table (Thomas Nelson, 2013), and Cauliflower Couscous with Sautéed Kale and Artichoke Hearts, a dish we created just for him.

We came up with this dish after researching what one should be eating while undergoing treatment. The list wouldn't really surprise anyone. Multiple sources describe a diet overflowing with fresh vegetables as a great way to combat cancer. One thing I learned about after a tip from Denny is how to make sure the foods you're eating are alkaline as opposed to acidic. Alkaline foods supposedly don't cause inflammation in the body like acidic foods can. Admittedly, we got a very surface education in this before diving right in and cooking. Many of the favorite foods we already love are on the alkaline list, including cauliflower, mushrooms, artichokes, and kale.

We were thrilled that Denny loved our meal! Denny, his wife Nina, Amy, and I ate and laughed and forgot for a moment what we were celebrating…which was the whole point. We are so thankful for his spirit and his friendship. As you can see, he is a great inspiration in our lives. He's still fighting the good fight, and we hope hearing about him today has inspired you as well. 

Cauliflower Couscous with Sautéed Kale and Artichoke Hearts
(Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Paleo, Alkaline)

2 large artichokes
2 organic lemons
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1/4 cup Kosher salt (more to taste)
2 tablespoon olive oil (divided)
1 8-ounce package baby bella mushrooms (quartered)
1 large shallot (sliced, about 1/2 cup)
1 large head curly kale (stems removed, chopped)
1 cup roasted, salted almonds
3 cloves garlic
1 medium head cauliflower (leaves trimmed, roughly chopped, about 7 cups)
parsley and finely diced red pepper (to garnish)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

In a large soup pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Halve one of the lemons, squeeze the juice into the water, and then add both pieces to the water. Add the Italian seasoning and the salt. Trim the top third off of each artichoke. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the stem and trim the end off of the stem. Cut each artichoke in half lengthwise and place each into the boiling water. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until stem is tender. Remove artichokes from the water. Once the artichokes are cool enough to handle, pull the fibrous "choke" out of the middle using a spoon. It should slip right out. Set aside.

Discard water and lemons and use the same large pot for this part. Over high heat, add one tablespoon of olive oil and the mushrooms. Allow them to cook undisturbed for one to two minutes or until the mushrooms are nicely browned -- mushrooms don't burn easily because of their high water and low natural sugar content. Once mushrooms are browned, add the shallots and cook for one minute. Add the kale and sauté until bright green. Add 1/4 cup of water, use a wooden spoon to scrape up all of the brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot, remove from the heat, and cover. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to serve.

Into the work bowl of your food processor, add the almonds and garlic. Process until very finely chopped. Add 1/3 of the cauliflower and process until it's very fineley chopped and the cauliflower resembles sand. Repeat until all cauliflower is processed. In a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the processed cauliflower mix and stir with a wooden spoon; allow the bottom to brown before each stir. Cook for five to six minutes or until heated through. Add 1/4 cup of water and stir. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to serve. The texture will resemble a fine-grained couscous.

To serve, place the warm Cauliflower Couscous on a platter and cover it with the kale. Next, position the artichoke hearts, which may be seared in a little olive oil to warm them, on the top. Garnish with the juice and zest of one lemon and some parsley and red pepper. (Serves 4.)

*It should be mentioned that eating healthfully doesn't always have to break the bank.The ingredients for this whole dish only cost about $15!