Friday, July 31, 2009

In Print: Local farmers + local chefs

Check out the August issue of Memphis magazine (the one with blue suede shoes on the cover) for our article 'Market Value,' a look at the many connections between chefs and growers in our region. We are really proud of it! The Wife wrote the story and TCV took the pics.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Adjusting to Life as a Part-Time Vegan

I am no longer frustrated with finding vegan food for lunch. I have adapted quite nicely. Here is a gallery of some of the things I have made for lunch over the past few weeks.

Chinese "Chicken" Salad:

Fried Green Tomato Po Boy:

Red Beans & Rice:

Grilled Zucchini Steaks with Risotto, Tomatoes, and Pesto:

Tempeh Torta with Grilled Squash, Avocado & Black Beans:

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cantaloupe Agua Fresca

Last Wednesday, Keith from Whitton Farms presented me with the world's largest cantaloupe as a part of my CSA. I swear the thing was barely manageable. It was more the size of a medium-sized watermelon than a regular-sized cantaloupe. Anyway, it was delicious, so it was a good thing that I had so much of it. I cut that sucker in half and snacked on it all week. Now it's Monday, and I still had half of the beast left in my fridge. I decided that it was time for it to become one of my all-time-favorite summer drinks: agua fresca. You can make them out of just about anything, but I really love the melon flavors when it is really hot outside.

1/2 a huge cantaloupe
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon (juiced)
3 cups water

Scoop the flesh out of the cantaloupe and into your food processor. Blend until very smooth. Add the lemon juice and sugar. Strain the mixture through cheesecloth and into a pitcher. Add water, pour over ice, and enjoy.

Smoky Grilled Vegetable Quesadillas

Makes 4-6 quesadillas

1 sweet onion (halved, skin left on)

2 whole portabella mushroom caps (stems removed)

1 green pepper (sliced off the core)

1 whole poblano pepper

4-6 whole-wheat tortillas

1 tbsp. ancho chili powder

2 to 3 cups oaxoca cheese (shredded)

olive oil

salt & pepper

Light the grill and leave it on high to preheat. Place the poblano pepper on the grill. Once one side is burned black, turn it and burn the other side. Once the poblano pepper is completely charred, place it in a paper bag to cool. In a large bowl, toss the other vegetables, ancho chili powder, and a few tablespoons of olive oil together until the vegetables are coated. Place the mushrooms gill-side-down on the grill. Place onions and peppers skin-side-down on the grill. The green peppers will be done first because they’re thin. Remove them from the grill once you get some nice grill marks on them. This should take about 4-6 minutes. Turn the mushroom over after 4 minutes. Allow the onion’s skin to burn black. (You will peel it later.) Move the mushroom to indirect heat. Allow the mushroom to cook until tender, which should take about 10-15 minutes. Once all vegetables have been removed from the grill and are cool enough to handle, you can begin to prepare them for the quesadilla. Remove burnt skin and seeds from the poblano. Remove burnt onion’s skin. Slice all vegetable into long, thin strips. Portion vegetables onto half of each tortilla. Cover vegetables with shredded cheese and fold the tortilla. Grill dry tortillas until they are nicely marked by the grill grates and the cheese has melted. Serve with hot sauce, sour cream, and limes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Edible Memphis Website

At the Grow Memphis dinner at Interim on Tuesday Melissa pulled me aside and quietly told me that she has just finished the new Edible Memphis website. I was so excited that I pulled it up on my phone immediately. It is beautiful. Go see for yourself:

While you are there search my name (my real name) and you will find tons of recipes and photos and stories by me and the wife.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Japanese Eggplant Bacon

Hardly anything is vegan. I went to make a trusty BLT for lunch the other day with Morningstar Farms Veggie Bacon, a product I have relied on for years, and discovered that it has egg whites listed as the first ingredient. Since I committed to VB6, the Veggie Bacon was out of the question. I already had the rest of the sandwich made: The bread was toasted, the tomato sliced, the avocado cut and smashed onto the bread with a fork. I had to think quick. I spotted a few baby japanese eggplant in my fruit bowl that my buddy Andria gave me. That would do, I thought.

2 small japanese eggplant
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 table spoon sesame oil
sesame seeds

I sliced the eggplant thin on the mandolin, and pan-fried them in a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of sesame oil. Just before they were crispy, I hit them with a few drops of Braggs and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. I transfered the eggplant to my waiting sandwich, closed the top, and took a bite. It was better and fresher than the processed stuff.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

In Print

Check out this story I wrote for The Memphis Flyer about a new veggie friendly spot in Collierville.

...and this one The Wife wrote about how to green up your backyard party.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Spicy Carrot, Fennel, & Ginger Soup topped with Sesame Shiitake Mushrooms

Well, you aren't going to believe this, but it's absolutely true: I'm on a diet. I made a friendly little wager with my older brother, my dad, and our friend J.C. Each of us ponied up our share of dough, stuck it into an empty water bottle, filed it up with water, and froze it at a secret location. The idea is for each of us to lose 10%. The one who loses the most by Labor Day weekend gets the "frozen assets." Simple enough, right?
My strategy is simple: eat vegan until 6 p.m. Mark Bittman came up with the concept he calls VB6. Having been vegan on and off for large periods of time, this is not too tough for me. In fact, I have rather enjoyed it. I feel better, and I have been dropping a pound a day for the past 10 days. No kidding.

So how do you fill up eating vegetables? Soup is the answer. Yesterday I made this spicy and flavorful soup with the ingredients I had on hand.

7-10 large organic carrots
1 large fennel bulb
1 orange bell pepper
1 large sweet onion
2 thumb-sized pieces of fresh ginger
1 can light coconut milk (+ one can of water)
3 loves garlic
1 shallot
2 Not-Chicken cubes
sriacha hot sauce
juice of 1 lime
olive oil
s & p

8-10 shiitake mushroom caps (sliced and sautéed in sesame oil)
4 green onions (chopped)

Roughly chop pepper, carrots, and fennel and toss them with olive oil. Arrange those vegetables flat on a baking sheet and stick them under your broiler. They should stay under the broiler long enough to get some color. In a large soup pot, sauté the roughly chopped onion, shallot, garlic, and ginger in olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the roasted vegetables, coconut milk, cubes, and a few good squeezes of hot sauce. Allow this mixture to simmer for about 10-15 minutes so that the carrots can soften. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup smooth. Garnish with mushrooms and onions.

Be on the lookout for more delicious vegan fare and wish me luck. I want to win!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Watermelon Ice & Honeydew Melon Ice

The summers here in Memphis are so brutal that it makes us want to climb up into our tiny freezer and stay there until the middle of October. Our new favorite way to combat the heat is homemade fruit ice desserts. They are extremely simple to make, but they do require you to have two key pieces of equipment: a food processor and an ice cream maker.

1 melon
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 a lemon or lime (juiced)
Halve the melon using a sharp knife. Using a large spoon, scrape the flesh out of the melon and into your food processor. Once the melon halves are clean, put them into the freezer. You will use the rind to serve your dessert. Add the sugar, salt and lemon to the flesh. The amount of sugar you use will depend upon how sweet you like your dessert. I'd say no less than 1/4, but no more than 1/2 cup of sugar. Turn on the food processor and let it run until the melon mixture is smooth. Turn your ice cream maker on then pour the melon mix into it. (If you put the melon mix into the freezer bowl before turning on the ice cream maker, it will freeze to the sides of the bowl. I know, I have made that mistake.) Allow the ice cream maker to run for about 20-25 minutes until it has nearly doubled in volume. Transfer to an plastic container and stick it in the freezer. Take it out of the freezer for about 5-10 minutes before serving. Scoop into your frozen melon rinds and enjoy. Your hands are all cold from the frozen rind as you slurp down the melon ice; it's a combo that is sure to result in the tastiest brain freeze ever.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Grilling Class Today 2pm

Yeah!!!!! Can't wait. We have been hard at work to make sure this class is a success. The class is at the Botanic Gardens on Cherry Rd in East Memphis. You will NOT use the main entrance. You will go down the road that is directly north of the main entrance. It is a dirt road that runs between southern and the gardens. Head east on that road until you see the lake on your right, Park your car and walk into the open gate towards the gazebo. You will find us there.


I'd call it a success. I was able to get through all of the dishes that we planned, and nothing stuck to the grill. Plus, everyone got to try a little of everything we cooked. We had an attentive class of 24 that made me feel at ease the entire time. I will write more later.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Wife's Trip to Columbia, Mississippi

"It feels good to eat with people when you're always having to eat alone," my grandmother's friend said at the Columbia, Mississippi Catholic church's monthly senior citizens' potluck. I didn't expect this from her, a lively New Orleans native who ran in at the last minute and brought her fried chicken, jittery energy, and ebullient commentary. But she's right: I love to eat, but it's just not as satisfying to eat by myself.

We go to Columbia, Mississippi because my grandmother, 82, and grandfather, 89, aren't able to travel anymore. They used to drive up to Memphis, no problem, but now it is iffy whether they should even be driving to Hattiesburg, twenty minutes away from their house, so driving for five-and-a-half hours is out of the question. For me, nervous as all get out about even lesser dangers, to be riding in the back of the Buick with my grandfather at the wheel is a major feat, but he is so gentle and funny and kind that I would sooner die if I offended him in any way. So we go places if everyone's up for it, and we visit their surprisingly vast and tightly-knit network of friends and relatives.

Even so, Columbia is small. I mean, it is tiny. It is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone. People honk if they see us driving by and wave if they're sitting on the porch. My grandmother makes it her business to know what is going on with everyone, and my great-aunt writes the 'out and about' column in the local paper. (We always get a mention the week after we visit.) My mom and I walked around the Main Street square by the courthouse -- economy be damned, all the spaces were open and bustling, because everyone in this very small town has bought back into the gospel of going local -- and in the jewelry store, we talked to a lady my mom knew growing up, and I snagged a ridiculously ruffled summer dress at Berlon's Friendly Store, where my mom shopped when she was a child. Unable to identify the blond working at the clothing/Merle Norman store, church annuals are consulted and many phone calls are made, and we finally unravel the mystery of which Davis the clerk actually is after a forty-five-minute investigation.

Along with knowing who's related to who, food in Columbia is serious business. Basically, life there revolves around church, cooking, and family, just like it used to. My grandparents' across-the-street neighbors eat all their meals outside and hang out together all day because, according to my grandfather, that's how they do everyday life in Southern Louisiana, and after Katrina, these neighbors are continuing the tradition in Columbia. Now this was really cute when we arrived, seeing the kids play in an inflatable pool so large that it touched both sides of the driveway as they listen to all-1950's songs on the radio, but not so adorable late at night when I am trying to sleep. But this family eats their breakfast at tables in the carport and goes on through lunch and dinner, together, so it kind of made me dream about doing the same.
The day after we arrived, there is absolute quiet the potluck in a cavernous room at the church and then an explosion of energy as these sensible Southern ladies, who outnumber the men in attendance three-to-one, arrive with their dishes. Everyone seems to have collapsible quilted covers that they tie around their containers in order to make them easier to carry and to keep the contents warm or chilled. I feel so hungry as the cozies are removed; my grandparents never will succumb to the idea of supper in the evening; dinner happens at noon, and then they might have a piece of blueberry pie or pound cake before bed, but that's it. I woke up ravenous and I eye the dishes as they are set out: salads and entrées on the countertop, copious desserts on the side table.

We have sweet corn casserole, sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, fried chicken, broiled chicken, red beans and rice, garlic bread soaked with butter, baked beans, vinegary bean-and-vegetable salad, fruit salad slathered in whipped cream, baked spaghetti, and I think there's more, but that's basically all I can fit on my drooping styrofoam plate. Of course, we have a jar of sweet tea that is labeled with masking tape and a jar of unsweetened tea that is not marked. Everyone eats with pleasure -- the food is amazing since it was made by people who have worked on their home cooking all of their long lives, but I also notice how thrilled everyone is to be visiting and talking and laughing. I sit by my grandmother because I know from years past at similar events that one of her greatest pleasures in life is to order me to do her bidding in front of her friends so that she can display to her many friends how obedient and thoughtful her grandchild is. Out of practice, though, I mess up her tea order at first, which greatly annoys her, but then I save fact by fetching extra napkins, more tea, and then a brownie at her request. I have always been a fast eater -- my aunt calls me the little wolverine -- so already finished with my plate, I don't mind getting up and down for her at all. My mother, however, can't stop giggling as she watches me hard at work.

This revolving group meets every second Wednesday of the month, and I bet they wished it was more often. The eighty-year-old man sitting next to me can't hear but we repeat our conversations and questions for him until he does. There is much talk about who is seriously ailing -- one triple bypass happens the day after we eat -- and who is not able enough to come. There are prayers for them led during grace, and there are post-funeral thank-you letters passed around for everyone to read. I learn that even those who have decided to attend the Episcopalian church down the way still come back for the fellowship at the potluck.

       And all of this does make me think. My grandparents, who moved to Columbia, the big city, after living for years in even-tinier Foxworth, Mississippi, are lucky, being one of the only couples in attendance. They have attended separate churches all their lives since my grandmother is a staunch Catholic and my grandfather is an easygoing Baptist. But other than that, they are intertwined in ways that I cannot even imagine. They believe the same things, they share the same opinions, they know all the same people, and they spend most of their time with each other. "It feels good to eat with people when you're always having to eat alone" rings true to me. I loved getting to go to the potluck with them and see how important it was to everyone. Now that I'm home, I do worry about what's going to happen when we lose them. I dread the tearful five-and-a-half-hour drive when it happens. But for a minute there, I was able to see them happy, surrounded by friends and comforting food, and to know that they are not alone.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Roasted Corn and Grilled Crookneck Squash Soup

Soup in the summer? That's right. Even when it's hot outside, there is nothing more delicious than taking a bounty of summer-fresh vegetables and blending complementary flavors together to make a hearty meal. I knew this is what I was going to do as soon as I opened my CSA from Whitton Farms. Ears of fresh corn and huge yellow squash tumbled out of the bag as I set it on my counter. I fired up the grill and sprang into action. My favorite thing to do with summer soup is to add a smoky character by first grilling the vegetables outside. So that is exactly what I did for this summer corn soup.

Makes 2-4 servings:
4 ears of corn (shucked)
2 yellow crookneck squash (sliced 1/4 in thick)
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 jalapeno (minced)
1 chipotle pepper
1/2 onion (chopped)
3 cloves garlic minced)
tablespoon flour
1/4 stick butter
4 sage leaves
1 Not-chicken boullion cube
3 cups water
olive oil
salt & pepper
On your outside grill over high heat, char the red and yellow bell peppers until completely black and then transfer them to a paper sack to cool. Brush olive oil onto the corn and squash. Grill both over high heat until nice grill marks appear. (This should take about 3 minutes per side.) Remove vegetables from the grill and allow to cool. In a large soup pot, add the butter, garlic, sage, and onion. Cook over medium until onion is translucent. Add the flour and cook for two minutes more. Cut the kernels off the corn cobs. Remove the burnt skins and seeds from the roasted peppers. Add yellow pepper, corn, squash, boullion, jalapeno, and chipotle to the pot. Use an immersion blender to blend the soup to your liking. Heat the soup through, and it is ready to go.

I topped mine with the diced roasted red pepper, crumbled goat cheese, fresh green onion, and crispy tortilla sticks. I made the tortilla sticks by slicing a whole wheat tortilla into thin strips, coating them with a tablespoon of olive oil, and toasting them in a 350 degree oven for 6 minutes.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Portobello Mushroom Carpaccio with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar

I have a very simple but delicious recipe for you today. Everybody can do this, and it looks very impressive on the plate. I'd love to take credit for this ingenious use of fungi, but I had something very similar at a new restaurant in Memphis called The Kitchen on Brookhaven Circle. I was blown away by the wonderful flavor and texture, and I could not wait to try to make it in my own kitchen.
2 large portobello mushrooms
2-3 oz goat cheese
olive oil
salt & pepper
10 year old balsamic vinegar
fresh flat-leaf parsley

The hardest part of making this dish is is slicing the mushrooms paper thin. Lay the mushroom flat on the cutting board gill-side down. I suggest using a serrated knife and working with a slow, steady hand. Cut as many thin slices as possible from the cap. You will not be able to use the whole mushroom for this, so reserve the gills and the edges for another dish. Pan fry the mushroom slices in a few tablespoons of olive oil until the edges turn brown. I use a cast-iron pan for this. Arrange mushrooms on a large plate, add salt and pepper to taste, drizzle with vinegar, crumble the goat cheese over the top, and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with crostini.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Pear Tart with Hazelnut Dark Chocolate and Honey

We saw Joanne Weir use this technique on her show, so we just had to try it, too. We grabbed all the different kinds of pear that were at the store, peeled them, set them in a lemon water bath, then cut them, fanned them out a bit, and slid them onto the tart crust. The Wife added chocolate because 'just pears looked boring.' Here is her supereasy, made-from-memory crust recipe:
Basic Tart Crust:

1 1/2 cup flour
1 pinch salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3 tbsp. raw sugar
3 tbsp. butter, cut into small bits

Mix ingredients listed above. Make a well and add 1/2 to 1 cup ice water, stirring until it just comes together. If you have time, chill it for an hour. Roll it out and fill your tart.

There is a New Blog in Town

Hungry Memphis is the Memphis Flyer's new food blog, and it's curated by my friend and fellow vegetarian Susan Ellis. Her succinct writing and dry wit make Hungry Memphis a fun and fast stop as you lazily browse your way through your workday.

You will find many of my pictures on the blog, and every once and again I may write a little something if I feel like I have something to say. Go check it out and put it in your blogroll.