Sunday, October 31, 2010

Toasted Nori + Tofu "Fish" Over Purple Hull Pea Succotash

This is a concept so simple I can't believe I haven't thought of it before. Using two ingredients that are often paired, (firm) tofu and nori, I created a simulated seafood experience -- without any tacky fake meat.
Toasted Nori and Tofu "Fish"

1 block firm tofu (sliced into 8 pieces)
1 or 2 sheets of nori
1 piece of kombu (optional)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
olive oil
salt & pepper

Dry tofu slices with a towel. Place slices onto the sheet of nori about a half-inch apart. Cut around each slice of tofu so the nori is the same size as the tofu. This imparts the flavor of the sea into each slice. Place in a single layer in a container with a piece of kombu. Allow to marinate overnight.

When you are ready to serve it, heat a skillet over medium heat, add oil to the pan, and allow it to come to temperature. Dredge each piece of tofu (top and bottom) in flour before placing it nori-side-down in the oil. Allow each pice to cook in the pan for about 3-4 minutes per side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

I served this tofu over a delicious succotash made from sea beans, fresh corn, purple hull peas, jalapeno peppers, red peppers, and shallots. The dressing was a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, champagne vinegar, salt, and pepper. The dish was finished with a vanilla bean buerre blanc and a sprinkle of panko for texture.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our Fall Garden

Maybe we'll have some success with our first fall vegetable garden because I don't want to abandon the raised bed just yet! Remembering to water every day -- not to mention yesterday's big rain -- has given these new mini-crops a much-needed head start.

It's surprising how easy it has been to start a few rows of mesclun, arugula, and mixed heirloom lettuces, Golden Cross cabbage, garlic chives, Swiss chard, and red carrots. Plus we still have a okra coming in and an amazing crop of basil. Now I wish I knew what to plant, if anything, when it starts to get colder. Any ideas about where we could get some hearty plants and tough seeds for late fall into winter? Is it going to be kale and only kale?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Perfect Vessels Record Release Show + More

I'm in a band called The Perfect Vessels, and we have an album coming out on Makeshift Records called "Name Our Own Stars." If you absolutely can't wait for the official release in February to get your hands on a copy, you can get the digital album for $5.99, or pre-order the CD for $9.99 which includes an immediate download of the album. Go to our Facebook page and click the MyStore tab.

Also, we are playing live on the radio today, at 5:45 PM sharp on 730 AM Fox Sports, the Chris Vernon Show's "Sounds of Memphis" segment. Aaron Brame will be joining us on banjo! Listen online HERE.

We just released our video for the song "Sun Never Goes." See it HERE.

If you'd like to see how dumb I sound quoted in print, go HERE for an article from the Commercial Appeal that came out today.

If you haven't had enough of us after all that, our record release show is this Saturday, October 23 at the Hi-Tone with the Subteens and Tiger Mountain. We will have video projections during our set being remixed live by our friend Kevin McCasland, with clips provided by Bart Shannon, Jamie Harmon, Drew Smith, Ryan Azada, Graham Burks, and more.

Hope to see everyone Saturday night. I'll be the one behind the drums.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

How to Create The World's Best Veggie Plate

I laughed out loud when I read the headline on the cover of the new Food & Wine magazine that came in the mail a few days ago. It read "Vegetables: the next big trend." As far as I'm concerned, they never went out of style!

I was inspired to make a restaurant-style veggie plate out of all of the 'hip and trendy' things I had hanging out in my fridge. I made a warm zucchini and tomato salad with parmesan, pickled beets with arugula and goat cheese, baba ganoush with homemade pita chips, and green beans with almonds and orange zest.

Now I want to give you few tips for making your own vegetables tasty:

1. Blanch green vegetables like green beans, broccoli, and zucchini in super-salty water for just a few seconds. This will leach out any bitterness and render a sweeter-tasting veg without obliterating the nutritional value.

2. Get some caramelization on your veg by leaving it alone in the pan a little longer than you think you should. That color = flavor.

3. Add some citrus zest to almost everything. A little goes a long way, but it adds a bright note that is undeniably delicious.

4. A pinch of high-quality salt and a twist of good black pepper at the end can make all of the difference in the world.

So, we're you have any tips of your own for making the most of vegetables?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chestnut + Butternut Squash Ravioli

So what do you do with your bounty of chestnuts once you have them roasted and peeled? Well, I made ravioli, of course. I know, I've been a little obsessed with ravioli lately, but it is really nearly the perfect food. It's delicious and versatile, and it's sure to impress. This fall-inspired filling makes perfect use of earthy flavors. The chestnuts add a nice creaminess while the roasted butternut squash lends a bit of sweetness to the dish.

6 chestnuts (chopped)
1 small head of garlic (roasted)
1 1/2 cups butternut squash (roasted)
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
orange zest
salt & pepper

Everything goes into the food processor until well incorporated. Follow THESE instructions to make the pasta dough and to assemble these little beauties. The sauce was made from 1 diced shallot, olive oil, 1 1/2 cups white wine, a knob of butter, sage, orange zest, and sliced chestnuts. I garnished the dish with fried sage leaves and a little bit of parmesan.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

How I Score a Chestnut

Before you roast fresh chestnuts, you need to score each shell with an "X". I used to do this with a knife until I tried it with my kitchen shears one day. It's a million times easier and faster this way, and it's a little less likely that you will slip and hurt yourself; still, be careful!

Once you have scored all of your chestnuts, stick them in a 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until they pop open, allow them to cool, and then pull open the shells. Store the chestnut meat in the fridge if you're going to use it in a few days. Or you can just keep 'em in the freezer for up to a month.

BTW, I bought these particular chestnuts at the Memphis Botanic Garden's Wednesday afternoon farmers market. They are from the garden's very own trees. Be on the lookout for chestnuts from the very same haul to be on menus around town this month! Today, I'm thinking of making some sort of chestnut cream...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Customizable Fruit Crisp in 10 Brief Steps

Fruit crisp is a must around here in the fall, so I use this process all the time to make a quick, healthy-ish dessert with whatever's at the market. I've memorized it because it is super-simple. Tonight's crisp was plum-and-orange crisp with crystallized ginger and honey-cinnamon yogurt cream. Customize your own fall crisp as you wish. Here's the process:

Part One: The Fruit
1. Chop your fruit, whatever kind you have or like, into pieces that are on the small side.
2. Add the juice of half a citrus fruit and sift in a tablespoon of cornstarch.
3. Butter your pan and pour the fruit mixture into it. Set it aside.

Part Two: The Crisp
4. Cut up a few pats of butter into squares and put this in the fridge or freezer.
5. In a separate bowl, mix equal parts cane sugar or light brown sugar, oats, and flour.
6. Add a pinch of salt and the tiny, cold squares of butter.
7. Add the spices you like, any combo of crystallized or powdered ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, or even something like allspice or five-spice powder. Mix it up.
8. Top the fruit evenly with the crisp and drizzle olive oil on top.
9. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

Part Three: The Cream
10. No one really wants crisp without something on top to cut the sweetness. I like Greek yogurt whisked with honey or maple syrup with an add-in or a little spice.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Looking for something to do this weekend?

On Friday night, make your way over to Broad Ave. for the Art Walk, where my friend Mel Spillman will be showing some of her beautiful paintings from 5-8pm at Material (2553 Broad). Next, head over to Shell Out for the Arts which runs from 6:30-9:30pm. There will be good vegetarian food provided by the Young Avenue Deli and a concert by Alvin Youngblood-Heart. On Saturday, come see me and Ben Vaughn cook like crazy at the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest. I advise resting on Sunday.

We have a winner!

Thanks, everyone, for playing. I got some great responses, and I also learned a thing or two. (Now I've got to order some asafoetida.)

To be completely fair, I used a random integer generator to come up with the number of the winning comment.

So...congratulations, CyberTygr! You won a pair of V.I.P. tickets to the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest and lunch on me. Please see my profile and email me your real name and a password of your choosing, and I will leave your tickets for you at the front counter of Au Fond Farmtable. You may pick them up on Friday or Saturday.

And I hope to see the rest of you at the fest!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cooper-Young Beerfest Ticket Giveaway

Chef Ben Vaughn of Restaurant Grace and Au Fond Farmtable and I have collaborated to create a menu for the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest, which is happening on Saturday, Oct. 9, from 1-5 p.m. in Memphis.

Our menu riffs on the classics: dogs and pizza. While Chef Vaughn has some delicious plans for those who eat meat (and cinnamon rolls!), I will make sure the vegetarians don't go hungry. I'll be making a vegetarian version of a meatball sub and puttanesca pizza on focaccia bread. It's sure to be a carb-y good time.

I have two V.I.P. Beerfest tickets ($60 value) to give away this week to a lucky TCV blog reader. At the festival, I will also provide 2 of our food items free to this ticket winner. Here's the deal: tell me about your favorite vegetarian dish to pair with beer. Post your response in the comments section of this post by Wednesday, 10/6 at midnight. I will select the winning entry at random and post the winner's name on the blog on Thursday. You may enter more than once.

Even if you don't win, be sure to stop by on Saturday, grab some good food, and say hello!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dutch Process Hot Cocoa

It's cold, and you need some hot chocolate, stat, for these forty-something-degree nights. (How in the world did this happen all of a sudden?!) It's also pretty nice to have some gelatin-free marshmallows after twenty-plus years without them.

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm this:
1 1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup half-and-half

Whisk in this:
1 tbsp. Dutch process cocoa
2 tbsp. cane sugar

Pour into two mugs and top with:

(And fall has arrived!)