Friday, December 30, 2011

Our Favorite Recipes of 2011

2011 was a really fun year here at The Chubby Vegetarian blog. We created some great recipes, got to appear on the Food Network, and (with a lot of help from Kelly and his staff) pulled off an all-vegetarian brunch for 100 people at Restaurant Iris. All of this and we also signed a contract with Thomas Nelson to publish our first cookbook, which will hit the shelves in March of 2013. 

We feel very fortunate for all of this, and it's all because of the support of friends like you. So, we'd just like to end this year by saying thank you to everyone who reads the blog, supports what we do, and especially to those of you who inspire us to be creative. We love y'all, and we look forward to a great new year.

Below is a list of some of our favorite recipes from 2011. Enjoy! Here's to a happy, healthy 2012 as well. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lime Zest Cookies with White Chocolate + Cashews

Sometimes a cookie idea hits me, and I'll act on it even if I'm not really in the mood for cookies at the moment. Even when I am, I usually bake 10 or so cookies on one sheet and wrap up the rest in waxed paper and string, label the roll with the basics, and stick it in the freezer for another time. It's good to have a few different options around whenever a craving hits.

Recently, a family member was telling me about a big bucket of cookie dough that she bought from some sort of door-to-door saleskid this season. It's been a handy resource for her when she wants to make a few cookies at a time; of course, now I'm thinking she just might need a few mini rolls of our cookies this Christmas.

This particular lime zest cookie recipe was one that I had been thinking about for a while as a way to make a margarita-inspired sweet. Adding either cardamom or coriander was considered for these, but neither seemed quite right for what I had in mind; I just threw in the white chocolate chunks I had on hand and also some cashews because they needed some frills.

Lime Zest Cookies with White Chocolate + Cashews

2/3 cup olive oil margarine
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup cane sugar
zest of 4 limes
juice of one lime
1 egg (beaten)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground vanilla bean powder
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup white chocolate chunks
1/2 cup cashews (chopped)

Cream the margarine and sugars. Add lime zest, juice, egg, and vanilla. Whisk the next 5 dry ingredients from flour to vanilla powder. Combine. Add cream by the tablespoon and stir until dough comes together. Add white chocolate and cashews and mix. Chill in fridge for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Scoop out cookies dough with a spoon or a small ice cream scooper and place one-inch-sized scoops on a Silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes (a little longer for a crunchier cookie).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Vegetarian Meatloaf + Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Click HERE to order our new cookbook, The Chubby Vegetarian: 100 Inspired Vegetable Recipes for the Modern Table (Susan Schadt Press, November 2016)

One of my favorite restaurants in Memphis, Fuel Café, serves a vegetarian meatloaf that is so good that I have to get it every time I go. I just love a fresh update to old-fashioned comfort food like that. So, I decided to take a stab at making my own version of this 1980's-time-capsule treat.

As some of you could've guessed, my meatloaf features mushrooms. I just can't get enough of their meaty texture and savory flavor. But I didn't stop there -- I also added tempeh and walnuts for their flavor and hearty texture. This loaf is tender and delicious, especially served over my garlic mashed potatoes and topped with a parsley and tomato salad.

This can easily feed a crowd, so it might be something good to make for Christmas dinner. In the unlikely event of leftovers, there's nothing better than a few slices of vegetarian meatloaf dressed with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese between two slices of sourdough bread.

(Okay, I know the following looks like a long list of ingredients, but it actually comes together very quickly if you use a food processor to do all the chopping.)

Vegetarian Meatloaf
(serves 6)

2 tablespoons butter
2 cups finely chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery (about 2 ribs)
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot (about 2 medium carrots)

2 vegetarian bouillon cubes
8 ounces mushroom (finely chopped)
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 block tempeh (crumbled)
1 cup smoked sun-dried tomatoes (finely chopped)
1 cup walnuts (finely chopped)
1/4 cup ketchup

1 teaspoon mustard (English, like Colman's)
1 cup bread crumbs
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup half and half

Ketchup Glaze*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrot to the pan and stir. Cook until onion is translucent and beginning to brown (about 10 minutes). Add the bouillon cubes and stir into the vegetable mixture until incorporated. 

Place mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add the mushroom, bell pepper, tempeh, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, ketchup, mustard, bread crumbs, eggs, garlic powder, red pepper, thyme, paprika, and half and half. Work the mixture together with your hands until everything is well incorporated. Allow mixture to rest in the fridge for 10 minutes. 

On a silpat-lined, rimmed baking sheet, place the mixture in the center. Using your hands, form a loaf that is about 12 inches long, 6 inches wide, and about 2 1/2 inches tall. The loaf should be smooth and have rounded edges. This will help the loaf stay together when serving. Place loaf in the oven for 25 minutes. Brush with the ketchup glaze and return loaf to the oven for another 10 minutes, brush another coat of glaze on top, and bake for a final 10 minutes.

Ketchup Glaze*

1/2 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon soy sauce
6 dashes Tabasco
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon sorghum

Mix ketchup, soy, tabasco, black pepper, and sorghum until well incorporated.

Parsley and Tomato Salad

1 1/2 cups diced tomato
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup diced shallot
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon champagne vinegar

Toss tomato, parsley, shallot, salt, pepper, sugar, and vinegar together in a small bowl.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

5 cups peeled, diced potatoes
2 cups diced cauliflower
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup half & half
8 cloves garlic (chopped)

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup sour cream

Place potatoes, cauliflower, butter, half and half, garlic, salt, and pepper in a covered, microwave-safe dish. Microwave on high for 12 minutes. Mash with a potato masher and then add the sour cream. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Triple Tomato Soup + Toasted White Cheddar Crouton

Why let French onion soup have all the fun? So many soups are good served with that same crunchy, gooey crouton up on top. Here, boring old tomato soup gets a serious upgrade. The deep flavor of this soup comes from three tomato sources: the smokiness of roasted Roma tomatoes, the complexity of sun-dried tomatoes, and the sweetness of tomato paste. 

One of my favorite meals as a kid was grilled cheese and tomato soup. I'd dunk the grilled cheese into the soup, but I'd save the last bit of the sandwich to mop up the bowl. This is like a grown-up grilled cheese and tomato soup with the 'dunk' built right in. This is one dish we'll be making again soon. It was that surprising and good!

Triple Tomato Soup + Toasted White Cheddar Crouton
(Serves two as a meal or four as a starter)

5 large Roma tomatoes (peeled)
1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon butter (divided)
1 sweet onion (thinly sliced, about 2 cups)
2 tablespoon brandy
1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (sliced into 1/4-inch strips)
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup water
3 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (4 sprigs)
4 slices whole-grain bread
1 cup shredded white cheddar

Turn broiler on high. Slice peeled tomatoes lengthwise and place face-down on a rimmed baking sheet. Brush each tomato with the olive oil and place under the broiler until the tomatoes start to blacken. (This should take eight to ten minutes; keep your eye on them.) Once they are done, set the baking sheet aside and allow the tomatoes to cool.

In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat one tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat. Once butter has melted, add the sliced onion. Allow the onion to sweat down and start to brown. This should take about 15 minutes. Add the brandy and the Worcestershire sauce to the pot and raise the heat to medium. Allow most of the liquid to evaporate, and then add the sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, water, broth, and the roasted Roma tomatoes. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce to low. Allow soup to simmer for at least twenty minutes. Add fresh thyme just before serving.

To serve, slather toasted bread with melted butter. Turn your oven broiler on medium. Divide soup between two bowls, float slices of bread on top of the soup, and cover toast with the white cheddar. Place bowls under the broiler for two to three minutes or until cheese is bubbling. Serve immediately.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Classic Christmas Cookies

In our family, it just isn't Christmastime until we make and decorate cookies. The recipe we've used for years from this 1960's cookbook is called Many Way Butter Cookies. Follow the recipe above and sub in soy margarine if you wish. Next, you just chill the dough in the fridge for an hour. Roll it out onto a floured surface to about 1/4-inch thicknes, and then deploy your cookie cutters. We liked bells, birds, and trees this time around.

The (memorized) glossy icing recipe is 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar (sifted), 1/2 cup organic shortening, a splash of vanilla, and a few teaspoons or so of half-and-half to get it to come together. We divide that into 5 bowls and add a scant drop of coloring to 4 of them and leave one white. Anyone who has tried one of these cookies calls the next day for the recipe, so we wanted to share it with you.

We try to use really good ingredients so that brick-stomach, I-shouldn't-have-eaten-that feeling one gets after consuming some familiar holiday treats doesn't happen; this year, we went a step further and attempted to use healthy sprinkles, which looked like a pack of sad, colorless seeds once we removed them from the package. Sometimes, there's no replacing the classics.

This cookie-making-and-decorating tradition has been going on so long now, and I love it. It made for a great afternoon today, actually. Time spent cooking, joking, bickering, eating, and just plain hanging out with the family during the holidays is always the best. We hope you get to enjoy a bunch of it, too, this week as we head toward the big day.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Vegetarian Roasted Red Pepper + Olive Muffuletta

I've visited New Orleans more than any other city. I really love that place! Every time I go, I have to grab a muffuletta (or three). Many people argue over who makes the best one --Central Grocery? Frank's? -- but really, they are all delicious. What's not to love: light bread, meaty olive dressing, spicy creole mustard, and melty cheese...

You can find spicy olives on the olive bar at almost any specialty store. It's best to get a mix of olives, which will add to the complexity of the dish. Be sure to grab plenty from the spicy bin to give your olive dressing some kick. The bread may be tough to find outside of the South. If muffuletta bread is not available from your local deli, use a light focaccia bread instead. The effect will be somewhat the same.

I like to use fresh cauliflower and carrots in place of pickled ones. This cuts down on the salt in the dish and makes it more enjoyable, in my opinion. This is a great dish to make for a party.

Vegetarian Roasted Red Pepper + Olive Muffuletta
(serves 8)

3 cups spicy, pitted olives (green, black, kalamta)
2 stalks celery (about 1 cup, sliced)

2 cups cauliflower
1 large carrot (about 1 cup, sliced)
2 teaspoons good Italian seasoning mix
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
1 cup olive oil
1 cup white vinegar

2 10-inch muffeletta breads
2 tablespoon mayo
4 tablespoons creole mustard
4 roasted red peppers
14 ounces sliced cheese (provolone, Swiss)

Sliced tomatoes and chopped romaine lettuce (optional)
12 peperoncini peppers 

Using the slicer blade on your food processor, slice the olives, celery, cauliflower, and carrots. Place sliced vegetables into a 2-quart container; add the Italian seasoning mix, crushed garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. Allow mixture to marinate and the flavors to meld for a day or so. Seriously, the longer you leave it, the better it will be.

Next, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice muffuletta breads in half. On the bottom half of each, spread half of the olive dressing. On the top slices, spread one tablespoon of mayo and two tablespoons of  creole mustard and then add half the cheese on each in an even layer.

Place dressed bread open faced on a baking sheet in the oven for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove and add roasted red peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes to each sandwich. Place the top on each sandwich. Slice into quarters. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tofu Almondine in a White Wine-Butter Sauce

I recently spearheaded a very informal survey in which I asked my readers if they liked tofu or not. Overwhelmingly, the answer was that it really depended on how it is prepared. I can assure you that this recipe would pass the test. I mean, the tofu is accompanied by sweet, toasted almonds and a buttery white wine sauce. What could be better than this vegetarian take on a New Orleans classic?

The sauce is the key to the deliciousness of this dish. I try to be calorically frugal, so I used it sparingly. However, the pan with the sauce in it found its way to the dinner table where it was further drizzled with abandon.

Vegans, try this recipe with Earth Balance and coconut milk. I'd love to hear how it turns out.

Tofu Almondine
(serves two)

1/2 cup almonds (toasted in a dry pan until lightly browned)

1 block extra firm tofu
1/4 teaspoon each: sea salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika
1/4 cup flour
1/8 cup canola oil 
1 tablespoon butter
White Wine-Butter Sauce (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (to garnish)

Cut the tofu into six 'filets' that are thicker on one side than the other, i.e., they come to a point in a way. Season both sides of the tofu with sea salt, black paper, red pepper flakes, and paprika. 

Place 1/4 cup of flour on a large dinner plate. Dredge each filet on both sides and shake off any excess flour. Heat a 12-inch skillet to medium heat and add the canola and butter. Once the butter has melted, gently lay seasoned, dreaded tofu filet into the pan; this is best done in batches of three. Cook tofu for 4-5 minutes on the first side of until golden brown. Flip each piece and repeat the same cooking process for the other side. Removed cooked tofu filet to a cookie sheet and keep warm in a 300 degree oven until ready to serve.

To serve, place one tofu filet on a bed of wilted greens or potato hash, drizzle a teaspoon of sauce over it, and then add a few toasted almonds. Repeat by stacking the filets three high. To finish, drizzle the sauce around the plate and garnish with a little chopped parsley.

White Wine-Butter Sauce:

2 tablespoons butter (divided)
1/2 cup shallot (diced)
1 lemon
2 tablespoons Worcestershire (vegetarian)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 dried bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup of half and half

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt one tablespoon of butter and sauté the shallot in butter until shallot appears translucent -- this should take about two minutes. Cut lemon in half and add the juice from the lemon and also the rind to the pan. (Don't worry about seeds; you will strain this sauce later.) Add the worcestershire sauce, sugar, bay leaves, pepper and wine to the pan. Allow mixture to reduce by half or until it begins to look syrupy. 

Add the half and half to the mixture, and then strain the whole thing through a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse the pan of any debris and then return the strained sauce to the pan. Keep warm until ready to serve. Just before serving, whisk in the remaining tablespoon of butter. This process is known as mounting a sauce with butter, and it results in a very rich and flavorful sauce.

Monday, December 5, 2011

White Gold

Using the best ingredients in what I've decided to call White Gold this holiday season is ridiculously and senselessly fancy, and that's what makes this holiday snack mix taste better than any other version I've sampled before now. I figure the classics are classics for a reason, but elevate them, and they're even more impressive. This isn't something to make in big batches and give away with abandon, so make a small batch and share it with a few deserving people who will understand the wink to tradition.

White Gold

3 cups organic multigrain square cereal

2/3 cup organic pretzels (broken)

1/2 cup roasted and salted peanuts

1/3 cup olive oil soy margarine

1/3 cup Valrhona dark chocolate block

3/4 cup organic powdered sugar

Mix cereal, pretzels, and peanuts into a big bowl. Melt peanut butter, soy margarine, and chocolate in the microwave at 30 seconds at a time stirring in-between so that the chocolate doesn't scorch. Pour it over the dry mix and stir until it's all coated completely. Sift powdered sugar into a large container and then pour in the chocolate-peanut butter mix. Shake until it's all coated white. Lay out your precious White Gold in a thin layer on two plates to cool and set. Serve it in small cups at a party or hide it away in a jar.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Potato Blinis + Beluga Lentils & Créme Fraiche

Like the Oyster Mushroom Rockefeller, I thought it would be fun to continue the play on words. Here beluga lentils stand in for beluga caviar in this classic Russian dish. My blini are tender and light, so they make a great canvas for the other flavors. 

The beluga lentils are flavored with kombu, which is dried seaweed. It seems like a strange ingredient, but it's available at Whole Foods. It tastes like the sea. That along with the sea salt is fairly convincing. 

This is a great dish for your holiday party -- or just serve it along with a salad for a light meal.

Potato Blinis + Beluga Lentils & Créme Fraiche:

 2 dozen Potato Blini (recipe follows)
1/2 cup créme fraiche
Beluga lentils (recipe follows)
fresh dill for garnish
black pepper

To assemble the dish, top each blini with about a teaspoon of créme fraiche followed by the same amount of beluga lentils. Garnish each with fresh dill and black pepper.

Potato Blini:
(makes two dozen blini)
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped potato (about 1 medium one)
1 teaspoon water
1 tablespoon butter
1/2  cup all-purpose flour
1 pkg rapid-rise yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
canola oil

Cover the mixture and set aside for thirty minutes to allow it to rise. Adjust the thickness as needed using up to 1/4 cup of water. You want it to be as thick as, well, pancake batter.
Place potato, water, and butter in a covered, microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for six minutes. In the meantime, mix flour, yeast, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Also in a small mixing bowl, mix the egg and buttermilk. Run the potato through a ricer and into the large mixing bowl with the flour. Now, using a whisk, mix the wet ingredients with the dry. 

In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add batter a tablespoon at a time to form small pancakes. (You will fit about five pancakes in the pan at a time.) Allow blini to cook for 2 minutes per side. Cook in batches, adding a tablespoon of oil to the pan if it looks dry.

Beluga lentils:

2 cups water
2 pieces kombu (dried seaweed)
1/2 cup black beluga lentils
tablespoon of sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

Add water, kombu, lentils, and salt to a saucepan. Bring it up to a boil, and then allow it to simmer, covered, for 20-25 minutes or until tender. Allow the lentils to cool in the liquid. Remove kombu and discard. Drain lentils and then add the olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oyster Mushroom Rockefeller

This genius little dish was dreamed up by my good friend Michael Hughes. He did a version of it when he was the chef of a supper club dinner that I was lucky enough to attend. 

I love the play on words: oyster mushrooms stand in for oysters in this Rockefeller. Come on, it's awesome! Besides that, it tastes really great, and they are fun to eat. This dish would make the perfect appetizer for your holiday party. The rich spinach bumps up against the meaty mushroom. The whole thing is topped with crunchy parmesan and breadcrumb topping.

Oyster mushrooms can be found at Whole Foods and Fresh Market. However, to get the biggest and best (not to mention least expensive) mushrooms, it's best to seek out your local Asian foods market.

Oyster Mushroom Rockefeller
(makes a dozen)

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil (more for drizzling)
12 large oyster mushroom caps (woody stems trimmed off)

salt and pepper
1/4 cup shallot
1 tablespoon garlic
splash of Pernod
1 tablespoon vermouth
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup whole milk (or cream)

5 ounces fresh spinach (blanched, squeezed dry, chopped)
1/2 cup parmesan
1 tablespoon bread crumbs
lemon slices

chopped parsley

In a 12-inch frying pan over medium heat, melt a tablespoon of the butter and add the olive oil. Once the oil has come up to temperature, sear the mushroom caps until lightly browned on both sides. This should take about 2 minutes per side. Remove mushrooms from the pan and set aside on a separate plate. Season them with salt and pepper to taste.

Into the same pan with the remaining oil and butter, add the shallot and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until the shallot has softened. Be sure to keep the mixture moving so the garlic does not burn. Add the Pernod and vermouth to the pan. Once the alcohol has evaporated, remove the shallot and garlic mixture, and set aside in a separate bowl.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the pan. Add the flour and whisk until fragrant. This should take about two minutes. Whisk in the milk making sure there are no lumps. Once the mixture starts to thicken, add the spinach and the garlic and shallot mixture. Check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now mix the parmesan and breadcrumbs together in a separate bowl. Turn your oven on medium broil. You are now ready to assemble the dish. Gather 12 ceramic soup spoons. Into each place 1 tablespoon of the spinach mixture, one large oyster mushroom cap, a tablespoon of the parmesan mixture, and a drizzle of olive oil. Broil for four minutes or until browned. Keep warm in a low oven until ready to serve. Serve with lemon slices and chopped parsley.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Vegetarian Syrian Pizza

My buddy Aaron's family has some really great and surprising recipes. Given that their roots chiefly are Italian, it's interesting to see dishes like quasi-Eastern European cabbage and dumplings and Syrian pizza recipes being handed down through the generations. 

I've been lucky enough to be in the kitchen with Aaron's mom on several occasions, and she has taught me how to make a few Brame family favorites. Syrian pizza is not one of the dishes that she showed me how to make, but Aaron talks about it often enough that I thought I had a pretty good sense of how it's put together. I took several liberties with my version, but I really think it turned out great. I even got a thumbs-up from Aaron, who stopped by to try it.

Vegetarian Syrian Pizza
(makes 4 small pizzas)

1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shallot (diced)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
zest from one lemon (about a teaspoon)
1 1/2 cups mushroom meat (or your favorite crumbled meat substitute)

olive oil
4 pitas
1 small container 2% Greek yogurt

Place chopped tomatoes in a colander and toss in the salt to coat them. Allow the salt to draw moisture out of the tomatoes; this should take about 10 minutes. Toss in the shallot, parsley, and lemon zest. Gently squeeze the vegetable mixture to release any lingering moisture. In a large bowl, mix vegetables with the prepared mushroom meat to make the topping. 

Now preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Brush both sides of pitas with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Smear each pita with about a tablespoon of Greek yogurt and top with about a 1/2 cup of the topping. Drizzle each with a teaspoon more olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes or until pita is crispy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mushroom Meat

Click HERE for an updated version of the Mushroom Meat that we cook on P. Allen Smith's Garden to Table.  

Click HERE for the final version that appears in our book, The Southern Vegetarian: 100 Down-Home Recipes for the Modern Table

I used to rely on heavy-handed meat substitutes to give my meals that old, familiar texture and flavor that we all grew up on as the center of our 1980's meat-and-three dinners. As I shy away from more and more processed foods, I began looking for a way to get that same familiar result from my own kitchen. The solution for me was to take two things I already love, mushrooms and eggplant, and turn them into a multi-purpose "meat." It's so simple and requires little hands-on time. Make this in large batches, freeze what you don't use, and defrost it to add to tacos or burritos, fill ravioli, or cobble together a homemade veggie burger.

Mushroom Meat
Yields about 4 cups

1/4 cup black olives
5 cloves garlic
6 drops liquid smoke
1/4 cup olive oil
16 oz mushrooms (any kind)
4 cups eggplant (peeled, diced)
1 cup onion (diced)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In your food processor, make a paste out of the olives, garlic, liquid smoke, and olive oil. Set mixture aside in a bowl. 

Add mushrooms, stems and all, to your food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Dump processed mushrooms onto a large, rimmed sheet pan. Pulse the eggplant in the food processor in the same manner and dump it onto the sheet pan with the mushrooms. Repeat this process with the onion. 

Drizzle the mound of mushrooms, eggplant and onion with the olive and garlic paste, and using your hands, toss it all together. Spread the mixture evenly over the sheet pan. Sprinkle the mixture with salt and pepper. Pop it into the oven for a total of 30 minutes; turn the mixture over a few times with a spatula. The mixture will release a lot of juice, and then it will start to dry out. Once most of the liquid had evaporated or been absorbed, the mixture is ready. Allow it to cool in the pan. 

For an Italian variation, add fresh herbs from the garden. To make a Mexican version, I add a few poblano peppers to the mix along with a palmful of ancho chili powder. The possibilities are endless. Sub this for any recipe that calls for ground beef.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

We have a few ideas for what to have at your vegetarian Thanksgiving meal! Here are some of our favorite dishes from the past few years:

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Vegetarian Dumplings

*Also, we're wondering...what are you making today or tomorrow for the Thanksgiving holiday? 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vegetarian "Chicken" Pot Pie

The old version of this, Unreal Chicken Pot Pie, is one of the most popular posts here at the TCV blog. This new, even more tasty version is what we'll be making for the vegetarian main dish this year at Thanksgiving. Feel free to substitute diced-up Tofurkey if you please! Either way, it will be a hit.

Vegetarian "Chicken" Pot Pie
Serves 4

For the crust:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup organic non-hydrogenated shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
cold water

Add the flour, shortening, and salt to the bowl of a food processor and turn it on. Slowly add the cold water a teaspoon at at time until a ball forms. Stop the motor and pull the dough ball out. Place it in a covered bowl in the fridge for at least 20 minutes to rest.

For the filling:

1 pound seitan (diced)
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons canola

1 cup carrots (about three, diced)
1 cup green pepper (diced)
1 1/2 cup potato (peeled, diced)
1 1/2 cups green peas
1/2 cup parsley (minced)
1/2 cup shallot (diced)
1/2 cup celery (two ribs, diced)

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup stock

sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Toss diced seitan and flour together in a bowl. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the canola oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the seitan that has been coated in the  flour mixture. Allow it to cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Stir the pot and allow mixture to cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove the crispy seitan from the pot and set it aside on a paper towel to drain. Immediately add the carrots, pepper, potato, peas, parsley, shallot, celery, salt, thyme, garlic powder, and vinegar to the pot and stir.

After the vegetables have been cooking for 3-4 minutes, push the vegetables up against the wall of the pot in order to form a well in the center. Add the flour and butter to the well and whisk until they form a paste. Cook the paste, also known as a roux, another two minutes until fragrant and lightly browned. Add the milk, stock, and the reserved seitan to the pot. Stir, bring to a quick boil by raising the temperature, then remove from heat.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the rested dough ball in half. Roll one half out to about 

11 1/2  inches or enough to cover the bottom of a 10-inch pie pan. Place the crust in the oven for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Pour in the prepared filling. Roll the second half of the dough out to 11 inches for the lid. Place the lid on the pie. Cut off the excess and crimp the edges with your finger to seal them to the lower crust. Using kitchen shears, cut eight vents in the top of the pie. Place pie on a baking sheet in case it over flows in the oven. Cook pie 20 minutes. Brush the top with an egg wash, a sprinkle of sea salt, and bake another 10 minutes until the top crust is golden brown.

*Stay tuned for more vegetarian Thanksgiving ideas here tomorrow as we begin the countdown to the big day. We've been nominated to host the in-town family, and it is sure to be a great day. Looking forward to some fun cooking time ahead of us; we'll be sure to share the details of it with you as we go

So give us some ideas -- what do you cook for the holiday?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Simple and Easy Porcini Mushroom Veggie Burgers

I've experimented with lots of recipes for homemade veggie burgers, and I must say that this is one great veggie burger. It may even be 'the one'! The tempeh and portobellos add just the right amount of texture while the mustard and worcestershire sauce bring depth. It is rich and meaty thanks to the addition of a mere tablespoon of dried porcini mushrooms. If you've never tasted porcini, you are sadly missing out. There is really nothing else like it in the plant world. Chefs will often use dried porcini to give already meaty stews and sauces a meatier flavor if that tells you anything about this powerful, pungent mycelia.

You can find dried porcini mushrooms at Whole Foods. They are about nine dollars for a one-ounce bag, which sounds really expensive, but it's not. That bag will last you quite a while. I use them all the time, and that tiny bag lasts about five months. They are great in stocks, soups, stews, and veggie burgers.

Porcini Mushroom Veggie Burger

(Makes 4 veggie burger patties)

1  8-oz. package of tempeh (crumbled)
1 1/2 cups portobello mushrooms (diced)
1 tablespoon dried porcini (minced)
1 cup smoked provolone cheese (shredded)
1/2 cup shallot (minced)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon vegetarian worcestershire sauce
cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon Creole mustard

1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup of oil for frying

Mix all ingredients, save for the oil, in a large bowl and work it all through with your hands until all ingredients are throughly mixed. In a 10-inch frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Portion patties using a 1/2 cup measuring cup. Pan-fry in the oil for about 2-3 minutes per side or until lightly browned and the egg has set. Remove patties from the pan and set aside until you are ready to serve them. 

Once you have all of your toppings ready, preheat your outdoor grill to 500 degrees. Cook burger patties for about 3-4 minutes per side or until well-marked by the grill grates and heated through. Serve on a soft sesame bun with romaine lettuce, sliced tomato, pickles, thinly sliced shallot, mustard, and mayonnaise.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grilled Beer Bread Pimento Cheese Sandwiches + Arugula & Tomato

In the South, you never hear anyone say, "That pimento cheese was just okay." The truth is, any combination of cheese and mayo is going to be at least pretty good. Like any proper Memphian, I think my version of this omnipresent cheese spread is the best. It is bright and herby due to the addition of lemon zest, thyme, and soft goat cheese. There are a million ways to eat it, but the following recipe just may be the best.

The grilled pimento cheese sandwich has become a modern Southern classic. You will find it on almost every lunch menu in Memphis. Many times you will see this sandwich served like a grilled cheese, but in my humble opinion, the warm pimento cheese has a tendency to get too soft and squishy. In this version, I grill the buttered bread on a cast-iron grill pan before I spread on the pimento cheese to preserve the consistency of the cheese. I've also omitted the bacon you usually find on this sandwich; however the rich, smoky beer bread more than makes up for it.  This dish has it all; smoky grilled bread, creamy pimento cheese, and crisp toppings.

Grilled Beer Bread Pimento Cheese Sandwiches + Arugula & Tomato

Special equipment: cast-iron grill pan
Serves four

Whole Wheat Beer Bread (made with Tumbler Ale)
2 tablespoons melted butter
Lemon Zest + Thyme Pimento Cheese (can sub in white cheddar!)
2 medium tomatoes (sliced)
2 cups fresh arugula
salt and pepper to taste

Slice beer bread into 1/2-inch slices and brush one side of each slice with melted butter. Heat the cast-iron grill pan over medium high heat until it begins to smoke. Grill each slice for about a minute and a half or until well-marked by the grill pan, then give each slice 1/4 turn and grill another minute if you want those cross-hatched grill marks. Repeat until all slices are grilled.

Spread two spoonfuls of pimento cheese on a slice of the grilled bread, top with tomato, salt and pepper to taste, a little arugula, and then crown it with another slice of grilled beer bread.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Artichoke Hearts + Succotash over Smoked Cheddar Grits

I set out to make a vegetarian version of creole shrimp and grits that's just as good or better than the original. The artichoke hearts are a perfect stand-in for the shrimp as they are 
region-appropriate. The truth is that I could talk about this dish all day long, and I still couldn't convey to you how delicious it is. Each component is wonderful on its own: the smokiness of the cheddar grits, the spicy heat of the vegetables, the crunch of the artichoke.  It all comes together when all these flavors are woven together with a simple mustard sauce. This is perfect dish to make for company...but you may want to keep it all to yourself.

Smoked Cheddar Grits

2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups milk
1 cup yellow corn grits
4 cloves garlic (minced)
2 cups smoked cheddar (I used white goat cheddar, but any smoked cheddar will do)
1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Bring the stock and milk to a boil together in a saucepan. Add the grits slowly as you stir so there are no lumps. Add the garlic, cover, and allow the mixture to cook on low for twenty minutes stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Stir in the cheddar, salt, and pepper.


1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 ear of corn (kernels cut away)
1 green pepper (diced)
1/2 cup okra (1/4-inch sliced)
1/2 cup peas (field peas or lady peas)
1 cup shallot (small dice)
scant dash of cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, nutmeg, salt, pepper

Heat butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Toss remaining ingredients together. Once the butter and oil begin to smoke, add the vegetable mixture. Allow it to cook for a minute, then toss. Allow it to cook for an other minute then toss it again. Remove vegetables from the pan but leave any charred bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. You will use this in the following pan sauce recipe.

Spicy Mustard Pan Sauce

3/4 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon creole mustard

Add stock and mustard to the pan used to cook the succotash. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any bits that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Over medium heat, reduce sauce by half. Set aside.

Pan-Fried Artichoke Hearts

1/3 cup canola oil
3 quartered artichoke hearts (make your own or use the large ones from the olive bar)
1 egg (beaten)
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste

If making your own artichoke hearts, blanch in acidulated, salted water for 10 minutes or until just tender. In a medium frying pan over medium-high heat, heat oil until it shimmers. Toss artichoke hearts in the egg and then in the flour. Shake off any excess flour. Pan fry the artichoke hearts for two to three minutes per side or until golden brown. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, spoon a cup of grits onto a warmed plate. Top with a half-cup of succotash and 3 pieces of pan-fried artichoke. Drizzle a spoonful of Spicy Mustard Pan Sauce around the plate. Garnish with chopped parsley and fresh dill. (This recipe makes four servings.)