Sunday, September 30, 2012

Rosé Figs + Almond Cake

Get your hands on some fresh figs this week while you still can because they are the stars of this easy weeknight cake! (We just saw figs still at Whole Foods in Memphis this past Sunday for $4.99/pound for all 3 different kinds.) Seriously, this is so easy that you can make an actual cake when you get home and still have time to watch a little escapist TV, like maybe at 6:30, before dinner. This recipe was used as a basis for ours below, but we got creative since one of us is avoiding white flour and the other was too lazy to go to the store for any of the called-for ingredients.

Fig + Almond Cake

Rosé Figs

10-15 fresh figs (stems removed and halved)
1/2 cup rosé wine
1/4 cup cane sugar
pinch of sea salt

Simmer all 4 ingredients on medium heat. Stir often until mixture reduces and a syrup forms (about 20 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Almond Cake

1/3 cup applesauce (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
2/3 cup almond flour
3 eggs (whites and yolks separated)
6 tablespoons sugar + 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons butter (melted)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon butter (melted)
1/2 cup sliced almonds (for garnish; toasted in microwave for 1 1/2 minutes)
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (for garnish; like Whole Foods 365 brand)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the applesauce, almond flour, egg yolks, and 3 tablespoons of sugar together; mix well. Stir in butter, vanilla and almond extracts, and sea salt. Whip egg whites into meringue and add 3 tablespoons sugar. Gently fold whites into yolk mixture until combined and all one color. Brush a soufflé dish or casserole dish with butter and sprinkle in sugar. Turn dish to allow sugar to coat it. Pour in cake batter. Drop in figs and syrup at even-ish intervals. Bake for 45 minutes or until top is lightly browned and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let it cool for a few minutes and then sprinkle with powdered sugar and toasted almonds before serving.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sweet Potato Piccata (inspired by The Publican)

My friend Kelly, an on-again, off-again vegetarian, just returned from a trip to Chicago. He'd decided that he would eat vegetarian the whole time he was in the Windy City. This sounds like it'd be a challenge in a town know for meaty deep-dish pizza, kielbasa sausage, and Chicago dogs, but Chicago, believe it or not, is a very vegetarian-friendly city with an abundance of options. Last time I was there in 2009, I had no problem finding great food. I even had one of the best meals I've ever eaten at Shawn McClain's stellar all-vegetarian Green Zebra.

I got a text from Kelly last week that read: Sweet potato piccata, best thing I've ever brought a tear to my eye. Of course, I immediately pressed him for details. He and Michael were at The Publican, a temple of the pig that happens to have an incredibly innovative selection of vegetable dishes.  

I made the dish as described with capers, lemon, and toasted pecans. The result was incredible. I wouldn't expect a potato dish to read as a main course, but this one did. It's simple enough to make for a weeknight meal, but special enough to serve at your upcoming holiday dinner.

Sweet Potato Piccata (inspired by The Publican)

2  medium sweet potatoes (peeled)
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (for dredging)
1 egg (plus 1 tablespoon water, beaten)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola oil

1 cup white wine (like Pinot Grigio)
1/2 teaspoon cane sugar
1 large shallot (peeled, thinly sliced)
1 organic lemon (thinly sliced)
1/8 cup capers
5 sprigs fresh thyme (more for garnish)
1/2 cup pecans (roasted, salted)

Cut the sweet potato longways into 1/2-inch planks -- you should get 4 good slices per sweet potato. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. (The water should be as salty as the sea.) Boil slices of sweet potato for 3 minutes and then remove them from the water and set aside on a plate to cool.

Season both sides of the sweet potato slices with salt and pepper. Dredge each slice in the flour, then the egg, then the flour again. Set aside. 

In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the canola oil. Working in batches of 4, you next fry both sides of the sweet potato until lightly golden. (This will likely take 4 to 5 minutes per side because the heat is moderately low in order to keep the butter from burning.) Remove the sweet potato slices and drain them on paper towels. Transfer the drained slices to a baking sheet and keep them warm in a low oven.

With the fat and bits of toasted flour still in the frying pan, add the wine, sugar, shallot, lemon, capers, and thyme. Allow sauce to reduce by 1/3. Arrange sweet potato slices in a shingle-like pattern on a serving plate, drizzle the sauce over the top, and place the lemon slices around the plate. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves, salt, and pepper. (Serves 2 as a main course and 4 as a side dish.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Vegetarian Tuna Salad

This is one of those ubiquitous veggie recipes like mock chicken salad or tofu egg salad. Everyone seems to have a recipe for the most perfect version of it. Well, it's time to throw our hat into the ring. We were particularly inspired by the The Kitchn's Chickpea of the Sea recipe that was adapted from a book called The Kripalu Cookbook, which was originally published in 1995.

We changed it up by switching their ingredient list for some of our favorite ingredients like olive oil mayo and Creole mustard. We also added a chopped sheet of nori, the dried seaweed usually used to make sushi rolls, which totally, totally makes the dish. We have to give credit for that idea to some smart commenter on The Kitchn site.

Supposedly, this tastes just like tuna fish. So make up a batch and have it on some crusty bread with lettuce and avocado or over a bed of lightly dressed arugula with some grape tomatoes.

Vegetarian Tuna Salad

1 15-ounce box chickpeas, drained and rinsed (like Whole Foods 365 brand)

1/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1 tablespoon creole mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 cup chopped celery, from about one rib
1 sheet toasted nori (torn)
1 tablespoon chopped chives
Pinch cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper

Into a medium bowl, add the chickpeas, mayo, mustard, vinegar, and celery salt. Mash mixture with the back of a large fork until the chickpeas are broken up but not smooth. Into the work bowl of your food processor, add the celery and nori. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the celery mixture to the chickpea mixture along with the chives, cayenne, and black pepper. It's best to allow it to sit in the fridge for 20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Keeps for 3 days in the fridge. (
Makes 4 servings.)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Apple Rum Raisin Strudel with Phyllo Dough

When I was a kid, my mom made an excellent apple pie that was similar to this strudel. We all loved it until a particularly sassy uncle made fun of it at Thanksgiving one year. He had never seen anything made with phyllo dough before, and his relentless commentary about it all day long kind of killed our affection for the pie for a while. (As you might've already experienced yourself in this life, when someone points out something weird about something you genuinely love, it either dulls your appreciation for it or makes it flare up that much sharper in protest...)

Well, let's just say that we think this strudel is a mighty fine revenge. It's best eaten the same day you make it after it cools a bit because it stays crunchy and fresh, but we're definitely not above having a softened piece from the fridge the next day. It's so simple to put together; you can even made the apples a night or two ahead of time and then put the strudel together when you're ready.

Apple Rum Raisin Strudel with Phyllo Dough

10-12 Granny Smith apples (peeled, diced; about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons rum
juice from 1 lemon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
8 sheets phyllo dough
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
1-2 tablespoons cane sugar

Place apples, rum, lemon juice, butter, sugars, raisins, cinnamon, and sea salt on a medium saucepan on medium-low heat. Stir often. Let this cook for an hour; apples will soften and liquid will soak into them when they're ready. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, grab the defrosted phyllo dough, and get ready to roll.

On a large, rimmed, parchment-lined baking sheet, lay 2 sheets of the phyllo dough out flat and brush them generously with butter. Add two more sheets to that and brush them with butter. Continue until all sheets are buttered. Place the filling down the middle third of the dough and fold one side over the filling. Using the parchment to lift, roll the strudel over the remaining dough. Doing it this way will leave it seam-side-down, which makes for a more attractive presentation. Brush the remaining butter over the top and sprinkle with sugar. Bake strudel for 30 minutes or until golden brown. (Makes 4 to 6 servings.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Vegetarian Moussaka

I saw a big, beautiful slice of traditional moussaka at a local Mediterranean restaurant, and I knew right then and there that I just had to make a vegetarian version for us here at home. Granted, this is the first moussaka I've ever even tasted, but I think it's a total winner. 

To make it vegetarian, I used my versatile Mushroom Meat spiked with warm spices like ginger, cinnamon, and allspice in place of lamb, and I seriously cut down on the amount of béchamel sauce that tops more traditional versions. Instead, I topped it with a thin layer of tangy béchamel and a thin layer of crispy phyllo dough. It adds a nice variety of textures and flavors to this Greek dish.

Vegetarian Moussaka

2 cups mushroom meat

1 large russet potato 
2 tablespoon olive oil (divided)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fresh minced oregano
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 cups tomato sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
16-20 thick slices of eggplant*

Lemon Parmesan Béchamel Sauce (recipe follows)
8 large sheets phyllo dough
1 tablespoon olive oil
chopped parsley for garnish

Make the Mushroom Meat according to the recipe and set aside. Slice the potato into 1/4-inch slices, place into a covered dish with 1 tablespoon of water, and microwave in high for 3 minutes. Allow the dish to remain covered for another 3 minutes so that the potatoes soften.

In a medium pan over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil and the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, and garlic until fragrant (about 2 minutes). Add the Mushroom Meat, tomato sauce, and tomato paste, and stir to incorporate. Once the sauce is warm, remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350. Make the Lemon Parmesan Béchamel Sauce and set aside. 

Assemble the moussaka in a 13 x 9 casserole dish. Start by lining the bottom of the casserole with 1/3 of the tomato sauce mixture, then layer in the potatoes, one half of the eggplant slices, the remaining tomato sauce mixture, a second layer of eggplant, and finally the Lemon Parmesan Béchamel Sauce. Bake uncovered for 1 hour.

While the moussaka is in the oven, prepare the phyllo topping. Cut the phyllo to fit the top of your casserole, drizzle every other layer with some of the remaining olive oil, stack the sheets, and set aside. After an hour, remove the moussaka, place the phyllo sheets on top, and return it to the oven for another 20 minutes.

Allow your Vegetarian Moussaka to cool for 30 minutes before slicing. (Serves 6 to 8.) 

Lemon Parmesan Béchamel Sauce

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
zest of 1 organic lemon
2 large eggs (beaten)

In a medium pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk mixture together until nutty and fragrant. Add the milk and turn up the heat in order to bring the mixture to a boil. Stir consistently. Once the mixture boils, add the garlic, cheese, nutmeg, and zest. Temper the eggs before mixing them into the sauce. Set aside.

*To ensure my eggplant isn't sour like it can sometimes be, I briefly (15 seconds) blanch the eggplant slices in super-salty water and then set them out on a kitchen towel to dry. This is quicker and more effective than other methods.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Vegetarian Meatball Sub

Once you've made a big batch of our Vegetarian Meatballs, you need to know what exactly to do with them. They freeze well, so you can have them on hand whenever you need them. If you want to use them right away, you could cook up a big pot of noodles, toss the noodles with some tomato sauce, and then top the whole thing off with a few meatballs and shredded parmesan cheese. Or you could (as shown) slice open a nice piece of crusty bread, pack it with fresh mozzarella, stuff it with meatballs, and top the whole thing off with tomato sauce and chopped parsley. (That's what I'd do If I were you!)

Vegetarian Meatball Sub

1 16-inch take-n-bake baguette
1 pound fresh buffalo mozzarella (sliced)
12 to 14 Vegetarian Meatballs
1/2 cup good-quality tomato sauce
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice the bread lengthwise leaving one edge
intact; this will help keep all the meatballs from sliding out when you bite into the sandwich. Pack the mozzarella and meatballs into the bread. Place sandwich cut-side-up on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for 15 minutes or until the bread is crispy, the cheese is melty, and the meatballs are heated through. Top the sandwich with a little warm tomato sauce and the chopped parsley. Slice into 4 sections and serve. (Serves 2 hungry people.)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Kimchi and Peanut Dumplings

We served a version of this dish for about 300 folks at the Farmer Mixer at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art back in March. It seemed to be a favorite of many of our guests. The great thing about it is that it's really simple with basically only 3 ingredients. I made kimchi from our recipe, but good-quality store-bought ingredients are fine here, especially if you're in a rush to make a great appetizer for a dinner party or just want to make yourself one super-stellar snack.

Kimchi and Peanut Dumplings

1 12-ounce package wonton wrappers
2 cups kimchi (drained, finely chopped)
1/2 cup chopped peanuts (roasted, salted)
2 tablespoons canola oil
chives, sesame oil (to garnish)
vegetarian fish sauce or soy sauce (for dipping)

With a small bowl of water at the ready, place one wonton in the palm of your hand. Place about 1 tablespoon of kimchi in the center, and sprinkle a few chopped peanuts on top of the kimchi. Dip your finger in the bowl of water and run it along two edges of the wonton, fold it in half so it looks like a triangle, and pinch the edges so the dumpling stays closed. Place seam-side-up on a piece of floured parchment. Repeat until all kimchi has been used. (Know that it's fine for this part to be done ahead.)

In a medium frying pan (one that has a lid) over medium-high heat, heat a tablespoon of oil until it shimmers. Place 8 to 10 wontons in the oil. Once the bottom of the dumplings start to brown, pour in about 1/4 cup of water and fit the lid onto the pan. Remove from heat. Allow the lid to stay on for 2 minuets in order to steam the dumplings. Serve immediately garnished with chives and sesame oil. (Makes about 2 dozen dumplings.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Perfect Cold-Oil French Fries at Home

I had heard of this method of starting your french fries in cold oil before but had never tried it myself until this weekend. Apparently, this is how French chefs like Jöel Robuchon, to whom this method is widely credited, make fries at home for their families. Knowing this, I thought to myself, "It has to be good!" I can tell you from experience that it is. The kicker is that it is so easy...dangerously easy.

The theory behind this method is that the potatoes poach as the oil heats up cooking the potato all the way through and then crisping them when the oil comes up to 325 to 350 degrees. When they grab the desired amount of browning, all you do is retrieve them from the oil.

The only tricky part is keeping the potatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pot without breaking them. There is little chance that you'll burn them -- and no chance that they'll be frozen in the middle. What you end up with is a light, airy, crispy French fry that is creamy in the center. It's so good!

We used these to make our version of the Canadian dish poutine, but they are equally good as a side dish or topped with kimchi and cheddar.

Perfect Cold-Oil French Fries at Home

2 medium russet potatoes
1 quart canola oil (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
sea salt, cane sugar, and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch sticks and place into a large soup pot. Add enough oil to just cover. Turn the heat on medium high. After about 15 minutes, the oil with begin to lightly boil. Use a metal spatula and an abundance of caution to dislodge any potatoes that may be stuck to the bottom. In another 15 minutes or so, the fries will be light brown and crispy. Remove them from the oil and drain on a paper towel. Immediately add a pinch of sea salt, a pinch of sugar, and a pinch of cracked black pepper. (Makes 4 servings.)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Labor Day Grilling Ideas

Happy Labor Day weekend from all (2) of us at TCV! As we get ready to grill out tomorrow, we're thinking of a few past recipes that would be nice to revisit. What are you planning to make for the holiday?

Smoked Stuffed Dates

Simple & Easy Porcini Mushroom Burger

Puttanesca Pizza on Grilled Flatbread

BBQ Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches

Grilled Corn + Chimichurri

Blackberry-Apple Hand Pies

Mascarpone Banana Pudding

Grilled Peach Ice Cream