Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sweet Potato Quesadillas

We love to eat dairy-free a few times a week, and this is one of the most delicious ways we have found to do that. The baked sweet potato takes the place of the cheese, and really, it's shocking how creamy and rich it becomes when served this way.

(This, like many of our recipes in the past few days, is an older idea revisited with a renewed palate and way more hours in the kitchen. We strive to not only come up with new ideas, but to give you the best versions of all of our ideas -- the stuff you want to make all the time and recipes that work out just right every time you use them. The dishes we've been highlighting are our go-to's, and we're oven the moon that we think we might've figured out how to make them even better!)

Sweet Potato Quesadillas

1 large sweet potato (baked in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour)

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
1 medium portobello (1 1/2 cups sliced)
1 medium red pepper (1 cup sliced)
1/2 white onion (1 1/4 sliced)
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons canola oil (more for grilling quesadillas)

4 10-inch, whole-wheat tortillas (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
Guacamole and Mexican hot sauce (to serve)

Peel the baked sweet potato, place it into a medium bowl, mash it with a fork, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. In a large bowl toss together the portobello, pepper, onion, lime juice, chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Get a large frying pan screaming hot over high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of canola, wait for it to shimmer, and then add the vegetable mixture. Cook 5 to 6 minutes while stirring often until onions begin to brown and most of the liquid the vegetables released during cooking has evaporated. Place vegetables back into the bowl and set aside.

Rinse out the large frying pan and place it over medium heat. Assemble the quesadillas by first dividing the sweet potato mixture between the 4 tortillas, then dividing the vegetable mixture. Add enough oil to the pan to lightly coat the bottom. Fold quesadillas in half and cook both sides until the outside is nice and crisp. You will need to do this in two batches. Serve with guacamole and your favorite Mexican hot sauce. (Serves 4 as an appetizer and 2 as a main course.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chipotle Elote

1 clove garlic (peeled)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 to 2 chipotle chilis from a can
1 teaspoon cane sugar
1 cup finely crumbled cotija (use the food processor)
10 half-ears of corn 

Into the work bowl of your food processor, mini-prep, or immersion blender cup, add the garlic, mayo, lime juice, chipotle, and sugar. Blend until smooth. Set aside. 

Turn the broiler of your oven on high. Place the corn on a baking sheet and place under the broiler for about 10 minutes (turn the corn every 3 minutes) or until the sugars begin to caramelize. Remove from the oven and skewer one end with a bamboo skewer. Brush each with the mayo mixture and sprinkle with the cheese. Serve warm. Serves 5 as a side.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dosas + Simple Sambar & Cilantro Raita

I'm not much for hyperbole, so I'll just give it to you straight: this is the greatest victory ever to have happened here on earth, or possibly anywhere during our lifetime, or maybe ever. What, you may be asking yourself, is he talking about? I'm talking about making an entire batch of dosas, fermented Indian rice crepes, at home without one of them sticking to the pan and burning to bits. 

Let me explain. About 11 years ago, I fell in love with dosas. I loved them so much that I wanted to learn how to make them in my own home. With a little guidance from my friend Sharon and a lot of help from Krishna I got there, sort of. I could make the batter without a problem, and I could get a few of the dosas to turn out without sticking and burning...but most of them would be a mess. They would either stick to the pan, or I would add too much oil and end up with a greasy mess. It was so frustrating, and it felt like a horrible failure.  

So, being able to to make a successful batch of dosas feels wonderful. I'll bet I make them way more often now. HERE is my dosa recipe; read it first!

Here are my 8 foolproof tips for cooking a dosa at home:

 1. This is important! Place 2 tablespoons of oil into a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet and leave it to soak in overnight. I got this genius tip HERE.

2. Use medium heat; the cast-iron pan shouldn't be smoking.

3. In a small bowl place 2 tablespoons of canola oil and a folded-up paper towel. Wipe the cast-iron pan with the oil-soaked towel between cooking each dosa.

4. Use a cold, very smooth, well-fermented dosa batter.

5. Use a metal ladle, pour about 1/4 cup in the center of the cast iron pan like you're making a pancake, and then push the batter outward in concentric circles.

6. Keep your eye on the edges and the thinnest parts of the dosa. Once they start to turn a deep brown, the dosa is ready to be removed.

7. Use a butter knife or offset spatula to loosen the edges of the dosa, and using your fingers, peel the dosa from the skillet.

8. If you're making dosas for more than a few people, make them ahead. Stack them when they're cooked and store them in the fridge. They actually reheat nicely in a dry skillet.

Simple Sambar

Sambar is a pungent broth for dipping dosas and idli. Use a boxed broth or stock to save time.

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
1 tablespoon green cardamom
2 cloves garlic
1 medium celery rib (sliced)
1 medium carrot (sliced)

In a medium pot bring the broth, mustard, cardamom, garlic, celery, and carrot to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Cilantro Raita

1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
1 cup  roughly chopped English cucumber
1 cup fresh cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
1  medium jalapeño (stem removed)
1/2 teaspoon cane sugar
Kosher salt to taste

Into the work bowl of your food processor, add the yogurt, cucumber, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeño, sugar, and salt. Blend until mostly smooth. Serve as a condiment with any curry.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cornmeal Blueberry Pancakes

Having pancakes for a relaxed weekend breakfast can be a point of contention around here because one of us prefers things on the savory tip, and the other longs for anything that resembles dessert that can be eaten in the morning. Here's a pleasant compromise: a little savory meshed with the sweet. The cornmeal offers a surprising crunch -- especially around the edges of the pancake -- and some much-needed complexity to what would (arguably!) be just a regular old starch and sugar bomb. We have never had pancakes like this before, but this peacemaker's going into regular rotation now. 

Cornmeal Blueberry Pancakes

1/3 cup flour (more if needed)
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoons cane sugar (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon canola oil (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1 egg
1/2  teaspoon vanilla

unsalted butter (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1 pint fresh blueberries
maple syrup

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, mix together the buttermilk, canola, egg, and vanilla. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and allow the batter to rest for 10 minutes. (Add more flour if needed to make it the consistency of a thin pancake batter.)

Heat a non-stick griddle to medium, and add enough butter to cover griddle in a thin layer. Spoon out about 1/8 cup of the batter and drop 8 to 10 blueberries onto each pancake. Cook 3 minutes or until top bubbles, turn, and cook for another 2 minutes or until cooked through. Repeat. Serve topped with a little butter, maple syrup and any leftover blueberries. (Makes 8 to 10 pancakes.)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Vegetarian Kimchi + Korean BBQ Sliders (update)

(We have been making our own kimchi for a while now. We even made some using turnips in place of the cabbage. The recipe below has been updated to reflect a few improvements including the addition of our own Vegetarian Fish Sauce and instructions on fermenting the kimchi on the countertop for a few days prior to use. This is a great recipe that we use all the time. We hope that you will try your hand at making your own kimchi in your home. 2/22/13)

I got a hot tip about how to make delicious kimchi from Sue, the owner of Kwik Check, a great sandwich shop on Madison Avenue here in Memphis. She told me that the reason their kimchi is so good is that they use a ground-up Korean pear in each batch as a sweet element to balance out the bitterness of the cabbage. Brilliant! But where in the heck was I going to find a Korean pear? Sue disappeared into the kitchen and re-emerged with a larger-than-softball sized fruit that had a golden skin. She was willing to let me have it if I wanted to try my hand at making kimchi.

There was one more hurdle to jump before I could make my own kimchi: I needed some Korean red chili powder. I found some at the Asian Market on Summer at White Station and at the Winchester Farmer's Market. The bright red powder was in a huge bag at a cost of $10, but it didn't look like I had much of a choice. (Seriously -- e-mail me if you want some chili powder.) In the end, I was really glad that I shelled out for it because it made my kimchi taste authentic.

At home, I sliced into the fruit to see what it tasted like before I ground it into a chili paste. I would describe the texture as a cross between a crunchy apple and a Bartlett pear. The flavor was similar to honeysuckle on a summer's day. If you can't find a Korean pear, an asian pear would likely be a good substitute. Use this kimchi on rice, in soups, folded into a quesadilla, or on my Korean BBQ sliders.
Vegetarian Kimchi

1 large head of napa cabbage
1/4 cup Kosher or pickling salt
2 to 3 inch piece of ginger
1 small bulb garlic (about 10 cloves, peeled)
1 large Korean pear (peeled, cut away from core)
1/2 cup Korean red chili powder
1/4 cup Vegetarian Fish Sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup daikon radish (shredded using a julienne peeler)
1 cup carrot (shredded using a julienne peeler)
Sriracha hot sauce (to taste)

Wash cabbage and chop into 1-inch pieces. Place cabbage into a large bowl and toss it with salt. Allow the cabbage and salt mixture to sit for at least an hour and a half.

While you are waiting, you can make the chili paste. Place the ginger, garlic, pear, chili powder, Vegetarian Fish Sauce, and sugar into a food processor. Blend until smooth; you may need to add a few tablespoons of water to get it going. Set mixture aside.

Now fill the large bowl with the cabbage in it full of cold water and rinse the salt off of the cabbage. Do this twice. Squeeze as much moisture out of the cabbage as you can using your hands. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage together with the garlic/ginger/chili paste and the carrots and radish until every component is throughly coated with the red paste. Taste for seasoning and add salt and Sriracha if needed. It should be about as salty as a dill pickle and as spicy as you can handle it.

Place into 2 quart jars by pushing the ingredients and packing them down tight so that the liquid rests on the top. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the jar. Add a few tablespoons of water to the top if needed to submerge cabbage. You may use it just like it is or ferment it for a more authentic taste.

To ferment the kimchi, loosely screw the top on the jars and place jars on the countertop for 3 to 4 days. During this time you will notice some bubbling. This is a natural process called lactic fermentation, a method of food preservation used before refrigeration that results in a lemony flavor almost like Sprite, the soft drink. At the end of the fermentation period, screw the lids on the jars and place in the fridge. Kimchi will last 6 weeks as long as the cabbage stays below the liquid level.

Makes about 2 quarts

Korean BBQ Sliders (Makes 6)

1 tablespoon each of soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil (mixed)
3 green onions (thinly sliced)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large portobello mushroom cap (thinly sliced)
6 slider buns
Vegetarian Kimchi
half of an English cucumber (sliced longways using a vegetable peeler)

Get a frying pan screaming hot, and add the vegetable oil. Once it starts smoking, add the sliced mushrooms and cook for about a minute or until they start to brown. Turn the mushrooms in the pan and add the soy sauce mixture and the green onions. Continually move the mixture around for a few seconds then remove from heat. Divide mushrooms among the buns, and top with about a tablespoon of kimchi and a few slices of cucumber. Add mayo if you like. Serve immediately.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Baked Cinnamon French Toast

Do you remember having cinnamon toast as a kid? What a vice that was. Bread, butter, cinnamon, and sugar for breakfast! This dish combines that wonderfulness with the heartiness of French toast. You can make it ahead and not even worry a bit about standing over the stove and wondering if it's gonna get cold.

Not wanting to waste any egg, which usually is par for the course when making French toast, we skipped the griddle and put all the ingredients into one pan. Seriously, in no more than 10 minutes, it's baking in the oven, and the whole house smells cinnamon-y.

Baked Cinnamon French Toast

2 tablespoons cane sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
zest of one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
6 slices rustic whole wheat bread
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
2 bananas (diced)
maple syrup (to serve)

In a small bowl mix the sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. In a large bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, zest, vanilla, salt, and 1/2 of the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Shingle the bread into a 6 x 9 casserole dish. Pour the egg mixture over the bread, top with the remaining cinnamon and sugar mixture, and dot it with the butter.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. This will give the bread enough time to soak up the egg mixture. Once the oven is preheated, cover the dish with foil and place into the oven for 20 minutes, uncover, and return the dish to the oven for another 10 minutes. Serve hot with bananas and warm maple syrup. (Serves 4.)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Baked Arancini with Smoked Provolone

*Happy, happy Valentine's Day! Hope you are making a really great dinner for (or even better, with) your sweetheart tonight.*

We were first introduced to the arancini years ago by our good friend (and frequent contributor of great food ideas) Michael Hughes. Once again, we ran into this delectable little dish at Napa Café when our buddy Rick Saviori helped us figure out the courses for our summer/farmers' market wine dinner last year. It's like a fancier cheese stick -- how could you go wrong with that? Usually fried, arancini may be just as good when it's baked, which we tried out and absolutely loved this week. 

Baked Arancini with Smoked Provolone

1 cup risotto or sushi rice
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Plenty of cracked black pepper
Zest of 1 Lemon
1/4 cup minced parsley

3 cups warm vegetable broth (like Whole Foods 365 Brand)
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs (divided)
3 ounces smoked provolone cheese (cut into 1/2 inch cubes)
6 teaspoons olive oil (like Whole Foods 365 Brand)

Warm tomato sauce (to serve)
Parmesan cheese (to garnish)

Into a medium pot over medium heat, add the rice, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, black pepper, lemon zest, parsley, and about 1 cup of the broth. Stir to incorporate. Cook, uncovered, for 6 to 8 minutes; stir occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn't scorch. Add another cup of broth, stir, and cook another 6 to 8 minutes. Finally, add the last of the broth, stir and cook another 6 to 8 minutes or until the rice is tender and has absorbed most of the liquid. Cover and allow mixture to cool completely. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking pan with parchment. Once cool, add one beaten egg and 1/4 cup of the panko bread crumbs. Stir to incorporate. Set up two bowls: one with the remaining egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of water, and the other with the remaining cup of panko breadcrumbs. Using a 1/4-cup ice cream scoop, scoop out a portion of the rice mixture, place a cube of cheese into the middle, and then roll it into a round ball completely enclosing the cheese. Dip the ball into the egg, roll it in the panko to coat, and place onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle each ball with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve with your favorite tomato sauce. (Makes 10 to 12 arancini. Serves 4.)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Vegetarian Salade Nicoise

I just remembered when I first had this type of salad. I was visiting Lindsey, Moishe and Amelia, and we grabbed some to-go lunch right when I arrived on a gorgeous Seattle summer day. We walked to a patio by a bike path, a bridge, and the ocean and ate and caught up on just about everything as we ate. My nicoise salad was perfect: green, fresh, so many different things, tons of flavors, a tart, lemony dressing. I resolved then and there to order this same salad anytime I saw it again on a menu. I haven't really seen it often since then, so I started wondering: how could we make this vegetarian at home? 

We took inspiration for this recipe from our friend Jennifer Chandler's Simply Grilling book. The book is beautiful (J. shot the photos!), and it's full of grilling inspiration. We switched out the tuna with artichokes, added some green lentils, and kept the balance of the salad pretty classic. Serve it rustic on a big platter and let folks serve themselves, or make petite pretty salads with a smaller chop, your choice. 

Vegetarian Salade Nicoise

French Green Lentils (recipe follows)
1 large pot of salted water (as salty as the sea)

1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning
1/2 pound haricots verts (or green beans)
2 medium artichokes
1 lemon (halved)
6 medium red new potatoes (quartered)
4 large eggs (8 minutes)

1 head butter lettuce (cut away from the core)
2 cups halved grape tomatoes
1 cup Nicoise olives
4 to 8 caper berries
Thyme and Tarragon Dressing (recipe follows)
Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Make lentils according to the directions and place in the fridge to chill. 

Bring the large pot of salted water to a boil, and add the Old Bay seasoning. The haricots verts, artichokes, potatoes, and eggs will all be cooked in this pot of water, which makes this seemingly complicated recipe much, much easier. Blanch the haricot vert in the water for 2 minutes, remove them from the boiling water, and place them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. 

Trim the artichokes by peeling the tough outer part of the stem with a vegetable peeler, trimming off the top 1/3 of the leafy part, and then cutting it in half lengthwise so a cross-section of the heart is exposed. Rub all cut parts of the artichoke with the lemon to stop it from oxidizing. 

Place the artichoke, lemon, and quartered new potatoes into the boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove artichokes and potatoes to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. The "choke" should be easy to remove by tugging on the hairy-looking part just above the heart now that the artichokes are cooked through.

Lower the eggs into the boiling water for exactly 8 minutes and then remove to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. (8 minutes will give you a custardy yolk, which I like.) Cook them for 10 minutes to achieve a solid center. Slice eggs in quarters or slices.

Arrange a few leaves of butter lettuce in the center of a plate. Arrange the components any way you like. This can be a rustic salad or a very composed plate. It's up to you. Drizzle the whole thing with Thyme and Tarragon Dressing and season with Maldon sea salt and cracked black pepper. 

Makes 4 main-course salads or 8 appetizer portions. Goes great with our Bourguignon.

French Green Lentils

1 1/4 cups vegetable broth (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1/2 cup lentils
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon dijon or grainy mustard

Into a medium pot over high heat, place the broth, lentils, thyme, bay and mustard. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.

Thyme and Tarragon Dressing

1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
4 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon

1 tablespoon minced shallot (rinsed)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Into a medium bowl place the mustard, lemon, and honey. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking to emulsify the dressing. Stir in the thyme, tarragon, shallot, salt, and pepper.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Quick Vegetarian Chili + Mustard Roasted New Potatoes

*Please VOTE HERE for TCV for's Best Recipe Blog award. This is the finals, y'all! Everyone is allowed one vote by 2/13; tell all your sweet friends!

Check out this fun chili cook-off on Saturday, 2/9 in midtown Memphis. There's a vegetarian category! It got us thinking about our own chili recipe...

Chili is our go-to when we have no idea what to make for dinner during the week. We're not the type of folks to plan much at all in life anyway, so we rarely discuss what to have for dinner until it's after 6:00 and we're both sort of starving. Then the negotiations begin! We throw out ideas and argue our key points. Often, there's a nebulous and debatable listing of how many times and how recently we had the dish in question in the last week or so. Sometimes, we meet in the middle and agree at once, and usually, that means, thankfully,  that chili is for dinner. 

This one is not fussy. It doesn't need a bunch of time, and it doesn't require a lot of chopping. With the addition of chipotle peppers and liquid smoke for depth, there's no need for low and slow to develop flavors. It's totally a weeknight kind of dish. We often have it with cornbread or rice, but mustard roasted potatoes are the best.  

Quick Vegetarian Chili + Mustard Roasted Potatoes

8 cloves garlic
1 medium white onion
2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
2 to 3 chipotle peppers from a can*
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon minced, dried porcini mushrooms (optional but awesome)
1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon cane sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil (like Whole Foods 365 Brand)
1 can drained pinto beans (like Whole Foods 365 Brand)
1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes (like Whole Foods 365 Brand)
1 medium green pepper (diced)
3 to 4 dashes liquid smoke

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
Mustard Rosted New Potatoes (recipe follows)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream (to garnish, like Whole Foods 365 Brand)
2 tablespoons chopped chives (to garnish) 

Preheat the oven to 350 and make the Mustard Rosted New Potatoes.

Into the work bowl of your food processor, place the garlic, onion, ancho chili, chipotle, cumin, onion powder, porcini, vinegar, and sugar. Blend until well incorporated into a paste. In a large skillet (one with a lid that fits) over high heat, add the canola oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer, add the paste from the food processor. Cook the paste for 10 minutes, stirring consistently until all of the liquid has evaporated and the color is a deep red. Add the beans, tomatoes, green pepper, liquid smoke, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour chili over Mustard Rosted New Potatoes, cover loosely with foil, and return to the oven for another 30 minutes. Remove foil, top with cheddar, and garnish with sour cream and chives.

*Here is a great rule of thumb when using chipotle chills from a can: one chili = hot, two = medium hot, and three = very hot if you are making a recipe that will feed four people. Just remember, they are jalapeño chili peppers, so treat them accordingly. (We used 3 in this dish because we're pretty fireproof.)

Mustard Roasted New Potatoes

1 1/2 pounds red new potatoes (cut in half)
1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon mustard (like Zatarain's)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Toss the potatoes, canola, mustard, salt, and pepper together in a medium cast-iron skillet. Into a preheated 350 degree oven, place the skillet for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pepper Jelly & Cream Cheese Rangoon

*Please VOTE HERE for TCV for's Best Recipe Blog award. This is the finals, y'all! Everyone is allowed one vote by 2/13; tell all your sweet friends!

Um...yeah! That's what we have to say about these. The best thing about cooking is being able to combine a few simple ingredients and come up with a dish that is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. This appetizer does just that.

In the South, we love our pepper jelly especially in the wintertime when the abundance of hot peppers from our gardens is just a distant memory. This takes us back to summer days of high humidity, fresh air, and summer sun. The sweet-hot jelly is tempered by the cream cheese. Don't get too anxious to eat these right away; they need to cool or you'll surely burn your little mouth.

12 wonton wrappers
6 to 8 teaspoons cream cheese
6 to 8 teaspoons Sambal Pepper Jelly
1 tablespoon olive oil
Maldon sea salt (to taste)
Cracked black pepper (to taste)
Chopped chives (to garnish)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees*. On a large, rimmed, parchment-lined baking sheet, lay out the 12 wonton wrappers. Into the center of each, place about 1/2 teaspoon each of cream cheese and 1/2 teaspoon of Sambal Pepper Jelly. With a small bowl of water at the ready, dip your finger in the water and run it along 2 sides of the wonton wrapper. Fold wonton into a triangle and press the edges together to seal. Repeat. Brush the tops of the folded wontons with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 10 minutes, flip each using kitchen tongs, and bake another 10 minutes or until brown and crispy. Allow them to cool for at least 5 minutes so you don't burn your mouth. Garnish with chopped chives and serve.

*Alternately, pan fry them over medium-high heat in about 1/4 inch of canola oil for 2 to 3 minutes per side. This will yield a puffier rangoon. (Serves 2 to 4 as an appetizer.)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tofu Hot Wings + Greek Yogurt Bleu Cheese Dressing

*Please VOTE HERE for TCV for's Best Recipe Blog award. This is the finals, y'all! Everyone is allowed one vote by 2/13; tell all your sweet friends!

This recipe goes way, way back to our first apartment in Memphis and a tiny balcony that seemed like the best place in the world to be. In our twenties, we felt like we'd made it due to having that 10th-floor perch above Idlewild Street. Starting at five o'clock, everything began: fire trucks raging, horns bleating, wandering folks yelling out nonsense, police officers on their in-car megaphones telling people they'd better not even try to turn left (it wasn't permitted until after 7:00). We could sit out on that balcony all night long and be entertained.

Well, let's go ahead and get around to the point of all of this: what we always ate out there on the balcony. It was always a vegetarian version of buffalo chicken wings, all the rage in the late 90's. In our twenties, with much better metabolism, we had these every single week. We've tried to vary the original recipe -- seitan wings, panelle wings, even paneer wings -- to no avail; we always come back to this classic. Maybe a little football game we've heard is going to be on today made us think of sharing it with you. It may just be the perfect thing to include in your Super-Bowl-inspired vegetarian spread.

Tofu Hot Wings + Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing

1 block extra-firm tofu (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon marjoram

1 1/2 cups canola oil
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg (beaten)
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup Frank's Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (melted)
2 tablespoons honey

Greek Yogurt Blue Cheese Dressing (recipe follows)
Carrot and celery sticks (to serve)

Cut the tofu into 16 equally sized rectangles and wrap in a clean kitchen towel in order to wick away some of the moisture. In a small bowl, combine the salt, onion powder, garlic, pepper, and marjoram. Transfer the dry tofu slices to a large bowl and sprinkle all of the spice mixture onto the slices. Set aside. 

In a medium cast-iron pan, bring 1 1/2 cups of canola oil up to about 350 degrees. That's usually about medium to medium-high. 

In a medium bowl, make a batter by combining the flour egg, and milk using a whisk. Make the hot wing sauce in a medium bowl by combining the Frank's, butter, and honey.

Dip each piece of tofu in the batter, shake off the excess, and gently lay it into the hot oil. Repeat with remaining tofu. Cook tofu for about 4 to 5 minutes per side or until deeply browned. Drain on paper towels, toss in the wing sauce to coat, and remove wings from the sauce using kitchen tongs. Serve alongside Greek Yogurt Blue Cheese Dressing, carrots, and celery.

Greek Yogurt Blue Cheese Dressing

1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt
1/4 cup bleu cheese (crumbled)
Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon chopped chives
1/8 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, cheese, lemon juice, chives, sugar, salt, and pepper until well incorporated. (It's a very thick dressing so that it'll stick to the wings.)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Vote for TCV on for The Homies!

*Please VOTE HERE for TCV for's Best Recipe Blog award. This is the finals, y'all! Everyone is allowed one vote by 2/13; tell all your sweet friends!

People often ask us how we come up with ideas each week for the blog. The truth is that we put so much time and effort into creating recipes in our home kitchen. That's what we do for fun, and we really enjoy it! We have a huge blackboard in the office where we write ideas as inspiration strikes, and then we work to figure out exactly how to put each recipe together in the easiest, tastiest way possible. Then we jump in the kitchen and start cooking. That's really our favorite part: something may work out surprisingly well the first time (this is rare!) or really need a few more tries in order to get it right. As we cook, we keep track of ingredients, techniques, and quantities on our iPhone -- or one of us calls out this stuff and the other one writes or types it. Next, when we're happy that a dish is ready to be shared, we put the plates together and photograph the result using a small homemade system of light modifiers that we always seem to be moving in and out of the dining room. The final step is writing it up, proofing it, and posting it here on The Chubby Vegetarian Blog. We are always so curious to see what people think about our food and to find out which recipes become loved enough to be used often in others' kitchens.

We have gone through that process over 700 times and come up with vegetarian versions of gumbo, chicken-fried portobello mushrooms, spicy curries, pasta carbonara, meatballs, delicious pimento cheese, inventive salads, and rustic desserts. We aim to help you move vegetables from the side dish to the center of the plate. We want people to know that meatless meals can be delicious as long as each plate is approached with some creativity and ingenuity. The photos and recipes you see here are not food-styled or set up; all of it is our actual dinner or lunch or breakfast. Since we're home cooks who never had any formal culinary training, we know you can make these dishes, too.

We would love to know how you figure out your own recipes! Please comment below and we can compare notes. And if you're moved to do so, please vote for TCV.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Italian-Stye Eggplant Sausages

Click HERE to order our new cookbook, The Chubby Vegetarian: 100 Inspired Vegetable Recipes for the Modern Table (Susan Schadt Press, November 2016). The recipe below is featured in the book!

What better to make a vegetarian sausage out of than a vegetable that has a meaty texture and is already pretty much shaped like a sausage! I'm talking about the Japanese eggplant, of course. They are available at most specialty grocery stores, but if the one near you doesn't have them, they can easily be found year-round at most Asian markets. 

Here we've flavored the Japanese eggplants using the same spice blend you'd find in almost any Italian sausage. It's a savory mix of sage, fennel, and spice. We serve them like they do in Jersey: hot-dog style on a hoagie roll, with potatoes, peppers, onions, and plenty of mustard.

These were so good I ate one for dinner, half of one for a snack, and another for lunch the next day. 

Italian-Stye Eggplant Sausages

1/4 cup olive oil

6 12-inch long Japanese eggplants (peeled using a vegetable peeler)
1 teaspoon ground fennel (or fennel pollen)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
6 12-inch hoagie rolls (light and crisp like French bread)
deli mustard
Potato, Onion, and Pepper Topping (recipe follows)
1 cup shredded mozzarella (optional)

Into a large bowl, pour olive oil over the peeled eggplants and rub it in so that all of the oil is absorbed. In a small bowl make a spice mixture using the fennel, red pepper flakes, sage, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder. Generously rub each eggplant with the spice mixture. You should use all of the spice mixture. Place eggplants in a plastic bag in the refrigerator to marinate for at least an hour or overnight.

Cook eggplants over medium heat using a cast-iron grill pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until well-marked by the grill grates. Cook for a total of 12 to 16 minutes or until heated through. Serve on warm hoagie rolls that have been slathered in mustard and stuffed with the Potato, Onion, and Pepper Topping. Add cheese to the top of each and melt it under the broiler if you wish.

Potato, Onion, and Pepper Topping

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium potato (peeled, diced)
1 onion (peeled, diced)
1 green pepper (diced)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add the oil and wait for it to shimmer. Carefully add the potato, onion, and green pepper in a single layer. Allow mixture to cook undisturbed for about 3 minutes or until nicely browned. Toss in the tomato paste and cook until potatoes are tender, for about another 3 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, cover, and set aside until ready to assemble.