Friday, January 31, 2014

The Chubby Vegetarian Mushroom Debris Po' Boy at The Second Line

We are super-pumped to be a part of the po' boy menu at Chef Kelly English's brand-new restaurant, The Second Line. You see, my dad always told me, "Son, surround yourself with good sandwiches, and you can't go wrong!" Wait, maybe it was 'people' not 'sandwiches.' I forget! 

Well, in either case, both things hold true here. When you go to The Second Line, you'll be surrounded by good sandwiches named after good people. There's the Johnny Snack that's inspired by Chef John Currence, and The Verno that's named for sports talk show host Chris Vernon, and The Besh BBQ Shrimp which is Kelly's mentor John Besh's own recipe. And lastly, there is a sandwich called The Chubby Vegetarian Mushroom Debris (pronounced day-bree), which is our recipe we developed and tested with Kelly. We feel blessed to be in such good company!

It all stared with a conversation with the chef. "I've never had a po' boy that was intended to be vegetarian, but still rang true," Chef English told us. "I don't want a sandwich that's been so gussied up it no longer resembles a po' boy," he continued."That's exactly what I want, and I know you are up to the task!" 

With that vote of confidence, we got to work making lots and lots of sandwiches! First there was the Andoullie Eggplant Po' Boy, a sandwich stuffed with grilled and spiced eggplant which was a close runner-up, then there was the "K.O.," which was beer-battered king oyster mushrooms and sea beans. We briefly toyed around with the idea of using jackfruit, then got weirded out by the fact that it was a canned product. 

So, we tried the same jackfruit preparation on mushrooms…bingo! I don't want to oversell it, but it really is amazing! Fresh portobello or crimini mushrooms are braised in red wine with celery, carrots, garlic, thyme, and bay leaves. The mushrooms form their own meaty and flavorful broth during the braise, which is then spooned generously onto a pistolette and garnished with pickles, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.

 "A po' boy has to drip down your arm with the first bite," Kelly is fond of saying. So we wanted to deliver just that. It's a wonderfully messy thing! "What we ended up with," he said, "I couldn't be prouder of, and it is one of my first recommendations I make, to any type of 'vore: carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore." So, go and gather up some good people and surround yourselves with good sandwiches at The Second Line!

Here are a few insider tips. The filling itself is vegan, as is the bread, and there's no cheese on it, so the sandwich can easily be ordered without mayo -- if you are into that sort of thing. The O.G. po' boy from the menu can be made with the Chubby Vegetarian Mushroom Debris gravy, and that makes it a T.C.V.O.G. It comes with French fries piled on the sandwich -- if you are into that sort of thing. 

The Chubby Vegetarian Debris Po Boy at The Second Line

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large white onion (thinly sliced into half-moons)
2 medium ribs celery (thinly sliced)
2 medium carrots (thinly sliced)
6 cloves garlic (smashed)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried, crumbled porcini mushrooms
2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups dry red wine
2 cups vegetable stock
4 to 5 large portobello mushrooms or 3 8-ounce packages of crimini (*thinly sliced)
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire
Hot sauce to taste

3 12-inch crispy French rolls (split)
Pickles, sliced tomatoes, mayonnaise (vegan or regular), Creole mustard, and thinly sliced iceberg lettuce (to garnish)

In a stock pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook until nice and brown. This takes about 20 minutes with some occasional stirring, but it's worth it. The flavor gained from all those brown bits is amazing!

Add the garlic, thyme, porcini, bay leaves, and red wine to the pot. Scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pot, and cook until it looks dry, about 1o minutes. Add the stock, sliced portobellos, vinegar, tomato paste, and Worcestershire. Once the liquid starts to simmer, reduce to low heat, and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes. The liquid should have reduced significantly at the end of the cooking time.  Serve heaped onto several French rolls garnished with pickles, sliced tomatoes, mayonnaise, Creole mustard, and cabbage. (Serves 6.)

*I slice the raw mushrooms about 1/8-inch thick on my meat slicer. I lay the mushrooms flat and slice disks. This way there are lots of large slices and tons of great bits and pieces.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Portobello Wiener Schnitzel with Smoky Cabbage (Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Paleo)

If you hate mushrooms, maybe it's just that you took a wrong turn somewhere on the internet and ended up here at the mushroom-adoring The Chubby Vegetarian site. We heart mushrooms, and we really aren't ever shy about it. Whenever we cook for folks at an event, we always hear the same thing: "I don't even like mushrooms, but this is fantastic!" 

Like, well, anything else in the world, the secret is in the preparation. If you toss a few white button mushrooms into a stew and then they come out all slimy and weird-looking, it just reinforces the very thing that people don't like about our favorite fungi. There's a bunch of stuff you can do to make them really good: spice 'em and grill 'em over high heat; stuff' 'em into tamales; smoke 'em on a cedar plank; braise 'em in red wine; or give them a flavorful coating of almonds (like in this recipe). Basically, treat 'em like a piece of meat!

Here we served the Portobello Wiener Schnitzel over our Smoky Cabbage. The cabbage is cooked over high heat in a dry pan to sear the edges of some of the shreds, which lends a pleasant, slightly smoked flavor to this humble vegetable. Add a few caraway seeds and garlic for something old made new again.

Portobello Wiener Schnitzel with Smoky Cabbage 

1 small to medium head green cabbage (cored and shredded)
1 teaspoon caraway seed
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 large portobello mushrooms
1/2 heaping cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper (more to taste)
2 large eggs (beaten)
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Celery leaves (to garnish)
1 lemon (quartered)

Heat a large frying pan (not the nonstick kind) over high heat until it begins to lightly smoke. Add 1/3 of the cabbage and allow it to cook until the bottom layer has browned. Add a second 1/3, toss, and repeat. Finally add the last of the cabbage, the caraway, garlic, and vinegar, and toss to incorporate. Cook until all cabbage is just wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside until ready to serve.

Scrape the gills from the portobellos and trim the overhanging portion of the cap to make it flatter. Save trimmings for another use. Place into a covered microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Remove and place mushrooms between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound them gently with the bottom of a pot or a meat tenderizer until they are about 1/4-inch thin. Allow them to cool completely.

Set up two bowls. In one, place the almond flour, salt, dried thyme, and pepper and toss to incorporate. In the other bowl, place the beaten eggs. Dip each mushroom in the egg, then the almond flour mixture, then the egg, then the almond flour mixture to ensure a good coating. 

In a medium frying pan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and add the olive oil. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until nicely browned. Serve on cabbage garnished with celery leaves and lemon slices. (Serves 2.)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Baked Cauliflower Wings with Black and Bleu Dressing

Wings: we love 'em. Problem is, they're usually chicken. Coming up with a suitable non-processed substitute has been tough, to say the least. Today, we tried cauliflower. It soaked up the flavors nicely, and it had plenty of texture. I think it's a winner!

This would be a great and sort of amusing thing to set out on the table on game day. Everyone will love this app, maybe even a few of those meat-eating football fans, because it's spicy and rich, but far less so than its fried, feathered cousin.

Baked Cauliflower Wings with Black and Bleu Dressing

1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (2% or 0%)
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Kosher salt (to taste)
1 head cauliflower (broken into large florets)
2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup wing sauce*
1/4 cup ketchup

2 carrots (peeled and cut into matchsticks)
2 ribs of celery (peeled and cut into matchsticks)

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the bleu cheese, yogurt, vinegar, and pepper. Add salt to taste and set aside in the fridge. 

In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the canola oil and place onto a large parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. 

In the same large bowl, whisk together the wing sauce and the ketchup. Toss roasted cauliflower in the wing sauce mixture. Return the cauliflower to the parchment-lined baking sheet and cook for another 15 minutes. 

Serve with the "Black and Blue' dressing, carrots, and celery. (Serves 4 as an appetizer.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Taco Salad with Cumin-Spiced Mushroom Meat

Growing up, one of my favorite nights of the week was when my mom would get out the big soup pot, fill it with peanut oil, and fry up a bunch of tortilla bowls so we could make taco salads. It was one of her specialties, and I was always in the kitchen helping out as much as I could. It was a bit of a dangerous undertaking, but she had it down pat. She'd toss a large tortilla into the oil, grab a metal bowl with a pair or tongs, and press the tortilla down in the center until it crisped. All the while, the thing was bubbling and making a ton of noise. I probably ate two of those things while we put the other ingredients together.

Back then, the components for this salad were iceberg lettuce, pre-shredded cheddar, a jar of salsa, some sliced black olives, sour cream, and ground beef. Today, we tend to incorporate more vegetables into dinnertime, and we bake our tortilla bowls rather than frying them. You are likely to find sliced avocado, sautéed poblano peppers, homemade salsa, cilantro leaves, and our cumin-spiced Mushroom Meat as a healthier alternative to the ground beef. 

The best part about this recipe is that it's infinitely customizable. When I was a kid, we would set everything out buffet-style. Everyone would grab a tortilla bowl, fill it with lettuce, and head on down the line adding whatever they liked and leaving off anything they didn't want. So feel free to throw in some black beans, quinoa, queso fresco, Greek yogurt, or pickled jalapeños. It's your taco salad…make it how you want it!

Taco Salad with Cumin-Spiced Mushroom Meat

Cumin-Spiced Mushroom Meat (recipe follows)

4 large whole-wheat tortillas
1 tablespoon olive oil
Honey-Lime Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
6 cups chopped romaine
2 sliced avocado, 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, 1 1/2 cups of your favorite salsa, cilantro leaves, hot sauce, and 2 sautéed sliced poblano peppers (to garnish)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make Cumin-Spiced Mushroom Meat according to the recipe and set aside. Brush the tortillas with the olive oil and drape them over a medium-sized heat-proof bowl. Place the bowls on a large baking sheet and place into the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the shell is golden and crispy. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Make the Honey Lime Vinaigrette according to the recipe. Toss the romaine with the dressing and assemble the salads. Divide the dressed romaine among the bowls and top with 3/4 cup mushroom meat. Garnish with avocado, cheese, salsa, cilantro, hot sauce, poblano peppers, and anything else you see fit. (Makes 4 servings.)

3 cups finely chopped portobello mushroom (about 3 medium)
3 cups finely chopped eggplant (peeled, about 1 medium)
2 cups finely chopped white onion (about 1 medium)
2 bouillon cubes (like Not-Beef)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add roughly-chopped mushrooms one at a time, stems and all, to your food processor and pulse 3 times or until finely chopped -- you do not want to turn the vegetables into a fine paste; the pieces should be about the size of a black-eyed pea. Place processed mushrooms onto a large, parchment-lined, 17 x 12 inch rimmed baking sheet. Pulse the roughly chopped eggplant in the food processor in the same manner. Place eggplant onto the sheet pan beside the mushrooms. Repeat this process with the onion. 

Crumble the bouillon cubes into the pile of processed vegetables. Drizzle the mound of mushrooms, eggplant, and onion with the olive oil and vinegar. Using your hands, toss it all together. Spread the mixture evenly over the sheet pan. Sprinkle the mixture with garlic powder, black pepper, cumin, ancho chili powder, chipotle pepper powder. Bake it for a total of 20 minutes. Remove the mixture and allow it to cool in the pan. (Makes 4 cups.) 

(Some eggplants will contain more water than others. If there is excess moisture in the bottom of the pan, drain it off using a colander. Reserve the liquid -- since it’s very flavorful -- to add to soups or stews.)

Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

juice of 2 lime (about 1/4 cup)

zest of 1 (organic) lime
2 tablespoons local honey
1/4 cup olive oil
scant 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Place the lime juice, zest, honey, olive oil, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small jar with a lid and shake it until the dressing emulsifies. Set aside until ready to use.  (Makes 1/2 cup.)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Roasted Eggplant and Pine Nut Dip (GF, Paleo, Vegan)

When we have folks over for pizza, it's always a challenge to think up a non-cheesy, non-bread-y appetizer to serve when the main dish is the ultimate in bread-y, cheese-y goodness. This dip fit the bill one unusually warm January day last week. We served it with sliced carrots and zucchini, which also worked well in terms of everyone's new 2014 goals.

If you've never roasted an eggplant, know it's really easy. It's so much fun to take something and intentionally burn it -- lots better than accidentally burning something! You see, it's a little magic trick. The skin of the eggplant protects the flesh that steams and smokes as the burning happens. The result is a smooth, smoky dip that even the eggplant skeptics can love. This would be a great thing to bring to your upcoming Super Bowl party; innocently set it out next to the chips and wings; you'll get some good feedback, we think.

Roasted Eggplant and Pine Nut Dip (GF, Paleo, Vegan)

2 medium Italian eggplants
1 large head roasted garlic* (peeled)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 1/2 teaspoon champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil (more for drizzling)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
Smoked paprika (to garnish)
3 medium red peppers (sliced for dipping)

Roast the whole eggplants until the skin is blackened. There are two simple methods: outdoor grill or indoor broiler. If you use your outdoor grill, the side burner that sees very little use is the best tool for this. Just place eggplants on the open flame on the burner on the hottest part of your grill. Using grill tongs, turn the eggplant once one side is black. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to char the eggplants. The same method can be used for the garlic.

If you don't have that option, use your broiler set on high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and place eggplants under the broiler, turning them as they blacken. This takes about 40 minutes, but it gets the job done. Cut the very top of the point (not the root end) off of the garlic, drizzle it with olive oil, and roast the garlic in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until it is soft.

Place eggplants in a covered container and allow them to cool completely. Once cool, pull all of the flesh from the eggplants using your hands. Discard the charred skin and also the excess bitter liquid that seeped out during the cooling process. Peel the garlic and discard the papery skins.

Into the work bowl of your food processor, place the eggplant flesh, garlic, pine nuts, champagne vinegar, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Run the processor until smooth. Drizzle in the olive oil while the processor is running. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in a bowl garnished with paprika and surrounded by red peppers. (Serves 4 to 6.)

*To save time, grab about 1 dozen cloves of roasted garlic from the olive bar. It's a great thing to have on hand.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Time to Vote on Your Favorite New Chubby Vegetarian Cookbook Concept!

Hey, y'all, what should we cook up next? It's time to choose the best idea for our second cookbook, which we're planning on writing in 2014. We would love your help and your opinion, and our publisher is curious to know what our readers think as well. Click the following link to see rough ideas for 3 cookbooks and please be sure to vote for your favorite one this week.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Energy Cookies (Gluten Free)

We really wanted a healthier cookie recipe, something besides an old standby apple or boring string cheese to grab when we're looking for a snack. These have been tested and retested, and finally, victory! They handily beat the regular cookies, ginger and molasses, at a recent gathering with friends. That's saying something! With a good combo of nuts, dried fruit, oats, coconut, and honey, these might be great before or after your next bout with exercise this January.

Energy Cookies

1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons iodized salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil (melted and cooled)
2 large eggs (beaten)
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup raisins (golden and regular)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons rum
1 cup grated dried coconut
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger (finely diced)
1 cup raw walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the oats, almond flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside. Combine the honey, coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla. Microwave the raisins, cranberries, and rum for one minute, let them cool a bit, microwave for one more minute, and set aside. Combine wet and dry ingredients and then add the fruit and rum mixture, coconut, ginger, and walnuts. Shape into large, flat cookies and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes until edges are lightly browned.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Power Pancakes (Paleo and Gluten Free)

The idea for a gluten-free, paleo-friendly pancake is out there in a million forms these days, and we've tried many of the recipes with varying results. This one takes cues from the best parts of the versions we tried and puts them all together into one tasty pancake.

We've been eating less bread these days; it's sometimes a struggle to find a good replacement when an old, familiar craving strikes.  Even though one of us was skeptical and tried to make the case for French toast, we decided to give something less traditional a shot. These simple little pancakes won us over in a big way because the clean flavors of coconut, banana, and honey really shine through. They're fluffy and light, and they don't taste like a compromise. For brunch this weekend, add a simple mix of berries, vanilla, sea salt, lemon juice, and honey on the side if you like.

 Power Pancakes

1 large banana
2 large eggs
1/2 cup almond flour or meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tablespoon honey (more for drizzling)
A pinch of Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon coconut oil (more for the griddle)
1/4 cup unsweetened milk (almond or 2% milk)

Heat a nonstick griddle or large frying pan over medium-low heat. Into the work bowl of your food processor or blender cup, place the banana, eggs, almond flour, coconut flour, honey, salt, baking powder, coconut oil, and milk and blend until smooth. (Unlike traditional flours, you really can't overwork them because there's no gluten to activate.) The mixture should be thick and not quite as pourable as a traditional pancake batter. Add milk if needed.

Place about 1 teaspoon of coconut oil on the griddle and brush to coat. Place a 1/8 cup mound of batter on the griddle and run a rubber spatula over the top to smooth it into a 3-inch circle. Repeat. Allow pancakes to cook for 4 minutes or until bubbles start to form on the surface and the underside is golden. Carefully flip the pancakes and cook for another 3 minutes or until pancake is golden and set all the way through. Repeat until all batter is used. Makes about 1 dozen small pancakes. Serve warm with a drizzle of honey. (Serves 2.)

Monday, January 6, 2014

BBQ Eggplant Sliders with Caesar Coleslaw

Eggplants are magic little things. They can be textured and meaty like in an Eggplant Parmesan, or they can be smooth as silk like in baba ghanoush. This recipe makes use of both of those textures and everything in-between in one easy cooking method. By cooking the halved eggplant skin-side-down on a hot grill, the portion of the eggplant closest to the grill gets smooth while the cut side retains a nice meaty toothiness.

The Caesar Coleslaw adds some great character to the sandwich. Caesar is one of the our favorite dressings around here these days. I had a little left over in the fridge, so I tossed it together with our shredded cabbage and BOOM! Best slaw I've ever had, hands-down.

So many people have no idea what to cook for vegetarians at a cookout. Here's your answer. Besides that, it's quick, doesn't take a whole lot of babying, and it feeds a crowd. Need to feed more than six? It can easily be doubled or tripled. Do you have some vegan guests? Just swap out the mayo and cheese for vegan versions. It's easy! Entertaining can be fun if you just don't stress. This easy dish can help you be the effortless host you always wanted to be.

BBQ Eggplant Sliders with Caesar Coleslaw

Caesar Coleslaw (recipe follows)
4 medium Italian eggplants
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 cup The Chubby Vegetarian's Signature Dry Rub
1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (warmed)
12 slider buns or dinner rolls

Make the Caesar Coleslaw according to the recipe and store in the fridge until ready to assemble the sliders. Preheat your outdoor grill to high. Prepare the eggplant by slicing each in half longways, then cuts slits in the flesh of the eggplant every 1/4 inch; cut through most of the flesh but not the skin.

In a medium bowl whisk together the canola oil, sesame oil, and the vinegar. Drizzle each eggplant half with the oil and vinegar mixture. Apply The Chubby Vegetarian's Signature Dry Rub liberally to each eggplant.

Place eggplant skin-side-down on the hot grill* and close the lid for 20 minutes. Remove eggplant and tent with foil. Allow it to cool so that you are able to handle it. Using your hands, pull as much of the eggplant flesh away from the skin keeping the large strands intact. Discard the skin. Toss the eggplant with the warm BBQ sauce.

Assemble the sliders by splitting the buns and distributing the eggplant evenly among the 12 buns. Top each with about 1/8 cup of the Caesar Coleslaw and cap it off with the top bun. Serve with extra sauce, slaw, and napkins.

Caesar Coleslaw

1 medium head of green cabbage (finely shredded, about 7 cups)
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon grainy mustard (like Zatarain's)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 clove garlic (micro-planed or minced)
1 teaspoon vegan/vegetarian worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
Tabasco hot sauce (to taste)

Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, mayonnaise, garlic, worcestershire, honey, and parmesan cheese. Add hot sauce to taste. Toss to incorporate. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.

* This also works just as well in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Organizing a Spice Cabinet

We recently did that sort of misguided, fairly overwhelming thing where you decide to take everything out of each and every kitchen cabinet and drawer and figure out a better way for all of it to be organized. The process isn't a whole lot of fun. It's crazy. It's messy. But when it's all done, cooking almost seems effortless. It may be worth all the trouble.

Our system for spices before this project was a pitiful sight: one drawer with bottles and tins, a plastic shoebox with bags of spices filed away, and two hanging spice racks on the wall beside the oven. This project took a while, but we were determined to corral all our spices into one space so stuff was easier to locate. We separated out all the spices into categories (one of us got a little teasing for 'Baking Level 2', but hey…the maple flakes, lavender, and poppy seeds have to go somewhere that makes sense). Once we figured out what we had, we bought small bins for each. Larger bins on the top shelf hold all the extras.

Here's what we used if you get inspired to do the same in your kitchen: these bins, these chalkboard labels, and this white paint pen. Let us know how it turns out!

(You can also check out last January's project: organizing the pantry and adding pull-out shelves. This has made for a whole year of easy-to-use storage space. We even incorporated a snack drawer in it with 3 bins for granola bars, dried fruit bars, oatmeal, cookies, and nuts. Maybe we'll share that easy project soon!)