Thursday, October 30, 2014

Curried Acorn Squash Salad with Apples

My passion for helping the kids of St. Jude comes from my family. It's because I never knew my cousin Will; he was born with brain cancer before I was ever on this earth. The only place that gave my aunt and uncle any hope for treatment was St. Jude. Will was a patient there when the childhood cancer survivor rates were lower than they are today. St. Jude  Children's Research Hospital has taken that survival rate from around 4% in 1962 to around 94% in 2014. That is so amazing!

Will's story inspired my mom to get involved with St. Jude, and she inspired me. I've run the St. Jude Marathon five times in her memory, and my team has raised thousands of dollars that goes directly to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital here in Memphis. 

I did plenty of running around last week when I had the pleasure of cooking for 400 guests at the St. Jude Garden Harvest alongside some of my favorite people in the Memphis culinary world: Miles McMath, Rick Farmer, Earnest Dickson, Michael Vetro, Michael Hughes, Craig and Elizabeth Blondis, Felicia Willett, Elizabeth Heiskell, Josh Belechia, and Robert Rushton. It was such an honor to be asked to participate and to work alongside these fine folks. We all had a great time, and we raised a whole lot of money for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital so that they can continue doing great work. 

The menu was amazing as you can imagine. I contributed some a BBQ eggplant dish for an appetizer and also did the salad course. I dreamt up this salad from the list of ingredients that we could source locally. Think of it as a deconstructed curry dish that's just right for this time of year. 

Curried Acorn Squash Salad with Apples

2 medium acorn squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon curry powder (recipe follows)
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
Simple Raita (recipe follows)
Herbed Dressing (recipe follows)
1 apple (like a Honey Crisp or Pink Lady)
2 cups arugula or other salad greens
1 shallot (thinly sliced)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the stem end off of each acorn squash and scoop out the seeds. You won't need these, so discard or compost them. Slice both acorn squash in half and then into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch slices. In a large bowl, toss slices with the olive oil and then the curry powder, salt, and pepper. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, arrange the squash in a single layer and roast for 20 minutes or until the edges start to caramelize. Remove and allow squash to cool.

Make the Simple Raita and Herbed Dressing according to the recipe before you are ready to serve. Cut the apple into matchsticks and set aside. Place a layer of roasted squash on a large serving platter and top it with the Simple Raita. Add the arugula, shallots, and apples before drizzling the dish with Herbed Dressing. (Serves 6 to 8.)

Curry Powder

1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
The seeds from 4 cardamom pods
1/4 teaspoon clove
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon hot chili powder (or to taste)

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and then run them through the spice grinder for a few seconds to break down the cardamom seeds. This mix will keep for up to a year in a sealed container.

Simple Raita

1/2 cup finely diced English cucumber
Kosher salt (to taste)
Juice of 1/2 lime
3/4 cup 2% Greek yogurt

In a medium bowl, mix the cucumber, salt, lime, and yogurt. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.

Herbed Dressing

1 cup mixed fresh herbs (like basil, mint, parsley, cilantro)
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice from 1 lime
1 clove garlic

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)

Using an immersion blender or your food processor, blend the herbs, oil, lime juice, and garlic until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Five Quick Questions with Logan Guleff of MasterChef Junior

He cooks beets and Brussels sprouts, talks about the unique layering of smoke flavors, and his cooking has taken him all the way to the White House to meet the President, yet he just turned 12 years old! Logan Guleff, who calls Memphis home, is about to take his culinary talents to a new national audience on the Fox reality cooking show MasterChef Junior. It's a show in which young cooks compete to see who can come up with the perfect dish under imperfect circumstances. It's a bunch of fun to watch, and now we Memphians have a hometown guy to cheer on!

The premiere of this season of MasterChef Junior is coming up on November 4. There's going to be a watch party downtown at Bridges on November 4th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Kim, Logan's mom, tells us that it'll be $2 at the door, and the proceeds go to support the great work Bridges does in our city. 

Logan took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions -- and coming up soon on The Chubby Vegetarian, we'll have a great vegetarian recipe Logan created just for us.

TCV: Besides making coffee for your mom, what's the first dish you remember cooking, and how old were you?

Logan: "I’ve always been in the kitchen, but I guess my earliest memory of a true dish is making pasta by hand with my mom for Christmas. Maybe I was 3 or 4, mixing eggs in the dough. I loved it."

TCV: It's a plain old Tuesday night without company or anything, and you're cooking dinner for the family; what are you making?

Logan: “What was on sale or in the house? I would start there and work on something that might end up being dinner or it might be a pizza night! Who knows?  I do have a Mediterranean Pork Roast that is pretty tasty that I could make."

TCV: What technique or ingredient has your undivided attention right now?

Logan: "I am having fun learning about smoke and BBQ. I’ve discovered some unique layering of wood flavors. I am working on a few desserts too, along with creating a few new spice blends - I have been busy."

TCV: I just finished shooting photographs a cookbook for Whitney Miller, MasterChef season 1 winner. Is a cookbook something that you see in your future? What's next for Logan?

Logan: "That is a great project, we might have to talk! I am working on a cookbook and have all kinds of ideas for it. I’ve also created 5 new spice blends I want to sell. I really want my own cooking show, so I am working hard on that and school, too. My people need to talk to your people about this cookbook idea. "

TCV: What effect has being from Memphis and living in the South had on your style of cooking?

Logan: "I don't know, I mean, I am from Memphis, and the city is just exploding with great food and chefs. So many folks in the restaurant business have been super nice to me and have shared some of what they do in the kitchen. And my blog, Order Up with Logan, helps me with being a food explorer. Maybe being from Memphis means I work harder -- grit and grind and all that. "

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Arugula, Walnut, and Bleu Cheese Stuffed Portobellos and Food Day

I am honored to have been invited by Food Day, a food advocacy group that focuses on food justice and food education, to take part in a panel discussion about healthy eating. The panel discussion and breakfast are a part of the Food Fight Write conference in Las Vegas, which is in association with the World Food Championships. I'm so excited about all of this because I'm always thrilled to talk about food and how it doesn't have to be greasy and over the top to be delicious. Food Day shares our belief that real food simply prepared can be amazingly delicious and also fuel your body. (Find out more at

Lately, we've been cooking simply… I mean really simply. The oven is cranked up to 350, we drizzle some corn or asparagus or sweet potatoes with olive oil, hit them with a little salt and pepper, and roast them for our side dish. 

Over and over again, I keep making this kind of old-school, comforting stuffed mushroom as a main. It seems almost too simple to share, but the flavor and texture are just right, even though it's made with just a few ingredients. 

Arugula, Walnut, and Bleu Cheese Stuffed Portobellos

4 large portobello mushrooms
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup champagne vinegar
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 shallot (diced, about 1/4 cup)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 5-ounce container fresh arugula
2 large eggs (beaten)

Chopped tomato and fresh parsley (to garnish)

Preheat the oven to 350. (I always use the convection mode because I think it cooks everything more evenly. Use it if you have it.) Remove the stems from the mushroom and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle each with the olive oil and vinegar lightly coating both sides. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Place the mushrooms gill-side-down on the parchment and place into the oven for 15 minutes. While they cook, go ahead and prepare the filling.

In a large bowl, toss together the bleu cheese, walnuts, shallot, lemon zest, arugula, and eggs. Remove the mushrooms from the oven and pour any juice that has rendered from the mushrooms into the filling mixture; it's good flavor that you don't want to waste! Toss the mixture together one more time. Place the mushrooms gill-side-up on the parchment and divide the filling between them. Return the baking sheet to the oven for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with chopped tomato and parsley. (Serves 4.) 

Check out these links to Food Day posts: 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

TCV Cancer Shake: A Spice Blend with LOTS of Antioxidants

The idea for a mix of spices that each contain antioxidant properties came after my dad's diagnosis of pancreatic cancer this past March. I was busy hammering him about juicing and eating all the right things -- but what he really needed at the time was to eat for comfort because his digestive tract was so messed up both before and after his Whipple surgery.

So eventually I figured out that I needed to come up with something that tasted good and could be added to any dish…something that would up the cancer-fighting ability of the food he was eating. A quick Google search of the top antioxidant spices in the world and a visit to my well-stocked spice cabinet led to the first container of TCV Cancer Shake.

I sprinkled a good bit on a sweet potato I was having for lunch one day and thought, this isn't bad at all! I actually kind of like it. It's reminiscent of a mild curry powder -- because that's basically what it is. The ginger and cinnamon add warmth while the sumac, a middle-Eastern spice made from ground sumac berries, adds a nice lemony touch. Each ingredient adds either earthiness or sweetness.

It's great on everything from salads to grilled vegetables to fish (so I'm told!) to stir-fry; my dad has used it on all of those things and asked me to make him some more of it.

At this point, I am so thrilled to share with you the news that he's alive and well with no evidence of disease, as reported as his most recent scan at the end of August. It takes faith, the support of family and friends, some very talented doctors, and likely some luck to get to this point, and we are grateful for all of it.

TCV Cancer Shake

1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon sumac*
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder*
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a medium bowl, simply mix all the spices until well incorporated. I like to run the whole mix through my spice grinder to break down the larger oregano and sea salt flakes. Keep mixture in an airtight container in the cupboard for up to 6 months. Sprinkle on everything!

*These spices are available at specialty food stores like Whole Foods.

Fresh Cucumber Noodles with Cashews and Mint

Here in the South, we are about to be completely overrun with cucumbers. Summertime yields so many pounds of them from the few plants that we have at the farm; we really have to try hard to use them all, even after sharing. Pickles, cucumber lemonade, summer salad, raita…and don't forget Kool-ickles

So this is a new idea that'll have you scooping up all the cucumbers you can get your hands on this season. It uses a great new gadget we got from good old Walgreens. It's called a Vegetti, and it easily cuts cucumber and other vegetables into spaghetti-like noodles. This cold, spicy dish goes great alongside sushi or curry. Best of all, it comes together with no cooking at all and only takes a few minutes to make.

Fresh Cucumber Noodles with Cashews and Mint

1 large English cucumber (about 14 inches)
1 small Serrano pepper (very thinly sliced)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon plum vinegar
1 teaspoon mirin
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup crushed cashews
1 tablespoon sliced chives

Run the cucumber through the Vegetti or break it down using a serrated peeler. (Alternately, it would be just fine to thinly slice the cucumber or to cut it into matchsticks. It's your call.) In a large bowl, toss the cucumber, Serrano pepper, ginger, soy, vinegar, mirin, and sesame oil together until everything is well-coated. Place onto a plate to serve family-style or divide between two bowls for individual servings. Garnish with mint, cashews, and chives. (Serves 2.)