22 October 2012

Hen of the Woods Bliss!

 So my friend and fellow harper, Patrick, is a mushroom hunter extraordinaire.   He's incredibly knowledgeable and so very generous with his mushroom hauls.  His lovely wife Donna was kind enough to personally deliver this beauty to me so I could use it while it was fresh.  I used half of it to make her mushroom tart recipe, and the other half in a pasta.

Saute the mushrooms with butter, herbs, finely chopped leeks, garlic, and season with salt.  For my tart shells on this particular evening, I just packed whole wheat bread onto the sides of some oiled ramekins.  A lot easier, and a lot healthier than pie crust, but not as tasty.  Up to you and your priorities really.  Mine shift often, but I was really hungry so I went with the fast option this night. 

When mushrooms have reduced, pack them tightly into tart shells, top with a generous amount of havarti cheese (or any other smooth melting cheese.) 

Bake the tarts at 350 F until cheese is well melted.  At this point, if you want, you can sprinkle on some garlic bread crumbs, which are simply panko toasted in a pan with garlic and olive oil and a little parsley.  I'm a crunch addict so I think it's a nice addition.  Then send them back into the oven to broil for a just a few minutes utnil lightly browned.  So good. 
 For the pasta, I coated the mushrooms in flour before sauteing them.  This made for a thin and crispy outer texture that is an improvement on plain sauteed mushrooms in my opinion.  

I sauteed them in butter and herbs from the garden - thyme and rosemary.  Typically, when I have awesome mushrooms I don't dress the pasta in much of anything beyond garlic and oil.  But I had a bunch of pesto leftover, so I used it to make a light pesto cream sauce.  It would be good with or without the sauce I think. 

I finished the dish once again with the garlic and parsley breadcrumbs for even more crunch.  I miss my giant mushroom now that it's gone. 

19 September 2012

Arugala and Pistachio Pesto

I'm so sorry my camera is terrible.  I've had loads of people try to figure out what's wrong with it.  Anyway, I had a bag of arugula on it's way out, so I threw it in the mini-prep with olive oil, salt, pepper, about a 1/2 cup of pistachios and 2 big handfuls of herbs from the garden (basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, mint) sort of a nutty chimichurri I suppose.  

Tossed the lot (and it is a lot) with 3-4 servings of whole wheat fettuccine, and served it with heirloom tomatoes and steamed asparagus.

Roasted Radish and Toasted Walnut Salad

Fully out of tomato season now, I'm starting to get creative again instead of letting one ingredient do all the work!  I once had a lasagna at Taste where thinly sliced radishes took the place of noodles, and an even more amazing roasted radish bruschetta.  So that was my inspiration for this salad. 

Greens - as much as you like
Roasted radishes - 1 bunch
Toasted walnuts - 1/2 cup
Smoked cheese - to taste
Your favourite vinagrette (I used apple cider) - less is more

To roast the radishes: Toss them in melted 1/4 T of butter, or olive oil, and roast them for 1/2 an hour on a preheated cookie sheet in a very hot oven.  To toast the walnuts: throw them into a hot cast iron skillet and toss them around until slightly browned.  

Fried Green Tomato Salad

To mark the end of tomato season, I decided to give green tomatoes a moment in the spotlight.  Well the decision was made for me when I went to the market and saw how hopelessly undelicious the regular tomatoes looked.  I'm no expert on fried tomatoes, so I just googled a random recipe and used it.  I used coconut oil though, and not nearly as much as the recipe called for.  

I dressed the greater part of a box of supergreens with a T of Basil oil, a t of apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper.  Toss in pickled red onion slices, top with goat cheese sprinkles and tomatoes. 

Hint: If you like your tomatoes a little softer, bake them on 200 for half an hour after you fry them.  I did this and I think it was an improvement.  I'm pretty sure that's not traditional though.

08 September 2012

Smoked Green Bean Salads

I first had smoked green beans at Square One Brewery in Lafayette Square.  They have some of the most creative and delicious salad combinations I've ever come across.

I have an actual smoker, but it is for indoor use and makes my hair smell like a bonfire, so I skipped it for these.  Instead I dressed the beans in a mixture of Wright's liquid smoke, Braggs, and a little sesame oil.  Equal parts of each.  Then I roasted them slow and low in a single layer at 250 for 40 mins, or until they get a little bit shriveled.

You almost don't need to dress the rest of the salad after you put these on top, but you can use a little balsamic vinagrette if you want. 

1) Above: I placed the beans on a bed of arugula, topped them with red onion slices, tomato wedges and a little sprinkle of Baetje Farms Cheese for a salad I could easily make a meal from. 

2) Left: To make it more of a main course salad, throw some baked polenta slices on top.  This time I used Seaside Smoked Cheddar to bring out the smokiness of the beans.  And the last of the season's heirloom tomatoes. 

I'm really really bummed that tomato season is over, but I keep reminding myself that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

04 September 2012

Husk Cherry and Corn Salad

 Here you see the adorable husk cherry or ground cherry as it is also known.  I tasted one at Local Harvest Grocery, and had to purchase a punnet despite the high price tag.  
My first thought was too use them in a summer's bounty salad along with greens, sungold tomatoes, fresh shucked corn, and lots of mint and basil.  I'm not usually one for fruit in salad, but the interplay between the corn and the ground cherries is out of this world.  Oh, and there's a big hunk of fresh mozzarella in the middle there.  And I served it with lavash crackers:

His and Hers Tostadas

I made mine on a brown rice puff.  I can't remember the brand name.  I topped it with refried pinto beans, red cabbage, cilantro, green onion, yoghurt, and really really hot salsa.
 His is on a more traditional corn tostada shell.  Topped with refried pinto beans, cabbage, cilantro, green onion, but also shredded cheddar cheese and milder salsa.
I feel like no one ever thinks to make tostadas at home.  I like them better than hard tacos and find them easier to eat.  And I love the endless possibilities for topping them.  Maybe next time I will do them with cooked vegetables.  Ooh, maybe even smoked veggies - my new obsession.

14 July 2012

Pistachio Pizza

First, let me say that I ripped this idea off completely from "The Bradley" at Epic Pizza and Subs in Soulard.  I had seen this article and lodged it somewhere in my memory.  I'm not in the habit of eating pizza for lunch, but one Saturday I had a craving on my way to play a wedding in Lafayette Square.  I was totally blown away by this pizza because it had the flavour and mouth feel of Italian sausage.  The secret - Pistachios and Rosemary.  These are helped along by sea salt and caramelized onions (always welcome in basically any dish) and heaps of Parmigiano Reggiano.  

Sometimes I regret ordering a pizza that doesn't have red sauce, but not this time.  Now I crave it fortnightly and have started to make it myself.  The only difference with mine is the whole wheat crust, which makes it a much sturdier slice.  Not better, just different.  I will take a better picture next time.

Shitake Black Bean Burgers

There has been a lot of talk about veggie burgers on facebook lately.  And my friend Ellery has been on the hunt for a mushroom burger.  I've experimented with burgers in the past and I've never been too impressed with the results.  Always mushy.  This incarnation was also mushy, but was lovely and crisp on the outside, and very cooperative to work with throughout the cooking process.  
I looked around at online recipes, and decided to make up my own.  I wanted to see if I could manage to keep in vegan (leave out eggs.)  And then it came to me!  Quinoa flakes!  I bought them on a whim with no plan for them whatsoever.  I made a breakfast porridge out of them that continued to thicken the more I stirred it.  So it seemed like they might make a good binder in a burger as well.  The problem is finding them.  I'm sure they can be made, but that seems pretty involved.  I've also had good success with tahini as a binder.  

I asked Kurt what he wanted on his.  His request: Jalepenos, Fried Egg, Cheddar Cheese
Since his was no longer vegan, I decided to keep mine vegan for contrast: Onion, Tomato, Avocado

Here is my made up recipe for you to tweak yourself.  Let me know your results and modifications!

15 large shitake mushrooms - diced
1 onion - diced
1 clove garlic - minced
1 carton black beans - drained, rinsed and semi - mashed
1 cup quinoa flakes
Smoked paprika cayenne and cumin to taste

Saute the mushrooms, onion and garlic until all the moisture is gone.  Mix with remaining ingredients until it forms a thick paste.  Form burgers to suit the size of your bun, place in between wax paper sheets, and place on cardboard or any sturdy surface.  Place in freezer for a couple of hours.  Remove from freezer and cook in a small amount of olive oil in a cast iron skillet until nicely browned on both sides.  Serve however you like it!

30 June 2012

Friday Night Dinners

Blackberry Sauce
Yep, there's those tomatoes again.  We are completely addicted.  There is probably no limit to what I would pay for a tomato this delicious.  If you want them, they can be obtained at my dealer.
Our family friend Larry, brilliant gardener and top notch accordion player originally from Ireland, always brings my parents a big sack of his new potatoes.  Then if I play my cards right, I get my own smaller sack out of their stash.  My favourite ones are the teeny tiny ones you can eat in one bite.  Those never make it to the plate though! 
Kurt suggested some sort of savoury blackberry sauce be poured over our dinner this particular evening.  Too lazy to look up a recipe, I boiled about 20 blackberries in some red wine until they broke down, added some butter, salt, pepper and honey and threw it in the blender.  Pretty good if you don't mind chomping on the seeds, which I don't.  This got poured over potatoes which I had boiled and then browned in the cast iron with some onions and pieces of a apple and sage field roast sausage, which I like because they are not processed like so many other meat substitutes.  Also, asparagus.

Fiddlehead Ferns
 I finally got my hands on some fiddle head ferns and they don't keep for long, so they became the focus of this particular Friday night dinner.  Saute them like you would green beans with olive oil and a little garlic.  I put them on a bed of GOC style whole wheat fettucine and served those with hummus on crusty whole wheat and kale tomato salad.  Yummy. 

Lasagna with atypical sides
Spinach and ricotta whole wheat lasagna, roasted cauliflower, microgreen and shitake salad.  More detail on the salad in a later post.
Individual Lasagnas
I bought these large ramekins for serving cassoulet, but when we were redoing the kitchen, and I was forced to get creative with the microwave and rice cooker, I did something very strange and made these individual lasagnas......in the microwave.  Pretty good considering, but nowhere as good as baked.  But, without that experiment, I may not have ever come up with this use for these dishes.  It's a great way to get your lasagna fix without having tons of leftovers.  Served here with a simple salad and crusty bread.

Soba Salad

Soba noodles are a traditional Japanese noodle made from buckwheat.  They are also a classic old-school vegetarian food.  I didn't really know why until I looked them up and found out "Soba contains all eight essential amino acids, including lysine, which is lacking in wheat."  Boy oh boy do I love love love finding another food to throw in the face of people who like to say "humans need meat for the amino acids."  Please don't try and school me on nutrition unless you know what you are talking about!  Sorry for the rant, had to be said.  On to the recipe.

Boil soba noodles in plenty of water for 5 mins, drain and rinse in cool water.
In a large bowl, mix 1 T almond butter, 2 T rice wine vinegar, 1 t sesame oil, and 1 T Braggs until almond butter is all incorporated.   Toss the noodles in the sauce until evenly distributed.
Toss in any vegetables you have!  I like cucumbers, tomatoes and green onions myself.  Kick it up a notch with some sriracha and goma shio for interest and crunch!  Easy peasy.  Serve cold.

A weeks worth of blackberries

Every day I pick about 15 blackberries and add them to my stash in the fridge.  I thought I was saving them to make cobbler, but I think I enjoy them more as a snack on their own.  No cooking needed and check out these stats!!!  "This fruit has multiple macronutrients — high dietary fiber, heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats (especially in its numerous chewable seeds), low overall fat content, and protein combined with high micronutrient levels of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. Blackberries are a particularly good source of vitamin A, potassium and calcium."

The intense heat here seems to be taking it's toll on my blackberry bush.  I'm going to go fight the birds for the last few berries of the season.  They yell at me every time I go out to pick the berries.  It is pretty hilarious.

Quinoa Polenta with Shitake Pistachio Sauce

When I get burnt out on pasta, rice and potatoes for dinner I usually turn to polenta.  Always organic because I'm not into Monsanto or their frankencorn.  Plain polenta is fine, but the quinoa in this polenta adds another textural layer that particularly worked with this dish. 
Cut the polenta into 1/2 inch thick rounds, and toasted them in a little coconut oil in the cast iron skillet and set aside.  Caramelize a sweet onion over low heat until brown, add the sliced shitake mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms have given up all their liquid.  Add garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook for another minute to infuse the flavours.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour over the mushrooms and cook for one minute.  Then slowly add milk while continuously stirring as you would when working with a roux.  When it reaches your desired consistency, add in chopped pistachios and ground pepper and spoon over polenta rounds.  Serve with lighter salady items to balance out the richness of the sauce.  I served mine with sliced local tomatoes and zucchini ribbons dressed in basil oil and balsamic. 

Mexi Salad

I randomly found myself buying jicama at the store the other day.  Though I love it, I hadn't bought it in years because I always seemed to forget I had it until it was already rotten.  Since it is such a pain to peel, and I had time on my hands that particular day, I went ahead and processed the whole thing into 1 inch strips and splashed on some apple cider vinegar as a preservative. 
I already had an English cucumber, avocado, local tomatoes and greens, thus this salad was born.  If you're not from St. Louis, you may not know how insanely hot it is.  Baking is out of the question and even sauteing adds too much steam to the already steamy environment.  I kind of like having restrictions to force me to be more creative.  I dressed the salad with red pepper oil and more apple cider vinegar and sprinkled a little cayenne on top.  It earned K's seal of approval.

25 April 2012

Homemade Kimchi

My friends Adam and Elizabeth have two darling little daughters from Korea, and kindly have us over for Korean dinners that never disappoint.  On one occasion, I assisted Adam in making an enormous batch of kimchi, and he even gave me a big and little jar of it to take home.  The little jar to keep at room temperature, and make surprisingly loud fermentation noises, and the big jar to keep in the fridge.  Since it is hard to buy kimchi that doesn't contain fish sauce, it's worth the effort to make your own if you're a vegetarian.  But it was not a simple process.  I can't remember the recipe, so we'll see if Adam reads this and provides a link!

01 April 2012

Shitake Tamales, with Mole Mofu and Lime Dressed Salad

Yet another mushroom dish!  Clearly I'm obsessed.  Vegetarian tamales are pretty hard to come by in restaurants, and the frozen ones from Target have a frightening amount of fat in them.  In my opinion, if they are that fattening, they should taste better than they do.  So homemade tamales it was!

To round out the meal, I came across some mole dressed Mofu.  I've been trying to avoid eating tofu lately because of the concerns surrounding soy, but since Mofu is local and organic, I make the occasional exception.

Finally, a simple cabbage, kale and avocado salad with lime vinagrette.

Barley and Asparagus Pilaf

Just a simple side dish, or main meal if you're me!  Cook barley according to instructions on package.  Chop and caramelize one whole onion in a large pan.  When onions are almost done, add asparagus and saute until tender.  Toss in cooked barley until you are happy with the ratio of grain to vegetable.  Salt and pepper to taste and serve as is, or with shaved parmesan or almonds. 

27 January 2012

Vegetarian Pho

St. Louis has a wealth of Vietnamese restaurants, and for years I've been irritated that there was no vegetarian version of pho, the national dish of Vietnam.  It always looks so appealing steaming in its big bowl with all sorts of fresh stuff on the side.  Then, I spotted this at Local Harvest Grocery, the coolest store in St. Louis, which I can walk to from my house!  The thing about making this soup is you have to buy the stuff and use it soon.  Bean sprouts and cilantro do not last long in the fridge.  I winged the recipe since the hard part was already taken care of with the stock.  I was pretty excited to find brown rice vermicelli at Jay's, but I doubt it will be there the next time I look for it.
 Above you see my beloved sriracha, pho stock, noodles, bean sprouts, cilantro, a lime, sliced jalepeno and sliced green onions.  After I took this photo I decided to throw in kale and seitan, but they are of course optional.  Rice noodles are soaked rather than boiled, so besides heating the stock, there's really not a lot of cooking involved.  To serve, place noodles, kale and seitan in a large bowl.  On the side, serve all the optional stuff to be added during the course of eating this incredibly delicious soup.

Vegan Ceasar Salad

You know what is gross?  Anchovies.  You know what is super-gross?  Ground up anchovies.  I've never had a real ceasar salad in my life, but Kurt is a big fan.  Several years ago, at his suggestion, I tried my hand at a vegetarian ceasar salad that involved a coddled egg (which is like a raw egg but without the danger of poisoning yourself.)  It was tasty enough, but not really worth repeating in a hurry.  There was a big pack of organic romaine on clearance at the grocery store for $1, so I snatched it up and thought it time to try another ceasar recipe.  My friend Adam was recently singing the praises of the Post Punk Kitchen, so I checked there first and sure enough they had a much lauded vegan recipe.  I followed their recipe exactly, so I won't re-post it.  The only difference with mine is that I used some stale homemade spelt and teff bread instead of French or Italian, and kale instead of the optional spinach.  The recipe is really clever and uses caper brine for a vague fishiness and ground almonds for texture.