Sunday, December 29, 2013

Vegetable A La King:

Save A Chicken, Eat a Vegetable


The other day my wife said she wished I could make a vegetarian Chicken a la King. A little light went on in my head and I thought to myself: Challenge accepted!

"Blank" a la King is one the ultimate comfort foods. Served over noodles, rice or a variety of bread types, it's a creamy and savory delight with chunks of whatever kind of goodness you can imagine mixed in. In this case, those chunks of goodness are veggies. 

My wife and I used to eat one we'd buy out of the can years ago. I want to say it was from Swanson's or Campbell's or something like that. Back when we first met, we were still very young and would eat pretty much anything. It didn't matter if it came from a can or out of box. If it was tasty and cheap, we ate it. Looking back to those days of yore, I have to smile in the warm memory of our younger more carefree days and then immediately shudder in disgust that we actually ate that shit.




As I've grown older, I've come to realize a few things. First of all, it's no secret that canned and boxed foods are usually highly processed and will kill you. In fact, according to a recent study, even breathing causes cancer. So if any of you hope to live until tomorrow, you need to quit breathing posthaste!! 

Secondly, I love to cook, especially from scratch. I don't always have the time to it but I do it as much as I can. Standing in a kitchen on my day off with groceries spread around, a 10" Henckel in my hand, and something simmering on the stovetop is one of the most relaxing places I can think of. I can just let my mind flow in a "Let go Luke, use the Force" kinda way to create something wonderful. Then when it's all done, you get to eat it. And if you're truly lucky, you have the sheer pleasure of sharing it with friends and family. You get to hear them tell you how awesome it was. And then your ego can get all super big because none of them can cook as good as you. And then you can stand on your pedestal and look down at all the lame little people who don't posses and never will posses your brilliant culinary chops. Whoa!! That got a little out of hand. But anyone who's ever worked in a professional kitchen is probably chuckling right now because that really happens.

Taking those two realizations and putting them together actually works out quite well. I can still eat some of my favorite foods and not have to get it from a can thereby avoiding most of the unnecessary chemical-based gobbledy-gook that comes mixed in with our alleged "food".




Am I saying this recipe is the ultimate in healthy just because I make it from scratch? Nope. It's still fattening. But as I said before, it's a comfort food. And even though it's still fattening, it's healthier and definitely tastier than the canned version. Trust me, you'll thank me from the top of your pedestal. Enjoy!! 



Vegetable a la King


Ingredients: 


  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (one and a half sticks), divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley 
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, chopped
  • 1-2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 2 cups peas
  • 4 oz. jar pimentos
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Your choice of starch: rice, egg noodles, biscuits, puff pastry shells, toast points. 

    Preparation: 

    1. In a dutch oven or heavy pot, melt 1/2 cup (one stick) of the butter over a medium high heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir constantly for about 2 minutes.  

    2. Add in 1 cup one the vegetable broth and whisk to combine all together. Once combined, add in the remaining broth and the cream. Now add the bouillon, parsley sprigs, and the thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. 

    3. While the sauce is simmering, melt the remaining 1/4 cup (half stick) of butter in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Once melted, add the carrots, cauliflower and celery and saute for 5 minutes. Now add in the bell pepper and the shallot and continue to saute for another 5-10 minutes until veggies begin to soften. 

    4. Using tongs or a spider, remove the parsley and thyme sprigs from the sauce and discard. 

    5. Add the sauteed veggies to the sauce along with the salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg and continue to cook until veggies reach the desired doneness. 

    6. Serve over your choice of starch. 


    Makes: 6-8 servings

    Sunday, December 8, 2013

    Vegetarian Gravy:

    Don't Worry, Carnivores...We Got This


    Gravy. I absolutely love it. But it's not something I eat on a regular basis. For me, it's maybe two or three times a year. And most of that is consumed during the winter holiday season. That being said, when I do eat it, I do it with reckless abandon. Caloric value is of no concern to me when it comes to this stuff. I guess you could say I was livin' life in fat lane. Oops, typo there, I meant "fast" lane. 




    Because gravy usually goes with some sort of meat based dish, it's rare to find one that is vegetable based. As such, it would appear that if we vegetarians want gravy, we have to look out for one another in this matter and create our own so we too can participate in all the holiday eatin'. My wife and I are, for the most part, the only vegetarians that we know. Fortunately, our friends and family are usually pretty accommodating when it comes to inviting us for dinner and we really do appreciate them for that. But we also don't feel it's right to expect them to do what they do. That being said, we're always prepared and happy to come armed with our own grub. So if mashed potatoes are on the menu, I don't mind whipping up my own gravy and bringing it along. Sounds weird, I know, but you gotta do what ya gotta do.     

    Recently, we had the pleasure of getting together with my family to visit with some out-of-town relatives that we don't get to see too often. Lasagna was on the menu. My aunt actually made a separate lasagna dish with no meat just for my wife and I. She totally didn't have to do that but she did. My family are such thoughtful and wonderful people. 




    Vegetarian gravy, conceptually, is really no different than meat gravy. Gravy, in and of itself, is basically a flavorful broth that's tightened up with a roux in order to give it that thickened consistency. The
    obvious intention, in both meat based and vegetable based gravies, is to make the broth taste good. For me, the best way to do that in a vegetarian version is to incorporate that "umami" essence within your broth. That's what is going to give it that hearty, almost meaty, feel to it. Our umami in this recipe comes from two sources: soy sauce and mushrooms. And that's enough for me. In my humble opinion, I don't think you need the Marmites and the nutritional yeasts to get it right. I prefer to keep it somewhat simple. 


    Note: The three fresh herbs in this recipe can often be found together in one package labeled "poultry mix". 

    Note: People differ in how thick or thin they like their gravy. If the roux doesn't thicken the gravy to your satisfaction, mix a tablespoon or two in an equal amount of cool water, enough to make a slurry (one part to one part). Whisk the slurry, little by little, into your hot simmering gravy until the desired thickness is achieved. You may not need to add all of it so add it slowly until it's just right. 


    Vegetarian Gravy


    Ingredients: 


    • 3 Tbsp olive oil
    • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 
    • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 shallot, chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
    • 4 cups of vegetable stock
    • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
    • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
    • 1/4 tsp white pepper
    • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 cup water
    • 2 sprig of fresh thyme
    • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
    • 10 fresh sage leaves
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)
    • 1/3 cup flour

      Preparation: 

      1. In a dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the oil over a medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add the mushrooms, onion, shallot, and garlic. Saute for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are browned. 

      2. Once the vegetables have browned, add in the vegetable stock and bring to a simmer. Now add the bouillon cube, poultry seasoning, white pepper, and soy sauce. Simmer on low for about 10 minutes.  

      3. Now add the water, thyme, rosemary, sage. Season with salt and pepper to your taste and simmer on low for an additional 10 minutes. 

      4. Remove the broth from the heat and strain through a sieve to remove all the solids. With the back of a wooden spoon, press the solids in the sieve to extract as much of the liquid that you can. Set the broth aside and discard the solids. 

      5. To make the roux, put your dutch oven back on the burner over a medium heat. Add the butter and melt. Once melted, add the flour and stir constantly for about 1-2 minutes, being careful not let the roux burn.  

      6. Now add you broth back into the dutch oven with the roux and whisk until fully incorporated. Bring the gravy back to a simmer. Let simmer for a few minutes to allow the gravy to fully thicken. 


      Makes: 12 servings

      Sunday, November 17, 2013

      (Unstuffed) Vegetarian Bread Stuffing:

      We're Vegetarians....There's Nothing To Stuff


      Thanksgiving is upon us again my friends. It's always been a large part of my life. As much as I love and cherish my time with family this time of year, there is another huge motivator to love on this holiday. Food. Let's face it people. The food is the shining star this time of year. And I say with a devilish smile on face, family is the garnish. The biological side-dish, if you will. I know, I'm gonna catch hell for that one. (insert smiley face here)




      Aside from my beloved little blog here, my lovely wife and I own a business that is food based. We cook constantly throughout the week and during the months of November and December, we are at our busiest. Busy like triple-the-business busy. So last year, we decided not to make a Thanksgiving meal for ourselves because we are slammed every day for at least two weeks prior to the holiday. Come the actual holiday, the last we wanted to do was cook. 

      So we decided to go to a local casino that has this crazy huge Thanksgiving spread every year. Was I expecting the world? No. I was expecting casino food. But I've been to the buffet before and it wasn't half bad for the price. So we thought, what the hell. It's open, easy, thoughtless and hopefully somewhat decent. We are wrong. 

      It was $30 smackers to even walk in the door and that's after an hour wait. The youngest person ahead of us was at least 300 years old. We were drowning amongst a slow motion sea of blue hair. You could literally smell the osteoporosis in the air. I know, I'm gonna catch hell for that one. (insert smiley face here) 

      One truly golden moment of the night was, while we were standing in line waiting to get in, we watched this very elderly woman take about 6 pieces of prefab crap cake and, very slowly and very carefully, wrap each piece individually in napkins and place them in her purse. As most of you know, you're not supposed to take food out of an all-you-can-eat buffet. But she was straight-up gangster about it and did it right in front of the employees and managers. They all stopped and looked at her and you could see a few of them start to move toward her to tell her she can't do that but every single one them stopped and just walked away shaking their heads.  




      So we finally got to the front of the line, paid our way in, grabbed our plates, and began the initial cruise. If you've ever been to a buffet, it's the preliminary pass you make to survey the food offerings prior to committing to any actual food. Obviously, you have the Thanksgiving fare just because it's that holiday but it's a casino. So that means you also have the Italian section, the Mexican section, and the Asian section. Nothin' like a little refried beans and sushi to go with my cranberry sauce.

      Now, I assume that there have been extensive studies regarding the demographics as far as casino Thanksgiving spreads are concerned. Or maybe the dingleberry that planned this menu just didn't care.

      I could lay the heartbreak down section by section but it would be pure folly. I'll just say this: After a few passes, it became painfully obvious to me that the only thing on this 150 foot buffet that we could eat was mashed potatoes (without gravy), fruit salad, and prefabricated crap desserts. Let me say it again: $60 dollars (per couple) for mashed potatoes (without gravy), fruit salad, and prefabricated crap desserts. 

      Never again. 

      This Thanksgiving holiday as well as all future Thanksgivings will be filthy with homemade vegetarian friendly grub. This I say with pure conviction. The first Thanksgiving-centric dish on this blog will be the stuffing. If you were to simply say "Thanksgiving" in my presence, the first thing that comes into my mind is stuffing. It's my favorite of all holiday options. So that's where I'll start....... 





      This recipe was adapted from this one.

      Tip: The recipe calls for unsalted butter and low sodium broth. If you use the salted kind, you will definitely want to adjust the amount of salt you add at the end. 

      Vegetarian Bread Stuffing


      Ingredients: 

      • 1 pound french bread
      • 8 Tbsp butter (preferably unsalted), divided
      • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
      • 3 stalks of celery with leaves, halved lengthwise then sliced 1/4 inch thick
      • 1 small onion, chopped
      • 10 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stems
      • 10 leaves of fresh sage, chopped
      • 2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
      • 1 tsp salt
      • 1/4 tsp black pepper
      • 3 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

      Preparation: 

      1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 13x9 baking dish and set aside.

      2. Cut the bread in 3/4 inch cubes. Spread them evenly on 2 baking sheet. Toast the bread in the oven until the cubes are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer the toasted cubes to a large mixing bowl. 

      3. Wash the mushrooms under cool water then dry them over a clean towel. Then cut them into bite-sized pieces. If they are small, halve them and if they are large, quarter them. 

      4. In a large skillet, melt two tablespoons of the butter. Add the mushrooms and saute over a medium high heat for approximately 8 minutes until they are golden brown. 

      5. Add the celery, onion, thyme, and two more tablespoons of butter. Stir frequently until the vegetables have softened, approximately 6 minutes.  

      6. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, the sage, and the vegetable broth. Season with the salt and pepper. 

      7. Add half the veggie / broth mixture to the bread cubes and gently fold in to evenly distribute the liquid. Then add the remaining veggie / broth mixture and repeat. You want to fold gently so that the cubes don't disintegrate while at the same time making sure the liquid is evenly distributed throughout the bread stuffing.

      8. Add the stuffing mixture to your greased baking dish and bake uncovered for about 40 minutes. Once done, allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving. 


      Makes: 6 to 8 servings


      Saturday, November 2, 2013

      Deep Fried Mushroom Po' Boy with Spicy Remoulade:

      The Vegetarian Peacemaker


      I have been wanting, nay, needing to make a Po' Boy for a while now. Back in my carnivore days, my wife and I took a trip to New Orleans for the Heritage Jazz Festival. We went there for the music and let me tell you, music is what we got. After the Jazz Fest ended each day, we had tickets to see shows at the various clubs around town. One show we bought tickets for started at 3:00 am. That's right, 3:00 am. It ended around 5:00 am so we hit Bourbon Street for a night cap. We rolled into our hotel at about 6:30 am for a few hours of sleep, then into the cab and off to the Jazz Fest to do it all over again. 




      Being the natural born foodie that I am, trying the different foods and restaurants that New Orleans had to offer was, for me, equally as important as the festival. Some of the most amazing dishes that I've had in my life were eaten at that festival, the French Quarter and the various neighborhoods within the city. The combination of kick-ass music and food that was cooked with such passion made that city one of my favorites place on Earth. I feel this almost umbilical connection to the place. Man, I just got goose bumps. One this is for certain, I will return again someday.


      Spending all day at the Jazz Festival sure did make a dude hungry. One of the many things I ate on our trip was a Po' Boy sandwich. As with many older dishes, there always seems to be debate as to how they actually came to be. One of the more popular and generally accepted versions goes like this. The sandwich was created, or at least named, by brothers Clovis and Bennie Martin in New Orleans in the late 1920's during a four month long union strike of the local streetcar workers. Having come from that line of work prior to opening their coffee shop, the Martins had much sympathy for the striking workers who were struggling to feed their families during this hard time. As a way of helping their former colleagues, the Martins decided to give free sandwiches to all the striking workers that came into the shop. Bennie Martin later said that when they would see a striking employee coming in, they would say "Here comes another Poor Boy". And the name just kinda stuck. 




      As for the term The Peacemaker, or in French, La Mediatrice. That came from the Po' Boy's predecessor, which was basically the same type of sandwich. It was typically filled with fried oysters. It got it's name from the fact that husbands, returning home from a night of carousing and general debauchery, would often bring this sandwich home as a sort of peace offering in hopes that the lady of the house wouldn't bust them over the head. One thing I can tell you is that if I was out engaging in that sort of activity and had the balls to come home and give my wife a sandwich as retribution, I would have fried oysters up my nose as well as other choice bodily cavities. I could see it now. "Hey babe, I was out gettin' drunk and doin' hookers. Here's a sandwich."  My, times have changed. If it were only that easy. 




      Although there are many different types of main fillings, it seems to me the more popular ones are that of little fried nuggets of goodness. If that's not entirely accurate, at the very least, it's the one I like best. That being said, that was the direction I have opted to take in this matter. The inspiration for this recipe was taken from a menu I recently saw for a local restaurant featuring a fried mushroom Po' Boy. I haven't been there yet so I cannot comment on it's greatness. But I was so immediately struck by excitement when I merely read the name, I just had to do it myself.  




      This recipe is a combo of several found along the World Wide Web. The remoulade was adapted from this one. The fried mushrooms were adapted from this one. The assembly and additional fillings of the sandwich were taken from tradition.

      TIP: The remoulade really benefits from time. You must let the sauce marry for a minimum of one hour. But if you can possibly let it set in the fridge for a day or two, it gets that much better.

      TIP: As I have stated in other posts, my wife is "ooked out" by mushrooms. As much effort as I have invested in the endeavor of changing her mind, I have only has been met with staunch resistance. I have officially "rolled over" in this matter. No further efforts to convert her will be attempted. If this were The Spanish Inquisition, she'd have died honorably. As such, feel free to use other veggies. For her, I used medallions of zucchini. She loved it. I can also imagine broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, etc.   


      Deep Fried Mushroom Po' Boy with Spicy Remoulade


      Ingredients: 

      Spicy Remoulade: 

      • 1 cup mayonnaise
      • 2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
      • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
      • 2 Tbsp sugar
      • 1 Tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
      • 1 Tbsp Louisiana-style hot sauce
      • 2 tsp Creole mustard (or whole grain mustard if you can't find Creole)
      • 2 cloves garlic
      • 1 Tbsp capers, roughly chopped
      • 1 tsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (like this one)
      • 1 tsp paprika
      • 2 scallions, finely chopped
      • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
      • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

      Deep Fried Mushrooms:

      • 15 - 20 cremini mushrooms
      • 1 cup all purpose flour
      • 1 cup cool water
      • 2 tsp baking powder
      • 1 tsp salt
      • 1 tsp granulated garlic
      • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
      • 1/2 tsp black pepper
      • 1 cup bread crumbs
      • 1 quart peanut oil (or vegetable oil if you prefer)

      For the sandwich:

      • 1 French baguette
      • 2-3 cup shredded romaine lettuce
      • tomatoes, sliced

      Preparation: 

      1. Combine all remoulade ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. 

      2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors marry. Ideally, let it sit overnight or longer. 

      3. Wash the mushrooms under cool water then dry them over a clean towel. Then cut them into bite-sized pieces. If they are small, halve them and if they are large, quarter them. 

      4. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, water, baking powder, salt, garlic, cayenne and black peppers. Stir batter until smooth.

      5. In a separate medium bowl, add the bread crumbs. 

      6. In an assembly line fashion, dip the mushrooms, one by one, into the batter. Then place the battered mushrooms into the breadcrumbs to coat. Finally, place the battered and breaded mushroom pieces onto a plate.

      7. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan until it reaches a temp of 350° F. Don't go over that because you don't want to burn your oil. 

      8. Add the pieces a few at a time to oil being careful not to overcrowd the pot. I usually do about 8-9 at a time. Let them fry for a period no longer than 2 minutes. If you fry them too much longer than that, the mushrooms themselves become mushy so keep at or below 2 minutes. Once done, drain them on paper towels to absorb the excess oil. 

      9. Cut the baguette open and tear out a bit of the inner bread to create grooves in the top and bottom of the roll. Don't take out too much of the bread, you just want to take enough to cradle your fillings. 

      10. Fill the roll with the tomato, lettuce, fried mushrooms, and top the mushrooms with the remoulade sauce. 

      Makes: 4 sandwiches




      Sunday, July 28, 2013



      Thousand Island Dressing:

      Time To Get Retro! (And Not Ironically)


      One of my earliest memories in life was standing next to the apartment building I lived in with my folks many, many years ago in da' hood. I had a very small pocketful of Hot Wheel cars. I was happily playing by myself, building little roads in the dirt that I could "vrooom" my cars through. Before long, another little boy came appeared who also had some Hot Wheels. We played there together for what I remember to be ages. We were having such a grand time playing with our cars. Eventually he asked me how old I was. I remember holding up three fingers and expressing, quite enthusiastically, "I'm fwee!!". Please believe me. It wasn't shtick. I wasn't doing it to be cute. The harsh reality was that it was due to my pure inability, at the time, to negotiate proper tongue/lip movements coupled with my limited understanding of the English language. Give me a break, after all, I was only fwee.




      I recall that we played for quite some time afterwards. In fact, we had become quite good friends. Inseparable, as it were. Well at least until later that day when he went back to wherever it was he came from. I never saw him again. Kinda sad actually but such is life. Funny how such an oddball and insignificant memory can stick with you for so many years.

      It was a much simpler time back then. And so was the food. Your choices were not nearly as plentiful as they are now. It was a time when a salad was just a salad. There were no options. We didn't have arugula, endive, and radicchio. It was iceberg only, dude. And we liked it! Crap, I sound like an old geezer. My apologies. 

      Now here I am, decades later, sitting at my computer writing about the wonders of iceberg lettuce. There's something about the crunchiness of it that I adore. It's refreshing. It's tangible. It's satisfying. Arugula? It's bitter. Fragile. Cowardly. It can't even hold it's own weight. It's so...pusillanimous (Google it). I bet iceberg used to beat arugula up in the school yard. It's better suited for a light vinaigrette made of olive oil and splash of lemon. Don't get me wrong, that's all well and good. But a good Thousand Island dressing would kill it dead just looking at it. 

      Let me tell you, I find humor in the fact that I don't know anyone these days that would have a dinner party and serve their guests iceberg lettuce with big hunks of carrot, tomato, and onion in it. And, what's even funnier is that I don't know anyone who would serve that kind of salad with Thousand Island dressing. I mean really, it's just so.....uncivilized. 




      There was a restaurant in my town that shall remain unnamed within this blog post. It closed down a number of years ago. There was a separate bar where you could go drink and then there was the adjoining dining room. We used to go in there for the happy hour once in a while because it did have a decent happy hour. And there were, admittedly, infrequent times when we would go eat dinner as well. There wasn't a window in the place. It was dark like a cave. The interior was like walking straight into the 1970's. Many years ago, it was considered a really nice place to go eat. And, to their credit, it was good. Dated, but good. Then one day, poof, it was closed. No warning, just gone.

      Over the several years I'd been going to that place, I noticed one thing. The menu NEVER changed and the clientele NEVER changed either. As the years rolled by, their customers' hair got bluer and bluer and bluer, until it just couldn't get any bluer. And then they died. Then guess what happened. The place didn't have any more customers. There was no adaptation. No re-birth. No metamorphosis. They were in an evolutionary time-warp. And eventually, like the bluest of blue-hairs, it died too. Such is life.

      One of my fondest memories of the place was the super old school salad bar. That's right. Iceberg only, dude! Big hunks of carrots, tomato, and onion. And, you guessed it, Thousand Island dressing. Where the modern diner shunned it, I embraced it. And not "ironically" either. But, alas, I just couldn't make up for the scores of long-since-gone blue hairs. I tried. But I failed.  




      I reckon that someday, many, many years from now, my favorite restaurant will go out of business shortly after my soon to be beautiful head of gray hair (not blue) has been lain to rest, hopefully in some sort of fiery Viking style funeral. And my wife's blue hair (not gray) gets bluer as the days walk on by. But, again, such is life.....

      In the meantime, if you are ever invited to my house for dinner. Don't be surprised if you get a bowl of iceberg only (dude), with a glop of Thousand Island on top. O.G. style. The upside? It'll be Thousand Island dressing, homemade with love.

      There are occasions when I come across recipes that need no adjustments. This is one of those occasions. This dressing was found here


      Thousand Island Dressing


      Ingredients: 


      • 1/2 garlic clove, minced
      • 1/4 tsp of kosher salt
      • 3/4 cup of prepared or homemade mayonnaise
      • 1/4 cup of chili sauce
      • 2 Tbsp ketchup
      • 1 1/2 Tbsp minced onion
      • 2 tsp sweet pickle relish
      • 1/2 hard boiled egg, finely chopped (see note below)
      • fresh ground black pepper, to taste

      Preparation: 

      1. Add all ingredients in a mixing bowl and combine thoroughly. 

      2. Refrigerate for an hour or so to let the flavors meld. 

      Makes About 1 1/2 cups

      Note: This recipe should keep for about 5-7 days if stored refrigerated in an airtight container. If you want to make it last 2 weeks, leave the egg out. 


      Monday, July 22, 2013



      Yellow Curry Peanut Noodles:

      Asian (Con)Fusion


      I have loved making this is dish for quite some time. My wife is NOT a fan of curry and even she digs it. I think that's mostly because the peanut butter is the lead character in this story. The curry is the co-star. And man do they work well together. 

      Ever since I discovered curry, I've kinda been obsessed with it. I haven't found a curry of any particular type or from any particular country that I haven't liked. Not saying it doesn't exist and not saying I've tried them all, because I haven't. Which is cool with me because it just means I have more took forward too. I'm just saying I haven't found it yet. And that's cool with me too.




      This recipe, to me, screams Thai. And it probably is now that I've had my way with it. But even prior to that, before I massacred it with love, I would still call it Thai. However, I visited several sites that had similar recipes and, even though nobody has given any history of it, they all seem to claim it's Chinese. That being said, let it be heard here and now, that my official contention is that this is a Thai dish. Okay, well maybe not actually Thai. Let's say, Thai influenced. Or even more accurately, Americanized Thai / Italian fusion (only because I serve it over linguine noodles). I suppose in the long run, it doesn't really matter

      Now I don't want to add to the confusion here but this recipe usually calls for red curry paste. However, on one occasion, I didn't have red curry paste on hand so I used the yellow curry I did have and I actually liked it more. 




      I kicked around the idea of writing this blog with red curry in the title because that's what you'd typically find in this dish. But then I thought screw that man! This is my blog and my recipe. I have 100% creative freedom here! So yellow curry it is my friends. Now and forever. Unless of course, all I have on hand is red curry. Then it's the other. Really, it's fantastic either way. I just happen to prefer it with the yellow curry so if I have them both on hand, which I usually do, it always gonna be the yellow. 

      Okay, one more wonderful wrench in the machine. I wanted this dish to be served as a main. A hot pasta dish served with salad on the side. As with all the other recipes I found, it's usually served cold or at room temperature. What can I say? A guy wants what a guy wants. And I wanted a warm dish.   




      Although this dish is completely different in the end, it was definitely influenced by this recipe found on Appetite For China. Props are certainly due. 



      Yellow Curry Peanut Noodles


      Ingredients: 


      • 1 lb dried linguine
      • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
      • 4 Tbsp yellow (or red) curry paste
      • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
      • 1 15 oz can of coconut milk
      • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
      • 1 Tbsp sugar
      • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
      • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
      • unsalted peanuts, chopped
      • cilantro, chopped
      • lime wedges 

      Preparation: 

      1. Cook the pasta per the package directions. Drain and set aside.

      2. In a medium sauce pan over a medium heat, combine peanut butter, curry paste, vegetable broth, coconut milk, lime juice, sugar, pepper flakes, and salt. Stir constantly until the mixture come to a simmer.

      3. Lower the heat and continue to simmer, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes. It's important you stir constantly, otherwise the sauce can scorch onto the pan. 

      4. Put the drained noodles into a large bowl and stir in enough of the sauce the coat the noodles. You may not need all of the sauce as you don't want the noodles swimming in the sauce, just coated.

      5. Serve and garnish with the cilantro, peanuts, lime wedges and additional pepper flakes if you like more of a bite.  


      Serves: 4-6

      Sunday, July 14, 2013



      Charred Corn Salad with Basil, Onion, and Peppers:

      Bringing My Grill Back


      Corn.....What can I say about corn? Not a lot, unfortunately. I was trying to come up with something humorous to write but nothing really stuck out as funny. In fact, all my jokes were a bit too corny.....So I decided to abandon the "funny" angle. And not a moment too soon.




      Instead, I decided to write about something that I miss about being a carnivore. Meat? Nope. I'm over it. I'm much happier with my vegetarianism. I relish it, really. That being said, the thing I miss about being a carnivore is the good ol' barbecue. Specifically, the atmosphere. The camaraderie. The dudes standing around the grill, sucking down cold ones, not saying anything particularly deep, burping and watching stuff burn on the grill while the girls sip wine spritzers in the shade and dish about cousin Sarah, the black sheep of the family, who, if you didn't already hear, is addicted to pain pills and bad boys. Ladies..stop that! Sarah may be a bit crazy but she's not an addict. (Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental)

      Not really sure why I have avoided my barbecue this last year and half. I just did. Not that it was difficult, I just didn't really know what to do with it. Which is a bummer because I have this kick-ass professional series gas grill (don't judge) with 5 burners pumping out 60,000 BTU's of heat. She's sat on my back patio in a state of arrested decay. Kind of a limbo for grills. I've even considered letting the ivy overtake her like some sort of leafy coral reef. Reclaimed by Mother Nature. 




      However, I recently had some family over for the 4th of July. The ivy was cut away as Mother Nature got to see how defiant her child really was. And the grill was fired up so the family could grill their grillables. In the midst of it all, I stood there and watched my old friend in her new found glory doing what she always did so well. She delighted the family as if she'd never been gone. And to them, she'd hadn't. It was me that she'd become estranged. 

      That's when it struck me. This is bullshit! It's time to get back behind the grill. It's time to enjoy that patio time with the outside speakers playing my jams while I grill my own sort of grillables. And when the dudes aren't looking, have me a 32 ounce plastic cup of wine spritzer. Okay, maybe Sarah needs to get off the junk after all. It was all Billy Sr.'s fault anyway. And did you know that Billy Jr. isn't even his?........But I digress. (See disclaimer at the end of paragraph two)




      It is with great pleasure (to myself) that I announce my return to the grill has commenced. Coincidentally, I might add, with baby steps. No forethought, it's just the way the proverbial ball has opted to bounce. 

      My baby step comes in the form of a side dish. But let me tell you, although this is a side dish, I almost ate the whole thing by myself in one sitting after I made it. There's a small Tupperware container of it left in the fridge but I suspect it'll be gone in about 10 minutes. This recipe is based loosely upon the version found in Bon Appetit. Hope you dig it. 



      Charred Corn Salad with Basil, Onions and Peppers


      Ingredients: 


      • 6 ears of corn, husked
      • 5 Tbsp olive olive oil, divided
      • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
      • 1/2 medium red or green bell pepper, diced
      • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, finely diced 
      • 1/2 cup, loosely packed fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade
      • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
      • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
      • Kosher salt
      • Fresh ground pepper

      Preparation: 

      1. Heat your grill to a medium high heat. Rub corn with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil. 

      2. Grill corn, turning frequently, until corn is charred and cooked through. 10 to 12 minutes.

      3. Remove the corn from the grill and set aside for a half hour to cool completely. 

      4. Once the corn has cooled, cut the kernels from the cob into a large bowl. 

      5. In a colander, rinse the onion under cold water for about 10 to 20 seconds. This mellows it's effect on the dish. Drain well. 

      6. To the bowl of corn, mix in the onion, the remaining 3 Tbsp of oil, bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, basil, lime juice, and thyme. 

      7. Finally, season with salt and pepper to taste.

      Note:

      This dish can be served at room temperature or cold. It's fantastic it either way.  

      Sunday, June 23, 2013



      Chinese Fried Rice:

      Meet My New Girlfriend, Her Name Is Maggi


      When I eat at a Chinese restaurant, there are certain things that I look for that determine if I will go back. In my experience, the most difficult thing for these establishments to nail has always been fried rice. A lot of the time, the main dishes are pretty good and the chow mein is pretty good. But most of the time the rice is crap. 

      From my perspective, fried rice is the most important component of any combo dish found at  a Chinese restaurant. And let me rant briefly in saying that a "combo plate" at ANY Chinese restaurant should consist of rice, chow mein, and a main dish. Not rice OR chow mein. Rice AND chow mein. Yes, I'm talking to you, generic Chinese restaurant owner!!! Both!!! It's like telling me I can either put salt or pepper on my dish but not both. It's doesn't make sense. A proper Chinese combo should have both. 

      But who am I? Right? I am at the mercy of the proprietor. And so it shall be.   




      I remember when I was in high school, there was Chinese hole in wall type place close by. It was about 4 blocks from my school so it was easy to get to for lunch. There were always lines of people trying to get to this place. Most likely that was partially because I was always in there at lunch time but mostly because the food kicked ass. It was an "open kitchen" style set up where you could see the chefs actually making the food. It wasn't anything intentional or fancy, it was mostly because that's was the way the building was set up structurally. 

      I would always order a side of rice for lunch. I loved it with the egg, peas, carrots and scallions. From what I have been able to gather, this is not necessarily "authentic". But it's what you find pretty much across the board in standard American Chinese restaurants. So as far as I'm concerned, we can call it authentic American Chinese. It deserves that respect. 




      The fried rice at this place, as with many others (but not the majority), had a distinct flavor profile that I could never quite put my finger on. I really loved it and I've searched the internet for years looking for this flavor. Then, one day, quite recently actually, I came across a dish that called for Maggi seasoning. I've seen this stuff around for years but never really had the occasion to buy it. But this other recipe I found called for it so I figured it was high time I just bought it and saw what the all hype was about. 

      This is definitely huge part of that profile I've been looking for. This recipe is simple and it's fantastic. It is a hardcore staple in my (American) Chinese recipe collection and will remain there until I kidnap (temporarily) a Chinese chef and make him (or her) show me how to perfect that damn rice. Until then, this one will not only do, it'll be a hit.


      Fried Rice


      Ingredients: 


      • 1 1/2 Tbsp peanut oil, divided
      • 2 eggs
      • 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
      • 1/2 Tbsp chili oil
      • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots
      • 2 cups day old rice - refrigerator cold
      • 1 Tbsp Maggi Seasoning or to taste 
      • 1-2 green onions, sliced on a bias

      Preparation: 

      1. Heat 1/2 Tbsp of the peanut oil in a wok over a medium-high heat. 

      2. While your oil is heating, scramble the eggs in a bowl. 

      3. Once the wok is hot, add eggs and fry. Roll eggs around the wok to create a thin omelette.  Once done, remove omelette from wok and set aside. Use your spatula to chop the omelette into 1 inch chunks. 

      4. Place remaining peanut oil along with the sesame and chili oils on the wok over a high heat. When oils and wok are hot, add the peas and carrots. Stir fry for about 2 minutes stirring constantly.

      5. Add the rice and stir fry over the high heat, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes. 

      6. Add the Maggi Seasoning and continue to stir fry for another 2-3 minutes, again stirring constantly.

      7. Add the eggs and green onions. Stir to combine and remove from heat. 

      Serves: 4

      Wednesday, June 19, 2013

      The New and Improved "Classic" Bloody Mary:

      Look!   Up in the Sky!   It's A Drink, It's a Meal!!!



      Since I just recently made Penne Alla Vodka, I had a whole bunch of vodka left over that was burnin' a hole in my pocket. I'm actually not much of a hard alcohol drinker. My first choice would be a nice box..err..I mean bottle of wine. However, on occasion and in the spirit of camaraderie, I'll imbibe in a shot or two. But once in a blue moon, I get a hankerin' for a good cocktail. The only requirement, and it's not too much to ask I don't think, is it has to be made right. 

      Ooh! Epiphany. Maybe that's why I don't drink cocktails. Maybe I've had too many crappy ones, and believe me, I've had some REALLY crappy ones. It's a cryin' shame that there are so many bartenders out there that can't put together a decent drink. That being said, I guess I'd better a least build an acceptable one myself. 

          


      My family on my mother's side is Canadian. In the Great White North, they don't drink Bloody Marys. They drink Bloody Caesars also simply referred to as a Caesar. It's essentially a Bloody Mary however it's made with clamato juice instead of tomato juice. When my family visits or vice versa, it's Bloody Caesars from noon until the wee small hours of the morning. Holy crap it is a party. And it not just a cocktail, it's an art. From the first ingredient to the last, there is a method. Even down to the order in which you add everything. If you put the lemon juice in before you put the pepper, you messed it up. What? 

      The awesome thing about them is that they can party until 2 or 3 in morning and then be up 7 am and out mowing the lawn and gardening. I can't do it. I'm peeping out from behind the blinds, cross-eyed, at 9:30 am, hoping they don't see me. Then about an hour later, I stroll out and say hello. These folks are all chipper, smiling and have already gotten all the chores done, been grocery shopping, paid the bills, and whatever else you can think of. I'm in sheer awe of the partying professionalism they display every time I have the pleasure of seeing them. 





      Before I became a vegetarian, I was the (self appointed) official Canadian Caesar representative here in United States. But alas, no more clamato for me. But it's totally cool. I have always loved Caesar's American sister Mary. And she's no different. She is also a work of art if done right. 

      I my humble opinion, a perfect Bloody Mary has substance. It's not thick but it possesses the illusion of chewiness. I like mine spicy. In fact a little extra spicy is nice. And it's gotta be just a little bit salty. 

      Worcestershire is an absolute must. But as most of you already know, Worcestershire has anchovies in it. So you're gonna have to do a bit of homework. I found a good vegan one at Whole Foods. If there's no Whole Foods in your area, try upper-end markets that carry organic and vegan products. Otherwise, there's always the good old internet. I use a brand called Wan Ja Shan. It's actually pretty good. And if you like Worcestershire, order 2 or more bottles because it'll save you money in shipping (on average price per bottle). Some recipes say a splash of Worcestershire. I say more than a splash. I want it bold. But you can be the judge. 




      Hopefully I have created a good balance here with this recipe. Enjoy.  

      Bloody Mary

      Ingredients:


      • Ice
      • 1/4 tsp black pepper     
      • 1/2 tsp celery salt
      • 1 Tbsp hot sauce such as Tabasco
      • 1 Tbsp + another quick splash of vegetarian Worcestershire sauce - I use Wan Ja Shan
      • juice from 1/2 lemon
      • 1 splash of brine from a cocktail olive or pickled green beans jar (optional) 
      • 2 oz. vodka (3 oz. if you want to get hammered) 
      • 8 oz. tomato juice or vegetable juice such as V8
      • for garnish: cocktail olives, pickled green beans, celery stalks, lemon slices


      Preparation: 

      1. Fill a cocktail shaker 2/3 full with ice

      2. Add pepper, celery salt, hot sauce, Worcestershire, lemon juice, and brine (if you are using it)

      3. Add vodka and tomato juice. Cover and shake.

      4. Pour into glasses over ice and garnish as desired. 


      Serves: 2