Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dog Days of Summer

Friends, it is official...I think. Don't quote me on this because next week it is likely the temperatures will be back in the upper 80's and I will be posting a recipe for some icy alcohol-laced beverage in effort to forget about what is attempting to happen now. If you remember from my last post (the one with recipes, not the one promising to post recipes tomorrow) Fall had just arrived and I was gushing about Bistro food and well, getting ahead of myself...because just as suspected, fall checked out the very next day. I assume he went to the North East where it could watch the leaves change, drink mulled cider, and wear a scarf. Who could blame him really? The grass is still green here, the trees are still flourishing even despite the Gustav damage they've endured, and the people are still dressed in summer attire. It can be discouraging, I guess, for a season to see the entire population of a city dismiss its arrival by throwing on an old hoodie with their shorts and carrying on about their days, as if nothing significant had happened. I'dve left too and probably in a huff, just as Fall did, thinking to hell with you people, I'm going where I'm appreciated. And so it has been for the last week or so. But, the end of October is rapidly approaching and the summer-loving folk of the South are wondering where their old pal Fall has run off to and why he is so late getting back. He has left us sweating it out...literally. "You don't know what you got til it's gone"...or something along those lines.

Today, it seems he is slowly moving back down, testing the waters so to see if we're really ready for his second coming. Today the temperature was moderate and the sky was it's signature fall gray color, and--and I kid you not, a leaf actually fell from a tree and landed before me on my early morning walk today--perfectly maple shaped and golden brown, stem still in tact. Sounds like things they are a changin....Moderate temperature, check. Gray skies, check. Falling leaves, check. Tell tale signs are pointing to a revisit. Hopefully this one sticks.
There's another image that emerges in my head when fall arrives, and that is one of Chicago. The perfect city (for me anyway) to celebrate fall in all its gray skied, brown leaved glory. And it's at this time, once my initial bistro craving has passed, and it has...that I long for that food that is known the world over for being authentically Chicagoan. No, not the deep dish pizza. The Chicago Dog--dragged through the garden. Chicago in the fall is something to be savoured, such are these dogs. I can't imagine a more perfect day than perhaps a beachside picnic on shore of Lake Michigan, the late evening sunlight dancing on the water as the sun sets, warm Chicago dogs and cold Goose Island in hand. Ahh...fall.

This is not so much a recipe as it is instructions for your next hot dog endeavor.
Happy eating, and fingers crossed, happy fall!

To construct your Chicago Dog, you are going to need the following things...most of which you probably already have on in particular (the poppyseed buns) I defy you to find, at least in my neck of the woods, without making it yourself. So here's your list besides the obvious, hot dog:

1.) poppyseed hot dog buns (the cheat here--get some plain hot dog buns, brush them with a little plain soymilk, and roll them around in poppyseeds)
2.) yellow mustard
3.) nuclear green pickle relish (you can use regular sweet relish, add a drop of green and a drop of yellow food coloring to it, and mix it up)
4) diced yellow onion
5.) kosher dill pickle spears (the claussen type)
6.) sport peppers (pepperoncini will do in such a case as you live in a tiny little town with no ethnic influence, such as BRLA)
7.) tomato slices or wedges
8.) celery salt

Instructions are pretty simple, heat your dogs however you please (steaming is the traditional method, however, I find steaming a Smart Dog gives it an unpleasant soggy sponge texture, I grilled mine). Steam your buns. Place hot dog on steamed bun, top with remaining ingredients in order given. Be careful to dress your dog, not the bun...and please give it a try, it in its entirety, before eliminating ingredients, as the flavors balance each other out to create the perfect bite. No one flavor should be more prevalent than the other. Your dogs will be best eaten standing up, with a beer (preferably microbrewed and from Chicago) and crinkle cut fries seasoned with lots of salt and black pepper.

There are a couple of notes for eating these dogs: 1.) putting ketchup on these would be on par with blasphemy. 2.) you should only use sliced or wedged tomatoes. 3.) don't skip the steaming of the buns, it changes the texture of the bread and makes for a softer, chewier bite and 4.) plain old yellow mustard is the protocol here--save the dijon and whole grain for something fancy.

Now go get some SmartDogs and drag them through the garden! :-)
Chicago Dog, "dragged through the garden"

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Shame on Me

I have tasty new recipes to post, and tempting pictures to go along with them...2 meals worth. However, I can't seem to get my shit together and post them...woe is me. woe is you too because they're really good. Alas though reader, you will have to wait until tomorrow it seems...maybe by then I will stop being a deadbeat blogger and give you what you're looking for instead of my nonsense ramblings and bs excuses of where you're next meal is coming from, or lack there of.

Until the morrow.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Vegan Bistro Meal

There's something about the start of fall...the dove gray sky, the newly fallen leaves that haven't yet gotten their act together and decided on a color to be--you know the ones, a mottled display of all the choices, yellow, green, specs of brown. I like to attribute the non-commitance to the fact the trees in question reside in the South, where one day is crisp, cool, and everything Fall is meant to be...and the very next day will be a revisitation to summer...temperatures above 80, people pulling the tank tops and shorts out for another go, a dinner menu of salads because it's enough to make you so disgusted you can't even be bothered to cook. It's almost as if Fall has taken a sick day, and the temp sent is completely unaware of the new system. At any rate, for the time being, Fall has finely arrived...if only for a fleeting moment.
I always get the taste for Bistro food when this day arrives. Perhaps it's the delusion that my kitchen/dining room will magically be transformed into one of those dark and rustic spaces where simple white candles elegantly dance on the tabletops made from reclaimed wood and where all the patrons swirl blood-red wine in one hand, while somehow managing the impossible of making smoking look inherently cool with the other. Perhaps it's images of people so thoroughly engaged in worldly conversation, so as to not even notice the perfectly executed, beautifully simple dishes lingering on the tables below them. Maybe it's all of these things, combined with the notion that somehow amazing jazz music will begin to seep magically from my walls to further complicate the image, should I be so inclined as to prepare some of the classic dishes found in such places. Then again, maybe I'm just tired of eating salads...

In any case, the recipes that follow should take you back to the City of Lights and Romance...what with the Grilled Portabello Steaks with lots of fresh black pepper, herbes de Provence and maitre d'hotel butter, a twist on the classic Steak au Poivre. The Crispy Garlic Potatoes--easy to prepare, delicious and requiring minimal ingredients, are the essence of bistro fare and are even more tasty with a side of vegan sour cream or creme fraiche. There's also a peppery cress salad with satsumas (a nod to the south) to cleanse the palate and then finally cap off the meal with the quintessential fall unassuming warm plum crisp, served alongside a generous scoop of non-dairy vanilla ice cream and lightly dusted with freshly grated nutmeg...

Happy eating and have a wonderful evening :-)

Maitre d'Hotel Butter

7 tablespoons vegan margarine, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons plain soy creamer
1 tablespoon fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, cream together margarine, soy creamer, and parsley. Add lemon juice and zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Place mixture on a large sheet of wax or parchment paper. Form margarine into a log about 1-inch in diameter. Wrap log with wax or parchment paper, then again with plastic wrap. Refrigerate or freeze until firm or ready to use. The log will keep about a week in the fridge or about a month in the freezer. When ready to use, slice off the desired amount and place directly on top of hot food.

This is great on hot steamed or grilled vegetables, cooked pasta, portabella steaks, or just spread on some toasted baguette.

Grilled Portabella Steaks au Provence

4 large portabella mushrooms, wiped clean & stems removed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

In a large bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Add mushroom caps and toss to coat evenly. It may be easier to do these one at a time. Place coated mushrooms into a large ziploc bag, pour in any remaining liquid mixture and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to marinate. When ready to cook, heat a large skillet or grill pan over medium-high heat, and grill mushrooms (in two batches if necessary) until cooked, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate to rest, and season with additional salt and fresh pepper if desired. Slice portabella steaks into thin slices and serve.

Serves 4.

Individual Plum Crisps

1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats (not instant or quick cook)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegan margarine, cut into small cubes
2 1/2 pounds ripe plums, cut into cubes just larger than bite-size
grated fresh nutmeg (optional)
vegan vanilla ice cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375* In a medium bowl, stir together 1/2 cup flour, 1 cup brown sugar, oats, and salt. Using a pastry blender or a fork, cut in margarine to form coarse crumbs. In a large bowl, toss chopped plums with remaining flour and sugar. Divide plum mixture among 6, lightly greased, individual serving tart pans or ramekins. Sprinkle each dish with oat mixture. Place dishes on a large baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before serving. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and a grating of fresh nutmeg if desired.

Serves 6.

Satsuma, Radish and Cress Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

2 bunches watercress, thick ends removed
1 large satsuma, peeled and supremed
2 or 3radishes (depending on size), scrubbed and sliced paper thin
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper. Add watercress and toss to coat evenly. Divide dressed greens among 4 salad plates and arrange satsuma supremes and radish discs on top. Serve chilled.

Serves 4.

Crispy Garlic Potatoes

2 cloves garlic, grated
sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lbs. red potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

Preheat oven to 475*. In a large deep bowl, combine garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme and olive oil. Add potato slices and toss to coat evenly. Arrange potato slices in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet and bake until golden brown on both sides, about 20 minutes, flipping half way through cooking. Serve warm.

Serves about 4.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fried Chick-un Waldorf Salad

This recipe is a fusion of a two classic recipes: a basic chicken salad with grapes and mild mayonnaise dressing, and a waldorf salad--the infamous apple, celery, walnut salad tossed in a slightly sweetened version of the aforementioned mayonnaise dressing. It was born out of a chain of shows on Food Network that ran back to back one with Paula Deen making chicken salad sliders, one with Ina Garten making her classic chicken salad, and another with Rachel Ray making some sort of waldorf salad wrap mess. I thought it might me tasty to roll them all into one recipe and then veganize it to make it edible. The end result was quite delicious. Try it next time your thinking about what to make for lunch. A little side note: it's made with those frozen vegan chicken Sandra Lee (semi-homemade) watch out! Why are there no vegetarian shows on that damn channel?!

1 box vegan breaded chickn nuggets (prepared according to package directions and cooled), cubed
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup Grapeseed Oil Veganaise
1/2 cup soy sour cream
1/2 cup sliced green grapes
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1/2 cup chopped green apple
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything in a large bowl. Fold to coat all ingredients with veganaise and sour cream. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and chill until ready to use. Makes about 3 cups.

Serve as a sandwich spread, on toast, with crackers, or stuff into fresh vegetables. This would also be great just served on top of some bibb lettuce, or combined with some cooked, cooled elbow macaroni in a pasta salad.

Enjoy :-)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Rotisserie Tempeh Salad

Rotisserie seasoning blend can be found on the spice aisle of most supermarkets.

1 cup tempeh, cubed
1/2 cup grapeseed Veganaise
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 tablespoon dill relish
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
2 teaspoons soy sauce (I used Bragg's)
3 cloves roasted garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce or to taste
1 tablespoon Rotisserie seasoning blend
Steam the cubed tempeh for 15 minutes on medium-high heat. Set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, combine the Vegenaise, celery, relish, shallots, parsley, soy sauce, mustard, garlic and hot sauce until well blended. Cover and refrigerate. Toss cooled tempeh with rotisserie seasoning. Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet and gently fry tempeh cubes until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and set aside to cool. Once tempeh is cooled, toss with refrigerated dressing mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes to blend flavors and to allow the mixture to thicken. Serve on toasted bread, or with crackers.

Serves roughly 4-6 depending on the size of your portions.