Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Final MoFo of 2010! Pepper Party!!

I want to thank you all for reading this month. It has been a long but fun food month. Every year at the end of MoFo I always have mixed emotions. I feel relieved that I can relax a bit and not try and come up with something worth reading for you every day. On the other hand I always feel like there is more I could have posted about. I really feel that way even more this year because I just think there are so many incredible ways to use chiles. We've gone from reviewing the fiery habanero to enjoying the almost sweet meatiness of the pasilla chile.  I have not even begun to tap into international cuisines and their uses of chiles. Celia and Gail...I have not forgotten your suggestions and have plans to bring it for you yet. So make sure to check in periodically. I totally want to get on the hot and sour soup and curry.

We decided to go out with a bang. A whole boat load of peppery chile thoughts were running through my head. All day long I kept thinking of all the things I could have done this month and what I could share on this last day of MoFo 2010. I'm pretty sure my mom and my sister think I'm a crazy cooking obsessed weirdo. But nonetheless they celebrated a fantastic day and a fantastic month of MoFo with me tonight. We covered a several peppers tonight: jalapenos, peppadews and piri piris. I tried to jam in chipotle, but my sis wasn't to excited about chipotle in her cosmo. Hee hee. I hope you had as much fun as I did this month. I am looking forward to sharing more with you so come back and visit often.

So here it is: the official MoFo Happiest of Happy Hours!

Here my mom (who is visiting from Illinois), my sister and I enjoyed a toast with Prickly Pear Cosmos and Dirty Martinis made with local Queen Creek Olive Company "Spanish Fly" dirty martini mix. Oh man so good...both of them...and yes I did drink both. MMMmmmm.

Here we have a nice shot of the fabulous ingredients of my dirty martini. Oh yeah, garnishing that bad boy with Jalapeno Mexican Lime stuffed olives (also from Queen Creek Olive Mill) and Peppedews! It was a local and truly special treat.

Check this out. Pepper/Chile Mania
The happy hour menu: 
Seared Tofu with Piri Piri Sauce, Jalapeno Wingettes, Artichoke-Peppedew Tepanade Bruschetta

Here's a closer shot of the tapas. The Piri Piri Sauce is in the white bowl. It is a Peruvian specialty.

Yet even more intimate shot of the seared 'fu with Piri Piri

I can't resist sharing this picture of multi-colored pepper action. So beautiful even in their simplest form.

Monday, November 29, 2010

MOFO - Day 29 - Anthony's Spices Arizona Jalapeno

There is a local dude here in AZ that makes some incredible spice mixes. I have to give some local peeps some attention. Anthony's Spices is based out of Phoenix. He makes some awesome spice blends using a variety of dried peppers. They vary from mild to an extremely hot habanero mixture. He kindly puts a heat scale (out of 10) on each bottle so you have an idea what you are in for. I'm a big fan of the jalapeno salt myself. Yesterday I decided to try another one of his jalapeno variations - Arizona Jalapeno. This one was rated 5/10. Personally, I thought it was on the mild side, but I'm not super heat sensitive. This mixture boasts jalapenos, rosemary, thyme and some secret spices.

My first test run for this flavor was a simple topping for popcorn. It had nice flavor and a nice little hint of heat. I'm looking forward to using this in many other dishes...I'm thinking about some nice BBQ sauce or tofu seared with a boat load of this on it. This stuff is awesome. It's a bit pricey at $4.99 a bottle, but I've spent a lot more on things I liked a lot less. If you live here locally, you can find this at the Guadalupe Market and Whole Foods for sure. You can also order online from their website.

Here is the magical mixture. Oh baby, a little bit of Earth Balance and a heathy sprinkling of Arizona Jalapeno and a good movie with my mommy. Great night.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

MOFO - Day 28 - Pablano Vinaigrette from VegNews

We're getting mighty close to the end of MOFO. I'm not running out of inspiration, but I am running out of steam. Last night we did a soup night. Fred was roped in to making a salad dressing. I haven't used any pablanos this MoFo and it just so happens that last month's VegNews was featuring this mild chile. It originates from the city of Puebla, Mexico. Here in AZ they are sold by the name of pasilla. You may be familiar with them in their dried form - ancho.  Rumor has it you can find a hot one here and there, but all of the ones I have had the pleasure of meeting have been very mild.

The dressing featured in VegNews was a bit sweet for my taste, but if you like a sweeter dressing, this one may be up your alley. It had both orange juice and orange zest as it's main ingredients. We served it with a simple salad of romaine, tomatoes, avocado, red onion and spicy croutons. I thought it might make a nice marinade for tofu.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

MOFO - Day 27 - Black Bean Chili

Just getting in under the wire. I tested a wonderful version of Black Bean Chili from Carla Kelly's upcoming "One Pot Wonder" book. It is smoky, mushroomy and black beany. You'll have to wait for a bit, but it will be worth it. Yummy for your tummy!!

Friday, November 26, 2010

MOFO - Day 26 - Product Review - Tofurkey Frozen Pizzas

The past couple of days have been jam packed full as I am sure they have been for everyone. I did not have even an hour to whip something up today, so I am going to do a product review of the new Tofurkey Pizza's. I bought 3 varieties and we have tried two of them so far: the cheese and the roasted vegetable. While I much rather make my own pizza's, these work pretty nicely in a pinch. I fed these to my mom and sister who are not vegetarian. Fred and I also tried them. While we all thought they were pretty tasty, my omnis didn't really think the cheese was very close to the real deal. I have to admit, on a cheese only pizza, Daiya is not nearly amazing as it is when it is used as more of an accent than a main attraction. We all very much liked the roasted veggie pizza. The veggies are chopped very small, I'd love to see them a bit larger so they are more distinctive. The sauce is a bit bland, but sprinkle of oregano and crushed red pepper livens it up quite a bit. We all agreed we'd eat the roasted veggie one again.

The cheese variety would need some doctoring to make it to the plate. All in all, I think these are a fine fall back when life gets really busy. It's nice to have a good vegan option in a frozen pizza. Tofurkey brand is the best vegan frozen pizza I've tried yet. I'll be keeping at least one on hand for those busy days.

Oh and so I don't stray from the chile theme, we topped half of the cheese pizza with jalapenos. Yum!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

MOFO Day - 25 - Happy Thanksgiving

I had a wonderful time with friends and family today and I hope you all did too! I had a rough day in the kitchen and every where else today. But my mood stayed good because there are so many things to be thankful for. I was not in charge of the whole meal today.

I was in charge of appetizers and took it upon myself to make a couple of other dishes. The apps turned out great, but I've already posted about that this month.

What I planned on sharing with you was a fabulous new recipe for au gratin potatoes. This is where things go south. I painstakingly sliced my potatoes paper thin. They were beautiful. I made a flavorful Southwestern bachamel with chipotle and green chiles. Here is where I'm not entirely sure what happened. The potatoes and sauce were carefully layered in my French White Pyrex casserole. I baked these puppies for almost and hour and a half total. Still, the potatoes rebelled. They were still crunchy, so I had to concede defeat. I do think this dish has promise, and when the bloat from holiday eating wears off, I plan to perfect it. I think the problem is that there were too many layers. On the remake I will use a larger pan and layer them more thinly.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

MOFO - Day 24 - Kabocha Pot Pie

I was feeling a little bit like a slacker after yesterday's post. Even if I truly feel you NEEDED to know about chips and salsa that are truly outstanding, I was feeling like I didn't give you my all. Tonight, dear readers, I feel I have redeemed my place in MoFo land.

I recently had the delicious experience of trying kabocha squash. I don't know why this delicacy has never made its way to my kitchen. Well, I bought a couple of them this past week. I had this nagging desire to make a dish with this lovely squash as the edible bowl. I kept seeing versions of shepherds pie and was contemplating making a Southwestern version of that. But suddenly it dawned on me, I had some puff pastry begging to be released from the freezer. Hmmm what to do. What to do indeed? I have this love of leeks, but never seem to make enough use of them. Oyster mushrooms, how I love thee. The marriage of the two in this dish. Well, you be the judge. This is my homage to pot pie with a bit of Japanese influence from the squash with a southwestern twist.

Now I am not trying to toot my own horn here. But both my mom (who isn't a fan of spicy) and Fred (who decidedly is a fan of spicy) both gave this 4 forks. They cleaned their plates. The combination of the sweet squash and the subtle heat from the Hatch green chiles made a little dance on the taste buds. This is a rich, homey, warm, lovely belly filler. It's also kinda pretty. It takes some time and prep. But I have to say, you won't regret it.

Kobocha Pot Pie

Makes 4 servings

2 kabocha squash
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup leeks, white and light green parts only, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced green chiles (I prefer hot)
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 cups oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 medium red potato, un-peeled, 1/2 inch dice
2 med carrots, halved and thinly sliced, 1 cup
1/2 cup green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup TVP chunks or soy curls, rehydrated in 2 cups boiling water or broth
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 large sheet puff pastry

I have to admit, I wasn't really paying attention to prep times and technique because I was hanging out with my mommy, who is visiting from IL, and drinking wine. So the instructions may not be totally accurate. Early apologies.

Preheat oven to 400. Cut kabocha in half, lengthwise, making two "bowls". Place squash, cut side down, on lightly oiled large cookie sheet. Bake for 30-50 minutes depending on the size/ripeness of your squash. Squash should be softened but still have a little firmness. It is going to bake for 20 more minutes after it is filled.

In a large skillet (I used my 18" iron skillet) over medium heat, saute leeks, garlic and green chile in one tablespoon of olive oil until leeks are just softened, 3-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute until they start to release their liquid, about 5 minutes. If your pan is dry, add a touch of veggie broth. Add salt, cumin, smoked paprika, oregano, sage, and black pepper. Stir to combine and saute for about another minute. Add 3 tablespoons flour. Cook for about 5 minutes to eliminate flour flavor. Add in potatoes, carrots, green beans, rehydrated tvp chunks or soy curls and broth. using a fork or a whisk, whisk until all flour is incorprated with no lumps. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes until potatoes and carrots are softened, stirring ocassionally. By this time your squash should be done.

Carefully turn your squash right side up. You should have very nice little bowls of yum. Ladle equal portions of stew mixture into each squash half. Roll out your puff pastry large enough to cut 4 circles that are 1 inch larger than your squash. Place puff pastry over filled squash and gently press edges along the outside. Take a small knife or the tip of a big knife and make 3 slits in the top of puff pastry to allow steam to escape. Return stuffed squash to oven and bake for 20-25 minutes more until puff pastry is golden brown. Let sit for 5-10 minutes. Be warned: the inside will be molten hot.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MOFO - Day 23 - Product Review Tacupeto Chips and Salsa

I have to be honest with you, I am a bit of a salsa snob. Not that I think mine is the best or anything like that, but I find many jarred salsas sub-par at best. Every once in a while I stumble across one that is truly worthy of a place in my fridge. I was pleasantly surprised to find just such a salsa in the refrigerated section at Whole Paycheck. The salsa is so fresh tasting. It has just the right amount of roasted, smoky goodness I crave in a salsa. The tomato goodness makes you feel like it was just a tomato in a garden recently.

Several weeks earlier I found a new love that has certainly made my pants fit just a little more snuggly, because yes, dear readers, I am a tortilla chip scarfer from way back. Again, most commercially produced chips leave me wondering why I'm eating them (not that I stop). Enter Tacupeto corn chips. Oh my beautiful crunchy triangles of corny joy, I am both thrilled and horrified to have found you. Thrilled because your texture and flavor make me want to eat a whole bag of you in one sitting. Horrified because my ever expanding posterior really didn't need the new addition. Tacupeto is based out of Encinas, CA. The only ingredients in the chips are corn, soy bean oil and salt. The easy to read and understand ingredient list with no artificial ingredients has added to my bliss. If you can find this brand, check it out. It will make your mouth so happy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

MOFO - Day 21 - IRON Chef Round Up and Blackened Tofu Portobello Benny

This was my first time hosting the MOFO Iron Chef challenge. I'm not sure if I picked tough ingredients or what happened, but there were only three of us who did the challenge. But, oh, what gorgeous recipes they were.

The first entry came from Sugarcookie of the PPK and Down Home Vegan. She braved making a grocery store run after a nasty ice storm to run out to get the ingredients for this (not to mention watching her beloved Vikes get smashed). So I applaud you and hail you truly Iron for your dedication to the challenge!!

Her creation is this beautiful Grilled Portobello with Red Quinoa and Chipotle Cream. Now I HAVE to have one of these salads. Thanks for being so hard core!!!

Next was Christina of Vegan Van-Guard. She slid into home at the last minute! She made a beautiful version of portobello fajitas with and almond based chipotle crema. It looks so good. Check it out!!

I've been neglecting one of my favorite meals this fine MoFo - Brunch! One of my favorite non-vegan brunch dishes was Eggs Benedict. I don't know if it was the presentation, those cute stacks of deliciousness and decadence or if it was the flavor. This dish satisfies both. I wanted to make something that wasn't carb overload and had some good veggie action going on. There are a few components and steps, but you can marinade the tofu and mushrooms the night before. You can also whip up the aioli and blackening spice ahead of time. The aioli will keep for 1-2 weeks in the fridge and the blackening spice will keep for a long time in an airtight container.

Pour yourself a mimosa with fresh squeezed orange juice and have fun with this pretty, delicious re-vamped chile-ized, colorful version of a classic.

Blackened Tofu Portobello Benny

4 medium sized portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed
I actually used some super giant creminis (about 2 1/2" wide). If you can find them feel free to sub 8 of them.
1 - 14 oz package extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
4 - 1/4 inch thick slices large tomato
1 large avocado cut into slices

Tofu and Mushroom marinade

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons soy
1/2 cup veggie broth
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano

Blackening Spice

2 teaspoons ancho chile powder
2 teaspoons medium or mild chile powder
2 teaspoon granulated onion
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil
16 oz spinach, rinsed, leaving some water on leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 cloves garlic

Chipotle Garlic Aioli

1/2 cup Vegannaise
4 teaspoons adobo sauce (from can of chipotles in adobo)
2 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons granulated garlic

In a 9 x 13 baking dish mix all marinade ingredients. Slice tofu into 4 equal slices the length of tofu block, making 4 large steaks (cut into 8 if using smaller mushrooms). Place tofu and mushrooms in pan with marinade. Marinade for at least one hour turning once. 

Preheat oven to 350.

Remove tofu from marinade and place on separate plate. Cover baking dish with foil and bake in oven for 10-15 minutes until juices are running from mushrooms and they are cooked through, but not overcooked.*

While mushrooms are baking prepare blackened tofu. Heat large iron skillet over medium high heat until just under smoking. Spray with canola oil. Place blackening spice in shallow small dish (large enough for tofu to fit in with a little extra space for flipping. Coat each side of tofu with blackening spice and place back on plate. When all slices are coated, spray one side with canola oil. Carefully place oiled side down in hot iron skillet. You might want to turn you vent/fan on at this point. It is likely to get a bit smoky. Blacken tofu on first side for about 3 minutes. Spray other side of tofu with oil before flipping. Blacken on second side for about 2 more minutes being careful not to burn. Turn heat off. 

Next prepare spinach. Spray large high sided saute pan or wok with canola oil. Over medium heat saute garlic for about 30 seconds until it is fragrant. Place slightly wet spinach in pan with lemon juice. Saute, stirring frequently until just wilted.

To assemble benedicts:

On each plate place one portobello mushroom. Layer with sauteed spinach, blackened tofu, tomato slice (sprinkled with a touch of black salt), avocado and dollop with 1-2 tablespoons Chipotle Garlic Aoili. Serve immediately.

Sausage Option:

I originally made these with the mushrooms stuffed with about 1 1/2 tablespoons Gimme Lean sausage. Fred preferred the sausage versions, but I  think they are great without, but if you want something a little heartier you can make this version.
*Before putting mushrooms in oven to bake, break up 2 tablespoons of Gimme Lean Sausage over each mushroom. Increase your baking time by 5-10 minutes depending on your oven.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

MOFO - Day 20 - Harry's in Shock Green Chili - Contest Winner!!!

First and foremost I'm happy to announce the winner of the Amercian Vegan Kitchen Giveaway.

#26 Noelle!!! Your are the winner! Noelle likes to put roasted chiles in her sketti. Now she can find some other great ideas from AVK. Thanks to everyone who commented.

I am working a 12 hour shift today, but will be making my green chili and posting it tonight, so make sure to check back later today.

My green chile recipes is a conversion of a green chili recipe I got from an old lineman from work. Harry is a tough old lineman from Kentucky. He retired a few years back just shy of 70. He would have worked until he was 90, but his lovely bride had other ideas. Harry was an incredible troubleshooter and a fantastic guy to work with. He used to bring all of "us girls" in the office lovely jewels every year for Christmas. He is quite the southern charmer. Wow, I guess I really miss having him around work. He's far from vegan, hence the name of the recipe. I'm sure he would poo poo this version, but the original was so good, I had to veganize it. Now that I have written the intro, I MUST cook this tonight.

A word of warning. This recipe can be very spicy hot. The heat is what makes it Harry's. So if you like something milder, I'd shy away from this recipe. It gets hotter as it sits too!

Don't forget the Iron Chef Challenge: Chipotles and Portobellos! Submit your entries by tomorrow at 4pm!

Harry's in SHOCK Green Chile

Makes 4-6 burritos

2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 medium sweet or yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large hatch green chiles, diced (leave seeds in if you like the heat)
2 serrano chiles, finely diced (again leave seeds in if you like the heat)
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 chile tepins, crushed
2 medium red potatoes, un-peeled, very small dice (about 1 cup)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 pound beefy seitan (I used Savory Seitan from AVK)

In small stock pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, green chiles and serrano chiles. Saute until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add cumin, red pepper flakes, black pepper chiletepin and salt. Stir until combined and saute for about 30 more seconds. Add potatoes and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes. While the potatoes are simmering, slice the seitan into thin strips about 2 inches long. See photo. In 10 inch iron skillet or non-stick pan, saute seitan strips until nicely browned. By this time the potato mixture should be cooked and thickened. Add browned seitan to potato mixture and simmer for about 10 more minutes.

Warm 4-6 flour tortillas (8 inch). Scoop filling into tortilla. Roll it up and enjoy!

The original version was served in flour tortillas without garnish. I recommend them that way here as well. If you are a garnisher, feel free to garnish away, but try 'em naked first.

Here's what the potatoes look like diced. See how small they are. You can cut them larger but I like the texture best when they are small.

This photo shows a good shot of the thinly sliced seitan. They should resemble a shredded style "beef"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

MOFO - Day 18 - Red Hot White Bean Chili

Number two in the Red, White and Green Chili series features a delicious little number from Robin Robertson's  Vegan Fire and Spice. Robin has written many excellent cook books, but this one is by far Fred's favorite. He's actually made several different recipes from it. I needed something quick, hearty and tasty for today's post. This recipe filled the bill. If you use a food processor to chop the veggies as she suggests, it is super quick.

Now the first time I made this recipe, I had to do an emergency sub. I ran out of chile powder. The recipe calls for 3 tablespoons and I only had one. So I substituted one tablespoon of ancho chile and one tablespoon of chipotle chile powders. I actually loved the result, so I made it the same way this time. I only had two cans of cannellini beans, so I had to do yet another sub with one can of Great Northerns. 

It looks red, but technically it is a white bean chile, so I'm calling it white!! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

MOFO - Day 17 - Chase the Chill Chili from AVK

I'm going to keep going with my American Vegan Kitchen love today. I have made this chili (and variations of this chili) a few times now. Fred and I love things a little hotter, so I used hot chile powder in this. I love the combo of both seitan and beans in this version. It is a stick to your ribs chili. It really will chase the chill. I made a whole batch of Tami's savor seitan and froze the leftovers for another tasty meal.

We ate this straight up this time, but it is excellent with jalapeno corn bread. It makes a good amount, but our whole batch is almost gone. Fred ate lots and we gave some to our good friend today. He is a hard-core meat eater, so I am excited to hear what he thinks.

I'm starting a sub-theme today: Red, White and Green Chilies. Today's chili is the red portion of the sub-theme. Check tomorrow for White!!

Just look at those beautiful chunks of veggies, seitan and the hearty beans. Oh yes, don't forget your organic beer!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

MOFO - Day 16 - Chipotles American Vegan Kitchen Style - GIVEAWAY!!!

I'm very excited to announce that I am going to be giving away a copy of American Vegan Kitchen!!! **

I always am so happy when I make things from American Vegan Kitchen. Tami knows her way around the kitchen there is no doubt. She also does spicy extremely well.

She has generously offered to send one of my lucky readers a free copy of American Vegan Kitchen!!!!! If you don't have this book yet, you should make sure you add it to your collection. Who knows, you might be the lucky winner and get it for FREE! Just make sure to leave a comment on this post about how you use chiles your favorite American dishes and you could be the lucky winner. If you have a favorite from AVK tell me about that too! 

Winner will be drawn at random for all comments posted by Friday at midnight. So make sure you comment before then!

Every time I open AVK I have a really hard time deciding what I am going to make. This time I was able to narrow it down because of my MoFo theme. I love smoky chipotles. So I found the perfect recipe for today's post. Smokin' BBQ Portobello Sandwiches. Tami's Smokin' Chipotle BBQ Sauce is really easy to make. It is smoky, sweet with a little bit of heat. It would be great for any type of BBQ recipe really. But I wanted to stay true to the book, so we had these as mini po'boy of sorts. I sauteed up the mushrooms, slathered them with the sticky, yummy sauce and served them on little slices of baguette with a touch of Vegannaise. They were the perfect quick easy chile filled snack for our mid-afternoon house cleaning break.

I am going to be featuring another dish from AVK tomorrow, so make sure to check back. Don't forget to leave your comments on this post for your chance to win. The winner will be drawn on Friday!

**Sorry to my international readers, this can only be shipped within the US.

Here they are in all their yumminess 

Smokin' BBQ Portobello Sandwiches

Monday, November 15, 2010

MOFO - Day 15 - Green Chile Grilled Cheeze

So this is not officially a recipe, but it is officially pretty tasty. I ran out of time today and had nothing ready for today's post. So I decided to ad-lib for today's entry. This will end up being something I will make again too.

Green Chile Grilled Cheeze

1 Sandwich

2 slices whole wheat bread
Vegan butter (enough to butter bread)
1 thick slice sweet onion
1 teaspoon olive oil
dash salt
1 - 1/2 inch thick slice large tomato or two smaller slices
1 whole roasted green chile, large enough to cover the size of the bread
1/3 cup grated Daiya cheddar (or your favorite vegan cheddar grated)
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

In small bowl combine cheddar and chives. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Heat small iron skillet over med-low heat. Lightly salt and grill onions in olive oil until they are softened about 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan. Place one slice of bread buttered side down in same pan. Top evenly with half of Daiya mixture. Next layer in order with green chile, tomato slice(s), grilled onions, remaining Daiya mixture and second slice of bread with butter side on top. Grill on med low heat until bread it browned and crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Flip and grill other side until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Slice in half and serve immediately.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

MOFO - Day 14 - Iron Chef - Quinoa

The iron chef ingredient this week is quinoa. Now I love quinoa in so many ways. I wanted to do something reflecting fall and Thanksgiving. I also managed to make it gluten free for my sensitive friends and readers. Quinoa is an amazing seed (it is not actually a grain). It is a complete protein all on its own which makes me love this cute little nutritionally packed ingredient even more.

I thought about making something very healthy, but seeing as I just acquired a brand new deep fryer, my inner fried food loving fiend won out. I was very pleased to discover that quinoa makes an incredibly crunchy coating for fried treats. To keep with the chile theme, I used two types of chiles in today's dish: hatch green chiles and serrano chiles.

Red Inca Quinoa Crusted Hatch Green Chile Croquettes with Serrano - Lime Cranberry Sauce

Serrano Cranberry Sauce

Makes just under 1 cup

1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup water
8 oz fresh cranberries
1 teaspoon tequila
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and finely minced

In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. place all ingredients in pan and simmer until thickened, stirring frequently. This should take between 15-20 minutes. Cranberries will pop as they cook. Be careful of splattering. Once thickened, remove from heat.

Red Inca Quinoa Crusted Hatch Green Chile Croquettes

Makes 20 croquettes

3 large cloves garlic minced
2 tablespoons red onion, finely minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons minced roasted Hatch chiles (you can sub any type of roasted green chiles)
1 1/2 cups roasted mashed sweet potatoes
3/4 cup corn flour
3/4 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1 teaspoon teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 cups cooked red inca quinoa

Preheat deep fryer or oil in deep pan (with enough oil to be 2 inches deep in pan).

In small saute pan over medium heat, saute garlic and onion in olive oil until onion is just soft, about 2-3 minutes. In large bowl, combine garlic, onion, chiles, sweet potatoes, corn flour and dry spices until well combined. Form 1 tablespoon of mixture into a ball.  Roll ball into cooked quinoa, coating evenly. You may have to press quinoa into ball. Carefully drop balls into oil. Do not crowd. Fry for 3-4 minutes until croquette is golden dark brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve with toothpicks and side of cranberry sauce.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

MOFO - Day 13 - Chicken Nachos a la Lombardi's

This is going to be short and sweet because I have a hot date with my handsome honey. If you know me or have followed my blog for a while, you might know that I got my first cooking gig when I was 15 at a place called Lombardi's 2nd Effort. Oddly enough it was an awesome Mexican joint that also made pizza. The owner was definitely Mexican, but he loved Vince Lombardi and his philosophy. They gave me my first opportunity to cook and I fell in love.

The other day I was on FB and my very great cooking bud from this very restaurant had asked me if I remembered how we made these. It stirred up wonderful gastric memories and I developed an unbelievable hankering for their famous chicken nachos.

In this version I used chicken seitan cutlets cut into 3/4 inch pieces. They were coated with my favorite taco seasoning and seared until they were dark brown. I used some thicker and very crunchy chips. This is very important, because otherwise the chips will not hold up the the toppings. The chips were topped first with a small dollop (maybe 1/2 teaspoon) of toffutti sour cream, then one chunk of the seasoned chicken. I then placed very thinly sliced Daiya Italian blend over each chip and garnished with a thin slice of jalapeno. Slap these babies under the broiler for about 3 minutes until the chips start to brown and the Daiya is bubbling. Serve with your favorite salsa and share a great memory with yours truly.

Mucho Gusto y gracias Dan Cervantes, wherever you are.

Friday, November 12, 2010

MOFO - Day 12 - Chicken and Waffles with Jalapeno Gravy

12 days in a row. I feel good! I'm having a lot of fun with you guys. I hope you are enjoying chile mania. I know I've been a little heavy on jalapenos, but we are getting a good crop out of the garden. You have to run with that when you are so lucky.

Tonight I decided to go all fatty and decadent. My friend, the lovely Julie, just happened to have a brand new fryer and waffle iron she was getting ready to put in a garage sale. Instead she gave them to me! Well, out of courtesy of course, I felt I should take them and appreciate them immediately. Gotta show my gratitude.

I've been seeing and hearing a lot about fried chicken and waffles lately. Now this is a combo I would not normally think of eating. For one, I am not a big fan of waffles. Secondly it is certainly not healthy or light. But I do have to say, it was a fun plate to create.

The waffles are the Corn Meal Waffles from Isa's Vegan Brunch. I made the savory option. The "chicken" was from a previous Food Network Friday challenge. The recipe is here. I served the chicken smothered with a Cajun Jalapeno Gravy. You gotta have some green with all of this beige, so I quickly sauteed up some smoky collard greens.

Cajun Jalapeno Gravy

Makes about 1 3/4 cup

3 tablespoons vegan butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 large jalapeno, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon granulated onion
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon rubbed sage
2 cups vegetable broth

In a small bowl combine smoked paprika through rubbed sage (dry spice mix) and set aside.

In medium sauce pan over med high heat, melt vegan butter. Whisk in flour. Stirring constantly to prevent burning make a medium roux by cooking until the mixture is light brown in color. The mixture is extremely hot so use caution. Add jalapeno, shallot and garlic. It will sizzle very loudly and may splatter a bit. Saute for 1-2 minutes until the vegetables soften up. Add dry spice mix. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Slowly pour in vegetable broth while whisking constantly until all the broth is in the pan. Stir with a spoon making sure to get all cooked on bits off the bottom of the pan. Turn heat to low and simmer, whisking frequently until gravy thickens up, about 10 minutes. If you like it thicker, you can let it simmer longer. Salt to taste. Serve over chicken or mashed 'taters.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

MOFO - Day 11 - Restaurant Review - 24 Carrots

It's not a total chile-ful post today, but I did order an extra dish just so I would have something with chiles in it...so there!

Today Fred and I hit one of our new favorite places, 24 Carrots located at the NW corner of Chandler Blvd and Kyrene Road next to the Subway in Chandler.

Fred has been haunting this place for quite some time. He likes to stop in for a re-charging juice or smoothie to get him going after a good work out or for a quick pick me up at work. We both love this place for many reasons. They use local and organic ingredients whenever possible. The owner, Sasha, is a true food lover. She creates her recipes without tasting them. I asked her why she did this and she told me that she tends to over-spice things because she loves a ton of flavor. Instead she makes her creations and has others test the flavor. It seems to be a winning formula. Her passion is making healthy meals and snacks for our junk-food nation's inhabitants. They were originally a juice and smoothie joint but 24 Carrots has recently revamped their menu to include a slew of tasty and healthy food choices.

I was very excited to see they had VEGAN specials this fine day.

They are now offering a full breakfast menu. I don't have pictures of this, but you must try the Vegan Eggs Benedict. The garlic aoli is amazing! The avocados are fresh and plentiful. I never seem to make it in before 11am, but I plan on trying other selections like the Fruited Breakfast Quinoa and the vegan muffins.

Their lunch menu now boasts Salads, Wraps, Pita Pizzas, Sandwiches, Burgers and Raw Treats. There are always vegan options and very often gluten free options as well! he daily specials usually include vegan options as well. On our latest visit I finally remembered to bring my camera. I told Fred to strap the feedbag on because we were going to try lots of stuff!

First we checked out the appetizers. We started off with the Dolmas ($4.95). I don't often like a lot of dolmas because they are not executed well. These were delicious. They were flavorful and the filling was so creamy and delicious. The plate was garnished with fresh spinach and cherry tomatoes. We were planning on taking them home for a snack later, but they never made it out the door.

Next up we tried the Raw Papaya Noodle Bowl ($8.95). Fred had been wanting to try this for a while. We both adore kale, so we thought we'd give it a try. The kale was that beautiful emerald green and very fresh. It was a gorgeous looking salad. However out of everything we tried this was our least favorite. Part of the reason was just personal preference...neither of us is crazy about peanuts and this salad had peanuts as a garnish and it tasted like some in the dressing. The one thing we found odd was that the dressing was pretty warm. It just didn't work for me.

We moved on to the next adventure. We usually order different dishes and try each others' selections. Today was no exception and man was I glad! They offer two options for their burgers the Betty: served with just a deli dill pickle and the Veronica: served with organic tortilla chips or baby carrots, deli pickle and a choice of pineapple slaw or fresh garden salad. Because we were totally pigging out on so many other items, I got mine Betty style. I ordered the Wild Mushroom Tofu Burger ($6.95 Betty/$9.95 Veronica). I envisioned it coming with mushrooms and onions on top, but they were actually part of the patty. I thought it was very tasty. Like many of their burgers the patty is very delicate, so make sure to have napkins handy. My burger was grnished with a generous portion of fresh veggies. It was pretty as well as tasty. I have to put in a plug for the Veggie Masala burger I had on my last visit. It is a great Indian spiced option.

Fred's selection was the Vegan Egg Sandwich ($8.95). This is their version of an egg salad sandwich. The menu description doesn't tell you but it is speckled with dried cranberries, which I found to be a very nice addition. The sandwich is served on a delicious 9-grain bread it's soft and delicious. The sandwich came with a generous portion of avocado and tasty tomatoes. Fred opted for the combo with tortilla chops and a pickle. This is a generous portion for even the hungriest diner.

By now we were pretty darn stuffed. Fred had even tried to call for belly back up with no success. But because this is the month of the chile I had to order something with chiles in it. As luck would have it, the special of the day was Vegan Jambalaya. This was also a very generous portion and was served with a small house salad with house vinegarette. I asked what peppers were in it and she said they used chiles and serranos. She did not put a lot in because she was concerned most guests wouldn't like something too spicy. For us it was pretty mild (I could have used more pepper, maybe a splash of hot sauce), but pretty tasty! We were truly stuffed so we only had a few bites. But we both agreed it was pretty tasty. They were kind enough to bring us a box to take it home.

We always enjoy visting 24 Carrots. We usually run into some very nice diners when we are there. The staff is super friendly and the food is consistently fresh and tasty. One word of warning, this is not a run in and run out dining experience. Be prepared to take your time. Bring your laptop for some free WiFi if you are dining alone to kill a little time. The food is made to order in a very small kitchen and takes quite a while to appear at your table. We witnessed one customer come in for take out and leave before her food was ready. As long as you go in to the experience knowing and expecting this, you will be thrilled with this wonderful healthy little neighborhood gem.

24 Carrots
4140 W Chandler Blvd #2
Chandler, AZ 85226


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MOFO - Day 10 - Habanero-Cascabel Pickled Nopales

Two for the price of one special! This day of MoFo is brought to you by the chiles Habanero and Cascabel. Habaneros are often incorrectly thought of as the hottest of chiles. Actually the hottest pepper honor goes to the Naga Jolokia (ghost pepper). This pepper I'm sure would turn many people into ghosts, so it will not be part of my experiments. Make no mistake habanero at 100,000-350,00 on the Scoville Scale should command your respect in handling and eating them. The small but mighty pepper hails from the Yucatan Peninsula and are a common ingredient in many Yucatan dishes. They are around 1-2 inches and heart shaped. They are usually sold when they are orange in color and ripe. It might not be a bad idea to don your gloves when working with them.

Next I'd like to introduce you to the Cascabel pepper. This cute, round, reddish-brown pepper is sold dried. It is also known as the rattle pepper because if you shake it, it sounds like a cute little rattle. It is fairly mild rating between 1250-5000 on the Scoville Scale. Last year I had the honor of hanging out with Tami from Vegan Appetite, Liz from Cooking the Vegan Books and Kelly from Seitan Beats Your Meat in Chicago. I wanted to bring them some Southwestern goodies, but I also didn't wanted to bring some things that would travel well. Dried chiles filled the bill. I had not yet tried this variety yet, so I figured I should come up with a recipe for them to use. I don't know if they still have them, but if they do, here is a tasty way to use them.

I was taking a stroll at my local Mexican grocer to procure some chiles for MoFo and ran across the Cascabel again. I was also perusing the produce aisle in search of some exotic southwestern vegetable that might inspire me. My eyes and hands were drawn to this unsuspecting bag of cleaned and diced fresh Nopales (edible cactus). It doesn't get much more Southwetern than cactus. I had seen them in jars filled with preservatives and never felt very compelled to ingest them that way. When I got home, the inspiration hit me. I would pickle my own without chemicals or coloring. Plus this way, I could use the flavors I love. It makes me feel close to my roots to can anything. I come from a long line of gardeners and canners. I was beginning to think I didn't have it in me, but I think I may be waking up the beast.

Habanero - Cascabel - Pickled Nopales

1 lb diced cleaned nopales
1/2 onion cut into 8ths
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
4 cloves garlic, slightly crushed
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
4 large sprigs cilantro
1 habenero cut into  equal pieces
4 cascabel chili, sliced open (make sure to put pod and seeds in jar)

2 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 cup white vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons pickling salt

In large bowl mix nopales,  onion chunks and carrots. In each of 4 pint jars place 1 clove garlic, 1/4 teaspoon coriander seeds (approx 10 seeds), 1 sprigs, 2 pieces habenero. Evenly distribute nopales mixture in each jar.

In medium saucepan heat water, vinegars and pickling salt until boiling and salt is disolved. Pour liquid over vegetables in pint jars until 1/2 inch from top. Seal jars and refrigerate for at least two days. They should keep in the fridge for 2-3 weeks. Eat them straight out of the jar or serve as a garnish for tortas, tacos, tostadas etc. Try chopping them smaller for a reallly great relish for Mexi-dogs.

As a little side note Tami = American Vegan Kitchen
If you haven't checked out their books yet make sure to click on the links!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

MOFO - Day 9 - Anaheim Chiles

I know yesterday's post was a bit of a yawner, but it was a lead up to this post which should prove to be more exciting. Today's featured chile is the very versatile Anaheim. This pepper looks very similar to the Hatch chile from my earlier post, but they are not exactly the same. The Anaheim is named after the Southern California city where they were originally grown. This is a good entry level chile for those who aren't quite trained for the heat yet. They are mild and sweet. They rate a mere 500-2500 on the Scoville Scale. Because of their size and relative mildness, they are very popular in Chile Rellenos Recipes.

This recipe was developed especially for my good friend and fellow foodie, Jackie. Jackie and I spend a lot of time on the hiking trail. We spend lots of time chatting it up about many subjects, but more often than not, the discussion turns to our favorie subject - food. Jackie was in search of a healthier version of chile relleno. I don't know why, but I was thinking about Kittee (of Cake Maker to the Stars) and how she is always coming up with delisious GF alternatives since she has had to cut it out. I thought it would be interesting to try a gluten free version as well.

This is a tasty version, but a word of warning for traditinalists, the rice flour gives a more powder like texture to the coating, so if you can eat gluten, feel free to substitute AP flour. This has several components and requires a bit of time if you do it all in one day. You can make the sauce and the mashed potatoes ahead of time to save yourself time on assembly day.

Porcini and Caramelized Jalapeno Chile Rellenos with Southwest Tomato Sauce

Makes 8 peppers

8 large Anaheim Chiles
Double recipes of Southwestern Fresh Tomato Sauce
1 recipe Porcini and Caramelized Jalapeno Whipped Potatoes at room temperature or slightly warmer
1 1/2 cups unsweetened soy creamer*
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
1 cup rice flour (for GF) or all purpose flour
1 cup medium ground corn meal
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion or onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

* You can easily substitute soy milk here. I used creamer because I had it left over from the mashed potatoes.

Preheat oven to 350.

Roast the chile peppers. My preferred method is to use the gas grill, but this can certainly be done in a very hot oven or over a gas flame. Make sure the peppers are charred on all sides to a medium to dark brown. If you don't char them enough it will be difficult to peel them, if they are too charred, the skin will burn and dry out the peppers. Below is a good picture of how they should look when you're done charring, I might even go just a touch more. Put in bowl and cover with a towel or platic wrap for 20 minutes. This will loosen the skin and make them a breeze to peel. You will want to make a slit in the pepper and very gently and carefully remove the seeds leaving as much of the pepper intact as possible.

In a shallow, wide dish mix soy creamer and vinegar. Let curdle for about 5 minutes. Add cornstarch and mix well.

In a second shallow dish combine flour, cornmeal and the remaining dry ingredients and mix well to combine.

Set up your assembly station (see picture below) by laying out in order: whipped potatoes, roasted and peeled chiles, cornstarch slurry, breading and a 9 x 13 oiled glass baking dish.

Start by carefully stuffing chiles with about 2 -3 tablespoons of the whipped potatoes. The chiles will tear easily, so take your time on this part. The nice thing about using whipped potatoes as your filling and baking the rellenos is that they will hold together quite nicely. Now I'm going to throw yet another option at you here. If you decide you want to be a bit more sinful, use toothpicks to hold them together if you decide you want to fry 'em.

After all of the chiles are stuffed we want to get them all nice and coated. First you want to dip them in the cornstarch slurry making sure to comlpetely soak them on all sides.

After they go for a swim you'll want to gently roll them in the flour mixture. Repeat a second time.

Place the breaded chile in the prepared baking dish. Make sure there is space around each chile for even browning. When all 8 chiles are in the pan place them and spray with canola spray. Place in the oven and bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes until heated through and golden brown.

While they are baking heat tomato sauce. To serve plate 2 chiles per serving. Smother with tomato sauce (or you can serve the sauce on the side). I recommend serving these with your favorite refried beans or whole bean side dish to add a little protein to the mix. A word of warning, these are pretty darn filling!