Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lemon Chili Charred Okra


I immediately want cornmeal and flour when I see okra. Is that a bit of southern creeping out or does everyone wanna fry these green pods when they see 'em? There is no doubt that I can put away a pound of fried okra in a day. Psshh.. easy. Not even an challenge. Wouldn't even be impressed. And don't get me started on pickled okra! Too late, I'm riled up! Even okra haters can appreciate the pickled variety. Heck, why not let some of those pickled okras onto your next cheese board? I hadn't even tried pickled okra until my first year in Austin. An old roommate brought me a jar and I was a happy girl. At that moment I decided to stop stealing her toothpaste. 

I'm kidding, Jessica! It wasn't me! Relax.

Lemon-Chili Charred Okra
1 lb fresh okra
3 tbsp olive oil
Fresh lemon juice (1-2 small lemons)*
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp minced red onion
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
sea salt

Top with reserved chopped cilantro, sprinkle of kosher salt and charred lemon

Combine olive oil, fresh juice of one lemon, garlic, onion, red pepper, and 1/2 tbsp of cilantro. Taste & season with salt. Add an extra squeeze of lemon if need. * I realized my first lemon was a dud and had to cut another to get a few extra squeezes of juice in there-taste as you go! 

Trim the okra and cut in half lengthwise. Heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Make sure to use your tried and true, well seasoned skillet. In batches, place okra cut side down in the pan. Be sure you don't over crowd the pan. Cook until a nice char is achieved, about 3-4 minutes. Toss okra and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes, again, until a nice char is achieved.
Toss hot okra with the lemon-chili mix. Remove from lemon mix and plate. Sprinkle with remaining fresh cilantro, sprinkle of kosher salt, and a squeeze of charred lemon.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Tomato Pepper Sauce

Tomatoes of all sorts are taking up a good chunk of space in my csa box as of lately. I'm a fan, so no complaints here. In fact, I'm taking full advantage of the season and purchasing a separate bulk order of 'em from my favorite local farm. One easy recipe to use up some of those tomatoes sitting in your fridge is by making a sauce to use for later dishes. My favorite sauce so far this summer is this tomato bell pepper sauce. 

I love me some bell pepper. I can eat them raw, sauteed, steamed, fried- you name it! You know who doesn't love bell peppers? My boyfriend. Love would be the opposite emotion he feels towards bell peppers. But it's summertime and along with the tomatoes in my csa box, I'm also getting some of my beloved peppers. 

A great thing about this sauce is there is no long roasting time or standing over the stove waiting for the tomatoes to cook down. It's summer and aside from my baking, there is no need for my oven to be on longer than an hour. Rather than miss out on the enhanced flavors you get from roasting, I did a 10 minute broil to get a nice char on all sides of the bell peppers. I then cooked down my onion and garlic, sauteed the tomatoes and peppers, and then transferred to my food processor to puree. Bonus #2, no need to boil and deskin the tomatoes before you start because you're just going to puree 'em anyways and no one will ever know! And bonus # 3 is the use of coconut milk to achieve a nice creaminess rather than heavy cream.

This sauce can be used with your favorite pasta dish or eggplant parmesan. 

It's so creamy and delicious! Trust me! You want to use some of those summer veggies in your house for this sauce!

Tomato Bell Pepper Sauce

3 large red bell peppers
olive oil
1/2 pound plum tomatoes, diced
3 tbsp vegan butter
1 small red onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 fresno pepper, sliced
3/4 cup canned coconut milk
1 tsp salt
handful of fresh basil

Drizzle about one tablespoon olive oil over bell peppers on baking sheet. Broil for about 10 minutes or until a nice char is achieved, turning to make sure each side gets some color. Place in a paper bag to steam. While peppers are steaming, start chopping your veggies. After about 10-15 minutes, remove the skins and tops of the bell peppers and dice. Heat 2 tbsp vegan butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic- saute for about 3 minutes. add bell peppers and tomatoes. Cook for another 3 minutes and season with 1/2 tsp salt. Transfer to food processor along with fresno pepper and puree until smooth. Using the same skillet, return to medium high heat and melt remaining 1 tbsp vegan butter. Add tomato puree. Slowly add the coconut milk and season to taste with remaining salt. Store in seal tight container in the fridge is using within 3 days, otherwise freeze it.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Vegan {Faux} Spicy "Tuna" Tacos with gluten-free option

The first time I heard about cauliflower pizza I was intrigued. I've used it as a rice substitute but never thought to use it as a dough sub. So I added it to my never-ending "new recipes to try" list. It wasn't until after the whole wave of excitement over cauliflower pizza crust that I actually gave it a try.

I immediately wanted to kick myself. It was DELICIOUS! At that moment I promised I would actually give that "new recipes to try" list more time and attention. If I came across any interesting, healthy substitutes that I'd never thought to try before, I was going to get in the kitchen and try it out! It's all about experimenting in the kitchen!

But that wasn't the first time I made such a promise to myself. I remember having those same thoughts many years ago after making bean brownies. And unfortunately I still haven't learned my lesson...   

What can I say? It happens. Sometimes I get so use to my ways of cooking and baking that I forget the only way to grow is to continue experimenting. And honestly, that's when I have the most fun in the kitchen. Those times when I'm just doing my own thing, working with what I have on hand and seeing what I can come up with. 

But yet again, I had the urge to kick myself last weekend when I finally decided to try baked watermelon as a vegan substitute for tuna. This has actually been on my list much longer than cauliflower pizza. The first time I came across baked watermelon steak (about 5 or 6 years ago!) I was interested, but I think because I was still eating actual steak at the time, it just didn't appeal to me enough to make it then and there. BUT! I was so amazed how watermelon can take on a whole new identity that I never forgot about it.

Finally, this past weekend, I went for the gold and made spicy "tuna" for some vegan spicy "tuna" tacos.


So good! I couldn't believe I was eating watermelon. Neither could Billy! We devoured everything. It is the perfect solution for vegans/vegetarians that have fond memories of sashimi.

I can't wait to make these again.

And again.

And again. 

Now some people have mixed feelings about watermelon. Is it good for you? Is it bad for you? I think after hearing a few people that are "dieting" give their grief about watermelon, I feel the need to stick up for the fruit a little bit! Especially after I heard someone quote their dieting consultant by saying "I can eat all the brisket I want, but I can't have watermelon."
What?! I understand people are concerned with the amount of sugar in watermelon but here's how I see it: Too much of anything, especially sugar, is not good for you. Just like with anything we eat, moderation is key. Unless you plan on eating an entire watermelon by yourself in one sitting, I think the essential vitamins it carries, like Vitamin A & C, outweigh the natural sugar it contains. The key is a few slices here and there and not the entire melon! Oh and did you catch that? I said natural sugar. There is a difference between the type of sugar a watermelon produces and artificial. Still I understand not everyone feels this way. I think I just get annoyed with those that eat half their sandwich or bowl of pasta because they are "dieting" but won't touch a watermelon with a stick because of it's sugar content.  

Ahhhh... okay. Got that out. I feel better.

Notes: Don't forget to take those seeds out of your watermelon!
If you would like to achieve a nice char on both sides of your steak, flip once during the last 45 minutes of baking. No harm if you decide not to flip the watermelon while baking.
While the recipe for faux tuna is gluten-free, the tacos featured are not. But maybe try that cauliflower rice I was talking about as a jasmine rice substitute? You can even drizzle some of the reserved juices from watermelon baking on top of the cauliflower rice for added flavor. Also, not all store bought corn tortillas are gluten free so read the label carefully! Or just make your own because they will probably taste a million times better anyways.

Baked Watermelon//Spicy "Tuna"
Recipe adapted from whataboutwatermelon.com

1 small watermelon, seedless
olive oil
2 tbsp tamari
1 tbsp raw coconut vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tsp GF sriracha sauce or hot chile paste 

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut your watermelon into steaks (check out .gif above) and place on baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil, making sure to coat each side. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Adjust to taste- I like spicy so I tend to add a few extra drops of hot sauce. Pour marinade over watermelon steaks, coating all sides. Cover with foil and bake for 2 hours. Reserve the juice if you'd like!

To make tacos:
Mini corn tortillas
1 cup cooked Jasmine rice
Vegan Mayo
Serrano Pepper
Green onion, 

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of your frying pan. Fry tortillas, one at a time, by letting them soak in the oil for about 30 seconds first and then using a spatula to bend and hold the shape of a taco shell while they fry- about 45 seconds-1 minute on each side or until a nice golden color is achieved.
Mix jasmine rice with a spoonful of vegan mayo (or a little bit or yogurt). This will make the rice much easier to work with while adding a little taste.
Take your shell, add some rice, top with "tuna", and sprinkle with cilantro, thinly sliced serrano peppers and chopped green onion tops.