Outskirts of New Orleans

Eggplant Etouffee

eggplantHappy belated Mardi Gras!  I have never been to New Orleans, I had the chance once upon a life ago but passed.  Looking back on this I have major regrets seeing as how I was suppose to go the spring before Katrina hit, forever changing the landscape of the city.  One day I will correct this wrong and until then I will stuff myself with cajon/creole food whenever I get the chance.  I have already shared my love for eggplant and when eggplant is mixed which a spicy tomato sauce life is good!  The first time I had an etouffe it was crawfish style and I was hooked.  The best part about it was that the dish had crawfish two way: diced/sauted and heads-on/steamed.  I succeeded in grossing out a few of my dining companions when I started sucking the heads out but that part is so juicy and amazing I couldn’t resist!  This version doesn’t have any crawfish mustard which makes it perfect for Lent.  A quick note: I don’t like celery so I use celery salt so I can have the taste without the texture.  Feel free to replace the celery salt with about 1 cup of diced celery.
Ingredients: 3 tbsp butter (unsalted soy if possible)1/4 cup all-purpose flour 1 large onion, chopped1 green bell pepper, chopped4 cloves garlic, minced1/2 tbsp celery salt1 can diced unsalted tomatoes1 bay leaf 1/2 teaspoon chile powder2 tablespoons Essence (Emeril brand if possible)2 cups vegetable stock2 pounds eggplant, in large cubes
1. Heat a large Dutch Oven over medium heat.  
2. Melt the butter and then whisk in the flour and stir continuously to make a roux. Stir the roux over medium heat until a rich brown color, about 10minutes.
3. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery salt, and garlic to the roux, and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes to the pot and season with the bay leaves, salt, cayenne, and 1 tbsp of the Essence. Cook the tomatoes for 5 minutes and then stir in the vegetable stock.
4. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook the etouffee, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes. Season the eggplant with the remaining tablespoon of Essence and add them to the pot, stirring to evenly distribute. Cook the eggplant for an additional 30 minutes, or until tender.  Serve over steamed rice and/or with some jalapeño corn bread.

This meal is nice and easy and could easily be adapted to a slow cooker once the roux has been made. 


This or That

 Creamy Double Potato SoupcreamDoublePotatoSoup

We had another spell of cold weather the other week, so another nice warm soup to go along with it.  I guess when it comes to names I could have called this a de-constructed Baked Potato Soup but I was afraid that might be a violation of Chef Law.  Obviously I need to cut back on my Top Chef watching, but even with all but one of my favorites gone I can’t stop watching to see what might happen last.  I have finally recovered from the loss of Tiffani but I’m still trying to figure out how Tiffany is still there.  However I don’t think there is some conspiracy going on with who has been eliminated, I’m not that cynical, or paranoid, yet.  There have been a number of interesting recipes this season and I plan on trying a few of those in the next month, see if I can bring some of that Top Chef magic home.  It should be noted that this potato soup is not based on Angelo’s, I made this the day before that episode aired and knew he was done when he added bacon AND salt in the final 30minutes.

1 lb butter potatoes, skinned and cubed
1/2 lb red potatoes, skinned and cubed
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup water
1 cup (soy) milk

1. Preheat the oven to 400 and lightly grease a large roasting pan.
2. Lay the potatoes on the roasting pan and light cover in Olive Oil along with some salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes, turning once to prevent sticking.  
3.  Meanwhile bring the stock and water to a slow boil.  Gently add the potatoes and cook for 30minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.  Blend the mixture using a hand immersion blender or using a blender, spooning the mixture in portions if needed.  Season to taste and turn heat down to medium. 
4.  Add the milk, along with some pepper, and simmer covered for 10 minutes.  Serve!

I served ours topped with some mixed cheese and some nice crusty French Bread.  A dollop of sour cream and chives would also be nice addition if you really want to go the de-constructed baked potato route. 


Another Day

Mediterranean Eggplant 
So today is my big day, my last day with glasses or contacts.  I’ve taken my eye drops and now I’m just counting down until Joe gets home to take me to THE appointment.  The nerves have kicked in and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to keep myself occupied over the next few days while I’m stuck at home.  I have no doubts that things are going to go well but at the same time, I’m still nervous.I have been cooking lately, but I have mostly been testing some new recipes.  The hint of spring is in the air and I want to make sure I have tons of recipes ready to go once the markets open back up.  In the meantime I have my cookbooks open and I’m tweaking and reworking and trying to find what works best for me.  This recipe is one of those.  It started life as a dish for lamb, now the lamb is gone and the eggplant is front and center.  I also added some additional peppers and onions in order to give it a fuller taste.  Ingredients:- 2 tbsp olive oil- 4 cups eggplant, cubed- 4 cloves garlic, minced- 1/2 onion, chopped- 1/2 green pepper, chopped- 1/4 cup dry white wine- 4 cups plum tomatoes, chopped- 1 tsp oregano- 1 tsp parsley- 1/2 cup crumbled feta (or vegan sub)- salt and pepper to taste
Directions:1. In a large skillet heat the oil over med high.  Add the onion and garlic and cook 2 minutes.  Add the eggplant and cook an additional 2 minutes.  2.  Add the wine and turn heat to medium and simmer until the eggplant starts to soften.  Add the tomatoes and seasoning.  Cook an additional 10minutes, uncovered, then add the feta cheese (or vegan sub) and season to taste.  Serve with brown rice or a crusty bread.
This dish also cooks up very fast, which makes it perfect for a busy weekday night.  I served mine with oregano bread but brown rice would also work really well.  This dish also tastes great with a cup of chickpeas tossed in, nothing wrong with some extra protein! 

Good for your Heart

Black Bean Hot Dogs


Welcome! Tis time for the January International Incident Party, which the lovely Jeroxie is allowing me to post late.  When I saw the theme for January was hot dogs, my heart dropped a little.  Suddenly the IIP went from Iron Chef to Kitchen Impossible which made me slightly nervous.  Even back in my meat eating days I wasn’t always a fan of hot dogs.  In fact I got myself in quite a bit of trouble once at a Friendly’s when I decided that the entire restaurant wanted to know my true feelings for the dinner in front of me.  When I got a little older I discovered a slight love for corndogs, but only if they were prepared to my specifications…luckily I had a very nice friend with a very nice deep fryer so this was possible.  Part of me thought of going in that direction, but then I felt like it would almost be cheating if I posted a recipe for something I haven’t eaten in a number of years.  So I started going thru all of my cookbooks, trying to see if I could find something that would work for making a vegetarian hot dog.  I thought about tofu dogs, or egg salad in panko dogs, or even some seitan dogs before finally settling on Black Bean dogs.  Black bean burgers were one of the first vegetarian meat substitutes I stumbled across and I was hooked from the beginning.    While these aren’t the prettiest dogs on the block. they are delicious and extremely filling!

– 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
– 1/2 onion, diced
– 1/4 cup pickle. chopped
– 1/2 tbsp pickle juice
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 1 tsp parsley
– 1/4 tsp celery salt
– dash of smoked parika
– salt and pepper to taste
– 1/4 cup corn meal
– 1 tbsp olive oil, for cooking

1. Pour the beans into a blender and puree until silky, adding water if needed.  Add the onion, pickle, and pickle juice and blend well.  Then add the seasoning before blending again.  Drain any access liquid from the blender then hand mix in the bread crumbs. 
2.  Form the hotdogs by placing a few tablespoons of the mixture on parchment paper and molding into a snake like shape.  If you have corn shaped cornbread molds they would also work for this.  Be careful using dough piping equipment to form the snakes as the mixture is very thick.  Once the snakes have been formed (I made 6) place in fridge and chill for 30minutes to an hour.
3.  Remove dogs from fridge.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Carefully place the hot dogs onto the skillet leaving plenty of room between.  Cook for 3minutes and then use tongs to roll the dogs in order to cook the other sides. Serve warm!

As an added bonus I used homemade bread in order to form the buns, which worked out perfectly.  The hardest part of this recipe is turning the dogs so that they don’t break apart.  The best way to avoid this is by making sure the dogs have chilled long enough in the fridge, and then making sure they aren’t overcrowded in the pan.  If they do wind up breaking they just become Vienna Sausages…black bean style!



Heart Racing

Cranberry Oatmeal CookiescranberryCookies
Wow…November has been insane so far.  I have been to a wedding, a play, and an opening ceremony at my favorite museum.  Now it’s time to get back on track, and why not do that with some deliciously amazing cookies.  Last week I ran into a food-block when it came time to pick a recipe, so I went to facebook for suggestions.  It came down to Cranberry Oatmeal or Pumpkin, and just had no desire to roast a pumpkin to do the cookies.  So Oatmeal Cranberry it was!  I didn’t have a recipe for it so I decided to just start adding things to the bowl and see what happened.  I knew I didn’t want hardcore oatmeal cookies, like a preacher cookie, but rather something more cake like.  I then realized I was running drastically low on baking flour, but still had a brand new bag of whole wheat flour.  Which resulted in some yummy “multi-grain” cookies, with cranberries added to them for good measure!
Ingredients:2/3 cup old fashioned oats1/2 cup whole wheat flour2/3 cup all-purpose flour1 tbsp baking powder1 stick unsalted margarine1/4 cup brown sugar1/4 cup white sugar1/4 cup cranberry juice (100% juice, no sugar added…the kind that makes your lips pucker)2/3 cup applesauce 1 cup dried cranberries 
Directions:1. Preheat the oven to 3752. Cream the butter with the two types of sugar.  Add the applesauce and baking powder and mix well.  Slowly add the oats and flours and gently mix before adding the cranberry juice.  Fold in the cranberries and place in fridge for 15minutes.3. Spoon the mixture onto cookie sheets with spacing in between.  Bake for 11minutes.
I know adding juice sounds a little strange but it works.  I picked the trick up from a cookie book I found in college, 1 dough 100 cookies.  The original recipe was for an orange recipe, which is not such a good idea for me.  However this works well for recipes that call for larger amounts of dry ingredients, such as oatmeal cookies.  Keeps things nice and moist and delicious and cakey…which is exactly what I was looking for!


Eggplant with Peppers

Eggplant with Peppers


I heard something scary the other day…there are people out there that don’t like eggplant.  I can understand not liking broccoli or brussel sprouts (both of which I love) but eggplant?  Eggplant is one of the most versatile vegetables out there, you can do pretty much everything with them.  Fry them for some eggplant parmesan, bake them for rolletinis, saute them…cream them (hello baba ganoush)…the options are limitless.  So I have to wonder if these people have been the unfortunate victims of bitter plant, which I have been guilty of doing.  In fact the first thing I ever cooked for Joe included a few bites of this not so wonderful version eggplant.  When eggplant is not properly prepped, or if it’s kept too long, it becomes a bitter cousin of its true self, and you can’t tell from looking at it.  The trick: salt and press!  Take the eggplant, cut it as desired, lightly coat in salt and then press it between two plates/cutting boards with paper towels to collect the liquid.  After pressing for about 30minutes, rinse the eggplant and dry with paper towels.  I would say this method works 98.9% of the time, because if the eggplant is old this won’t fix it.  The downside of this is that one needs to know somewhat in advance if eggplant is on the menu.  However taking out the risk of the bitter  plant is well worth the extra time!  This recipe is one that really showcases how amazing the eggplant is, taking center stage where it belongs.

2 tbsp EVOO
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb eggplant, cubed
1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
2 cups mushrooms (shitake if available)
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup marsala
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste.

1. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and peppers.  Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.  
2. Add the eggplant and mushrooms, turn heat to medium high, and cook an additional 10 minutes until eggplant is tender.  Stir in flour.  
3.  Add the water, marsala, and vinegar.  Bring to boil. and then turn heat to low and simmer for 20minutes.  Season to taste and serve over brown rice.

Did I mention this is a really simple recipe?  Gotta love anything that was easy to prepare after classes.  Typically I let this simmer while I did some minor cleaning/worked on homework.  Now I let it simmer while I do some minor cleaning/take care of the furry children.  This is also a very simple vegan recipe, which gives it bonus points in my book!


You Know You Make Me…

Lentil Bolognese
There has been a lot of action in the Casa de Dancing Veggies lately, lots of cooking and lots of recipe testing.  In theory by the end of tonight I should have two more posts in addition to this one to celebrate two blog parties.  One is the monthly International Incident Party hosted by Jeroxie and the other is a new one courtesy of RSVP Redux.  Both pushed me to the edge and required me to use ingredients that I had either never used before or to use ingredients in a whole new way.  I was also able to add a new cooking technique which is always a positive thing.  Before I get ahead of myself though I figured I should share a recipe that is beyond basic beyond simple and also a great vegetarian dish to share with meat eating friends.  When I went vegetarian over a decade ago I was really on my own when it came to cooking.  I was inspired to go Veggie as a protest to my parents going on the Adkins diet (yuck) because I realized that all the delicious meals I enjoyed were no longer going to be a regular occurrence in the house.   So I grabbed some of my mom’s cookbooks and started messing around in the kitchen…much to my dad’s “enjoyment”.  Once I got to college I start finding recipes online and came across a recipe for lentil bolognese.  At this time in my life I had only heard of lentils, normally in regards to various soups but had never really had them.  This changed shortly thereafter when my dad took my sister and I to get Indian food and I had Dal for the first time.  I decided I needed to revisit that strange bolognese recipe and see what it was all about.  That first experiment was a crash and burn, with a very weak sauce that lacked the flavors I was expecting.  This is when the experimenting really began, going from onions to leeks changing from garlic powder to roasted garlic to garlic cloves.  Adding spices and subtracting spices…trying to get a taste that was more sauce and less soup.  In the end this is what I had:
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 carrots, grated
1 red pepper, diced
1 leek, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
2/3 cup red lentils
14oz can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
1 1/4 cups veggie stock
1 tsp marjoram
1 tsp basil
1/2 tbsp oregano
1. In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, pepper, carrots, and leeks and cook for 5 minutes until soft.  Stir often
2.  Add the lentil, tomatoes, stock, and seasonings.  Bring to a boil, and then cover turning heat to low and simmer for 20minutes.
3. Serve over favorite pasta or over brown rice.

Told you it was a simple recipe.  Once the cutting is done everything just gets tossed in together.  This could also be done in a slow cooker starting from Step 2.  Slow cookers are amazing inventions and I don’t know how I would have survived my first apartment without one!