Friday, January 27, 2012

Tofu Burgers with Cayenne-Black Pepper Aioli

The toasted spice rub used for the tofu here is the same as the one used in these grilled mangoes. Make sure you use a good quality bread that will hold up to the aioli, tofu, and whatever toppings you'd like. Wimpy, soggy bread makes a horrible sandwich.



Makes 2 servings
Total Time: about 15 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb firm tofu, drained and dried well
  • 1 1/2 tsp Toasted Spice Rub, recipe follows
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 buns or slices of hearty bread
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 C light olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Toppings:
  • Sliced tomato
  • Spinach leaves
  • Grilled onion

Procedure:
First, make the aioli. Crush and peel the garlic clove. Roughly chop the garlic, add the salt, and smush it with the flat side of the knife repeatedly to make a fine paste. Add the garlic paste to a medium bowl, along with the egg yolk, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne. Whisk together. Slowly add the olive oil, first drop by drop, and then in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly so as to create an emulsion. Set aside while you cook the tofu. (If making the aioli ahead of time, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. It should last about a week in the refrigerator.)

Heat a large skillet (I used a cast-iron skillet) over high heat and brush with the tablespoon of canola oil. Cut the tofu into block or rounds that will fit nicely on your bread; the slices should be about 1/2-inch thick. (I had leftover tofu, but not enough to make another burger. I plan on using the extra scrambled up with an egg and some pesto.) Coat the large sides of each tofu slice with the toasted spice rub. When the pan is very hot, add the tofu and sear each side until brown and a bit crispy (about 2-3 minutes per side). Meanwhile, construct your burger with toppings of choice and the aioli. Add the tofu burgers and dig in!

For the Toasted Spice Rub:

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Procedure:
Toast the peppercorns, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds in a dry skillet, tossing or stirring frequently to keep from burning. Transfer to a spice grinder and add the red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse the spices until finely ground. Store in a closed spice container.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Grilled Mango with Toasted Spice Rub

This dish is great by itself, served over ice cream, or on a bed of mixed greens. The recipe for the toasted spice rub makes more than needed for the mangoes. Store the extra in an empty spice container to sprinkle on fish or chicken, or add to a vinaigrette.


Makes 4 servings
Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 ripe mangoes, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1 1/2-inch strips
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Procedure:
Make the toasted spice rub. Toast the peppercorns, cumin seeds, and coriander seeds in a dry skillet, tossing or stirring frequently to keep from burning. Transfer to a spice grinder and add the red pepper flakes, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse the spices until finely ground.

Add 2 teaspoons of the spice mixture to the melted butter and stir to combine. Preheat the grill (or a grill pan) to medium-high heat. Brush the mango slices with the spiced butter and grill on each side until browned (3-4 minutes per side), basting with more butter as necessary. Serve warm.

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Version of Pimento Cheese

This probably shouldn't be called "pimento cheese" because it doesn't actually have any pimento peppers in it, but I don't know what else to call it. I used peppers I wanted to make it hot and damn tasty. Please adapt according to your taste. As a side note, I apparently can't say "pimento" without sounding like a true Southerner-- it always comes out as "pimmeno". However you say it, I hope you enjoy it.


Serves 8-10
Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz cheddar cheese, grated or cut into small pieces
  • 1 oz grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 jalapenos, stems removed, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 Thai bird chilies, stems removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 C mayonnaise
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 8-10 slices of bread

Procedure:
Combine the cayenne, peppers, garlic, and ground black pepper in a food processor and pulse until well combined and the peppers and garlic are finely chopped. Add the cheeses and mayonnaise and puree until smooth.

Spread on bread. Eat at room temperature or broil until the top browns a bit.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Red Lentil-Mushroom Burgers

I served these veggie burgers with baked turnip fries. The Sriracha mayonnaise is easy to make, and even tastier if you make your own mayonnaise. Just combine a tablespoon of Sriracha with a 1/4 cup of prepared mayonnaise. If using store-bought mayo, add a squeeze of lemon juice.


Makes 4-6 servings
Total Time: about 45 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 1 C red lentils
  • 2 C water
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 C Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
For serving:
  • 4 buns, split in half
  • sliced tomato
  • Sriracha mayonnaise
Procedure:
In a saucepan, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the mushroom and season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until the mushroom begin to brown, add the shallot and thyme and cook until the shallot is softened. Add the lentils, water, freshly ground pepper to taste, and remaining teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the lentils are tender and the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat to cool.

While the lentil mixture cools, heat a 10- to 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Brush the skillet with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

When the lentils have cooled, add the bread crumbs and egg. Stir to combine. Form the lentil mixture into 4-6 patties, depending on the size of your buns. Add the patties to the hot pan, and cook until the first sides are well-browned, about 4 minutes. Flip the patties over and brown the other side, another 4 minutes. Transfer to buns and serve with tomato slices and Sriracha mayonnaise.

Note: Turnip fries are better and tastier than regular french fries. And they're easy. Find the recipe here.

Turnip Fries

Makes 4 servings
Total Time: about 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb turnips, washed, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch strips
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
Procedure:

Preheat the oven to 425F. On a half sheet pan, toss the turnip strips with the olive oil and seasonings. Lay out in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes. Toss the turnip fries to brown the other sides, rotate the pan and return to the oven for another 15 or so, or until the fries are well-browned.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sticky Spicy Sesame Chicken

This recipe is so ridiculously tasty and quick, you can easily whip it up on a busy weeknight. I have no idea how the typical American-Chinese take-out Sesame Chicken is made, but this is pretty damn good and frankly tastes far superior than any take-out I've had. Serve this with some brown rice and roasted broccoli or braised cabbage.


Makes 2-3 servings
Total Time: about 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4 C low-sodium soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 3-4 Thai bird chiles, stemmed and minced
  • 1/4 C toasted sesame seeds

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and brown, stirring occasionally. While the chicken is cooking, whisk together the soy sauce, brown sugar, hoisin sauce, vinegar, and chiles. When the chicken has browned, slowly add the sauce and stir, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Turn up the heat and reduce the sauce, stirring constantly until the chicken is well-coated and the sauce is sticky and very thick. Turn off the heat, add the sesame seeds, and stir to coat. Serve over rice.