Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tofu with penne

Y'know, sometimes you just don't feel like making a big production at dinner. Sometimes, you just want to fry up some fresh tofu cubes in olive oil and diced onions until both are crispy and then throw in some marinated artichoke hearts, diced tomato (canned! but drained-ish), garlic and some Italian herbs and salt and pour the mixture over some penne and call it a meal.

I did also pan fry some frozen haircots vert over high-ish heat to serve as a side dish.

Baby Eats loves the fried tofu and artichoke hearts; notsomuch the green beans. We're still trying, though.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hot and Cold

There are a hundred reasons I'm happy that we've gotten a break from the frigid weather here in Nashville, but one of the top ones was to finally be able to visit Hot & Cold over in Hillsboro Village for the Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. The place and the ice cream were every bit of everything I've heard and more.

The Jeni's ice cream is amazing. The flavors are bizzare-wonderful. And they're expensive. However, for your $4, you can get a small cup that has a reasonable portion of up to two flavors (for only $1 more, you can get a third flavor). Not bad. The $10 pints seem a bit steep, but there's a lot of good stuff packed in there. We got a pint of the Bangkok Peanut (peanut butter, honey, toasted coconut, cayenne pepper) and one of Sweet Cream and Appalachian Elderberries (a mostly unflavored ice cream base with elderberries and black currants). A little Valentine's Day splurge. Also, pints are the only way to get many of the flavors.

While in the store, I had a small with Salty Caramel and Goat Cheese with Cognac Fig Sauce (both outstanding) and Mr. Eats had the Brambleberry Crisp and Cherry Lambic sorbet (again, outstanding). Very much worth every penny. We had cups, but were very tempted by the house-made waffle cones.You can also have a variety of chocolate sauces, peanut sauce, or espresso served with your ice cream.

I regret that we didn't get any of the sipping chocolate or any of the other very wonderful-sounding hot beverages (including cider). They also serve Las Paletas (and Chiquitas--mini versions of the paletas), which are handy if you don't feel like dropping too much money (and butterfat) on the little ones (ha!).

Hot & Cold is located at 1804 21st Avenue South in Hillsboro Village an iS open from 11am-9pm (I think) every day. I actually ran into the owner while there (he was getting the Roxbury Road in a waffle cone--a good endorsement for that, I'd say) and mentioned that the hours listed on the website didn't have weekend hours listed so I hope that's fixed soon. They ARE open on the weekends, though!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Barley Walnut Loaf

Since my trip to Memphis, I've been inspired to create my own veggie meat loaf. Y'know, even though I don't like meat loaf. So I scoured the google for recipes and was disappointed. Too many recipes with stuff I don't like (bell peppers, celery) and just about all of them called for either eggs (no, thanks) or ground flaxseed (which I didn't have on hand) as a binder.

So, I just decided to figure out what I did want in it (brown rice, barley) and what I could use that would hold it together (ground walnuts, cheese). Unbelievably, it worked and it tasted good! Really good. Mr. Eats even had seconds!

So here's the recipe I used. If you're looking for something new for Meatless Mondays and would like a nice vegetarian comfort food, this is the loaf for you. I will continue to play around with it, too. I think some shredded carrots and chopped mushrooms would be good additions. And of course, if you like bell peppers and celery, you could add those, too.

This takes some time and a little planning, but it's easy to do in stages (which I have to schedule during nap times!).

Barley Walnut Loaf
prep time about 2-3 hours for the grains and loaf to cook plus cooling
1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup water
2/3 cup pearled barley
2 cups water
1 packet onion soup mix
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (I used Cabot Seriously Sharp)
1 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup bread crumbs (or quick oats)
olive oil (to grease the loaf pan)

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon thyme*
1 hefty pinch of cumin*
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast*
(*these seasonings are optional; add what you like or have on hand)

2 tablespoons catsup
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of salt

Cook the brown rice with 1 cup of water according to directions (simmer on low heat for 50 minutes).

Cook the barley with 2 cups of water and the packet of onion soup mix for one hour (simmer on low heat).

Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in the oven or toaster oven at 300F until lightly browned and just as you can smell them (just a few minutes). Place into a food processor and chop into a course meal.

Transfer the walnut meal to a large bowl and add the cheese, rice, barley, breadcrumbs/oats, and seasonings and mix well.

For the glaze, place all ingredients in a small bowl and heat slightly (so the honey will melt) and mix well.

Grease a loaf pan with olive oil and spoon the loaf mix into the pan, packing down well. Spread the glaze evenly on top and bake for 50 minutes at 350F.

Let the loaf cool for at least an hour before slicing, if possible (otherwise, it will fall apart slightly--so this is optional). Then reheat to serve.

Make it vegan!
To make this recipe vegan, simmer the barley in vegetable broth instead of onion soup mix and add in 1/2 cup of well-sauteed diced onions (many onion soup mixes are not vegan). And skip the cheese or use vegan cheese. Sweeten the glaze with agave nectar, raw sugar or another vegan sweetener.

Mix well. Mmm...appetizing, huh?
Press it down as much as possible
Add the glaze and bake!
I cut it too soon. Don't make this mistake.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A little fun in Memphis

I'm from Memphis originally and I frequently go back to visit friends and family and, of course, many of my favorite restaurants that I've found no replacement for in Nashville. Things are coming along here, but I still have no good substitute for Memphis Pizza Cafe and Panda Garden.

Aside: There's a fairly large and vibrant Chinese community in Memphis, particularly compared to Nashville. So there are some great Chinese restaurants from take-out to upscale. Recently, awards were given in San Francisco for the best Chinese restaurants and my favorite, Panda Garden made it on the "best value" list, China Wok (near where I grew up) made it on the "best takeout" list and Royal Panda was listed among the best overall restaurants. Incidentally, Royal Panda is the subject of a blog dedicated to the food the chef/owner creates: The Wu Food Project.

Other old favorites include Gibson's Donuts (like them on Facebook to keep up with special offers and be sure to have the caramel donut) and the Beauty Shop (vegetarian- and kid-friendly, as you can see but be sure to call ahead and request a high chair in an out-of-the-way place if you can).

And I am an unabashed fan of Cafe Ole, no matter how many times it changes ownership. As long as it still has sangritas (recommended!) and black bean quesadillas, I'll keep going.

Baby Eats on the Blackberry and enjoying a lime at the Beauty Shop

And I have new favorites now, too. Thanks to Lindsey, I've become acquainted with Fuel, the latest restaurant to occupy the old gas station on Madison, just east of Zinnie's and just west of P&H. There are LOTS of great vegetarian options, including this veggie cheese & walnut loaf. It inspired this conversation:

"How much is it like meat loaf? Because I never liked meat loaf."
"What didn't you like about meat loaf?"
"Well, definitely the ground beef. I hate ground beef. The texture and grease."
"Well, this has no ground beef and no grease."
"And also the sauce. I think it had ketchup on it."
"We don't put ketchup on it. It does have a honey barbecue glaze, though."
"What about the texture? Is it a little looser? Because that would be good."
"Yes, it's definitely looser than ground beef because it's made with chopped, not ground walnuts and cheese and oats and some other things."
"Hmm, okay, I will try it then."

I liked it! It made for a hearty sandwich. And as promised by the server, the fries were fantastic, too.

Also at the suggestion of Lindsey and just about everyone else in Memphis, Mr. Eats and I visited The Cove. This is a good place to go to drink, but not so much to eat if you're a vegetarian. I ate, but it was nothing special. The drinks are very good, though (but just a tad on the pricey side). But the place has a good vibe, a very homey atmosphere. It's unpretentious, which is a rarity these days.

I won't be back to Memphis very soon, but when I go, I hope to visit a few of the other new restaurants I've heard about: Au Fond Farmtable and Three Angels Diner. Oh, and of course, a couple more of those top Chinese restaurants! And have this!