Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Portobello Barbacoa and Smokey Queso Spread

Turning something inherently carnivorous into a vegan masterpiece is one of my favorite things about cooking. Though I’ve had some success with roasts and loaves, mimicking popular meat dishes has its obvious challenges. Texture, flavor from fat and drippings, cook time, etc. At this point I’ve learned that it’s not about creating an exact replica, but creating an incredible, flavorful, delicious dish in and of its own. The real challenge? Appealing to the skeptics. They don’t always buy the fact that it doesn’t have to taste the same as the fleshy version to taste meatlessly delicious. So you have to set some realistic expectations.

The expectation I set when serving these Barbacoa bites: “Yo peeps! These are friggin’ awesome! No it’s not going to taste like the shredded beef that is typically used in Barbacoa. It’s not supposed to. No the Queso is not going to feel like gelatinous ball park cheez because it’s way better!” These are the real pictures that must be painted for non-believers. And I did. And it worked. I made this recipe as individual “bites” for work, and also made them as roll-ups for a pool party. Both versions were inhaled.

Who could blame these hungry hippos? This Barbacoa recipe is madness. Barbacoa is a style of slow cooking meat in Mexico and relates to the origination of “barbecue.” It’s really all about the sauce. And consistent with any barbecue master, I couldn’t help myself picking at the stringy Portobellos as they slow cooked for hours in a spicy marinade. You may have probably picked up on my obsession with vegan cheesy things as well, so needless to say the food processor and spatula did not have one speck of Queso dip after I was through with it. Finger lickin’ good!

Recommended toppings/accompaniments:
  • slivered spinach or romaine
  • salsa and/or fresh tomatoes
  • vegan sour cream or Veganaise
  • roasted green chili peppers
  • fresh cilantro
 Recommended serving styles:
  • tacos
  • layered Dip
  • burritos
  • tortilla roll ups
Suggestion for Portobello preparation: slice the bellos into thin strings to cook in this recipe. Afterward you can pulse in a food processor to use as a spread if doing layered dip or roll ups.

Portobello Barbacoa
Makes: 6-8 Servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours


For the Marinade
1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
3 T. lime juice
5 cloves garlic
3-4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 T. ground cumin
2 tsp. Mexican oregano
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. ground cloves¼ tsp. allspice

For the Shrooms
2 T. canola oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
4-6 Portobello mushrooms, sliced 1/8 inch thin (optional to remove gills)
Pinch of salt
3/4 - 1 c. vegetable broth (from bouillon)
3 bay leaves


Place all marinade ingredients in a blender and puree until completely smooth, about 2 minutes. Set aside while you prepare the mushrooms.

In a large stock pot, heat canola oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add cumin seeds and cook until they start to pop. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Stir to coat in cumin and cook 3-5 minutes. Add marinade, broth and bay leaves. Turn heat to low and simmer for 2-4 hours. If too spice or acidic, add a pinch of sugar.

Smokey Queso Spread
Makes: 1 ½ cups
Prep time: 5 minutes


1 can white cannellini beans
½ c. tomatoes
1/3 c. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. Miso paste
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
Salt to taste


Puree all ingredients in a food processor until completely smooth. Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more salt or cayenne for spice. Add more mustard or Miso for a sharper cheesy taste.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mustard Coriander Roasted Cauliflower

I have probably professed my love for roasted cauliflower before - I don’t know how I could have not mentioned it somewhere in the past couple of years writing here. There is something about how the edges of those little florets get so crunchy that makes this a very addictive snack, side dish, or salad topper. It hardly even needs to be dressed up to taste incredible, but sometimes a fancy twist is in order just to make things exciting. We all need to shake it up from the routine every now and then, and in this case, an aromatic-earthy combination livened up this Plain Jane veggie just right.

Mustard and coriander is not an uncommon combination, but they do make a very good flavor team. Mustard has that tangy edge and coriander has a bright, vibrant quality that pairs really well with simple foods. However, though not necessarily title worthy, I actually think the tahini is what makes this dish seriously slammin. After some discussion with my sister, my kitchen confidant and bearer of many tricks of the trade, we decided that tahini just has a “je ne sais quoi” that makes it irresistible. How does it turn chickpeas into “hummus” [said with a middle eastern throaty grimace], how does it transform raw garlic into an incredible dipping sauce for french fries? Magic. Je ne sais quoi. It’s a must have on your shelf, right next to the peanut butter, in between the nutritional yeast and pomegranate molasses (ok it’s not that obscure).

So while this recipe is title “cauliflower” - I actually used summer squash as well, as you probably deduced from the photo, you Sherlock you. I think many simple roasting veggies would be terrific in this dressing - broccoli, carrots, turnips, artichokes. Play around with whats in the fridge and if you don’t have tahini, get your booty to the nearest middle eastern market and buy a jar. It deserves staple status in any pantry.

Mustard Coriander Roasted Cauliflower
Makes 4-6 servings
Cook time: 20 minutes


4 cups cauliflower florets
(or 2 c. cauliflower + 2 c. summer squash)
1 ½ T. olive oil
1 ½ T. stone ground mustard
½ T. ground coriander
2 tsp. tahini
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp. black pepper


Preheat oven to 450F.

Place cauliflower in a medium mixing bowl and spray evenly with cooking spray (this will help the dressing coat evenly). In a smaller bowl, combine remaining ingredients and whisk until well blended. Pour dressing over cauliflower and toss. Roast for 15-20 minutes or until cauliflower is tender and golden brown around the edges.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tomato Plum Bruschetta with Turnicotta Spread

What easy entertaining appetizer can you whip up in T-20 minutes that pleases just about anyone's taste? Italian toast. Bruschetta. Phonetically pronounced "broo-SKEH-ta." You hearrrrd me, not "broo-SHEH-ta," and don't let some uptight waitress try to correct you when you pronounce in the appropriate tongue. Chances are she doesn't even eat bread and Olive Garden/Macaroni Grill don't include a linguistics course in employee orientation. Broo-SKEH-ta.

Bruschetta is the ultimate nosh because just about anything works. It lends itself very well to indecisive cooks because so many ingredients work to make a stellar slice - you don't just have to make one kind. In fact, bruschetta is one of the most popular appetizers in Phoenix - about 80% of "hip" restaurants, or those striving to be, have a "choose any 4" theme on their menu. Ingredients include: brie and apple, ricotta-date-pistachio, hummus spread, roasted pepper and goat cheese, etc. After frequenting a few of these places, you get the feeling that having a bruschetta menu is almost a cop out for being creative. Luckily you can be much more creative in your own home.

With that said, this combination was uber random (it felt "creative" but sometimes random and creative are synonymous in the kitchen) but worked better than I could have hoped. I had some killer heirloom tomatoes that were sweet as can be plus someone planted a turnip bomb in my produce bag over the weekend so I had to use up some of those. Plums, you ask? I don't know. I wanted something to complement the sweet of the tomatoes but that still had a little tart factor going on. Plus they are pretty.

The "turnicotta" came from a vegan version of ricotta that usually features tofu crumbled with some garlic and spice. Instead, I used creamy turnips. As many understudies, they ended up completely upstaging tofu. With the smackin' sweet tomatoes, smarty tart plums, and a balsamic punch - these toasts were the perfect Act One. Not too much to make the main act uninteresting, but just enough to make you want to keep eating. Though you may just want to keep eating bruschetta I guess.

Tomato Plum Bruschetta with Turnicotta Spread
Makes 4-6 servings
Prep time: 25 minutes


2 c. turnips, ends trimmed and cubed
4 garlic cloves, in peel
2 T. cashews
1 T. parsley
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch of nutmeg and white pepper

Ciabatta, sliced 1/2 inch thick
Olive oil
1 medium tomato, sliced paper thin
2 small plums, sliced paper thin
Balsamic vinegar


Place turnips and unpeeled garlic in a medium sauce pan and cover with water by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil and and reduce heat to medium. Cook at a low boil under turnips are tender, 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

Remove the garlic cloves, peel and throw into a food processor with cashews. Puree into a paste and add turnips and salt. Process until mixture is completely smooth, 2-3 minutes. Last, pulse the parsley, nutmeg and white pepper into the mixture until evenly blended. Set aside and refrigerate to cool.

Preheat oven to 450F.

Slice the Ciabatta about 3/4 inch thick and coat each slice with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and toast in oven for 7-8 minutes, or until slices are golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside.

To assemble: Spread 1/2-3/4 tablespoon of turnip spread on each slice of toast. Top with alternating slices of tomato and plum. Top each slice with a few small drops of good balsamic vinegar and a pinch of parsley.