Chile-miso eggplant ‘steaks’ with orange-COYO drizzle

Thanksgiving used to be so easy. You’d cook like a mad thing, burn a few dishes, fall asleep during a bowl game and wake up at two in the morning with a glass of merlot clutched in your hand and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome blaring on the television. Ah, those were the good old days.

Now it’s a whole lot more complicated. You’ve got someone coming who is lactose intolerant. Somebody else who can’t eat gluten and another who is vegan. Suddenly trad turkey and trimmings just doesn’t cut it.

But fear not. Make a showstopper ‘free from’ dish – no meat, no dairy, no gluten and you’re sorted. Forget some sorry, last minute pasta with tomato sauce – that’s not “Thanks” giving it’s “I-couldn’t-be-bothered” giving. Meat eaters can tuck into turkey while your plant-based buddies smile smugly. It’s a win-win.

And when it’s all over, you can take your glass of wine, find a comfy spot on the sofa, and have a well deserved snooze. Just don’t forget to wake up before the credits roll.

Serves 2-3

2 medium eggplants, about 1.5 lbs total

Olive oil – about ¼ cup

2 Tbsp. yellow miso

1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar

1 Tbsp. mirin

½ tsp chile molido powder (mild)

1-5.3oz tub of COYO coconut yogurt alternative natural flavor

1 Orange

Handful of cilantro, about 5 oz., chopped

Chile pequin flakes

Preheat oven to 425ºF

Slice the eggplants lengthwise into ½-¾” slices. Place on a non-stick baking pan (you may need to use two pans). Lightly score each side of the slices with a knife in a diamond pattern. Brush liberally with olive oil on both sides, sprinkle with salt and place in the oven for around 15 minutes, flipping the slices halfway through.

While the eggplant is cooking, whisk together the miso, rice wine vinegar, mirin and chile molido powder. When the eggplant is golden brown, brush on the miso glaze and cook for another 5 minutes. Then flip the slices over and baste the miso glaze on the other side. Cook for another five minutes – the eggplant should be browned and thoroughly cooked through.

Remove from the oven. Whisk together the COYO with 2 teaspoons of orange zest and 2-3 tablespoons of orange juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable.
Place the eggplant slices on a platter, drizzle with the orange-COYO sauce, scatter the cilantro on top and finish with a sprinkle of chile pequin flakes.

Baked Sweet Potato with all the fillings

Dinner for two sounds awfully romantic doesn’t it? I know what you’re thinking – candlelight, some soft jazz and a glass/two/bottle of Merlot. It’s a night to remember as you gaze at that someone special/mildly memorable and wonder if it would blow the mood to suggest binge watching Game of Thrones.

But folks, dinner for two can be something a lot more down to earth. Ditch the candles and bin the George Benson cd – dinner for two can be survival on a week night. If you’ve got children (I feel your pain) then it’s homework and tantrums and trying to prise a phone out of their sharp, beady talons. It’s laundry and work emails that don’t care what time it is.

Then suddenly 9:00 p.m. and you realize – hey, guess what? – you haven’t eaten anything since that highly suspect tuna fish sandwich at noon. It’s at times like this – and we’ve all had them – that you need something you can get on the table ASAP. Before you can press speed dial for pizza delivery, you can have a baked sweet potato done and on the table. (That is if you use our very good friend the microwave.)

And if you’re really tired, feel free to eat dinner in bed. We won’t tell. Honest.

Serves 2

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes (about 1 lb total weight)

1 oz goat’s cheese or feta cheese, a nice size chunk

3-4 radishes, sliced thinly

1 or 2 spring onions, sliced

pumpkin seeds, to garnish

 

Green chile butter

1 stick/4 oz. butter, softened

1 tbsp cilantro, chopped plus extra for garnish

1 tsp green jalapeño powder

zest of 1 lime

Salt

Wash and dry the sweet potatoes and prick them all over with a sharp knife. Microwave at high heat for 5 minutes, check and microwave in 2 minute intervals until tender all the way through.

To make the green chile butter, mix the softened butter with the chopped cilantro, green jalapeño powder and lime zest. Taste and add salt as needed and place in a ramekin.

When the sweet potatoes are done, slice down the middle, add a healthy spoonful of the butter. Divide the cheese between the servings, add the sliced radishes and spring onions and garnish with a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and the extra cilantro. Eat it up while it’s hot and then in bed – it’s a school night.

Broccoli, sugar snap peas & green beans with a kefir green chile sauce


At the Chile Trail, you know we’re all about clean living. In fact, I wrote a book on it. Ok, maybe I didn’t actually write a book, but I thought about it. Very seriously, thought about it. And exercise? I live for it. Only last week, I parked the car in the driveway instead of the garage and walked all the way to the front door.

For a moment I knew what it was like to be an Olympic athlete.

So I don’t mess around when it comes to eating my vegetables. I’m all over them. Can’t get enough of them. Pile my plate full of them. Except for Brussel sprouts, but we all have our limits. Maybe at Christmas but that’s it. And Thanksgiving. But then I draw the line.

The key with veg is not to boil the living daylights out of them. They’re vegetables for heaven’s sake, not your sworn enemy. It’s a kitchen, not the Spanish inquisition. Treat them gently. Blanch them – fancy talk for cooking quickly in boiling water, or roast them or stir fry. But don’t do what my Granny did and boil them until they’re limp and grey. Nobody likes a grey vegetable. Not even me.

Note: Kefir is a fermented milk drink that is pretty easy to find in supermarkets or health food shop. If you can’t, you could substitute buttermilk.

Makes 4 servings

1 head of broccoli, florets only

4 oz sugar snap peas

4 oz green beans

1 cup/8 oz kefir

1-2 tsp green chile sauce

1 lime, zest only

Salt

To make the kefir green chile sauce, mix together the kefir, one teaspoon of the green chile sauce and the lime zest. Set aside and taste in 10 minutes. Add another teaspoon if you’d like some more heat and season with salt. Set aside until you’re ready to serve.

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Salt the water generously. Blanch the sugar snap peas until just cooked but still crispy. Remove them from the pan, place in a colander and rinse under very cold water. Repeat with the green beans and then finally the broccoli. Place on a plate lined with a dish towel or paper towel and gently pat them dry.

Place the vegetables on a serving platter, drizzle with the kefir green chile sauce and serve any extra sauce on the side.

 

 

 

Soup’s Up! Spicy Lentil and Frizzled Onions

I have a friend who tells a story. It was in the mid-70’s and she was living in Suburbia, USA. Her family was invited over to friends for dinner. When they asked the hostess what they could bring (“Flowers?” “A bottle of Blue Nun?”), they were told simply to bring a can of soup. So Campbell’s Black Bean soup in tow, they went over for dinner.

SOUP 3 copy

The kids were dispatched to the Rec Room to throw darts at the board and each other, while the adults got comfortable in the living room suite as the host uncorked a couple of bottles of Mateus. A few bites of celery piped with Cheez Whiz and dinner was served.

The hostess – in a particularly Stepford Wife-ish moment –proudly lifted the lid on a soup tureen and announced dinner was served – Friendship soup! Every can of soup that had been brought that night – chicken and stars, beef noodle and yes, black bean – had been dumped in a pot, heated up and served with pride.

My friend still wakes sometimes in the middle of the night screaming.

And this is how food nightmares start. I mean, poor soup. It’s not just 70’s travesties like Friendship Soup that give soup a bad name. Soup just sometimes sounds kind of boring, kind of last minute, kind of can’t-be-bothered.

LENTIL SOUP

But it shouldn’t be that way. Soup is warm (unless it’s cold) and comforting and kind of like a great dog – it loves you no matter what.

Now this soup is simple. It’s easy and you’ve probably got most/all of the ingredients in your cupboard right now and that’s a good thing. It serves 2-3 but double the recipe and pop the leftovers it in the freezer. But please, whatever you do, don’t mix it with it with chicken and stars.

Spicy Lentil Soup with Smoky Frizzled Onions

Serves 2-3

The secret to this soup is the smoky frizzled onions. You cook them super slowly until they’re nice and soft, then add some chipotle, crank up the heat to caramelize them and give them some color. Plop some on each serving along with a drizzle of sour cream and you’re in heaven.

Soup:
½ red onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ancho chile powder
¼ tsp cayenne powder
¼ tsp chipotle chile powder
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds, roughly ground
8 oz. red lentils, washed and any stones or dirt removed
3-4 cups water or stock
4 Tbsp tomato puree
1 15 oz. can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
Salt to season

Smoky frizzled onions:
1 ½ red onions
2 Tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp chipotle chile powder
Pinch salt

To serve:
Sour Cream
Chopped parsley or cilantro

To make the soup, sauté the onions in the olive oil in a covered saucepan over low heat until they’re soft. Add the spices and cook for a minute or two more until the mixture is aromatic. Add the red lentils and water. Once the lentils are tender, add the tomato puree and black eyed peas and check for seasoning. You can puree the soup or serve as is.

LENTIL ONION ONIONS

While the soup is cooking, make the frizzled onions. Slice the onions in half and then thinly into half moons. Sauté the onions in the olive oil in a covered saucepan over low heat until they’re soft. Remove the lid, stir in the chipotle chile and salt and increase the heat, stirring often to keep the onions from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. Continue to cook until they’re nicely caramelized and jammy.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with sour cream or Greek yoghurt and a dollop of the frizzled onions and parsley or cilantro.

Travel Notes: Oklahoma City top 6

This week, the Chile Trail is leading us straight to Oklahoma City to visit all the hotspots recommended by fabulous food blogger, Kathryne (are last names really necessary? We thought not) of vegetarian food blog, “Cookie + Kate.” We noticed Kathryne was handy with the spicy stuff, so we knew we’d love her picks.

Kathryne is a 20-something photographer and vegetarian cook who spent twenty-plus years in the Oklahoma City area, but recently moved to Kansas City with her quirky black and white mutt, Cookie.

Her blog is all about celebrating good food—real, sustainable food that delights the senses and nourishes the body. We thank her for her contribution.

Oklahoma City is experiencing a food renaissance of sorts. Over the past few years, I’ve watched the locals become more health conscious eaters, and going to farmers’ markets on the weekend has become more mainstream. Fantastic local restaurants are popping up as well. For a state that admittedly doesn’t have the most exciting culinary history, I’m so happy to see greater demand for good food and support of local restaurants.

1. Ludivine: Exceptional farm-to-table meals in a hip environment. Great cocktails, too. (Thanks to Sarah Warmker for the beautiful photographs. You can see more of her work here and here.)

2. Big Truck Tacos: A taco truck-turned restaurant that offers super fresh, inventive tacos. We recently took a Californian visitor there and he admitted that their tacos were better than anything he’s tasted at home. My favorite thing to get is actually the wojo burrito—garlicky black beans with tons of sautéed vegetables, spinach and feta. Amazing.

3. The Mule: My friend just opened up this gourmet grilled cheese restaurant. Grilled cheese makes everything better.

4. Oklahoma City Museum of Art: The permanent Chihuly exhibit always feels like a trip inside Willy Wonka’s candy factory.

5. Oklahoma City Farmers Public Market: A beautiful, unique old two-story building built in the 1920s that hosts specialty vendors, grocers and special events.

6. Super Cao Nguyen Market: You might not expect to find an impressively large grocery store that offers a wide variety of Asian ingredients and exotic produce in OKC, but Super Cao Ngyen is just that. It’s hard to miss, thanks to the giant artificial palm trees out front.

AND WITHOUT FURTHER ADO,THE WINNER IS…

Last week, we featured a contest to win Cooking with Johnny Vee, and the lucky winner is Bonnie Brauner from West Orange, NJ! (Hope you got through the storm okay, Bonnie.) But we can’t stand to stop there, so we’re giving three runner-up gifts (a packet of our Christmas Salsa Mix) to Debbye Doorey of Dallas TX, Mike Stolz of Casper WY, and Ginger Johnson of Hayward CA. Thanks for playing!