Monday, August 23, 2010

Fried Green Tomato BLT

I had fried green tomatoes one time. I was in New Orleans and newly vegan and I was meeting a group of people at a restaurant that had exactly one vegetarian thing on the menu (but, happily, there was plenty of vegan food elsewhere on the trip). I knew that it probably wasn't vegan, but I decided ignorance was bliss and ordered the fried green tomatoes. I may have been a bad vegan, but it was indeed bliss. I've been thinking about them ever since.

So, when I spied green tomatoes at our CSA's farm stand, I knew it was time to make some. Then, when we walked by a restaurant in Fort Collins serving a fried green tomato BLT, I thought it might be my destiny. That sounded a lot like my food soulmate. The only problem: I just started a diet. And, I'm pretty sure that fried green tomatoes and sandwiches loaded with vegenaise are not on the Body for Life  plan. So, I waited until my free day.

And by was it worth the wait. It was also so filling that my free day consisted of a bagel sandwich for breakfast, the BLT, and a teensy-tiny amount of panang curry for dinner--so full was I from that sandwich. I can't wait to have them again.
That fried stuff in the foreground? Deep fried avocado slices.

The Fried Green Tomatoes
3 Large Green Tomatoes, sliced about 1/2 an inch thick
1 1/2 c soy milk
1 1/2 t apple cider vinegar
1 c flour
1/2 c corn meal
2 t garlic powder
1 t salt
Peanut oil for frying

Lay tomatoes in a colander and sprinkle with salt. let sweat for about 30 minutes while you prepare everything else. Whisk together soy milk and vinegar. Set aside to curdle. Combine the corn meal, flour garlic powder, and salt in a long shallow container. Mix well. Whisk in soy milk mixture to your desired consistency.

Fill a frying pan about 1/2 inch deep with peanut oil and heat over medium high heat. While the oil is heating up, gently pat dry the tomatoes with a paper towel, getting them as dry as possible. Test the oil by dropping a small amount of better in the oil. It should sizzle and begin to turn brown. Coat 3 slices of tomato in the batter and drop into oil. Flip when the bottom half is a nice caramel brown color and cook until both sides are that color. Remove from oil and place on a paper towel-covered plate. Continue with all the tomato slices.

A note: This is way too much batter for 3 tomatoes, but I didn't want to worry about running out of batter or having to scrape it together. Plus, I didn't want to do the math, but I think you'd have just enough if you cut the batter recipe in half. Or you could fry whatever you have lying around, which is what I did with that avocado.

Also: This batter was great. It had nice crunch. It stuck and stayed together well--no eggs necessary. And could be used on any number of things, like zucchini. 

The Sandwich
2 pieces of soft sandwich bread (I used light rye)
3 fried green tomatoes
3 slices of tempeh bacon
3 leaves romaine, chopped
2 slices of tomato

I'm sure you can figure this part out.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lemony Mint Ricotta-Stuffed Squash Blossoms

Besides enjoying a few hours with friends, there are two definite advantages to spending time Saturday night and Sunday morning preparing a big brunch: 1) the house, or at least the main floor, gets cleaned, and 2) there are lots of leftovers that provide a variety of lunches and dinner for a good part of the week. So, after making brunch again this Sunday (which consisted of a breakfast burrito bar), the last thing I wanted or needed to do last night was make dinner.

That, of course, was until Josh brought home the CSA haul and sitting right on top was a round bag o' squash blossoms. Which I had been hoping for. But have to be used the same day because they wilt hella quick. Sigh.

So, after trying to talk myself out of cooking, I gave in and started thinking about what I wanted to stuff the blossoms with. I even thought of doing quesadillas, but the consensus seems to be that you can't really taste the blossoms in quesadilla form and I thought that a plain vegan cheese quesadilla sounded less than appetizing. Stuffing them seemed the way to go (especially since I'm cooking solely out of the pantry this week), so I threw together a kitchen sink/CSA tofu ricotta and fried 'em up. They definitely needed a dipping sauce of some kind, but they turned out pretty good.

I would definitely make these for a dinner party, especially if I was already using the fryer for vegan cream cheese wontons. They are, above all else, a little exotic and a whole lot impressive to behold.
20 squash blossoms (you can do less but you'll have extra filling)

Lemony Mint Ricotta Filling
1 lb. extra firm tofu
1/3 cup tofutti cream cheese
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 read onion, finely diced
4-5 sprigs mint, chiffonaded
4-5 springs basil, chiffonaded
Zest of 1/3 lemon
Juice of 1/3 lemon
Coarse ground salt and pepper to taste

The Batter
1 cup AP flour
1 cup club soda
1/2 t salt

In a small saute pan, saute garlic and red onion in a bit of olive oil on medium heat. Cook until the red onion in soft and beginning to carmelize. Meanwhile, drain tofu, squeezing as much of the water as possible out of it. Crumble into a bowl and keep massaging it until it resembles the texture of, well, ricotta. Add cream cheese and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Add fresh ground salt and pepper until you get the desired flavor. Put filling a gallon size ziploc bag and push it all toward one bottom corner.

I used a deep fryer, so, at this point, I filled the fryer to the maximum line with canola oil and heated it to 375 degrees.

Next, you need to prep the blossoms, which basically involves removing the stamen. Many sites say you need to use a knife or cut the blossom open, but it's easy to get out while leaving the flower *ahem* intact. Just gently pull the petals apart, stick you finger into the blossom, and press the stamen to the side of the petal (believe me, I tried to make this as non-sexual as possible as I was writing it--it's a challenge). If they're fresh it should break off easily, then you can shake the stamen out. You may need to use you nail, but it should break off easily. I did all of them this way without any mishaps.

Once the blossoms are ready, cut half an inch off the corner of the filling bag. Hold hte flower in one hand, using your fingers to pull back the petals, and squeeze a couple tablespoons of filling into each flower. Twist them closed gently. They won't stay closed but they don't need to. Just make sure it's not overflowing with ricotta.
Lemony Mint Tofu Ricotta Filling

Next, you have to fry them. The blossoms are delicate, so I went with the deep fryer--which had it's challenges. Because they're battered, the first two blossoms stuck to the frying basket. So, with the frying basket lowered into the oil, I would dredge a blossom, covering it at least 3/4 with batter (which is thick), and drop it into the oil. Give it a couple seconds, then gently nudge it around with tongs to make sure it didn't stick to the basket. Then I'd add another dredged blossom. I only did two at a time, frying until they were a golden brown color. After the first couple, they came out fine. But, if you're doing this for the first time, I'd plan on making more then you need.