Roasted Hen of the Woods Mushrooms over White Bean Puree with Roasted Asparagus

Sometimes, my dinners aren’t well-planned as they are created from the necessity of using what’s in the fridge or pantry that needs to go.

A couple of weeks ago, I realized that I still had some Rancho Gordo rice beans (they’re small, white beans that look like fat grains of rice) that needed to be finished up. I cooked them for dinner (in the Crock Pot) but I just didn’t love them. Despite hours of cooking, they were still a bit tough for my taste. So I put the leftovers in the fridge while I tried to figure out what to do with them. And that’s when I remembered that the texture was similar to garbanzo beans, so I figured I could substitute them in a white bean puree (like a hummus) recipe. So there was my base.

I also had some organic spring asparagus in the refrigerator leftover from my mom’s visit. We didn’t eat it and it was not going to last much longer, so then I had my side dish.

Now, what to serve as the main? What would go great with that rice bean puree? Hen of the woods mushrooms! I picked some up at the local international market (Whole Foods carries them, too; they are also known as maitake mushrooms or signorina) and I had my meal planned and got to use up what I needed to from the refrigerator.

I wasn’t really planning on sharing this, but the picture I posted on Instagram got quite a few interested comments, so here it is! Though for the puree, I suggest using cannelini beans rather than rice beans. First, you can find canned cannelinis fairly easily and second, even dried rice beans are difficult to find. The really important part of the puree—in my opinion—is the thyme. It gave it a really nice flavor. I also used it for the mushrooms and they only needed a light sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Here’s the recipe for white bean puree (but use vegetable broth! I like Better than Bouillon) and also the instructions for cooking the hen of the woods mushrooms. For the asparagus, just lightly coat the cleaned springs in olive oil and roast at 400F until just tender (check after 5 minutes; don’t overcook because no one likes a shriveled sprig!). Finish with a light sprinkle of salt.

Here’s the not-very-good photo of the result. It was far more delicious than it appears!


Posted in Entrees, Recipes, Side Dishes | 4 Comments

Iron Fork 2014 is Next Week!

ironfork2014Yessss…it’s Iron Fork time again. This is the seventh year for the event and I’ve been nearly every year. I love Iron Fork; not only do I get to watch talented chefs in action, I get to sample tasty selections from a lot of local restaurants. And these restaurants always bring their best bites to Iron Fork sampling, too. It’s where I first had Cupcake Collection cupcakes and Perl Catering’s caramelized onion bisque. Anyhoo, this year’s competitors are:

Matt Bolus — Chef, The 404 Kitchen, named a 2014 semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation. I haven’t had a chance to write it up yet, but Mr. Eats and I celebrated his birthday at The 404 Kitchen and had a fantastic meal. The burrata  is to die for.

Chris Carter & James Peisker — Co-owners, Porter Road Butcher. Listed as one of the five best artisanal butcher shops in America by Bon Appetit in 2012. I’m not a customer of these guys, but Mr. Eats has had breakfast from PRB West several times and gives the meats and the pastries two licked-clean thumbs up.

Kristen Gregory — Executive chef, Firefly Grille. Winner, 2013-14 season premiere of Chopped. I have never been to Firefly Grille, which is tucked into a little corner in Green Hills, but I have heard good things.

Hal Holden-Bache — Executive chef, Lockeland Table, named a 2013 semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation.

The premise is pretty cool: there are teams of two (each chef gets to have a sous chef assist during the competition) and each team must prepare a dish based on a secret ingredient. Last year’s secret ingredient was maple syrup, which winner Jess Benefield used to prepare a butter-poached New York strip with a green Sriracha-chimichurri, coconut powder and maple syrup soy sauce. That was accompanied with a papaya salad topped with maple syrup candied pecans and a shrimp toast with a sweet maple chili sauce. That dish also won Chef Benefield (now of Two Ten Jack, an excellent izakaya in East Nashville) a spot at the coveted judges’ table for this year’s event. I’ve got no early intel on what it may be, but I’m hoping it is something exotic and green, like the year it was fiddlehead ferns.

While watching the competition, you can enjoy drinks from Blue Chair Bay Rum, Four Roses Bourbon, Three Olives Vodka, and Boodles Gin as well as beers from Newcastle, Heineken, and Dos Equis. And there will be more than 20 restaurants and artisan food companies sampling from their menus, including Amerigo, Bar Louie, Boca Loca Cantina, Cafe Fundamental, Drake’s, Jim and Nick’s, Lucky Bamboo, Mere Bulles, Music City Tippler, Nashville Farmers’ Market, Nashville Jam Company, Olive and Sinclair, Opryland Hotel, Qdoba, Salsa, The District and Two Bits.

You can read my round-up of the sampled bites at last year’s event on the Bites blog archive.

Tickets are available online for $45 per person, with all proceeds benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. If the event does not sell out in advance (it has in the past), tickets may be available at the door.

Iron Fork
Wednesday, April 16
6 to 9:30 p.m.
The Commodore Ballroom at Vanderbilt University
310 25th Ave. S.
Tickets (for people 21 and older only): $45

Posted in Events | 5 Comments

Vegan Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies

carringtonfarmsambassadorVanishing cookies? Yes, but not because they have the ability to disappear on their own, but because they are so good that they seem to do so. This is an adaptation of the recipe that appears on the inside of the lid of Quaker Oats (and one I’ve written about before). And even though I just made a different version of vegan oatmeal cookies, I decided to veganize this recipe for two reasons: first, because Grammy Eats was visiting and oatmeal raisin cookies are her favorite and second, because I was chosen to be an “All Good April” ambassador by Carrington Farms. All Good April aims to highlight their great products, including the extra virgin coconut oil and milled flaxseed I used in this recipe. I love Carrington Farms coconut oil so much, that I buy it in the huge tubs from Costco! It’s so versatile and absolutely delicious straight from the container. If you don’t shop at Costco, you can buy Carrington Farms products online. (Keep up with all the All Good April posts by following Carrington Farms on Facebook, too.)


Note the obligatory Ikea towel. And it probably doesn’t show, but that’s an “L” glass with coconut milk beverage from So Delicious in it. :)

I wasn’t sure how these would turn out because the recipe calls for a lot of butter, for which I substituted the coconut oil. And I’ve never made a recipe with egg replacer that called for more than one egg. But I’m happy to report that these turned out fantastic. The taste is amazing. It’s not very coconutty, but there’s enough of a difference that you can discern it from butter. These cookie crisp nicely on the outside while remaining chewy on the inside. They are a bit looser than the standard recipe, though, so make note of that. Aside from the replacements, I also noted that you should use dark brown sugar, a bit more flour and these should be cooked longer than the original recipe. These are great for anyone who has an allergy or aversion to dairy and eggs. I also added a cup of pecans because that’s why my mom prefers.

And though I am thoroughly opposed to the very overdone foodblog cliché of cookie stacks, I couldn’t help but include this one because—for reasons I’m not entirely certain of—it reminds me of the gopher from Caddyshack. And now I hope you are doing the gopher dance in your chair as you read this.

"I'm alriiiiight, don't nobody worry 'bout me. You got to gimme a bi-ite..."

“I’m alriiiiight, don’t nobody worry ’bout me. You got to gimme a bi-ite…”

Vegan Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies
yield: about 4 dozen cookies

2 tablespoons Carrington Farms Organic Milled Flax Seeds
6 tablespoons hot water
¾ cup Carrington Farms Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil, softened
¾ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (I use half whole wheat flour and half white flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups uncooked oatmeal (you can use quick oats or old-fashioned oats)
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the flaxseed and water and stir vigorously. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until it becomes a gel.

Beat together coconut oil with the sugars until on medium speed until creamy. Add flaxseed gel and vanilla and beat well. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and then add to the mixture and mix well. Stir in oats (about a cup at a time) and then raisins and nuts.

Drop by small spoonfuls (about an inch in diameter) on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for a minute and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Posted in Desserts, Recipes | 4 Comments