Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dad's Day biscuits and gravy

Father’s Day is one of those days that, in my opinion, demands a hearty, extravagant breakfast. I mean, if you go to any diner in the country, who’s eating the Paul Bunyan Extra-Greasy Five Pound Breakfast Special? Generally not us ladies. It’s as if a love of bacon, sausage and eggs is imparted via the “y” chromosome, along with extra testosterone, a burning hatred of ballet, and the need to wrestle anything that moves (but especially siblings).

So, in honor of my excellent husband, I set about finding a lumberjack-worthy breakfast that wouldn’t give him a heart attack at the same time. Biscuits with sausage gravy was a favorite indulgence back in the day. It isn’t terribly time-consuming, the timing is forgiving, and biscuits are easy enough for even the smallest kids to help make.  Yup, this dish itself well to a laid-back, somewhat lackadaisical Father’s Day morning.

Don’t be afraid of the bean base for this gravy! I know, I know, it sounds weird, but believe me, it’s as good and creamy as, well, cream. I wish I’d thought of using white beans for gravy first, but I have to give props to Isa Chandra Moskowitz (again); she’s a food genius and a constant source of inspiration. The addition of veggie sausage just makes it that much yummier, and it really is reminiscent of an oh-so-bad-for-you-but-oh-so-yummy breakfast at your favorite greasy spoon. Just without all the grease.

Most surprisingly, this was a big hit with the kids. I didn’t think I’d be adding this recipe to the blog, because neither is big on gravy — even when we were meat-eaters, they resisted the siren song of the annual Thanksgiving giblet gravy — but they happily spooned up every last drop of this faux-sausage gravy.

“Dad” savored every bite, too, while feeling very loved and pampered — in a rough, manly way, of course. Happy Fathers Day!


“Sausage” gravy

1 T canola oil
2 links Field Roast Italian Sausage, removed from casings and crumbled (Field Roast is our favorite; if you can’t find it in your area, use about 6-8 oz. of another vegan sausage substitute, such as LightLife Sausage Style)
1-1/2 c. not-chicken broth (plus extra for thinning, if necessary)
1/3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 med. onion, chopped
4 med. cloves garlic, chopped
2 T fresh thyme, chopped
1 T fresh chives, chopped
1 15-oz. can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
3 T soy sauce
4-6 drops liquid smoke

Heat the canola oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add sausage and stir until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Whisk together the broth and flour until smooth. Set aside.

Add onion and garlic to the saucepan. Saute until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the thyme and chives. Cook another 2-3 minutes. Give the broth mixture another stir, then add it to the saucepan, along with the beans, soy sauce and liquid smoke.

Remove the pan from heat, and use an immersion blender to blend the mixture until it’s smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Return the pan to the stove and heat over med-low. Add “sausage.” Stir occasionally; the gravy will thicken further. If desired, add more not-chicken broth to thin to your desired consistency.

Serve hot over your favorite biscuits. Top with some fresh ground pepper for the grown-ups!

Serves 4.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Lettuce give thanks

Sometime around March of every year — when we’re still getting snow and ice but tender little bits of green are starting to poke up from the half-frozen earth — I start having dire, desperate cravings for fresh salad greens. And the pale, tasteless stuff offered by our local supermarkets just doesn’t cut it.

We’ve long been members of a local CSA (the wonderful Sippel Family Farm — we love you guys!!!), so we are completely spoiled by their same-day, fresh-from-the-earth greens. Before the long, cold winter is over, I’m literally climbing the walls with yearning for some of the good stuff. I make giant serving bowls of salad and eat the whole thing myself for lunch, toss greens with grits for breakfast, and sometimes just snack on handfuls of yummy little baby arugula leaves. Ahhhh, bliss.

Of course, once the season starts, we are inundated with lettuce, spinach, baby greens, kale, chard, escarole, and every other type of green imaginable. After about a month of mountains of leafy green bounty, I get to a point where I just don’t want another salad.

I’m terribly fickle that way.

And that’s when I know it’s time to bust out some lettuce wraps.

Yes, they’re messy, but they’re tasty, really easy and fast to make, and the kids love them. And if you have trouble getting your kids to eat leafy greens, this is a good way to get some into their diets; just consider whole lettuce leaves as crisp green tortillas.

The seasonings in this recipe are very mild. If your family has a more adventurous palate, toss in some minced fresh ginger (about a tablespoon) and/or some red pepper flakes at the same time as the stir-fry sauce. It’ll kick it up nicely.

Do all your chopping before you start cooking, because the cooking goes very quickly and if you’re still at the chopping board, everything is likely to get overcooked and soggy. I usually buy a bag of matchstick carrots just to save chopping time, but if you’re a master with a knife (or just really enjoy prep work), go for it!


Asian-style lettuce wraps

3 T soy sauce
1 T seasoned rice vinegar
2 T brown sugar

1 T peanut oil
1 8-oz. package tempeh, crumbled
1 5-oz. can water chestnuts, diced
2 c. mushrooms, diced
1/2 med. onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. matchstick carrots
1 c. fresh mung bean sprouts
2 scallions, sliced

8-10 whole lettuce leaves (butter lettuce works really well, but any kind of leaf lettuce will do)
Hoisin sauce for serving

Make stir-fry sauce by stirring together the soy sauce, brown sugar and rice vinegar. Set aside.

Heat peanut oil in a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add tempeh, water chestnuts, onions, garlic and mushrooms to wok; stir fry 3-4 minutes, until onions are softened and mushrooms have released their liquid.

Add the stir fry sauce to the wok and toss to coat. Add carrots and mung bean sprouts; cook 1-2 minutes, until veggies are tender-crisp and most liquid has evaporated. Stir in scallions and remove from heat. Pour mixture into a serving bowl.

To serve, spoon a couple tablespoons of the mixture into a lettuce leaf (leave enough room so you can fold up the lettuce leaf like a tortilla); top with a little hoisin saucce before folding, if desired.

Serves 4.