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Oct 31, 2014
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Meatless Mondays: Vegetarian tacos

Monday, February 13th, 2012

So it’s been a few weeks now; chances are, if you’re reading this, we’ve at least got you considering moving toward our Meatless Monday ways. But there may be a few obstacles in your way: Short on time, aiming to stay on budget and (most important) unsure how well an all-vegetarian menu will go over in your household? I’ve been there. While some think of vegetarianism as a limited diet, I see only healthy, creative, vegetable-loving possibilities. Another misperception: You don’t have to skip your favorite dishes or food genres. You can make virtually anything you love to eat vegetarian – lowering your caloric intake and packing in more protein while you’re at it.

Since most are big fans of Mexican and can’t get enough of those meat-and veggie-filled tortilla creations, vegetarian tacos are an easy way muster up some Meatless Monday regulars. You can fry up tofu in minutes, building beans for texture and seasoning with your choice of spices. Roll the filling up into a soft flour tortilla or place it in a hard taco shell with some shredded cheese and your favorite veggies and you have a quick, delicious dinner that’s pretty good for you (and easy enough to hire the kids for meal prep). Whip these up on a Monday and, before you know it, the whole family will be asking for them come the weekend. See how we did that?

Vegetarian Tacos
Makes 10 tacos

2 Tbsp. neutral-flavored oil
1 lb. soy ground meat substitute or tofu, crumbled
1 12-oz. can refried beans (if using tofu)
1 onion, finely chopped
6 tsp.chili powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
4 ½ tsp. cumin
5 tsp. paprika
2 ½ tsp. garlic powder
3 tsp. onion powder
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tomato, diced
½ cup green onions, finely chopped
10 soft flour tortillas or hard taco shells 

• Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the tofu or soy substitute (and the refried beans if using tofu). Cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously.
• Add the onion and all of the spices. Continue to cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes.
• Remove from heat and transfer the filling to soft or hard tortillas.
• Top with the shredded cheddar cheese, tomatoes and green onions. Serve immediately.

Note: Leftover tofu will refrigerate for up to 3 days.

 

 

Meatless Monday: “Meat” Pie

Monday, January 30th, 2012

013012_meatlessmondayWe know what you’re thinking – another vegetarian column, really? Just give us a minute. Meatless Mondays is a movement that’s building across the country, one built not around a hatred of meat or a stance against the way animals are treated but rather a love for vegetables – and the health benefits that come along with them. While the Meatless Monday concept hasn’t quite picked up in St. Louis yet, we’re here to show you just how easily it could. From meat-free recipes to make at home to dishes around town that let the veggies truly shine – welcome to Meatless Mondays, a new weekly online column.

During a recent trip to Australia, I was inundated with shops and markets offering up various versions of a local delicacy: the meat pie. One establishment that caught my attention was Pie Face – a bakery filled with pint-sized pies, each with its own ‘facial’ expression made in frosting on the top layer of crust. Crowds of people lined the sidewalks in front of Pie Face, mouths watering for the meat-filled pastry.

Of course, I can understand a little food-born passion. The golden crust and juicy filling would be a rich, tempting treat – unless you’re a vegetarian. So when I returned home to St. Louis, I decided to try my hand at a vegetarian version: a meat-less pie. I know what you’re thinking – a ‘no meat’ meat pie – doesn’t that defeat the purpose of enjoying one at all? Not when your soy substitute can mimic the taste and texture of the real thing – not to mention boast half the fat and calories and just as much protein. So I used my favorite ground beef soy substitute made by Boca for the filling, adding tomatoes, onions and green peppers for an even bigger flavor punch. I also put in some spices – black pepper, garlic and cayenne pepper – to pack some southern style into the pastry. I added the filling to my usual pie-crust recipe handed down to me by my grandmother, an original southern belle. The result was a filling and scrumptious, kicked-up veggie version of Australia’s lauded meat pie.

“Meat” Pie
2 9-inch pies

Crust:
2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup shortening
½ cup ice cold water

Filling:
1 lb. ground beef soy substitute
1 onion, finely chopped
1½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tomato, diced
¼ cup green peppers, finely chopped

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• First, make the crust: In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt.
• Add the shortening gradually until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
• Stir in the water gradually until you are able to form a ball with the mixture.
• Divide the dough in half and shape into balls. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
• Roll out each ball on a clean, floured surface until it is a ½ inch or so larger than the 9-inch pie pans. Shape the crusts into the pie pans, cutting off any crust hanging over the edges with a knife and crimping the edges with your thumb and opposite forefinger. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown.
• Meanwhile, make the pie filling: In a large skillet, cook the ground beef substitute over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until it completely thaws and becomes tender.
• Add the onions, salt, cayenne and black pepper. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.
• Remove from heat and add the garlic, tomatoes and green peppers. Then cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
• Transfer the meatless pie filling into the pie crust and smooth with a spatula. Serve immediately.

Meatless Monday: Root Fest

Monday, January 16th, 2012

011612_meatlessWe know what you’re thinking – another vegetarian column, really? Just give us a minute. Meatless Mondays is a movement that’s building across the country, one built not around a hatred of meat or a stance against the way animals are treated but rather a love for vegetables – and the health benefits that come along with them. While the Meatless Monday concept hasn’t quite picked up in St. Louis yet, we’re here to show you just how easily it could. From meat-free recipes to make at home to dishes around town that let the veggies truly shine – welcome to Meatless Mondays, a new weekly online column.

Since this column is all about spreading the Meatless Monday initiative, we’re pretty excited to reveal the latest area restaurant to join the effort. Local pizza chain Pi has has rolled out a Meatless Monday initiative at all four of its St. Louis locations.

The first Monday of each month, Pi will debut a new fresh veggie-loving dish, and January’s creation is reason to celebrate. It’s Root Fest – a crispy and delectable vegetarian pizza featuring a honey-roasted parsnip purée, fresh spinach, savory caramelized onions, mouth-watering fontina cheese and celery-root slaw with oregano, all blanketed over a thin golden crust. With the first of the month well behind us, this scrumptious pie – created by corporate chef Steven Caravelli – can be enjoyed for the remainder of the month at any Pi location.

Jeff Constance, Pi’s chief operating officer, hopes the pizzeria’s new vegetarian offerings will help St. Louisans embrace the international Meatless Monday campaign. (So do we!) As part of the movement, Pi also will be making use of food and talent outside its restaurants’ walls, taking requests for veggie pies from diners, cooking with fresh produce from local farms and featuring the vegetarian pizza creations of other St. Louis chefs. Watch for live demonstrations from local chefs as they prep pies for Meatless Monday in the coming months as well.

Also on Pi’s vegetarian menu for Meatless Monday: house-made hummus with roasted red peppers, and green and kalamata olives, as well as the traditional veggie pie favorite, Western Addition – a won’t-miss-the-meat combo of mild mozzarella and spinach blended with ricotta and tart feta, wintry mushrooms, onions and garlic.

Fret not, meat-lovers, your favorite sausage, salami or pepperoni pie remains on the menu. But why not go meatless just for one Monday?

Need a gift idea for the foodie in your life? We’ve got just the thing.

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

110111_monarchA lawyer by trade and a kosher cook at home, Andria Simckes always wondered what was cooking behind the scenes of some of St. Louis’ busiest restaurants. Last week, she found out.

Simckes’ husband, local fertility specialist Dr. Elan Simckes, surprised his wife with a Chef for a Day experience at Monarch in Maplewood for her birthday. And last Thursday, executive chef Josh Galliano and his team created an informative, hands-on experience for her in the kitchen of the New Orleans-style restaurant (pictured).

So, did Galliano really let the newbie have a hand in preparing the evening’s meal? Actually, he did. Andria helped prepare seafood entrées like lemongrass-steamed clams with Lacinato kale, saffron beurre blanc, roasted turnips and sweet potatoes; as well as poached Maine lobster with gnocchi alla Romana, grilled broccoli, almondine sauce and Marcona almonds. And according to Galliano, she was a natural. In a new kitchen, particularly one in a bustling restaurant, most can feel “like a fish out of water,” he explained, but Andria remained strong through the hustle and bustle of meal preparation, making pasta and ravioli filling, cooking clams and even cleaning lobsters.

As anyone who has ever worked or staged in a professional kitchen can atest to, the experience is sure to send the cook home with sore feet and more than a few new culinary tricks up his or her sleeve. For Andria, the lesson came in the form of making pasta from scratch – a technique she can’t wait to replicate in her own kitchen. The “chefs” also gain bragging rights to share with their dinner guests, Galliano noted, from how certain foods are prepared to how a restaurant’s kitchen runs. At the end of the day, Andria and her husband enjoyed the rest of the evening dining in the restaurant’s cozy sky box, which gives a bird’s eye view of meal prep in the kitchen.

Wondering if you have the chops to bust your butt in one of the city’s busiest kitchens? Here are the details: For $150, one to two people can take part in a three- to four-hour Chef for a Day cooking experience at Monarch. It typically runs from 1 to 4 p.m., on a specified date (excluding holidays and special events at the restaurant, of course). Those at any cooking level can reserve the experience by calling the restaurant’s reservations desk at 314.644.3995. Think this may be better suited for a fellow foodie? Sounds like you just found one more gift option for the food snob in your life.

— Photo by Ashley Gieseking

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