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Apr 17, 2014
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Meatless Monday: Black Bean, Spinach and Feta Empanadas

Monday, April 14th, 2014



Looking for a Mexican restaurant? Ask vegetarians. Their GPS will find one like chips find salsa. Mexican restaurants, no matter how plain or fancy, promise a variety of meat-free options well beyond the ubiquitous iceberg wedge. Plus, margaritas are vegan.

As a home cook, I heart Mexican cuisine because the ingredients are inexpensive and easy to prepare. But how many taco nights can you have? (Not a rhetorical question – I’m really asking. Is two per week too many?)

So … in hopes of expanding my repertoire beyond cheese quesadillas, I studied up on empanadas. “Empanada” is Spanish for a pastry stuffed with yumminess. The specific yumminess depends on what’s produced locally. In some parts of the world, you’ll find empanadas filled with beef or eggs. In other parts, street vendors sell sardine or chorizo empanadas. And in warmer regions, sweet empanadas ooze with gooey yams and fruit.

Here in the Midwest, our empanadas usually tout chicken or beef, so I decided to create a vegetarian version. Black beans are the abundant resource in my habitat and would make a substantial filling.

Find out how Kellie Hynes took black beans to the next level. Get the recipe for Black Bean, Spinach and Feta Empanadas.

The List: Stone Soup Cottage

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Welcome to The List, our annual homage to the people, places, dishes and drinks we love in St. Louis. Don’t miss a single pick; click here to read the whole List and share your thoughts on Twitter with #thesaucelist.



If your urbane coastal friends think St. Louis is a cow town surrounded by fields, embrace their misconception with an evening at Stone Soup Cottage. Located in the footprint of a 1929 barn, this elegant, fine-dining restaurant, which was built with much of the original barn’s wood, really is surrounded by farmland. It provides chef Carl McConnell and his wife, Nancy, almost all of the produce for their seasonal six-course, prix fixe dinners. Stone Soup is farm-to-table cuisine at its most literal and just a 45-minute car ride from downtown.

5809 Highway N, Cottleville, 636.244.2233, stonesoupcottage.com

-photo by Carmen Troesser

The List: Beef Brisket Sandwich at Busch Stadium

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Welcome to The List, our annual homage to the people, places, dishes and drinks we love in St. Louis. Don’t miss a single pick; click here to read the whole List and share your thoughts on Twitter with #thesaucelist.



You can only eat so many nachos without feeling cheesy. Next time, check out chef Norman Taylor’s brisket. It’s marinated in a secret house-made wet rub, then smoked for 13 hours on-site. One bite of the tender, barbecued bliss tucked inside a toasted onion kaiser roll, and you’ll know why more than 1,200 pounds of brisket are sold at every home game. Pick the house salad as a side, and you’ve got a plate worth guarding.

Available at The Carvery in Section 148, Broadway BBQ in section 128 and in the private suites. 700 Clark St., St. Louis, 314.345.9600, stlouis.cardinals.mlb.com

-photo courtesy of Busch Stadium

Meatless Monday: Vegan Chocolate Mousse

Monday, March 31st, 2014



If chocolate equals seduction, how do you woo the dairy-adverse? I searched for a vegan chocolate mousse recipe. Several called for mashing up avocados, adding unsweetened cocoa and drizzling the whole thing with agave nectar. It was just so weird; I had to try it.

Find out how Vegetize It took a recipe that tasted like “sweet dirt” and turned it into a faux-chocolate mousse so smooth and light, you’re vegan friends may accuse you of deception. Click here for the recipe.

-photo by Greg Rannells

Meatless Monday: Fearless Matzo Ball Soup

Monday, March 3rd, 2014



The first (only) time I made matzo balls for my Jewish in-laws, Shiksa Dough Bombs of Doom dropped out of the pot. They were tough with gritty, uncooked centers that resembled the desert their people wandered for 40 years. Only drier.

Those concrete-filled matzo balls haunted me. But it’s a classic, nourishing dish that should be in everyone’s cooking repertoire, so I decided to try again. And this time, I’d make a healthier version without chicken broth and schmaltz (chicken fat).

My mother-in-law’s chicken broth is the pretty, translucent color of warm sunshine. My homemade vegetarian stock has a russet tone better suited to heavy stews. The color comes from slowly simmered vegetables, which also give it a hearty taste. Could I make a lighter-looking broth that wasn’t light on flavor?

Click here to read more about this warm bowl of comforting matzo ball soup without all the schmaltz. Or, go straight to the recipes for soup and matzo balls.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

In This Issue: Vegetize It – No Problema Paella

Thursday, October 24th, 2013



The signs were there. Zucchini piled up like unpaid bills. Twenty-minute recipes that felt 18 minutes too long. An empty sea salt container I couldn’t be bothered to recycle or replace. When I served scrambled eggs for the third dinner in a row, this home cook had to admit she was burned out.

The obvious solution was to check into a hotel with fabulous room service. The practical solution was to undertake a culinary challenge. Maybe mastering a tricky dish would bring my cooking mojo back.

Paella is a rice-and-things dish that hails from Valencia, on Spain’s eastern coast. The “things” vary, but typically include meat, seafood and veggies. The best part about paella – besides eating it – is the special vocabulary paella aficionados use. Your pan is a paellera. Your sauteed vegetables are sofrito. And while you might call burnt rice a mistake, paella folk call the crust that forms on the bottom of the pan a socarrat.

Any dish that specifically instructs you to overcook the rice is right up my alley, so I bought a paellera and assembled the ingredients to make vegan paella.

To read more about Kellie Hynes’ quest for the perfect vegan paella, click here.

-Photo by Carmen Troesser

In This Issue: Vegetize It – Pasta and a Glass of Pinot

Friday, September 27th, 2013



Cooking dinner is fun, but you know what’s really fun? Sipping wine while Internet shopping. Or Facebook stalking. Or watching your favorite TV show while the kids clean the house. And yet, even if they ate breakfast and lunch, even if you made them dinner yesterday, right around 6 o’clock, your people are going to take the pinot out of your hand and demand another meal.

Which, I’m 98 percent certain, is why the Italians invented carbonara. Whipping up a batch is faster than picking up takeout, and it uses ingredients you probably have around the house anyway – pasta, eggs, bacon, cheese and pepper. Omit the bacon for a vegetarian version, and you’re looking at a yummy homemade meal in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta.

So how do you omit the bacon when the traditional recipe relies on it? I had no idea. But I ran the question past my friend Lucinda, who is a good cook and never throws a pizza at her family so that she can watch Game of Thrones.

To see what Kellie Hynes and her friend Lucinda cooked up, click here.

-Photo by Carmen Troesser



In This Issue: Vegan Carnitas

Thursday, July 25th, 2013



Like most things that are good for me – exercise, “moderate” drinking – my vegetarianism can be a struggle to maintain. Sure it’s easy to blame bacon (drool). But boredom – that heavy sigh when it’s dinner-making time – is the saboteur of selective eaters. Friends, I am just one seitan recipe away from strapping on a feed bag full of ribs.

A recent round of soy-induced ennui sent me to the food blogs seeking inspiration. I found the same-old same-old. But then I stumbled onto CleanGreenSimple.com and its gorgeous, brilliant recipe for Carolina pulled “pork” sandwiches made from … fruit! Jackfruit, to be precise. It’s a staple in south and southeastern Asian cuisine and your new BFF.

Click here to see how Kellie Hynes took the bulbous, alien jackfruit and turned it into tender vegan carnitas.

-Photo by Carmen Troesser



Meatless Monday: Veggie Gyros

Monday, May 6th, 2013

You’re a fabulous foodie. But every now and then, you crave an offering from the food court – something you can hold in both hands and tear into without shame, or napkins. The mall gyro, with its salty feta, tangy tzatziki and pillowy pita, calls to me. I decided to create a vegetarian version at home, away from the scary mall meat.

Traditional gyros are made with piles of spicy lamb. Would piles of sauteed mushrooms satisfy? Nope. Shiitake mushrooms were too rubbery. Portobellos have a better texture but a ho-hum flavor. Perhaps using the same spices that season gyro meat would help. Problem solved. Marinating the portobellos in olive oil plus cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, salt and pepper gave my mushrooms an intriguing, snarf-worthy flavor.

I then wondered if my favorite meze, saganaki (aka fried cheese), could be just as tasty. Kasseri is a Greek sheep’s milk cheese that browns and melts beautifully, so I figured I’d start there. The steps for frying cheese are pretty basic: Heat oil. Coat cheese in flour and beaten egg. Sear cheese in oil. On my first try, the hot olive oil smoked up the kitchen and triggered the smoke alarm. More tragically, the eggs didn’t coat the cheese evenly. And the uncoated bits of cheese dissolved into lumpy, flour-packed puddles.

I’d been using olive oil, but canola oil has a higher smoke point, which significantly reduces your chances of a visit from the fire department. That was an easy fix, but what could I do about the uneven coating? Since I had watched streaks of egg white literally slide off the frying cheese, the fault laid in my slap-dash egg beating. For the second trial, I beat the eggs with a hand mixer, so the yolks and whites were fully blended. And instead of flour, I took a cue from Mai Lee chef Qui Tran, who dredges his tofu in cornstarch. Finally, I had foolproof fried cheese perfection. But I still used the  stove-top exhaust.

The last head-scratcher was the tzatziki. Most recipes require de-seeding cucumbers and draining the sour cream/yogurt over cheesecloth. Who has time for that? Instead, I sliced a seedless cucumber and gave the slices a cursory pat with paper towels. As for the sour cream and yogurt, I just drained the liquid from the containers. The resulting tzatziki was slightly more watery than restaurant tzatziki but totally passable. To satisfy a texture purist, thicken it with whipped feta. Yes, feta tzatziki on top of fried Kasseri is too much of a good thing. But isn’t that what the food court is all about?

Veggie Gyros
4 Servings

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 oz. plus ¼ cup feta crumbles, divided*
½ cup sour cream, liquid poured off the top
½ cup non-fat Greek yogurt, liquid poured off the top
¼ tsp. freshly minced garlic
1 large seedless cucumber, peeled, thinly sliced and set on paper towels to dry
4 white-flour pitas
1 head romaine hearts, chopped
Portobello Filling (recipe follows)
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
Half of a large red onion, thinly sliced

• Add the lemon juice and 2 ounces of feta to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse until the feta is creamy, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add the sour cream, yogurt, garlic and half of the cucumber slices, and pulse 3 or 4 times, until the tzatziki is barely blended. Pour into a bowl and stir in the remaining cucumber slices. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.
• Divide the pitas between 4 plates. Divide the romaine and filling of your choice evenly among them. Top with the tomatoes, onions, tzatziki and remaining ¼ cup of feta.
• Serve immediately.

* Don’t want feta in your tzatziki? Just add ¼ teaspoon of salt to the sauce.

Portobello Filling

¼ tsp. white pepper
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. smoked paprika
6 oz. (2 to 3 large) portobello mushroom caps
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp. freshly minced garlic

• Mix the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
• Rinse, but don’t de-gill, the portobellos. Pat dry, and cut into ½-inch-thick slices.
• Place the mushrooms, oil, garlic and 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture in a quart-size Ziploc bag. Seal and let the mushrooms marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes.
• Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is very hot, add the mushrooms (with their marinade). Reduce heat to medium and saute until the mushrooms are soft and slightly browned on both sides, about 5 minutes.

Kasseri Cheese Filling

2 large eggs
½ cup cornstarch
6 oz. cold Kasseri cheese*
¼ cup canola oil

• Using a hand-held mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed until they are foamy and the whites are fully incorporated.
• Pour the cornstarch into a Ziploc bag.
• Remove the Kasseri cheese from the refrigerator and cut into ½-inch thick slices. Place the cheese in the Ziploc bag with the cornstarch and shake until it’s well coated.
• Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until a drop of water splatters. Working in batches if necessary, dip the cheese slices into the beaten egg, then carefully drop them into the oil. Cook until golden brown, 60 to 90 seconds per side. Carefully remove the cheese from the oil with a heat-proof slotted spoon.

* Available at Dierbergs, 8450 Eager Road, Brentwood, 314.962.9009, dierbergs.com

— photo by Carmen Troesser

Stir This: Derby Day Mint Julep

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

The mint julep is all about tradition. And booze.

Authentic mint juleps are served in silver cups and made with fresh mint leaves, Kentucky bourbon and Dixie Crystals sugar. (That’s southern sugar, y’all.)

Now, I only have Yankee sugar in the pantry, but I do have a hound dog in the kitchen. I reckon that evens things out. For a step-by-step guide to making an easy, yet excellent, mint julep, click here.

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