Sloppy Janes

Sloppy Jane.jpgIt’s Memorial Day weekend, and many of us will be attending BBQs, potlucks, and other early-summer food parties. If you’re looking for a grill or BBQ alternative, sloppy janes are an easy, and delicious option. I cook part-time at a Quaker retreat center that focuses on local, organic and plant-free menus, and we recently made these “sloppy joe” – type sandwiches with crumbled and fried tempeh instead of meat. If you’re new to tempeh, remember to boil it before cooking, otherwise it can have a bitter aftertaste. Then crumble, and fry like you would hamburger for sloppy joes. I fried the above tempeh with onions and garlic, and then added my own special sauce, a spicy vinegar-based BBQ cut with tomato sauce, some spices, extra cider vinegar, and a touch of mollasses. The fried tempeh can then be stirred right into the sauce, until you achieve your desired “sloppy” consistancy. Easy! Like traditional sloppy joes, this is also an easy dish to throw in the crock pot and take along to a BBQ or potluck.

I served sloppy janes on a crusty sourdough roll, with carmelized onions, cheddar, and plenty of mustard and hot peppers, but these sandwiches go great with any kind of traditional BBQ sandwich topping, including pickles, hot sauce, sourkraut or coleslaw – the list goes on! Add some mac & cheese and some greens and youve got a great Southern-Style BBQ meal. Enjoy your holiday weekend!

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Broccoli Gribiche

This salad has been rocking my world. I’m not really a big broccoli fan, so I’m always looking for new ways to enjoy the large and lovely crowns that appear in my CSA box. The above salad is from Super Natural Everyday (I know, I know, just buy it already) with a few variations. I didn’t have fingerling potatoes, but I had plenty of new red potatoes, so used those. And I didn’t have the fresh tarragon the gribiche recipe called for, so I used dried, plus marjoram and some fresh parsley. Roasted vegetables + boiled eggs + sauce that includes mustard and capers? You see why I’m in heaven. I made a similar version for a 4th of July BBQ last weekend, and it was a big hit. I had a box of grape tomatoes, so I threw those in the roasting pan, as well, and used fresh dill in the sauce. There are as many gribiche recipes as there are chefs in the world, so experiment a little (or use what you have in your kitchen!) and enjoy it over some roasted vegetables. And do NOT forget the large grain sea salt – the perfect kick. The recipe below is one I’ve posted before. I LOVE LOVE LOVE cornichons, so if you have some of those, definitely throw them in!

Sauce Gribiche
serves 2, generously

1 large egg
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. lemon juice, or to taste
2 Tbsp. finely chopped herbs (parsley, dill, chives, etc.)
Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
1.5 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and finely chopped
4 cornichons, finely chopped
3 Tbs. olive oil
Salt, to taste

Soft boil the egg (so the yolk is just set) – about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the shallot and the lemon juice in a small bowl, and let macerate. Combine the herbs, lemon zest, capers, cornichons, olive oil and salt in a small bowl, whisking well. Peel the boiled egg, dicing finely, and add to the sauce. Add the lemon juice and shallots, quickly whisking to combine. Taste, and add lemon juice or salt, as needed.

Make your own grilled BBQ seitan

Grilled BBQ Seitan
Grilled BBQ Seitan

Homemade seitan can seem like a tricky proposition, but it’s not that difficult (and much cheaper!) when you get the hang of it. Ever since I tried the amazing seitan at Horizons, I’ve recommitted myself to perfecting my seitan efforts. Above – the seitan. Already boiled, marinated, grilled, and ready to be devoured. But how do you get there? First, pick a recipe. I like the recipes from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and Veganomicon, and tend to make a seitan that’s a combination of the two. My key ingredients are fresh garlic and nutritional yeast. Don’t skip them!

dry ingredients
dry ingredients

Put all your dry ingredients into a large bowl. Salt, wheat gluten, and nutritional yeast, plus any dry herbs or spices you want to add. It doesn’t look very appetizing now, but it will get there.

wet ingredients
wet ingredients

MIx your wet ingredients in a small bowl. A bit of vegetable stock, soy sauce, olive oil, and I throw the garlic in now. Now dump the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, and and stir until the the dough forms a wet ball.

dough ball!
dough ball!

Knead the dough ball with your hands. Knead it hard. Keep kneading the dough, flipping and turning it (much like bread dough) until it becomes very springy and glossy – this means the gluten fibers are formed. When you think that you’re done, knead it a little more.

finished dough ball
finished dough ball

In a big pot, boil a few cups of vegetable stock. Then, add what you want. I like soy sauce, wine, bay leaf, and sometimes a fresh chili. Divide the dough ball into four parts, and then form each part into a thin log. Drop the logs into the boiling stock. Boil for just 5 minutes, and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot slightly with a lid, and simmer for an hour. The dough logs will puff up, and look very unattractive. This is why I didn’t even bother taking a picture of them. They sort of resemble organs. Slice up the logs in chunks or strips and marinate in whatever you like. I like a secret sauce that included hot Louisiana BBQ sauce, jerk seasoning, calypso hot sauce, and some other secret things. Marinate over night if you can, or for at least a few hours.

Grill it! Either on skewers on the BBQ, in a George Forman grill if its rainy, or on a greased grill pan on the stove. There you have it. Delicious.

El Camino Real

El Camino Real decorated door
El Camino Real decorated door

After hearing such good things about El Camino Real, and all of their vegetarian options, I had to pay a visit to this new, signless spot on Liberties Walk. I was craving tex-mex so much, I actually hopped the subway on a freezing holiday night. It was worth it. El Camino’s dim, candle lit space, filled with inexpensive, classic unvarnished pine import furniture immediately felt cozy.

Michelada and Margarita

Senor Lanky and I started the evening off right with a few drinks -a Michalada for him, and a classic margarita with additional chili and salt for me. They were both yummy and nicely spiced, though the Michalada is made with Clamato (boo!) and not vegetarian-friendly.

Michelada and Margarita
2 salas
2 Salsas

I was ravenous, so we quickly ordered the chips and salsa. While I usually vote for the rojo, it was the pulpy green tomatillo salas, heavily dosed with lime, that caught my attention, though the chipotle red was nice, too.

One of the best things about El Camino, Senor Lanky pointed out, is that they don’t try to do tex-mex – they do Mexican and then Texan, with all kinds of veggie options. Brilliant!

Homemade Jalepeno Poppers
Homemade Jalepeno Poppers

I went absolutely appetizer crazy. First off, homemade jalepano poppers, stuffed with real cheese, a little bank of spice, and a deliciously sweet sauce with pineapple and, if I remember correctly strawberry. The appetizer is wonderful, but at $8 for two, perhaps a bit expensive. Through another popper in there, El Camino, and you’ll have my heart.

Fried Pickle Chips!
Fried Pickle Chips!

I’m on a never-ending quest for Philadelphia’s best fried pickles (Memphis Taproom, you’re still crushing) so this appetizer was a no-brainer. And damn tasty. They may not look like much, but the cornmeal batter is a genius move that prevents the chips from getting too grease-sogged. The chili-mayo wasn’t half bad either.

BBQ Seitan
BBQ Seitan

I ended the evening with an order of the BBQ Seitan (spicy style). Again, a revelation! The seitan had a wonderful, peppery, crispy-grilled flavor by itself, and was dynamite dipped in the bbq sauce.

El Camino, I’m dreaming of my next visit.

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