Culinary Coaching Craziness – Vegetarian Style! The Appy Round

So it all started innocently enough at a Christmas open house…nice people, great food, delicious wine. Of course, very easy for the conversation to turn to all things food and drink. But who would have thought that 3 weeks later and a bottle of Wild Turkey bourbon (a couple ounces went into the creme brulee) split three ways and we would have one of the most fantastic vegetarian meals going? Especially after the third triple bourbon…at that point ordering out for the rest of the meal was looking pretty darn good!

But my compadres, Darren and Rohit, weathered through the haze and after bravely working through the bourbon induced fog, the meal which came out was awesome…and yielded at least 3 unique and new recipes which I am glad to share over a few separate posts.

First the appy course… One of the requests from the dudes was for some sort of pepper dish, maybe stuffed; some sort of eggplant dish and please use feta and cilantro in some way, shape or form. Well, I decided to tackle the peppers and eggplants in the appy section. Now, let me say, I have NEVER had a stuffed pepper I liked and Eggplant to me was filler when you had run out of everything else. Needless to say, I felt a bit challenged to come up with something I would eat AND that would be loved by all. Well, I did it, with a little inspiration from D and R… So, here it is, the appy of appies!

Coconut and Panko Crusted Sweet Pepper Rings, served with an Eggplant Thai Chili Oil “salsa”
This one started out as vegetarian “calamari”. And even though that was the inspiration, I have this issue with duplicating meat dishes with vegetables. But oh well, it tasted AWESOME! So it is what it is!

Sweet Bell Pepper Rings in Coconut Milk

Sweet Bell Pepper Rings in Coconut Milk

3-4 Sweet Bell Peppers, seeded, sliced into 1/4 inch rings
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup medium, unsweetened coconut
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
Oil for deep frying
Sea Salt to taste

  • Toss the pepper rings in the coconut milk and let soak for an hour or longer. Drain
  • Set-up a breading station, flour, egg with water for egg wash and panko/coconut mixture. Bread the pepper rings and place on a sheet pan
  • Heat oil to 375 in a sufficiently large pot or deep fryer and fry in batches till golden
  • Serve with Eggplant Thai Chili Oil “salsa”
Coconut & Panko crusted Sweet Pepper Rings with Thai Eggplant Dip

Coconut & Panko crusted Sweet Pepper Rings with Thai Eggplant Dip






EggPlant Thai Chili Oil “salsa”
A little side note – have have hated eggplant for most of my life. When discussing the dinner, one of the items on the “coaching” agenda was eggplant. Oh lord! Generally I have just not purchased it in the first place. Well, this recipe I created has made me an eggplant lover…well, I tolerate it anyways:)

1 small Eggplant, enough for 2 cups diced
1 medium white onion
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cognac
1/4 cup tomato sauce
Thai chili oil to taste
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

  • Peel eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch slices and lightly sprinkle with sea salt. Place in a colander to drain for 1-3 hours
  • Dice eggplant into 1/4 inch cubes and sautee over medium high heat in olive oil until starting to caramelize
  • Slice onion into 1/8 inch slices and add to eggplant mixture. Once the onions begin to caramelize add sugar
  • Deglaze with cognac
  • Add tomato sauce and cook until thickened
  • Season with sea salt, pepper and Thai Chili oil. If desired, food process slightly to a consistency you like
  • Serve with pepper rings

Hope you enjoyed the appy round! See you on course 2 in a couple of days!

Culinary Coaching Craziness! Vegetarian Style – Soup and Salad Courses

Course 2

Butternut Squash Soup 
I first published this recipe at the beginning of January. You can link to it here… The addition of the feta cheese and cilantro was something I tasted at the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. in Canmore, Alberta. Wicked little restaurant and their garnish on this soup was fantastic. I loved it. And it just happened to include two of the items my buddies wanted in the menu, cilantro and feta.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, rough chopped
1 medium onion, rough chopped
1/4 cup oil or clarified butter
1/4 cup sugar, white or golden
1/2 cup dry white wine
6-8 cups chicken stock
1/4 – 1/2 cup unsalted butter
Sea salt and fresh black or white pepper and more sugar to taste
Garnish Choices – thai chili oil and coconut cream OR cilantro oil/pesto and feta cheese OR your choice?
  • Sauté Butternut Squash in oil or clarified butter in a minimum 8 litre, heavy bottomed stock pot on medium high heat until it begins to carmelize
  • Add the onions, lightly season with sea salt and continue to sauté until beginning to brown
  • Add sugar and continue to sauté until dissolved and beginning to get syrupy
  • Add 1/2 cup dry white wine to deglaze the pan
  • Add chicken stock, reduce heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the squash is tender
  • Blend/purèe soup in a blender or food processor in small batches, adding a bit of the butter with each addition. Pass through a fine mesh strainer back into a clean pot
  • Keep over low heat and season to taste
  • Serve with your garnish of choice
  • Serves 4-6 as an appetizer, 2-4 as a main course

Course 3

Grilled Romaine Salad with oven-dried tomatoes and roasted capers
This was a new one for me in that the dressing is something that was perfected by Rohit, one of the people who was in on the culinary coaching fun. The unique twist to this is that being vegetarian, the pungent tang in the dressing comes not from anchovies, but from roasted capers! AWESOME! I had never done this and was blown away by the flavor!


Grilled Romaine Salad


1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, or to taste
1 heaping tbs stoneground mustard or to taste
3 drops tabasco
2 tablespoons capers
1 clove of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
  • Drain and roast capers on a parchment lined baking sheet at 350 degrees F until dry and crispy
  • Combine all of the ingredients and process with a hand-blender or food processor until to dressing consistency
  • Adjust seasonings to taste
Assembling the salad
3 Romaine Hearts, split in half lengthwise, loose bits trimmed
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Brush romaine hearts with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper
  • Grill over high heat till grill marks are formed and the outside of the romaine begins to wilt
  • Place on plate, drizzle with dressing and garnish with extra capers, croutons, lemon and anything else that strikes your fancy
  • EAT!