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Meatless Fridays #7 Vegetarian Taco Salad

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     Welcome Back to Meatless Fridays. The more I do these posts the more challenging it becomes. For today’s effort I had a taste for something South of the Border. I have always loved a Taco Salad but wondered if I could get all the depth of flavor without the meat. I believe I came up with a very satisfying answer.

     I began by making the shell. I heated a pan of vegetable oil to 350 degrees and dropped a flour tortilla in. I then used a big ladle and pushed it down. The tortilla curled around the ladle to make my bowl. When it had crisped I carefully turned it over with a pair tongs to complete the crisping process. I then drained my shell on a paper towel and let it cool.

VEGEATRIAN TACO SALAD       I though about the flavors I wanted in my Taco Salad. Beans,Tomato, Avocado and Corn all came to mind. Rather than just toss the ingredients together I decided to deconstruct the Taco Salad. I took a ring mold and began layering. First Beans,than Corn,more beans,Avocado and finally  Tomato and Cilantro salad.

     I must confess I was very pleases with the results. As with all great dished every element on the plate comes together and just pops in your mouth.

Vegetarian Taco Salad (for 1)


  • One large onion finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1 can Cooked Black Turtle beans (drained and rinsed)
  • Cumin to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Chili Powder
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 Can whole kernel corn
  • 1  ripe Avocado
  • 1 Ripe tomato
  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Flour Tortilla
  • Vegetable oil for frying
Sauté 1/2 the onion with the garlic until translucent. Add the Black beans and cumin to suit your taste and toss until the beans are warm.  Season with Kosher salt. Remove and mash slightly.

Drain the corn and toss in a pan with the chili powder. Season with salt to taste.

Dice the Avocado and toss with the remaining onion and 1/2 the lemon juice. Add some Olive oil to carry the flavor.

Make a quick tomato salad using diced tomato, chopped Cilantro, Olive oil and the remaining Lemon Juice.

Fry the flour tortilla in vegetable oil using a ladle ( or other implement) to hold the center of the tortilla in the oil creating a bowl. When it begins to crisp gently turn it over to complete the frying process.

     While I took the time to make a tower this really isn’t necessary. Put a scoop of your Black beans in the bowl and top with the corn, Guacamole and Tomato and enjoy.

Hasta Luego!!


Meatless Fridays #6 – Deep Fried Catfish,Creamy Coleslaw and French Fries

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     I was a little lost when I started thinking what I should make for Meatless Friday but a quick trip to the grocery provided me with  inspiration. I’m not one to blow my budget on just one item no matter how good it is. I would rather face the challenge of creating based on what is presented to me. The catfish that was on sale at the market was really a no brainer. I have used catfish in a number of ways including making a really good catfish gumbo ( believe it or not it’s a traditional dish) but the tried and true thing to do with catfish is to fry it. The natural progression of the plate would have demanded hush puppies and coleslaw. The coleslaw was easy enough but I only had enough cornmeal to bread the fish or make hush puppies, not both! I decided to put my best efforts into the fish and forego the hushpuppies. Instead, I had some frozen French fries languishing in my freezer so I decided that this would complete the meal.

     The catfish was breaded using a standard breading procedure and for the crumb I used 50% bread crumb and 50% cornmeal. I fried at 350 until the crust was golden brown. The fish was perfect. I often forget how good this dish is!

      For the slaw I was feeling lazy so I bought a bag of pre – shredded cabbage. I did, however, make my own dressing. I mixed the sugar and apple cider vinegar and whisked until the sugar dissolved. I the added my mayonnaise and cabbage and managed to get it right on the first shot. A perfect mix of tart and sweet made for a great dressing.

     What can I say about the fries? The frozen ones are great! You would be hard pressed to make it better yourself.

    I also had some kicked up tartar in the fridge. Really just mayonnaise, pickle relish, brown mustard, chopped parsley and caper but it’s just awesome!

I only eat what nature provides!!

Written by Ed Schenk

April 3, 2010 at 10:37 am

Meatless Fridays # 5 – A Different take on Shrimp and Grits.

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shrimp and grits

     Anyone who has visited the low country of South Carolina is probably familiar with the dish Shrimp and grits. What started out as a breakfast for the fishermen here has turned into Haute Cuisine around the country. Basically the dish takes creamy grits and tops it with savory shrimp in a sauce. There seems to be a variety of interpretation of this dish mostly concerned with the shrimp and the sauce. I felt spicy so I  came up with my own take on this Southern classic. My version has Italian roots in that the sauce for the dish is a Marinara sauce. My Grits are made of coarse ground cornmeal seasoned with onion, garlic and fresh basil. I took the grits and let them cool into a cake. I then breaded and fried the cakes in panko. The shrimp were sautéed in Olive Oil

Grit Cakes


1/2 onion finely diced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 cup water
12 oz cornmeal
1  cup milk
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil.


  • Sauté onion and garlic and add water. Stir until thickened.
  • Stir in milk, cheese and fresh basil.
  • Spoon into a lightly oiled casserole dish.
  • Smooth into 1 even layer and allow to cool.
  • Cut into triangles.


For breading


1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup milk
1 egg beaten
1 cup panko breadcrumbs


  • beat the egg with the milk.
  • Coat the triangle in flour.
  • Dip in the egg and milk mixture.
  • Dredge in the breadcrumb making sure that the hand in the crumbs is dry. If the hand is wet the breadcrumbs won’t stick
  • Fry at 350 degrees until golden brown.

Marinara sauce

This is the most simple but most delicious Marinara Sauce you will ever make!

1 can ground tomato (28 oz)
1 table spoon sugar
1 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
fresh basil
Lemon juice

Place the first 5 ingredients into a sauce pan and simmer (low) for 45 minutes.

Add some fresh basil. I don’t chop or tear it. I just throw it in stem and all ( I pick them out later). The basil will steep in and flavor your sauce like you couldn’t imagine. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more.

Pick out the basil and give your sauce a squeeze of lemon. Your done!

For the shrimp I just sautéed them in a little oil and placed them on the Marinara sauce.


Written by Ed Schenk

March 29, 2010 at 10:00 am

Meatless Fridays #4 – Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad

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Rice noodle salad1

     With the weather getting warmer my creative juices have started flowing. One of my passions is Asian cuisine. In the past I’ve worked my way through Japanese,Chinese,Korean and Thai cuisine and most recently my culinary adventures have taken me to southeast Asia and in particular Vietnam.

    Vietnamese cuisine, in general, is characterized by the use of fresh meats and vegetables flavored with fish sauce (nuoc mam), along with a variety of fresh herbs. Each dish strives to achieve a balance between five elements. They are spicy,sour,bitter,sweet and salt.

     For my fourth “Meatless Friday” I decided to prepare a Vietnamese Rice Noodle salad. While a lot of Vietnamese dishes are very spicy I decided to leave out the peppers. What I didn’t leave out is flavor. The balance between sweet, salt and sour along with fresh cilantro creates a salad that is remarkably refreshing. For protein I have added some cooked shrimp and crushed peanuts.

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad


1/4 # (dry) rice noodles ( 1/4 of a package)
2 carrots (julienne)
1/2 English cucumber ( seeded and Julienne)
1/4 package fresh bean sprouts (about 2 oz)
2 green onion sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup crushed peanuts
4 medium cooked shrimp




1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lime
Juice of 1/4 lemon
1 teaspoon Fish sauce ( or soy sauce)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil


Place to rice noodles in a pan and cover with boiling water. When softened  drain and set aside.

Combine all dressing ingredients. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Toss the noodles, vegetables,peanuts and shrimp with the dressing and serve with a wedge of lime on the side.


  •      This should make 2 entree size salads or 4 appetizer size.
  •       If you like you spice add a teaspoon or so of sambal or a diced jalapeno.
  •       To make this Vegetarian/Vegan just leave out the shrimp.
  •      I didn’t have any fish sauce so I used soy. The change ( and the omission of the shrimp) also makes this a Vegan dish.

Khi an trai nho ke trong cay”

“When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree”

Written by Ed Schenk

March 21, 2010 at 12:24 am

Meatless Fridays# 3 – Eggplant Parmesan with Spaghetti and Marinara Sauce

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    Eggplant tower

      As a kid I hated vegetable. They would just make me gag. Of course it didn’t help that the vegetables my elders were trying to feed me were either canned or frozen. I remember many a night ending in a battle of wills. I was told I couldn’t leave the table until I ate my veggies and my response was just as forceful “I can sit here longer than you can!”. To my folks dismay in almost every case my stubbornness would win out. Now it wasn’t that I wouldn’t try vegetables, I would, but in those days the vegetables that were frozen just weren’t very good and the canned ones weren’t much better. This, unfortunately, was all anyone would eat. Technology was king and we were conned into thinking that frozen (and canned) was as good as fresh. This was far from the truth. It was only years later, after I began cooking, that I learned that vegetables could be tasty. The difference was that they needed to be fresh and prepared properly!

     For my third meatless Friday I decided to make Eggplant Parmesan. This is something I used to order in the Italian restaurants in New Jersey as a teen and always enjoyed the “meaty” texture of the Eggplant. Now I have seen eggplant parmesan prepared as a casserole but that never really appealed to me. I prefer my Eggplant Parmesan breaded and fried. The crunchy texture, along with the  Marinara sauce and Mozzarella cheese melted on top just sings to me.To go along with my Eggplant parmesan I decided to whip up some home made spaghetti noodles and serve them with the same Marinara sauce that topped my Eggplant.

Eggplant Parmesan



1 medium Eggplant peeled and slice into rounds
1 cup flour
1 egg + 1/2 cup milk
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)
Mozzarella Cheese


Using what is called “Standard Breading Procedure” bread your Eggplant by dredging it first in the flour, then in the egg and milk mixture and finally in the breadcrumb. It is important to make sure your hand is dry when  dredging the eggplant in the breadcrumb or you risk the breading coming off due to wet hands.

Fry your eggplant in vegetable oil until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel and keep warm in the oven until all the Eggplant has been fried.

To assemble top a fried Eggplant round with a dollop of marinara sauce and some shredded Mozzarella cheese. Place another round on top and repeat until you have 3 layers. Place in a hot oven until the cheese has melted and the Eggplant is hot throughout.

Marinara Sauce

This is the most simple but most delicious Marinara Sauce you will ever make!

1 can ground tomato (28 oz)
1 table spoon sugar
1 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
fresh basil
Lemon juice

Place the first 5 ingredients into a sauce pan and simmer (low) for 45 minutes.

Add some fresh basil. I don’t chop or tear it. I just throw it in stem and all ( I pick them out later). The basil will steep in and flavor your sauce like you couldn’t imagine. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes more.

Pick out the basil and give your sauce a squeeze of lemon. Your done!

I will offer the fresh pasta recipe in a separate post.

eggplant 2

Written by Ed Schenk

March 13, 2010 at 8:46 am

Meatless Fridays #2 – Salmon Patties

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salmon 1

     Growing up on the East coast I was introduced to fresh seafood at an early age. My earliest memories are of having fried fish on Friday. As I grew up I learned to love seafood. fresh fish, lobster, clams and shrimp were all on the table at one time or another.

     We always went on vacation in August. My Mom and Dad would pack up the car, with my sister and I onboard, and were were off to some exotic (at least for us kids) location. On one trip we headed south on route # 13 down the Delmarva Peninsula through Delaware,Maryland and Virginia. At the end of the Peninsula was the newly built Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel . This 23 mile crossing was a combination of bridges and tunnels connecting the Eastern shore of Maryland/Virginia and the Norfolk Hampton Roads area (Virginia). One of the things that made the bridge special was the restaurant and pier that sat on the southernmost island of the crossing. Here sat a gift shop, a fishing pier (I fished it as a kid!) and a restaurant. The last time I crossed and stopped (2005) the restaurant had deteriorated into some kind of fast food joint where you can grab a burger an a soda before pushing on but in those days it was a sit down dining experience with fresh fish and a full bar. I remember my dad ordering a beer and having it come in a decorative/collectable tin mug ( I still have this souvenir). I also remember my first Crab Cake. The sweet crab with that Old Bay Seasoning topped with tartar sauce was magical.

     Having worked with food most of my life I have made more than a few Crab Cakes. I have also learned that other fish and seafood work almost as well in cake form as Crab does. I have made Cod Cakes, Shrimp Cakes, and even an excellent Bluefish cake ( from fish I caught myself last Summer). For my second meatless Friday menu I am going to make Salmon Cakes.

    Seafood cakes of this type come in two versions. The first is called Boardwalk style. This version usually has fish or seafood,mayonnaise, seasoning, egg and breadcrumb to bind. These are deep fried and served on a bun. The second version ( what I am going to make) is called Restaurant style. It contains the same basic ingredients but with much less filler. It is also sautéed instead of deep fried and is not served on a bun. I really like the recipe on the side of the Old Bay Seasoning canister so I always use this a a basic recipe. I also like to add some sautéed red pepper and onion and a teaspoon of a good mustard. I am also adding a couple of shrimp that I have on hand. Why? you ask. Why not? I say. While there is nothing wrong with Tartar sauce I like to ( as a famous TV Chef once said) “kick it up a notch” by serving the cakes topped with a little Remoulade Sauce. While this dish can be (and historically is) made with leftover fish or seafood I am using fresh Salmon an a couple of shrimp I have on hand. One of the important things to remember is to only use as much (or as little) binder as you need for your mix to hold together. Also, don’t mince the fish/shellfish up too much or it will get lost amongst the rest of the ingredients. Use a larger dice so you know the fish is there.


Salmon Cakes

Makes 4


1 # fresh Salmon diced medium
1/4# Shelled Shrimp
1 tablespoon Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh chopped Parsley
1/4 cup  finely diced red sweet red pepper and onion (sautéed)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
1 egg beaten
bread crumb to bind ( just enough for the mix to hold together)


Mix all ingredient together and form into 4 larger ( or 8 smaller) patties.
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Saute in a  buttered skillet until a golden brown crust forms on the bottom.
Carefully flip your cakes and repeat process on the other side.
Make sure your fish is cooked. If you are concerned the Salmon cakes can be placed in a hot oven for a few minutes.


For the Remoulade sauce I like to keep it simple. I just mix mayonnaise, a little pickle relish, chopped capers, fresh chopped parsley,lemon juice and some good mustard to make the sauce. Feel free to use any similar recipe!


Written by Ed Schenk

March 6, 2010 at 7:01 am

Meatless Fridays #1– Vegetarian Chili

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This is the first in a series of meatless Friday posts. Today we are having vegetarian chili. Lately even if I make chili with meat I add just a little bit. As it happens the older I get the more I seem to appreciate non meat dishes. This is not to say that I am a burgeoning vegetarian,I still love steak, ribs and chicken, But I eat them in moderation.

     The origin of chili,although somewhat vague, seems to go back to a Spanish nun named Sister Maria de Agreda who, in the late 1600, was reported to have taught the Indians how to make a stew of Venison. Later an American version became popular. it was Made of Dried Beef,Suet,Dried Chili Peppers and Salt that were pounded together in to a brick and dried. This could then be carried on the trail,without refrigeration, and boiled in a pot of water to rehydrate the mix. During the 1880’s Mexican women in San Antonio known as”Chili Queens” would build fires and reheat Cauldrons of Chili to sell to passersby.

     In 1893 Chili went national when the”San Antonio Chili Stand was a feature at the 1893 worlds fair in Chicago. It was so successful that Chili became the official dish of the state of Texas. In the early 1900 Chili parlors began popping up all through the Midwest cementing Chili’s place in the American kitchen.

       Purists will say that real Chili has no beans but the truth is that the majority of people who make Chili add beans. Meatless Chili or “Vegetarian Chili” became popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s as the Vegetarian movement became firmly established the the country, as a whole, became more health conscious. Whether you like your Chili with meat or without one thing is certain,Chili is one of the most popular dishes in America.

     This is my version of Vegetarian Chili. It contains all the usual stuff with a few surprises.

Vegetarian Chili

1 medium onion diced
2 stalks of celery diced
1 carrot diced
1 tablespoon on minced garlic
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 tablespoon Chili Powder
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 can diced tomato (14.5 oz)
3 cups vegetable stock or water
salt to taste
1 can kidney beans,drained and rinsed
1 can black beans,drained and rinsed
1 square bittersweet chocolate
3-4 tablespoon cornmeal



Sauté Onion,Celery,Carrot and garlic in vegetable oil for approx 2 minutes
Add Chili powder,cumin and Italian seasoning and continue sautéing until vegetable become translucent.
Add diced tomato, vegetable stock and bring to a boil.Then lower to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes.
Add both cans of bean and simmer for 15 minute longer.
Add chocolate square and stir until melted.
Sprinkle cornmeal on the top of the Chili and then stir in.
Allow to simmer until thickened.
Serve with your favorite topping (mine is Cheddar cheese and sour cream!)


  • I add the Chocolate because it adds a depth of flavor (Umami). Its not so far fetched when you think about Mole sauce and the use of Chocolate and Chiles in Mexico.
  • I use cornmeal as a thickener because it adds flavor. It works great and it gets soft as it absorbs the liquid so there is no grit.

Hasta Luego! (See you later!)

Written by Ed Schenk

February 27, 2010 at 9:38 pm