Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Bit on Emeril and my Creole Vegetarian Stew

I originally started cooking professionally just over ten years ago. Anyone who watched the Food Network ten years ago recalls that it was the Emeril Lagasee Food Network and I certainly did not mind it. I actually loved the network back then and I loved Emeril's two shows, Essence of Emeril and Emeril Live!. I actually recall when Emeril Live! began a bit before I started culinary school. Unlike many chefs, I share no animosity towards him, in fact I believe it is his culinary personality that helped promote much of our industry.

A chef can not be all that bad if they operate ten restaurants (I've eaten at five myself, and all of his restaurants have achieved accolades), have two television shows, a line of excellently written cookbooks, cookingware, designed spice rubs and now he hosts a mail order produce company. Many people will say, well he can not be in every restaurant each day. I say, why should he be? Emeril is both a chef and a business man. If he trains the proper people in his kitchens and "hires-from-within" for each new location, this means that each chef de cuisine that works in an Emeril location shares his same passion for excellence as well as culinary training.

So with that I admit that Emeril was a huge influence on me when I first started cooking. Amongst all of the books I first picked up, two of the first were Louisiana Real and Rustic. and Emeril's New New Orleans. both by Emeril and I also picked up Paul Prudhomme's. books as well as Justin Wilson.. There is not a bad recipe in any of these chef's books and Emeril's books are beyond ridiculously fantastic. For those of you not in the know, Paul Prudhomme ran Commander's Palace.in New Orleans before Emeril Lagasse arrived.

So here I will give you a recipe, that would probably make any true Cajun or Creole turn in their graves. I spent a large amount of my career working with vegetarian and vegan versions of different cuisines. From this, years ago I came up with a vegetarian creole stew. I share it now, because of all of the incredible produce that is coming into season now. The dish is very easy to make. The stew can just as easily be turned into a meat dish with the addition of chicken.

Creole Vegetarian Stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 each Spanish onion, diced medium
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced medium
1 red bell pepper, diced medium
1 green bell pepper, diced medium
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 zucchini, diced medium
1 yellow squash, diced medium
1 28 oz can crushed, fire roasted, tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock, home-made or store bought
1 package of extra firm tofu, frozen over night and defrosted before use (this creates a unique texture. If desired replace tofu with three chicken breasts, diced large.)
2 tablespoons cajun seasoning of choice (I make my own, but Emeril's Essence is great or Paul Prudhomme's Vegetable Magic would be great as well. Both are available in most super markets.)
2 bay leaves
1-3 teaspoons Tabasco (more or less, depending on your heat preference)
Salt and pepper as desired to personal taste
1/2 bunch parsley, minced

1. Heat a large pot of medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and saute until the begin to soften which should take 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute.
2. Add the celery, bell peppers, jalapeño pepper and saute 3-4 minutes, then add the squash and zucchini and saute for another minute before adding the can of tomatoes and vegetable stock. Then crumble the tofu into the pot of vegetables, and then add the remaining ingredients except for the parsley. Allow to simmer for approximately 15 minutes.
3. After 15 minutes has passed, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the minced parsley, then taste and add more seasoning if desired.
4. Serve with some boiled long grain rice, my personal favorite rice to eat with any southern cuisine would have to be Uncle Ben's or Carolina, enjoy.

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