Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Once formed into patties, they are fried in a skillet or baked. I chose baking for a couple of reasons. Mine were really wet, and I just didn't think they'd make it into the skillet. So, I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper, then scooped out the mixture and formed the patties right on the parchment-lined pan. I covered and refrigerated them a bit longer, as I was still waiting for bread dough to rise and bake. When I took the buns out of the oven, I cranked up the heat and tossed the whole baking pan in the oven. Fifteen minutes, turn, fifteen more minutes--success.
There was a tiny little roadblock which had me worried for a minute. When I took the burgers out of the oven to turn them, they were glued to the parchment. I did scrape them up and turn them onto a clean spot, and they were fine after that. I think the bean mixture was just so wet that it got too attached. Next time, I think I'll just use Reynold's Release or a Silpat sheet to eliminate the problem.
There are about a million possible variations on this, using any kind of bean (or even lentils) and any kind of spice. The book has directions for making the mixture into cutlets, meatballs, or meatloaf, or even changing the whole thing up with different additions.
We topped our burgers with chipotle ketchup, which was a perfect go-with. I can tell I'll be making these over and over again.
Given all the healthy properties of beans and all things legume, I'm sure you'll want to check out My Legume Love Affair over at The Well Seasoned Cook. The results of this blogging event will be posted the week of February 10. In the meantime, check out the blog itself for lots of great recipes and ideas.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Dinner tonight was supplanted by a long nap on the couch. The Husband wasn't feeling well last night, and when he can't sleep, I can't either. So....I had been up since 12:30 a.m. Really and truly, I was just going to rest for a few minutes while watching the Food Network, but instead slept through Ina, Paula, and Rachel. Wouldn't have woken up then, either, but the phone rang. So, thermometer and extra blankets in hand, I'm headed back to bed, where hopefully we can both get a little shut-eye. Tomorrow, however, is looking good for dinner. I have plans involving the leftover quinoa and some glazed tofu--and a repeat visit from my very favorite roasted brussels sprouts. See you then!
Monday, January 21, 2008
When I start to feel like I'm getting lost in busyness, there is one thing that always calls to me--bread baking. There is something so elemental about bread, so connected to life, that it always brings me back to myself. Maybe it's the alchemy that causes such simple ingredients--yeast, flour, water, salt--to spring to life. Or the smell that promises something that has to be good. I don't know, but I know that I needed to bake bread this weekend. And I did. Specifically, I baked an epi. I never knew what that was until I was clicking through some blogs and found a great set of pictorial directions on KitchenMage. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to make it. I turned to Dough: Simple Contemporary Bread, by Richard Bertinet, for a recipe and more directions. The recipe I used is just a simple baguette dough. I found Bertinet's directions less than clear, so I went back to KitchenMage. It worked like a charm; after your baguette is shaped and risen, you just use kitchen scissors held almost perpendicular to the loaf to cut almost through, then pull each leaf to alternating sides.
To get the crispest crust possible, I put a baking stone in the oven while the oven preheated. I turned a rimmed baking sheet upside down, covered it with a piece of parchment, and shaped the epi there. When the oven temp hit 475 degrees, I pulled out the rack with the baking stone, spritzed the entire oven with water, and slid the dough--parchment and all--onto the stone. Twelve minutes later, I had a beautiful, crusty, just-dense-enough loaf. Who needed anything else for dinner?
I went back to Jack Bishop for dinner again tonight, turning out Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Dried Cherries, Chard, and Walnuts. Another simple dish, this one starts with minced garlic sizzling in olive oil, followed by a huge bowlful of chopped chard that wilts down to nothing. Once the chard has had a few minutes to wilt, a handful of dried cherries is tossed into the pot, given a quick stir, then covered and taken off the heat. There is just enough moisture to allow the cherries to reconstitute without losing all of their intensity and chewiness. Meanwhile, the pasta is boiled, with a bit of the cooking water retained for finishing the dish. A few tosses with the tongs, and dinner is on the table. I will say that I thought this dish called out for crumbled feta or goat cheese; the tanginess of either would be a nice note to accompanies the sweet-tart cherries and earthy chard. For lots more great pasta ideas, don't forget to check out the Presto Pasta Night Roundup every Friday at Once Upon a Feast.
I also put together a huge pot of Pasta e Fagioli from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. I doubled the recipe, which is both good and bad. It's good, because the soup is delicious, and I am working to fill the freezer for busy nights. It's bad, because some salt voodoo devil apparently came to my house and swam in my soup. It's like plucking petals off a daisy, saying, "He loves me, he loves me not." Except in this case, it's, "It's just right, it's too salty." You can eat ten bites of this soup and be in heaven, and suddenly get a bite that tastes like you ate a salt cube. I have NO idea what happened. I've added water, reheated, stirred...and laughed like crazy when the Husband literally spit a mouthful of soup into his hand halfway through a bowlful. So, I don't know if the whole bit is going to go into the garbage disposal, or if a night in the refrigerator might somehow dissipate the salt. I'll report back.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Saturday, January 19, 2008
After the long, dark work week, it seemed like a good day to start off with a hike. Actually, "starting off" isn't technically correct. It was more like a "hang out for a few hours then go for a hike, then drive home really fast to take a shower so you can go to that work-related event, then leave there and drive really fast some more to meet the kids at church." At any rate, we got to spend a couple of hours at the absolutely beautiful Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area. This is a beautiful desert riparian area, and for a while, we were hiking there every weekend in preparation for our upcoming trips to San Francisco and Kauai. Things happened, though, and we haven't been for awhile. Lucky for us, the creek was still running after the rain a few weeks ago and the desert was awash in green. We took the relatively flat Metate Trail (named for the large metate left behind by the indigenous people who once lived in this area) so we could always be within earshot at least of the creek.
Tonight I'm very sore, but it was a beautiful spot to get back in touch with what's real--and to have a better picture of nature than the Ikea rock prints on my wall at work.
All that hiking made us hungry, so we eventually got to each a good dinner (although I admit to vegan Boca burgers for lunch). This is another Jack Bishop recipe--Potatoes and Chard with Green Curry Sauce. I served this over Sticky Rice, but it would have also been just fine as a stew. We really liked this recipe, also. There were gentle hints of coconut, ginger, and garlic backed by the slow burn of the green chili paste and the bright finish of lime juice and cilantro. The technique is a little different. Instead of just dumping a can of coconut milk into the pot with the other liquid, the cream is skimmed off the top when the can is opened. This is why he cautions not to use the "lite" coconut milk. The cream is reduced with the garlic and ginger infusing it with flavor. Finally, the potatoes and water are added, then left to cook until tender. Finally, ribbons of chard are added to the pot, and a few more minutes of cooking time ensues. Finally, the dish is finished with the cilantro and lime juice.
This dish makes plenty, and I suspect the leftovers will be out of this world after the potatoes further soak up the delicate flavors of this dish. I know what I'm having for lunch tomorrow--if I can wait that long!
Last night, the walls were closing in, so I decided to load up the briefcase and come home. Foolishly, I thought I'd get some work done here. Why, I don't know, because when I'm that burned out, my self-discipline flies out the window. Instead, I pulled myself into the kitchen and happily rinsed, chopped, minced, and diced my way to a really good dinner.
I'm still cooking out of Jack Bishop's A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. I really like the way this book is arranged by season. It helps me as I try to reduce my carbon footprint, as the seasonal vegetables tend to be grown more closely to home. This book has been on my shelf for a couple of years, and was untouched until recently. Frankly, it looked too "vegetarian" for me. It features the kind of food I was always afraid I'd have to eat if I became a vegetarian. Apparently, the only thing I had to fear was fear itself. Tonight, we had Soft Corn Tacos with Garlicky Greens, accompanied by Mexican Citrus Salad and a crock of frijoles refritos.
This was really good. Who knew? I was surprised at how flavorful and satisfying the tacos were. The chard has a nice, earthy taste, which is livened up by carmelized onions, minced garlic and jalapenos. The rustic flavor of warm corn tortillas complimented it perfectly. We topped it with a jarred salsa from Trader Joe's, but any favorite salsa would work. The citrus salad wasn't anything special, but it was an easy and quick side with a nice flavor. It is short week to use a sharp knife to trim the vibrant citrus of it's pith and rind and cut it into slices. I arranged the slices on a platter before sprinkling them with lime juice, coarse salt, a whisper of chile powder, and chopped jalapeno. I loved the way this meal looked on the plate. It was like a rainbow had landed on the table.
I would suggest a bit of pre-prep work if this is to be a weeknight dinner. If the chard is prewashed and chopped, the whole thing could go together in 30-40 minutes. I hadn't cleaned and chopped my chard, so I did that while the onions were cooking. Otherwise, I would have done the citrus salad during that time. As it was, I did the salad first, then started the main.
Given the array of power-packed fruits and vegetables, I'm going to send this one to Sweetnicks for the ARF/5-a-Day roundup. Check it out weekly for lots of good ideas on ways to incorporate more antioxidant rich fruits and veggies into your diet.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Friday, January 11, 2008
I really want to like this Jack Bishop recipe. But I don't. Certainly, it's okay. But it's not stellar. It doesn't transport me. It just leaves me flat. Full, but flat. Part of it is ingredient error. I used Muir Glen brand diced tomatoes, and the pieces are too big. I should have chopped them up a bit, but I didn't. When I want beans and tomatoes, I want BEANS and tomatoes, not beans and TOMATOES. So, it's my own fault that I didn't fix that. But as usual, I was in a hurry. I also really like to follow a recipe without a riff the first time. After all, the author got paid MONEY to write their cookbook. I get paid bupkiss to cook from it. So, they must know more than me, right?
It seems like I've had a lot of uneven success with Jack Bishop recipes. When they work, they are sublime simplicity. They are always quick, and I like his balance of healthy ingredients when they work, and going with the less-healthy-but-better-in-this-dish when they don't. However, he just isn't one of those cookbook authors who I feel I could pull anything they have published and cook from it, ending with a happy dance. I feel that way about Ina Garten. I feel that way about anything Cook's Illustrated publishes. So far, I feel that way about everything I've cooked from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. Robin Robertson never steers me wrong, either. So why is it that Bishop, a noted cookbook author, doesn't always get it right? I don't know, but I think I must turn my recipe instincts on when cooking from his cookbooks.But wait! There's more! We haven't talked about this recipe yet. One of my issues with this was the bread crumb topping. It's not that I don't treasure bread crumbs, for I love all things yeast-based. But I had a concern about topping a 6-serving dish with breadcrumbs, then eating two servings. What, I asked, would happen to the toasty layer of bread crumbs on the remainder of the dish as it sat in the refrigerator? Here is where I must admit that I'm not a big fan of insanely, considering it nothing but soggy bread that sat too near leaking tomatoes. I could see a bread crumb version of this salad forming on top of my casserole, rendering the leftovers inedible. So, I made our servings in two ramekins (just purchased in the Crate and Barrel after-Christmas sale, thank you very much), topped them with bread crumbs, and broiled them. I then toasted the rest of the bread crumbs in a skillet and toasted them, storing them in a plastic bag after they cooled.
Well, let me tell you, the thick layer of bread crumbs in the original servings were panzanella-ish on the bottom, although nice and crisp on the top. We ate it. It was fine. I wasn't excited about eating it again. But I did--I took it for lunch today. (Yes, this is a stealth blog entry--I made this two days ago, but had to choose between sleep and posting.) It was better today, scattered with the fully toasted bread crumbs. However, it still isn't grabbing me. However, I have a plan. I think I know what to do with the remainder that will be really, really yummy. You'll have to check back, though, to find out. I think it will be tomorrow's lunch, maybe even tomorrow's breakfast. See you then!
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Monday, January 7, 2008
Tonight, we pulled dinner from a new vegetarian classic, Jack Bishop's A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen. The Linguine with Orange Sauce and Cilantro couldn't have been easier. I squeezed a half dozen oranges, which yielded enough juice to set over a low boil with some crushed garlic cloves and sliced ginger. While that was reducing, I put some linguine on to cook. Strain the garlic and ginger chunks out of the orange syrup, add a little olive oil, chopped cilantro, and some pasta water and, voila, you have dinner. I will say that this probably wasn't a very good dinner on its own, speaking from a nutrition point of view. It needed a salad, or even some steamed broccoli and sugar snap peas tossed in the sauce along with the pasta. Sliced baked tofu would be good, too, and for those not mucking about with a vegetarian diet, the sauce would be great over chicken. Nonetheless, this was truly a 30-minute meal, and one that was refreshingly bright on a winter night.
I also came home to my first delivery of Rancho Gordo beans. The cooks over on the CLBB have been all abuzz about these heirloom beans, and company owner Steve Sando has even weighed in. He seems like a very nice guy, and he's very knowledgeable about his beans. Being much fresher than supermarket dried beans (and with much more variety available), this is reputed to be the beginning of a sublime bean relationship. I couldn't be more excited to get started cooking a pot or two of these, although it will probably be the weekend before I can even consider it. It's so hard to decide what to start with. Christmas limas? Good Mother Stallards? Black Valentines? Borlottis? Yellow Indian Woman? Ojo de Cabras (Goat's eye)? I might have to just randomly pluck, something out of the box and start cooking!
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Check the side-bar under "Vegetarian," where I've indicated in parenthesis whether a recipe is vegan, or could be modified to vegan (by using a butter substitute or subbing vegetable broth for chicken broth). Sorry--they don't all have pictures. They were good, though.
Certainly, we are finding it easier than we thought to follow a vegetarian diet. Our resolution in this new year is to move further toward the vegan end of things, for all the same reasons we became vegetarians. I hope that I can still continue to providing you solid, family-pleasing meal ideas to help keep you healthy throughout your life. We don't like weird food any more than you do--so if we like it, there's a good chance you will, as well.
When we got together to bake, we didn't get a whole lot done. Mostly, we made gingersnaps (which turn out to be the favorite of Miss Brooklynn) and some crazy sugar cookies. The cookies pictured here were made from the Cook's Illustrated recipe for Glazed Butter Cookies. These have a very nice taste and texture, and are egg free for those with allergies.
The next day, I decided to make some Snowballs, White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies, and my favorite Nielssen Massey Chocolate Chip Cookies.
All were good, all were eaten. I promise to be better next year and post while we're all still in a baking mood.