Friday, July 15, 2016

Black Bean Burgers

Hamburgers are one of my favorite foods. Melt some cheese over it and I'd fall in love with you. (No, my wife didn't do that when we were courting. More's the pity.) But when two of your kids are vegetarians, more or less, you need to think about expanding the range of ingredients beyond just good ground beef. In fact, you've got to find some way to keep that rich meaty, charred, flavor without using meat.

There are plenty of high-sodium, low-flavor, variants available at the grocery store these days. I'm not a huge fan of processed cardboard, but if that's your thing, go right a head and spend more money on them that you would on ground beef. Which is saying something, these days. I've found several recipes for veggie burgers online, and black beans seem to stand out as a favored ingredient for many of them. Oh, there are others, for sure, but black bean burgers seemed like an interesting choice. That and the ingredients are all pretty common to my pantry.

This recipe is my take on a black bean burger recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I modified a few of the ingredients, and their ratios, to better fit my pantry, and my taste. I use rolled oats in this recipe because they're easy, and I like the added flavor. Bread crumbs, or any type, will do just fine, though. Cilantro can be substituted for the parsley, if desired.

Takes 35 minutes to make.
Makes 6 servings.

2 (15-oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained well
2 large eggs
1 Tbl olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup rolled oats
1 red or green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1 green onion, finely chopped
1 Tbl dried parsley, or ¼ cup minced parsley
4 Tbl vegetable (or canola) oil for frying
6 hamburger buns
Favorite hamburger toppings

Place 2 ½ cups of beans in a large bowl, setting aside the rest for later. Mash them with a potato masher until mostly smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, olive oil, cumin, salt, and cayenne, if using. Add the egg mixture, the remaining beans, oats, bell pepper, parsley, and green onion to the mashed beans and stir until just combined. Let stand for 5 minutes so the oats can absorb some of the liquid.

Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions. Pack, lightly, into 1-inch-thick patties. These patties can be delicate, so take care when handling them.

Heat 2 Tbl oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Working with three patties at a time, carefully lay them into the skillet and cook until well browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side.

If you want to turn these into cheeseburgers, which I often do, drop a slice of cheese on top during the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking.

Transfer cooked burgers to a plate and tent loosely with aluminum foil, repeat with the remaining three patties. Serve on hamburger buns with your favorite burger toppings.

Black Bean Burgers with Corn and Chipotle Chile varation:
To change things up a little, substitute 1 Tbl minced chipotle chiles (canned in adobe sauce) for the cayenne, reduce the red pepper to ¼ cup, and add ¼ cup of fresh or frozen corn, thawed and patted dry, to the bean mixture. I've tried it both ways and like them both, equally.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

American-Style Broccoli Calzone

A great calzone, with a satisfyingly crisp and chewy crust, with plenty of flavorful fillings, is a treat worth the quest. The trouble is, most calzones I've found turn out with a soggy filling and have a crust more akin to bad bread than pizza dough. Not so with this recipe. Even better, this one gets you eating your vegetables in a way that is so tasty you won't mind. The cheese inside doesn't hurt, either.

This recipe does require some work and time, but not as much as you might think. While I braise fresh broccoli, you could substitute frozen, if you want to skip cooking the broccoli. It won't be as flavorful, but it might say you a little time and effort. Just make sure to thaw, drain and chop it, first. In this case, add the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes along with the cheese.

My wife and kids like cheddar cheese, and so that's what I used, making this very American. For a more authentic Italian-style, use 1 1/2 cups of mozzarella and a 1/2 cup of feta, instead, replacing the cottage cheese with ricotta cheese.

The cooked broccoli makes a great side dish unto itself, if you're so inclined.

Equipment needed
Chef's knife
kitchen shears (optional)
measuring cups and spoons
mixing bowl
parchment paper
baking sheet

2 Tbl light cooking oil (vegetable or canola)
1 head of broccoli, trimmed and cut into 1-inch florets (about 1 pound)
3 Tbl water
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper as needed
1 cup cottage cheese
2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
1 large whole egg, plus 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 2 Tbl water
1 pound pizza dough
Cooking spray

Heat cooking oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add broccoli and a pinch of salt. Cook, without stirring, until the broccoli begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the water, cover, and cook until broccoli is bright green, but still crisp, about 2 minutes more. Uncover and cook until the water has evaporated and the broccoli is crisp-tender, stirring occasionally, about 2 more minutes.

Push the broccoli to the sides of the pan to clear a space in the center. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, and stir into the broccoli. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a serving plate, to cool a bit.

Place an oven rack in the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut two pieces of parchment paper into 9-inch squares. These will be used to make rolling and moving the calzones, easier.

In a large bowl, stir the broccoli mixture, cottage cheese, and cheddar cheese together.

Divide the dough in half. Working with one half of the dough at a time, transfer the dough to a piece of parchment and roll into a 9-inch round. Spread the broccoli-cheese mixture evenly over one half of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold the other half over the filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border of the bottom half uncovered. Brush edge with egg wash. Press the edges of the dough together, pressing out any air. Fold the bottom dough edge over the top, and press and crimp to make a pretty seal. Using a sharp knife, cut 5 steam vents, about 1 1/2-inch long across the top layer of dough, starting at the folded edge and cutting toward the crimped edge. Brush the tops with more of the egg wash. Using the parchment paper, transfer the calzone, along with the paper, onto a rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough half.

Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes or so, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer the calzones to a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes, before cutting each in half, for serving.

Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Roasted Carrots and Kale Rice Bowl

This healthy combination of flavorful roasted veggies over rice, topped with an egg, is a great example of what a vegetarian rice bowl can be. Nutty brown rice is perfect for this dish, but plain white rice is good, too. The flavors in the original recipe come from a bold Middle-eastern spice mixture called za'atar, a mixture of thyme, ground sesame seeds, and powdered sumac. I can't get za'atar, or sumac, at my local grocery store, and it seemed kind of pricey online, so I did some research and come up with my own faux blend. To be honest, I have no idea how close this is to the real deal, but it was pretty tasty.

To make faux za'atar, combine 3 tsp dried thyme, 1 1/2 tsp lemon pepper salt, and 1/4 tsp toasted sesame seeds in a spice grinder and pulse into a powder. This should make about 2 Tbl. Use what you need for the recipe, and then keep he remainder in an airtight container.

Now let's get started on the dish.

5 carrots, peeled, halved crosswise, then halved or quartered lengthwise to create uniformly sized pieces.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tsp za'atar
8 oz. kale, stemmed and chopped into 1-inch strips
2 Tbl red wine vinegar
1 green onion, finely sliced
4 eggs
Salt and pepper
2 cups cooked rice, or more if desired

With an oven rack in the upper middle position, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Toss the carrots, 1 Tbl oil, za'atar, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper together in bowl. Spread the carrots onto the prepared baking sheet and cover with foil. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, toss together the kale, 1 Tbl oil, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/8 tsp of pepper together, using the same bowl as the carrots. (Why dirty more dishes than you need to?) Next, whisk together the vinegar, green onion, and 3 Tbl olive oil in a bowl to make a quick vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

When the carrots are done roasting, remove the foil and spread the kale evenly over the top. Return the carrots and kale to the oven and continue to cook, uncovered, until the carrots are spotty brown and tender and kale is crisp, about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, divide the cooked rice into individual serving bowls, about 1/2 cup per bowl. Top with the roasted vegetables and drizzle the vinaigrette over the rice and veggies. Cover and set aside. 

Heat the remaining oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Crack the eggs into two small bowls, 2 eggs per bowl, and season with salt and pepper. Working quickly, pour the eggs into the skillet, cover, and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 1 to 2 minutes more, depending on how runny, or set, you like your yolks. Top each bowl with one egg, and serve.

Makes 4 servings.
Takes about 45 minutes to make.