Thai Turkey Burgers with Pineapple Pan Salsa

I really didn’t want to like Rachel Ray.  I have this inherent distrust of anyone who is popular.  It comes from being the unattractive nerdy kid in school, I inherently distrust anyone who is charming and/or particularly good looking.  If they were being nice to me it was usually to get me to help them with schoolwork.  Thus, I do not trust popular people.  That also applies to celebrity cooks/crafting people.  I really didn’t want to like Martha Stewart.  But when I was planning my wedding I couldn’t help it.  Her magazine has such great ideas, I had to break down and admit that I like Martha’s syndicate.

When I was getting really busy with my business I could no longer cook fancy intricate, long meals.  I needed things quick, but that were still tasty.  So I broke down and bought the book “Classic Rachel Ray 30 Minute Meals“.  It’s basically Rachel Ray’s greatest hits.  It. Is. Great.  I love this book.  Every  recipe is fantastic, easy, and quick.

When I first made these turkey burgers I was floored, I’d never had turkey burgers this good.  Then I made them for my sister, she was amazed too.  I took my left overs to the office for lunch, and the landlord stopped at the door to ask what smelled so amazing.  It’s that good.

Pineapple on its plant, Costa Rica

Image via Wikipedia

Most people do not know that pineapples grow from the ground, not from a tree.  I certainly didn’t know it.  Check out the bottom of a fresh pineapple some time, that is where the stem goes.  The plant looks kind of like a yucca plant (or an aloe, for those of you not from the southwest), with the pineapple growing up from the center.  My husband wants to watch the last Dr. Who episode, so that is all of the information that you get about pineapples before the main point: the recipe.

Thai Turkey Burgers with Pineapple Pan Salsa

Ingredients:

Salsa:

  • 1 fresh cored pineapple (from the produce section of the grocery.  I also use either crushed or tidbits in a can).
  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 red onion finely chopped
  • 2 T dark brown sugar
  • 10-15 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips.

Burgers

  • 1 1/3 lb ground turkey
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, or 2 pinches dry ground ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • coarse salt to taste
  • 2 scallions finely chopped
  • lettuce and burger buns

Directions:

  1. Drain the pineapple and cut into pieces for the food processor.  Process until it has a coarse, chunky texture.
  2. Heat sesame oil in pan, toss in red pepper flakes.  Careful!  Don’t breathe in near the pan or you will start to cough from the fumes.
  3. Once the oil smokes, put in the bell pepper and onions and cook 1-2 min.  Add pineapple and cook through.  Remove from heat and add in basil leaves.  Let sit and wait while you make the burgers.
  4. If you are cooking the burgers in a pan, set it on to heat.  If you are grilling, preheat your grill.
  5. Combine the turkey, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, curry, salt and scallions.  Form into 4 patties and cook, about 4 min on each side.
  6. Serve on buns with lots of warm pineapple salsa and lettuce.
  7. Enjoy!
Posted in Chicken, Dinner, Fruit, Lunch, Simple and Quick | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Cherry Rosemary Compote

One of the great things about cherries is that they are affordable only long enough that you don’t get sick of them.  For just a few weeks you can load up on cherries without feeling guilty, and then they are gone again.  I have discovered that anticipation is often a good thing.  It keeps you from taking certain things for granted.  While it would not be bad to take cherries for granted, I like that they are a food that is still very seasonal.  When I walked into the grocery store and saw $1.79 a pound cherries I almost squealed.  We have eaten 4 bags so far.  It is nice to be able to get excited about a food.

Another great thing about the cherry season is that you don’t feel guilty cooking with them.  Cherries are so good fresh and raw (and so expensive) that I never have enough left to cook with.  But this glut of cherries sent me online and into my brain to come up with a good way to use them.

Cherries are one of the oldest cultivated fruits, along with apricots.  Though we Americans think of cherries as tied to the American northwest, they were cultivated first around 300 BC in Eastern Europe.  Romans and Greeks both loved their cherries, and the English word for cherries comes from the Greek kerasos.  There were varieties of cherry trees in North America by the time the colonists came.  The Rainer cherry and the Bing cherry (two of the best) were developed by crossing the two kinds of cherries.  There are sweet and sour cherries.  Sweet is what we usually eat raw, and sour are more popular in cooked dishes, like pie (my favorite).

We were going to grill the pork chops and then put the sauce on top.  But a giant loud storm came through so that plan was ditched.  You will note that the recipe calls for Cattleman’s Grill Coffee Steak Rub, Smoky Chipotle flavor.  We first found this rub at our local butcher.  We wanted a good steak rub, but we found that we like this best with pork.  This is the smoke chipotle flavor that is moderately spicy.  It went great with the cherries.  The original is also very good.  We use this a lot, and I recommend it for everyone.

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Cherry Compote

Ingredients

  1. 4 pork chops, about 6oz each.  I used the not bone in kind, but use whatever you like.  Be aware that this recipe is for thin (3/4in) boneless chops.  If you have thick or bone in chops then you’ll need to probably bake them in a 350 deg oven for a little while until they are done (so you don’t overly burn the outside).
  2. Cattleman’s Grill Coffee Steak Rub, Smoky Chipotle flavor rub, or just salt, pepper, and garlic.
  3. Olive oil
  4. 3 Tbsp red wine (I used my cousin’s excellent choke cherry wine b/c that is what we had open).
  5. 1/4 cup beef or chicken stock
  6. 1.5 Tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
  7. 2 cups sweet cherries (I used Bing), pitted and halved
  8. 3/4 cup minced onion or shallot

Directions:

  1. Put about 2 Tbsp of olive oil into a pan and heat on medium until just before the oil smokes.  Rub the chops with either the coffee rub or salt, pepper, and garlic.  Cook until done, but not overdone.  Note if you have thick bone in chops read my note in the ingredients.  You can also grill them, but you will loose a little flavor in the compote.
  2. When you remove the chops from the pan deglaze the pan with the wine.  Deglaze is a method by which you put wine in a pan to get all of the tasty bits up off of the bottom.  It burns off the alcohol and leaves a good flavor.  It only takes about 30 seconds.
  3. Add in the onions, cherries, and rosemary.  Mash down on the cherries to extract the juice and break them up a bit.  add in the broth and simmer until it is reduced as far as you like.
  4. Serve the compote on top of the chops and enjoy!

 

Posted in Dinner, Fruit, Lunch, Pork, Sauces/Dressings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Italian Sausage and Chard Saute with Eggs and Toast

A tragedy happened yesterday, our oven died.  Well, I think it died a while ago, but since I haven’t used it in almost a month I didn’t notice until yesterday.  I wanted to make a lasagne (one of my favorite ways to use my large amounts of chard from the garden), but found out that it didn’t work.  So I had ingredients that I needed to use somehow, and so I threw something together tonight from what I had in the garden and the fridge.

I’ve written about everything in the recipe, I think, so I will do the educational section on olive oil.  It is so fundamental to cooking that I never thought to research it.  It is one of the most ancient foods still in use–scientists have found stone processing tools in Israel that date to 5000BC.  Olive oil was not just for cooking or eating.  It was used as a ritual ingredient in all kinds of religious ceremonies, and on the skin for health.

Though humans in the Mediterranean have been making it for millenia, it is not an easy product to make.  First off, each tree must mature for years before it will produce fruit of a sufficient quality.  And it takes 10 lbs of olives to make just 4 cups of oil!  The olives are a soft fruit, and so must be harvested carefully to get a good quality oil.  They are then taken to the processing plant where the oils are extracted from the fruits.  Olive fruits themselves are not editable until processed somehow.  It’s amazing that humans figured it out so long ago.

Italian Sausage and Chard Saute with Eggs and Toast

Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 lb Italian sausage, your choice whether it’s link variety or not (we used the loose variety).
  2. 1 C carrots, thinly sliced
  3. 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  4. 2 large bunches of swiss chard, spinach, or beet greens.
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced.
  6. A tablespoon or so of mixed herbs.  I used parsley, oregano, marjoram, and a little sage, that’s what looked good out of the garden.  Roughly chop these too.
  7. 4 Eggs
  8. Good bread
  9. Mozzarella or other pizza cheese.

Directions

  1. Prepare the veggies.  The chard needs to be washed, and then remove the thick stem up into the leaf, if it’s thick.  If you get the leaves from the grocery store you probably won’t need to go up very high.  You can compost the stems, or if you like, you can slice them up and cook them with the onions in that step below.  Pile them up on top of each other, slice them lengthwise.  The set the halves on top of each other and cut in 2 inch wide slices horizontally.  Slice the carrots and chop the onions.
  2. In a large skillet cook the sausage.  If you use loose sausage remove it with a slotted spoon, leave the oil in the pan.
  3. Put the carrots and onions in the oil, you’ll probably have to use some olive oil as well.  Saute them until the onions are turning clear, and the carrots are still a little crunchy, but somewhat cooked.  That is why you need to slice them thinly, otherwise whey won’t cook.  At the end put in the garlic and chopped fresh herbs and saute until fragrant.
  4. Once they are done, toss in the chard.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover the pan with a lid to let the chard wilt.  It will only take a few minutes.  Stir it all in together with the sausage.  Flatten it out, and then make several small indentations for the eggs.  Turn down the heat to low.  Crack the eggs into the indention and salt and pepper on top.  Cover with a lid and let it steam.  You are poaching the eggs.  Once they are cooked through, you are done.
  5. Toast the bread.  I loved the sourdough I had to go with it, but you can use any bead you like.
  6. Put 2 slices of bread on each plate.  Use a spatula to lift out a section of mixture with the eggs on top.  Put on top of the bread.  Sprinkle with cheese and let it melt.
  7. Enjoy!
Posted in Dinner, Lunch, Pork, Swiss Chard | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Frozen Essence of Summer: Watermelon Granita

When I lived in Texas summer was my least favorite season.  It’s so hot and dry and miserable that I never enjoyed it.  Summer is totally different in Colorado.  We have a lovely garden that is finally producing, the weather isn’t too hot (it hasn’t been over 95 yet), and often it rains in the afternoon.  (The thunder right now is suggesting that it will do again soon).

The fresh foods are the best part.  We got a lovely watermelon for the 4th of July but had half of it still left.  It was taking up a large part of my fridge so I needed to find something to do with it.  While flipping through the Bon Apetit I came across the interview with Gweneth Paltrow and her recipes.  The watermelon granita looked fast, simple, and tasty.

Watermelon is indigenous to southern Africa.  There it grows wild and can be sweet, bland, or bitter.  It was cultivated in Egypt as early as the second millennium BC, and was in China by the 10th century.  Colonists and African slaves brought the fruit to the Americas.  It was noted being grown by Native Americans by the end of the 1600s.

Watermelons, though mostly water (92%), are also a good source of vitamin C, beta carotines, and lycopene.  The rinds are a good source of nutrients, far better than the fruit, but most people don’t eat them because they are so bitter.  They can be cooked or pickled to be more consumable.

Like many other fruits and vegetables, watermelons come in many colors and varieties.  You can get them in red, pink, orange, yellow, or white.  They can be from only a few pounds to hundreds.  I’ve only had red or pink, I would love to try the others.

This recipe is the essence of summer.  It is sweet, cooling, refreshing, easy, and fun.  Kids can help make it by flaking it with a fork.  Like the article said, it really does pack a huge flavor punch.  You could even use it as a dessert for a fancy dinner party, it’s so good.  Make sure you make plenty–it will be gone in a flash.  And since it is mostly just frozen watermelon you don’t have to have any guilt at having a second (or third) serving.

Watermelon Granita

Ingredients:

  1. 4 cups watermelon, seeded and cubed.
  2. 1/2 c sugar (or less, if you choose)
  3. Juice from 1 lime.  (I only had bottled lemon juice and used 1 Tbsp–it gave it a nice fresh tang, I would recommend it.)

Directions

  1. Blend together all the ingredients in a blender.
  2. Pour into a cookie sheet and put in the freezer.
  3. After an hour mash it with the back of a fork to break it up a little bit.
  4. After 2 more hours (3 total) take it out of the freezer and flake with a large fork.  I used the back of the fork to mash up the chunks that won’t flake.
  5. You can make it up to 3 days ahead (though if it’s in this house it won’t last that long).  Just scrape it again before serving.
  6. Enjoy!
Posted in Dessert, Fruit, Simple and Quick, Snack, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Quinoa and Roasted Beet Salad with Feta

Yesterday we had a very special guest over for dinner–my sister’s boyfriend.  It was the first time we got to meet him so it was very exciting.  Paige wanted me to work my culinary magic to impress him, and I said ok.  I didn’t really have anything planned.  We did it on Saturday so that we could go to the farmer’s market in the morning and see what looked good and go from there.

So we went to the Golden Farmer’s Market and, as always, it was great.  It is small enough that you don’t have to walk all over the place, but large enough to have most of the things you need.  We get great dog treats from the Four Legger Cookie Factory (though we were already stocked up this weekend), bread from I can’t remember the name of the place (will report in soon), and veggies from local farmers.  I had quinoa here at home left over from another recipe so I figured I could use that to make a good salad.  I saw that a stand that we usually don’t buy from had beets.  They were obviously shipped in from California, like most of the produce there (one of the reasons we don’t buy from Miller farms–that and the people who run it are very rude and look like they may be related and are married to each other, and lack certain teeth), but I thought it would still be delicious.

I was just introduced to quinoa a few years ago.  It is one of the hot new whole grains to

Chenopodium quinoa flowering

Image via Wikipedia

try, and for good reason.  It is nutty fluffy, and slightly crunchy, and looks fun.  We really like it.  I primarily use it for salads (read: it is the main ingredient and I just mix things in that sound good) but you can also have it just by itself as a side like rice or couscous.  It is very high in protien for a grain, and is one of the ancient grains that have been “rediscovered” by the world (read: rich north americans and europeans).  It was the main grain of the Inca.

It is nutritionally gold.  It is one of the few plant sources of full proteins.  It has every amino acid, especially lycene (great for repairing tissues).  It also gives you almost half of your daily value of manganese per serving, and is also a great source of iron, copper, and phosperous.  It is believed to help with migraines, and is great for people with diabetes.

Unlike the majority of grains we eat, it is not derived from a grass (yes, even corn is a grass).  It is instead a relative of spinach and swiss chard and those types of plants.  Anything that is related to swiss chard must be good, so that only promotes it more.  Chard is also very closely related to beets.  In Australia chard is known as silver beet.  They’re actually very closely related, chard was just bred for it’s leaves and beets for the roots.  I have eaten the chard root in the fall after I pulled everything up in the garden and it isn’t bad–very beety.  And on the other side, you can eat beet greens.  They are delicious and very nutritious.  So this recipe is keeping it all in the family.  As you see in the picture above, these seeds are grown on the end of clusters.

You can buy quinoa now at most normal grocery stores (well, at least you can in the Denver metro, you may not be able to in other parts of the US).  I usually don’t get it there because it is very expensive and not good quality.  Instead, when I am in the area I go to Whole Foods and buy it in bulk.  It is much cheaper, and quinoa keeps well in the pantry.  You should be able to get it at any health food store near you.

Quinoa and Roasted Beet Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 c dry quinoa
  • 1 1/4 c water
  • 2 medium beets, with greens
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Feta Cheese
  • 1.5 C roughly chopped beet greens fresh (you’ll cook them down).  If not using beet greens: you can use chard, spinach, or any other green leafy.  I actually recommend that if you only have 2 beets you supplement the greens with these other options.  I used the greens of 4 beets and it was just the right amount.

Directions

  1. Cook the quinoa.  First rinse it off.  It has a protective barrier that can make it bitter, so you want to rinse it off.  The problem is that the seeds are tiny, so to do it in a colander you need a fine mesh one.  I swish it around in a bowl and then drain on a paper towel since I don’t have a fine mesh colander.  Bring the water to a boil in a pot (the formula is 1.25 parts water to 1 part quinoa).  Put in the quinoa and reduce to a simmer.  Let it simmer for 20 min.
  2. Cool the quinoa in the fridge.
  3. Roast your beets and onions.  On the onions–just cut into strips long way (so through the top and root end each time).  If you want to roast it in the oven or on the grill with your beets that is fine (it won’t take as long–so watch it).  You can also saute the onions.  When they are nicely cooked (so caramelized a bit and sweet) put in the fridge to cool.
  4. How to roast a beet: Cut the greens off about an inch above the top of the root.  If you cut the top of it off it will “bleed” (it really does look like blood) all over everything.  Leaving on the stems will prevent that.  Rinse them off.  Wrap in aluminum well so that the steam can’t escape.  In the oven, roast at 400 deg for about 30-45 min.  It’s about the same amount of time on the grill.  They will be done when a fork easily pierces them.  It takes longer than you expect, so be patient.
  5. When they’re done, remove from the heat and set aside.  Allow them to sweat and cool off in the foil.  When cool enough to handle you should be able to just slip off the skin.  Put in the fridge to cool–keep separate from quinoa to prevent bleeding.
  6. Cook the greens.  Put a little oil or water into a large saute pan and toss in the greens.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Stir in the pan until they are all JUST wilted.  They should still be green–not black.  Overcooking is why most people don’t like dark green leafies.  Set aside to let cool (you can even put it in with the quinoa in the fridge).
  7. Once you are ready to assemble everything (once it has all cooled), chop the onions and put in with the quinoa.  Make sure the leafy pieces aren’t too big.  Chop up the beet in smallish pieces.  Cut off the stem end and the long root end.  Then just slice into rounds, and then cut those rounds into squares like you would with cheese.
  8. Put all the veggies, the quinoa, the oil, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste in bowl and mix well.  It will turn a delightful shade of pink.  Top with feta and enjoy!
Posted in Dinner, Lunch, Sides, Squash/Root Vegetables, Swiss Chard, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Felafel and Cucumber Dill Sauce with Variations

I don’t think I will ever forget the first time I had felafel.  That day changed my culinary horizons, it was a revelation.  The humble Felafel and Fries in Adams Morgan in DC still holds a place of great esteem in my mind.  Those may sound like strong words, but you have to understand my background to understand.

I grew up outside of Amarillo, Texas.  If that doesn’t mean anything to you, let me sketch a picture.  While it is the largest city in the Texas Panhandle (an area larger than your average European country) its culinary options were quite limited.  It was exotic for us to go to the King and I Thai restaurant.  I’m sure there was a Chinese restaurant, but we didn’t go often.  Foreign food was the Italian place.  We did have a Japanese place, but that was only for very special occasions.  It was the kind with the cooking surface in the middle of the table and the chef set something on fire to oohs and aahs at least once.  There was no sushi offered.  There were lots of Mexican places, but when you live in Texas that is not considered foreign food.  While my parents are very adventurous eaters and almost never refuse to try something, there were no options to try.

Then I moved to Sherman, Texas, to go to college.  While it was within an hour of the Dallas Metroplex, I didn’t get down there very often.  And when I did we didn’t tend to go to “exotic” places to eat.  Sherman itself is even smaller than Amarillo and the restaurants of note at the time were all grills, bars, American places, and Glory To God Restaurant (not kidding).   I got to travel to seven countries on four continents during undergrad, and being open for adventure I got to try all kinds of foods (the “western food court” at the Seoul airport served cuttlefish as the dish of the day).  But those were all special event traveling food, not something I would have at home.

I spent the first semester of my senior year of college interning with the excellent organization Fair Fund in Washington, DC, and being an “exchange student” at Georgetown University.  It was a great experience.  I learned that I NEVER want to live on the east coast (friends laughed at me when I said the city was making me claustrophobic), I met great friends that I still talk to, and greatly expanded my horizons.  The people who I worked with at Fair Fund were much more cosmopolitan than little Texas me and were all about going to different kinds of restaurants for lunch.  They introduced me to Ethiopian food, generic African places (there were a lot around us), and the incomparable Felafel and Fries.

The girl I worked with said that it was a bit of a walk (we were about a 10 min walk from the Dupont Circle station), but there was this great place in Adams Morgan for felafel.  It was a nice day, so I said let’s go for it.  And I had no idea what felafel was, so of course I had to try.  When you walk up you do not expect to see an eatery there.  It’s in a fairly residential area, and there is just a little sign in the little patch of grass that says in plain black letters “Felafel and Fries.”  There is room for maybe 15 people if you squeeze inside.  There is like a cafeteria line at the back.  If you order a felafel sandwich in a pita you get to choose what fillings you want to add.  They deep fry the felafel and the fries, take them out hot, put the little balls of felafel in your pita, and then smash them flat.  Then you get to add what you like.  The creamy dill sauce was highly recommended, so I did that along with some cucumbers, tomatoes, and some kind of spicy sauce.

It was heaven.  Crunchy, creamy, warm and cool, portable, and delicious. I had never had Mediterranean food before.  Well, of course I had the kabobs that are available all over the place in DC, but not real med food.  It was a revelation.  The combinations were so fresh and healthy and refreshing in the hot DC climate.  And I was hooked on the dill sauce.  I could not figure out what exactly was in it, just that I loved it.

I tried to figure out what was in the sauce on and off for years.  I always got close, but never there.  Now, almost 5 years later, I have figured it out!  The key is plain Greek yogurt (or just plain normal yogurt instead) and mint.  The mint came as a final blinding “DUH!” when I saw it in a recipe for a variation of this used with Indian food.

The recipe for the felafel comes from the Moosewood Cookbook.  I just got this book a few weeks ago and it is already well stained and water damaged.  That is how you know it is a good cookbook. It has great vegetarian ideas, and this recipe can’t be beat.  I have tried the box of felafel mix you can get in the store, and other variations, but they were not even close to good.  This is finally it–the felafel recipe of all recipes.

If you have been reading this still not knowing what felafel is, I recommend that you google image it.  It is a little fried (lightly fried in this version) patty made with chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and spices.  I highly recommend trying this.  This recipe is as good as I have had in restauraunts.  It makes a big batch, so you can save some, or freeze it, to have ready to go later.  I have been making little batches every few days when the mood strikes.

Felafel is great as a sandwich with fresh veggies and this sauce in a pita.  You can also add some spicy peppers or hot sauce if you like.  But I came up with a great appetizer variation.  It is nice enough to be used for a dinner party.  In the instructions you will see that it calls for a tablespoon dropped into the oil.  That makes a pretty big patty.  To make an appetizer just put in a small drop and spread out–so that it is bite sized.  Once you are done frying it let it cool a bit (so that you can handle it and have it as finger food).  Then top with a dollup of the sauce and a halved slice of cucumber.  Light, cruchy, creamy, and refreshing, it is a great little finger food.

To make it better, this is really easy to make with a food processor.  It stores for over a week in the fridge and only gets better as it sits.

Felafel with Cucumber Dill Sauce

Ingredients

Felafel:

  • 4 C cooked chick peas, or 2-15 oz cans.
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 C minced onion (about 1 small onion), or 6 scallions
  • 1/2 C packed fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 c water
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • a few dashes of cayenne
  • 1/3 C flour
  • oil for frying
  • To serve: sliced cucumbers and tomatoes, lettuce, pita bread, peppers, anything you like.

Sauce:

  • 1 C plain Greek yogurt (or not Greek plain yogurt is fine too–the only difference is texture.  Use Greek for a thicker sauce).
  • 1/2 c minced cucumber.  Don’t mince it too much, you want it to still have a little crunchy in it.
  • 3/4 Tbsp chopped fresh dill (fresh is important in this one)
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tsp lemon  juice

Directions

  1. Mix everything up together for the sauce in a bowl that you can cover (I just use a tupperware).  Let it sit in the fridge while you do the rest.  It will seem like a lot of dill at first, but it mellows out.  It is even better to make the sauce the day before.
  2. In a food processor blend together the onion/scallion, garlic, and parsley.  These things need to be minced.  But since they become a paste later you might as well mince them all together in the food processor.
  3. Add in one of the cans of chick peas.  Process until chopped down a bit.  Add in the other can and pulse a few times.  Then add in the cumin, turmeric, salt, water, lemon juice and cayenne.  Blend in the processor until it forms close to a paste.  Add in the flour and keep going until it is a smooth paste.
  4. You can store the batter at this point if you like in the fridge.
  5. In a large heavy skillet heat about 3 Tbsp vegetable or other high-smoke point oil (read: not olive oil, it burns too easily).  It needs to be REALLY hot for this to work without deep frying them (I found that out the hard way).  A bread crumb should instantly sizzle when you drop it in, and it should look shimmery on top when seen from an angle.  You will probably need to refresh the oil as you go along (depending on how many batches you do), so keep the bottle close.
  6. Drop a tablespoon of batter into the oil and press down with the back of the spoon to flatten slightly into a patty or a small pancake.  Repeat as many times as you like.
  7. Saute for about 5 min on each side until golden brown.
  8. Take out with a slotted spoon/spatula and let drain on a plate covered with a paper towel.  If necessary keep them in the oven at 300 until served.
  9. If having in a sandwich, cut a pita in half and put in 2 patties per side.  Stuff with whatever you like and enjoy!
Posted in Beans/Legumes, Dinner, Lunch, Sauces/Dressings, Sides, Simple and Quick, Snack, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cooking with a Schlub: Pasta Bake

In my continuing aim to teach Ben how to do some simple and healthy cooking (beyond chicken pesto pasta and Mac n Cheese) I decided to show him how to make a super simple pasta bake that is full of veggies and good things (meaning: cheese).  Some day I will want Ben to cook and to give myself a break, and this recipe doesn’t require much out of the ordinary.  Usually Ben would write this, but he has been very busy and I wanted to get it up, so here it is.

I first made this recipe for my neighbor after she had bunion surgery.  She couldn’t get off of the couch, and her son doesn’t know how to cook a thing.  So taking pity on her, her son, and he granddaughter, I tossed something together.  I didn’t want it to be the typical lasagne, but I know that some people are picky. So it still needed to be something mainstream.  In the end I decided on this.  Not quite a lasagne, but cheesy and good.

Since I included broccoli in my recipe, today’s educational section is going to be about broccoli.  It is a food that is native to Europe, probably in Italy.  It was treasured by the Romans around 2000 years ago (around the time of Jesus).  The name is the plural of broccolo, which is Italian for “flowering head of cabbage.”  As I discovered when I went to plant broccoli, it is actually in the brassicus family along with cabbage.  Unlike the cabbage, though, we don’t eat the leaves.  Instead, the edible portion is the flower head of the plant.  Each of those little round ends is actually an unblossomed flower.  We harvest them from the center of the plant.  You can make many harvests over the season, new flower heads will come back.  The plants actually grow quite large, my gardening book said to give them two square feet to branch out.  For such a ubiquitous vegetable, I was very surprised to find that it was not common in the US until the 1920s, when Italian immigrants successfully introduced it to the country.

Broccoli has also been found to have many health benefits, like all vegetables.  In particular it provides sulphoraphane, a cancer fighting nutrient.  In order to retain this nutrient, though, you should not boil the broccoli.  After only five minutes it looses up to 1/3rd of it’s value.  Instead you should steam or stir fry, this does not affect the nutritional value.  That, and who thinks it’s a good idea to boil broccoli?  Those people are the reason children don’t like to eat their veggies.  Broccoli also provides a substantial amount of vitamin C (sick and tired of oranges?) as well as dietary fiber.  Here is something I didn’t know about broccoli or nutrition: it is an excellent source of indole-3-carbinol which helps DNA and cells repair themselves and helps block the formation of cancer cells.

Easy Pasta Bake

Ingredients:

  1. 1 pound of small pasta.  Anything will do as long as it isn’t the long spagetti like kind.  I like bow ties or spirals.
  2. 1 jar of pasta sauce, your choice.  I recommend a good spaghetti sauce like Prego or Ragu.  Otherwise you’re going to have to add a lot of seasonings that I don’t include here.  I like sauce, so sometimes I use 1.5 jars.
  3. 1 pound hamburger, browned with garlic and onion powder.
  4. Veggies of your choice.  I took a bag of mixed veggies from the freezer and got it mostly done in the microwave.  I recommend broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, peas, and/or onions.  In every pasta dish I put in spinach.  You can’t taste it and it adds so much nutrition and color.  Just chop it up and toss it in.
  5. 1 large container low fat ricotta cheese.
  6. 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (or more, to your liking).
  7. 1 egg
  8. 1 tsp oregano (fresh is best for all of these, but dried is fine)
  9. 1 tsp basil
  10. 1 tsp parsley
  11. 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional–these are the things you put on pizza.  I think they give the dish a fantastic little kick that isn’t so much that it’s spicy, but it certainly isn’t bland).

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 (350 at lower elevations).
  2. Cook your pasta in a large pot, and brown your meat in a pan.
  3. Once the pasta is done drain it.  Put it back into the pot and mix in the spaghetti sauce, meat, and veggies.
  4. In a med bowl mix together the ricotta, 1 cup of the mozzarella, the egg and the seasonings.  (The egg helps hold the low fat ricotta together).
  5. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.  Put half of the pasta mix on the bottom.  Then put all of the ricotta mixture on top of that.  I find that it is very easy and fun to press it in with your hands rather than a spoon.  Then put the other half of the pasta mix on top.  Top it off with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
  6. Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes–or until it is bubbling on the side and the cheese is nice and brown.
  7. Enjoy!
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