Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Burger Imposter

Recipe: Dana's "Totally OK" Veggie Burgers

I have an extreme hatred (too strong?) for meat-free products masquerading around as meat dishes. For instance, Upton's Natural's, a Chicago-based company, has made a small fortune packaging things called "Ground Beef-Style Seitan" and taco salads and buffalo chik'n wraps sold with a dapper mustachioed man on the packaging encouraging all the hipster vegans out there to purchase it.... (I used a runon sentance to highlight the extend of my anger.) Perhaps part of my anger is directed at the fact that many of these prodcuts contain soy, which I cannot digest without reacting like that one scene in Bridesmaids--you know the one I'm talking about. (Although a closer look at Upton's products suggests that their products contain hardly any soy, while other brands definitely do.)

Another concern is the hipster doofuses, a term used by my mother and coined by Seinfeld, that purchase the products, as I do not want to be associated with that kind of person. The new hipster is the antihipster after all.

And lastly, if you're a vegetarian you should eat more vegetables not tofu or wheat gluten that's pretending to be something you gave up. Vegetarians should celebrate vegetables, not mourn their losses. Plus most of that food is so proccessed, you hardly recognize where it came from. Take a look at the ingredient list on your soy tacquito or buffalo chik'n wrap and see if you can find all the ingredients in your cupboard. If you can't make it yourself (or with a trained cook in your kitchen) I fundamentally disagree with eating it.

That said, I'm not trying to knock Upton's, they do a pretty good job with their products, and their ingredient list is short and free of perservatives. There are a lot of companys that don't do this kind of cooking well, frozen chik'n cubes and soy mayonaise does not a chicken salad make, and it can ruin the eating experience for the consumer.

On the other hand, the veggie burger is perhaps the one exception to my no meat substitute rule. The veggie burger is, afterall, a staple of vegetarian cooking. Whole Foods makes a couple great ones, that are made from beans and grains, and they can actually be a filling and healthy meal. Plus, beans and grains aren't really meat subsitutes so I can be sure that they are soy-free.

I still perfer to make them myself though. This recipe, while it has a long ingredient list, is actually pretty tasty. I still want to play with the texture (less on the mush, more on the crunch), but the flavors are there. Maybe it isn't the perfect subsitute for that juicy, chargrilled, piece of hamburger that you could be eating, but for a veggie burger it ain't bad.

Dana's "Totally OK" Veggie Burger

1 cup barley
4 cups veg stock
1 cup kidney beans, dried
1 red pepper, small diced
1/2 red onion, small diced
2 carrots, peeled and small diced
1/2 cup shittake mushrooms, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup almond flour toasted
2 TBS hot sauce
1 TBS Worchestshire
1 TBS Smoked Paprika
1 TBS dried Oregano
Salt and Pepper To taste

1. Heat a sauce pot over high heat. Add barley and toast until fragrant, about 2 minutes, stirring the barley around constantly. Add vegetable stock and reduce heat. Cook until barley is tender and most of the stock has been absorbed.
2. Place kidney beans in a pot and add water until the water is 2 inches above the beans. Cook over medium heat until beans are extremely tender, about one hour.
3. Saute onions, peppers, carrots, and garlic in a small pan with a little bit of oil over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Heat same pan with some oil and cook mushrooms over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated out. Add to carrots, peppers, and onions.
5. Once beans and barely have finished cooking place in a food processor and blend until smooth. Place in a big bowl and mix with cooked veggies and seasoning. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Preheat oven to 400. Parchment and oil a baking pan. Form burgers into 1/3 pound 3 inches in diameter patties. You should make about 6. If you have a mold use that.
7. Bake in oven for 20 minutes. Remove and enjoy with a toasted bun, some pickles, ketchup, mustard, and a beer.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gluten-Free Fad or Treatment?

Recipe: Lemon Financiers with Blackberry Jam

Sometimes I participate on a website called Food52. It's a really great resource for home cooks, food bloggers, and anyone looking for great recipes. They also have weekly contests where users can submit recipes that fall under certain themes or use certain ingredients. For instance last week's recipe was "Your Best Street Food."

This week, however, users were asked to submit their best gluten-free recipe. Gluten-free foods are fine for someone who has celiac disease or a gluten-intolerance, but there are many people (especially those who shop at my workplace), who eat gluten-free foods as part of some fad diet, confusing gluten with carbohydrates or believing that gluten-free is healthier somehow. Those are the people that give a gluten-free diet a bad name. The overprotective parent types. The yo-yo dieters. The uninformed health nuts.

I have no reason to eat gluten-free. But I have friends who cannot digest it. Who cannot eat cookies, or beer, or delicious yeasty breads without feeling ill. So as a cook, I can provide them delicious foods that do not contain anything that's going to make them sick. Not food that taste like cardboard. Or food that looks like cardboard for that matter.

I submitted a recipe for financiers to the contest. Financiers are delicious little almond teacakes, traditionally a rectangle shape, meant to look like little bars of gold. They are perfect snacks for tea parties or other dainty eating, but they also make great after work (or school) treats. This recipe is particularly light, moist, chewy and flavorful a perfect treat to make for your gluten-free friends.

Lemon Financiers with Blackberry Jam

1/3 cup rice flour
1/3 cup almond flour
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar
3 egg whites
4 ounces butter, cut into cubes
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon

1. Preheat oven to 340.
2. Sift together rice flour, almond flour, and confectioner's sugar. Place into a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Froth egg whites with a whisk and place in the center of the well.
3. Heat a saute pan over high heat. Add butter and turn into beurre noisette. Allow the butter to melt and come to a boil. Constantly move the pan around until the milk solids have turned a golden brown color. Remove from heat and cool slightly before adding to the center of the well. Add vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk dough together to form a smooth paste.
4. Butter a rectangular or boat shaped tartlet mold (I used a round one, so whatever you have around the house is fine. Place on a baking sheet. Fill tart molds about 3/4 of the way full, using a portion scoop or a tablespoon.
5. Place in oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the paste has set. Remove from mold and let cool on a wire rack.
6. Once financiers have cooled, place jam (recipe to follow) in a piping bag using the smallest tip. Place tip into bottom of financier and pipe a small amount of jam into each cake, about 1/2 teaspoon. Garnish cakes with more confectioner's sugar. Cakes are best eaten the day of.

For the Jam:
1 pt. blackberries
Zest and juice of one lemon
3 thyme sprigs
1/4 cup honey

1. Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until the blackberries have softened and the juice has thickened.
2. Remove thyme sprigs and place the jam in a food processor or blend with an immersion blender until smooth.
3. Place in an uncovered bowl until ready to use.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Grow Your Food

Recipe: Farmer's Market Quiche

Farmer's Market Quiche
I planted my first garden a few weeks ago. Well technically not my first garden. I had an herb garden last summer, which did pretty well considering my thumb's serious lack of green. But that little garden was composed of planters and starter plants so I didn't have to think so hard about it. This year I actually dug soil out of the ground and threw some seeds in there and hoped for the best. Thank god it was such a cold spring, because I started digging a little late. Anyways, the seeds have been in gestation for a few weeks now and I can actually watch the progress. My carrots are doing the best but I have yet to see progress from my beets or the spring mix.

Fresh picked vegetables are my ultimate choice for eating. Lettuce will never taste as tender, carrots will never be as sweet. The longer the veggie is out of the ground worse the taste gets. Not that store bought vegetables are bad, but they are much much better fresh. I'm sure my carrots will turn out fine, but for the rest of my diet I will turn to the professionals. Which means, this summer I will be a frequent shopper at the farmer's market.

Purple and green asparagus and green garlic
I especially love the Green City Market because of the variety and quality of the produce and the great artisan products for sale. That is not the say that the other markets around town don't have the same stuff, but the first time I saw a purple carrot or radish with a tie-dye design was at the Green City Market. It's so much fun to wander around and look at all the familiar and rare produce. I get more inspiration from the veggies at the farmer's market than I do anywhere else. It refreshes my point of view and I get a jolt of creativity any time I shop there.

The last time I went I picked up some beautiful and tender purple asparagus, fresh and crinkly spinach, and fragrant green garlic. I had no idea what I was going to make, until I brought it home and examined my bags. In the end I decided to make a quiche. It seemed like the perfect way to join the three ingredients in a way that allows their flavor to shine.

Farmer's Market Quiche

For the crust:
6 oz flour
3/4 tsp salt
3 oz chilled butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg
2 tsp water

1. Preheat oven to 350. Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl. Add butter and rub into the flour using your fingertips. Mix together until the flour looks like breadcrumbs. Make a well in the center.
2. Whisk eggs and water together. Pour in the middle of the flour mixture. Mix together to form a soft dough, working from the inside of the well outward.
3. After the dough has just come together place on a floured surface and lightly kneed the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes before using.

Slicing up green garlic
For the filling:
4 (or about 2 cups) eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
4 stalks asparagus, green or purple or both, sliced into 1" pieces and blanched
Good handful of spinach
1 stalk green garlic, minced
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1. Roll out dough to 1/4" thickness. Place in a greased pie pan (about 9" in diameter). Trim off extra dough from edge. Crimp edge of dough and place in oven. Par cook for about 10 minutes.
2.  Turn oven down to 300. Whisk eggs, cream, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper together until fully mixed. You can use a blender for this if you choose. Lightly saute green garlic in olive oil in a small pan. Arrange asparagus, spinach, garlic and cheese in par-cooked dough. Pour quiche mixture over the vegetable mixture.
3. Place quiche in oven and cook until eggs have set, about 30 minutes. To test place a small skewer or toothpick in the center of the quiche. If it comes out clean, the quiche is done. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.