Friday, January 30, 2009

Subscription anxiety and bean burgers

I should buy Gourmet Magazine more often. If it wasn’t for the cheque addressed to the New Yorker (eep!) that I just dropped in the mail, I would be getting a subscription to Gourmet, definitely. You can't have everything, they say.

But, as a treat, I bought a copy this weekend and spent an entire evening folding the corners of pages that had especially nice recipes. That was Saturday. Today is Thursday, and I am making my third recipe from the February issue already. And it’s still January.

First, there was Paprika roast chicken with sweet onion, on Sunday night. It was amazing. Then, on Monday, there were the Black-bean burgers, which were ridiculously satisfying in that pasty beanie sort of way. I love these burgers, which is why I’m sharing the recipe with you, below. And finally, tonight, in the oven at this very moment, are Gourmet’s Buttermilk fantails, a fancy looking dinner roll. They may or may not work out. But the way things are smelling in this apartment, I think they’re working out.

Black-bean burgers
adapted from Gourmet Magazine (by Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez), February 2009 issue

2 (14-oz) cans of black beans
3 tbsp mayonnaise
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs or crushed crackers
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dry cayenne
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper
3 tbsp frying oil ( I used olive)

4 hamburger buns

guacamole, salsa and sour cream as garnish

Rinse and drain 1 can of beans. Purée in a blender or food processor, along with mayonnaise, bread crumbs, cumin, oregano, cayenne and salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and mix cilantro and second can of whole beans (rinsed and drained). Form into patties and cook at medium-high heat in an oiled frying pan, on both sides until crispy-brown on the outside.

Serve on hamburger buns. I made a coarse, tomatoey guacamole to heap on top of the patty.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Process this

A few months ago, when I interviewed my favorite food blogger, Molly Wizenberg, for a profile article, there was this one thing I really wanted to know: Did she have any culinary guilty pleasures? Did she, who always writes so wholesomely, enjoy a bowl of Kraft Dinner or some instant noodles once in a while? Does she have a secret love for processed foods? Because certainly do.

Molly wrote me: "Oooh boy. I love peanut butter. I also love Hershey's chocolate syrup (on vanilla ice cream, preferably), gummy candies, and sour gummy candies. When I was a kid, my dad always made macaroni and cheese with Velveeta, and I loved it. I bet I still would today."

I was a relieved, frankly. I don’t have to justify my likes and dislikes. It’s just that for someone who cares about food so much, I have a disproportionate passion for No Name frozen perogies and fried bologna with cheese.

But I know that good food writers aren’t ashamed of their own secret cupboard affaires (Vogue’s Jeffrey Steingarten, for instance, swears by Heinz ketchup on French fries).

At any rate, I suspect everyone, no matter how fancy pants they may be, has a special spot for something completely manufactured, packaged and preserved with ingredients
unpronounceable. Say, something you pour water into and then zap in the microwave. Or hot dog wieners. Or goldfish crackers.

I’m not saying that it’s not junk, because it is. As a whole, processed food is terrible for your gut, terrible for the Earth and probably, at some level, terrible for your soul... But only if you eat too much. Because knowing it’s so awful makes it special. Processed food is like glow bowling. It’s kind of stupid, but really fun on occasion, especially if you’re drunk.

Does that make any sense? I starting writing this last night, over a bowl of Campbell’s tomato soup. It was salty, uniform, and exactly what I needed. Then I went out for a shawarma on Crescent street (which, for the record, is not junk food).

This week

Given the nature of this posting, I can’t possibly include a recipe of my own. Unless you want my recipe for tuna casserole using Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. But if you want that recipe, I’m pretty sure it’s written on the can’s label.

Instead, and for everyone’s benefit, I’m posting a soup recipe on behalf of my friend Red. He makes great soups, and every time I ask him how he makes a soup, his recipe is quick and simple. Next time, instead of instant noodles, I should take a few extra minutes and make Red’s soup.

Red’s zucchini soup

4 zucchinis
4 slices of laughing cow cream cheese
1 clove of garlic
1 vegetable or chicken bouillon cube
Some olive oil

Chop the zucchini into 1 cm discs, keeping the skin. In a large pot, fry them in olive oil, on low heat for 5 minutes, without burning them. Add crushed garlic clove and a cube of bouillon. Pour some water into the pot so it just covers the zucchini slices. Cook on high heat until they’re soft. Add the cheese.
When it dissolves, puree the soup, adding more water if it’s too thick. Serve.

Monday, January 12, 2009

From the top shelf

My obsession with lentils started on Thursday night, when I took a curried apple and lentil salad to a potluck (recipe below). For the next few days, if I wasn’t making lentils, I was thinking about them.

Even today at the journalism department computer lab, I flicked a mashed lentil off my shirt. I’m not sure how it got there, but it likely has something to do with the bacon and lentil dish I ate for lunch. I know. Sorry. "No food in the lab". But I didn’t eat lunch in the lab. It was the lentil that followed me there.

My crush on lentils isn’t forever, but there are more recipes to try before I put them back on the top shelf with my other infrequent legumes and beans. My kitchen spotlight will fade away.

But before it fades, let me say this: Lentils are easy. Spend almost no money. Soak them for almost no time. Pay almost no attention to them while they simmer. Serve. Enjoy.

Apple Lentil Salad
Adapted from "Simply in Season", a collection of recipes from the Mennonite Central Committee.

1 cup of dry lentils, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
3 tart apples, cored and finely cubed
1/4 cup lemon juice or cider vinegar
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
Handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the salt and curry and heat up until just bubbly. Drain the lentils and add them to the pan. Fry briefly, then add the water. Cook until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir once in a while, add water if needed, and drain any excess when the lentils are cooked. When the lentils are just cooled, add all other ingredients.

The salad can be eaten warm or cool, but I prefer it after it's been left in the fridge for a few hours.

This week

I received a copy of Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie—my guide to making you a better cook. He's lovely. He uses phrases like "bash up" for your rosemary, and "Serve! Eat!" for his Super squid linguini recipe. Yes, Super squid. And I think Jamie's just super.