CHICKPEA BURGERS: VEGAN AND DELICIOUS

No, I am not turning vegan. How could I? Not only I am quite fond of animal protein in my diet, but I am too passionate about patisserie and once you get dairy and eggs out of that world, things get a bit dicey. But as it seems to be the case for many people, we are reducing the amount of meat we consume – particularly red meat – and incorporating some vegetarian-friendly meals in our routine. These veggie burgers are quite amazing. The tahini sauce is based on yogurt, so there goes the vegan component out the window. Such is life.

CHICKPEA BURGERS WITH TAHINI SAUCE
(adapted from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way)

for the veggie patties:
1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed thoroughly
1 celery rib, roughly chopped
½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp za’tar
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chickpea flour (or substitute all-purpose flour)

for the sauce:
1/2 cup Greek-style plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt to taste
Sriracha sauce to taste  

Cover the chickpeas by 4 inches of water in a bowl and let sit for 24 hours. Drain thoroughly.

Heat  the oven to 400°F.  Combine the chickpeas, celery, parsley, lemon zest and juice, cumin, za’tar, baking soda, salt, and black pepper in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely combined. If the mixture is struggling to come together, add a bit of water, but no more than 2 tablespoons.  If it seems a bit too lose (it was the case for me), add the chickpea or regular flour.

Place the patties on a liberally oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping them once halfway through, until golden and firm.

Combine all the ingredients for the tahini sauce in a small bowl, serve with the chickpea burgers, with the toppings of your choice. 

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

 

Comments: This was adapted from a great book by Lukas Volger, with all kinds of veggie burgers you might dream of, unusual combinations of flavors, I had a hard time deciding which one to cook first. I can tell you the next might be Butternut Squash, Black Bean and Chestnuts Burger… how about that? 

These Chickpea version had me worried all the way through serving time, and I even told the husband that we could be facing a Plan B, aka as Going Out for Dinner. I thought they were going to crumble in the oven, they seemed too delicate and not quite holding together. But the secret for all these burgers that incorporate grains and mashed veggies is to place them over a baking sheet well coated with oil, and let the oven do its magic. It forms a crust that gets things going in the right direction. Flip it once, gently, and that’s it.

I had to include the above picture because once I realized what I was doing, I laughed at myself. The drizzle of tahini sauce? I used a mini-piping bag, designed for ganache or tempered chocolate or Royal icing drizzles. Yeap. I might be just a tad obsessed.  You can use a fork, a spoon… or follow my twisted path. I won’t judge.

Please notice that the chickpeas are incorporated in the patties raw, just soaked in water for 24 hours. According to Lukas, that’s the best way to use them in veggie burgers, otherwise they will crumble as you try to cook them.  Something to consider if you try to design your own version.

The tahini sauce. Most recipes, in my opinion, add way too much tahini, to the point that the taste seems to glue to the back of the tongue and sit there until next day.  I prefer to have a hint of tahini, a bit more lemon, and the more pleasant saucy texture of a higher proportion of yogurt. You do what feels right for you, it’s your kitchen…

Leftovers were still pretty good next day, after a very quick warming up in the microwave. They go well with Kaiser rolls. I thought about including the rolls in this post, but I need to improve my shaping skills. If you like to see the recipe I used (everything was excellent, except my work shaping them), pay Karen a visit with a click here.

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LEMONY SHREDDED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH ALMONDS

Definitely not the most popular veggie around, but even if you are a self-professed BS hater (cannot believe what I just did here), I suspect you will enjoy this recipe. Sometimes all it takes is cutting a veggie in a different way and a new horizon opens up. It is just what happens when you finely shred these babies. You can use a knife, but the food processor will be faster and give slices more homogeneous in thickness. Once you are done prepping the sprouts, the whole thing comes together in less than 10 minutes. Perfect side dish for a busy work day.

LEMONY SAUTEED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH ALMONDS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

(This is a heart-healthy recipe, with 1.5 g saturated fat per serving)

12 oz Brussels sprouts
2 celery ribs, finely diced
1/3 cup almonds
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
4 slices of preserved lemons, diced (optional, see comments)
fresh lemon juice to taste

Shred the sprouts in a food processor to 1/8 inch thick. Reserve.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet, add the celery, season with salt and pepper, saute until fragrant. Add the almonds and cook them until they just start to get some color.

Increase the heat to high, add the shredded Brussels sprouts, and saute them moving them around a  bit.  When they start to get a bit softer, add the preserved lemons, close the pan with a lid, and let it all cook undisturbed for 2 minutes.

Open the skillet, check if the sprouts are cooked to your liking. If they seem tough, add a bit of  lemon juice, close the pan again and cook a bit longer. If they are al dente, squirt a little lemon juice, adjust seasoning and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Amounts are all pretty flexible, I shredded enough sprouts to have what seemed enough for our dinner and leftovers for my lunch next day. It was close, let’s say that my lunch turned out a bit light.  A fried egg was needed to the rescue.  Preserved lemons will add a very intense citric flavor but don’t worry if you don’t have any around, just add  good dose of lemon (or even lime) zest, and it should be equally tasty.

That same evening I was roasting butternut squash as another side dish for grilled pork tenderloin, and decided to serve both veggies together.  Loved the color contrast and they got along great as far as taste is concerned. I admit I almost did not need the meat. But then I did.

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ASIAN-STYLE EGGPLANT “MEATBALLS”

Disclaimer: these are not meatballs, they are actually vegetarian. But it’s hard to avoid the association. Eggplant Balls? Eggplant Morsels? Nah, neither one works for me. Plus, “meatballs” is  the way Katie Lee referred to them in the FoodTV show The Kitchen, so I can always lay blame on her. Having said that, these are pretty awesome. A bit more work than you might expect, but worth it. What makes them a bit more involved is the fact that you must (according to Katie) process each component separately.  Other than that, a very straightforward method, for a tasty alternative to meatballs.

ASIAN-STYLE EGGPLANT MEATBALLS
(slightly modified from Katie Lee)

6 cups small cubed eggplant, peel left on (from 1 large eggplant)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 large egg, lightly whisked

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place eggplant in a large mixing bowl and slowly drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir and drizzle in an additional tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread on a prepared baking sheet. Combine mushrooms and remaining teaspoon oil and spread on remaining baking sheet.

Bake eggplant and mushrooms 10 minutes, then stir and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees F. Pulse eggplant a few times in a food processor until coarse in texture. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Pulse mushrooms until coarse and add to the same bowl. Pulse cashews until coarse and transfer to bowl.  Add panko, ginger, basil, egg, salt and pepper to the mixture and stir to combine.

Use a small ice cream scoop or yours hands to scoop eggplant mixture into 12 balls and arrange on reserved lined baking sheet. Bake until crispy and browned, about 20 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was our dinner on a Monday, so I prepared everything up to the final roasting on the day before. It would be too hard to make it after work, but if you can spread the preparation in two days, it is perfect. Less than 30 minutes and a nice dinner is ready for you. I took them into a more Italian territory by warming up some tomato sauce and serving with them. These are quite delicate, so don’t try to simmer them covered in the sauce, they might fall apart.  Mine were probably more fragile even, because since my eggplant was a bit small, I included one zucchini in the mixture.  Zucchini has quite a bit more moisture, and I should have adjusted the amount of panko to account for that.  I am giving you the original recipe, and advise you to stick with eggplant and mushrooms only.

Making them the day before also helps them retain the shape during baking, but you could stick them in the fridge for an hour or so and proceed with roasting.  It is nice to reduce the amount of meat we consume, so these are quite likely going into our regular rotation. They could work well also as appetizers, making them smaller and serving with a dipping sauce, perhaps a tahini-yogurt to keep with the Asian flavor, if so desired.  Two thumbs up from both of us, omnivores at heart…

 

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FRESH TAKE ON FARRO WITH ROASTED VEGGIES

Grains and roasted veggies are a classic combination, one that I like a lot and shows up at our table on a regular basis. But lately I’ve incorporated a small extra step into it, and it is a game changer.  Interesting expression, by the way. From my “foreign perspective”, it is not necessarily a good thing.  After all, if the game is going well, a game changer would ruin it.  But the term, adopted by the Oxford dictionary very recently (2012), always has a positive connotation. Which makes it perfect to describe the addition of fresh veggies right before serving this dish. Game-changing. I promise.

FARRO WITH ROASTED VEGGIES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup farro
5 carrots, peeled and cut in sticks
bunch of asparagus
drizzle of olive oil
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper to taste
yellow grape tomatoes, cut in half
fresh lemon juice to taste

Fill a large pot with salted water and bring to a boil.  Add the farro and cook (as if cooking pasta) until al dente. Cooking time will depend on many factors, start checking at 25 minutes, it might take 40 minutes or a tad longer. When cooked to your liking, drain and reserve.

Coat the carrots with a bit of olive oil, season with paprika, salt and pepper. Roast uncovered in a 420F oven for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the asparagus. Lay they on a microwave-safe dish, season very lightly with salt and sprinkle with lemon juice. Add a paper towel on top to cover them lightly. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes. Reserve.

When the carrots are almost done roasting, add the asparagus and gently mix them. If necessary, add a touch more of olive oil. Roast the two veggies together for a final 5 minutes. Immediately add the fresh tomatoes, toss all veggies together, and place in a serving dish together with the farro. Adjust seasoning and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: First, let me say that cooking farro as if it’s pasta (freely swimming in a huge pool of water), is another game changer. The problem with farro is that if you go by a specific ratio of water to grain, sometimes you hit the jackpot (that is the grain is perfectly cooked when the water is absorbed), but sometimes it is either too hard or mushy.  This method takes all the guessing out of it, you cook, you test it as the cooking goes along, and when it reaches the level you like, it’s over. Drain it, and incorporate in any recipe you like.

As to the veggies, I realize this is a little more involved than roasting a bunch of them together and calling it a day. The thing is, I am not too fond of the woody texture that the asparagus gets when simply roasted. With braces, the situation gets even worse. So I use my favorite method of preparing them, a very brief encounter with the microwave, and then finalizing in the oven. It gets the best of both worlds.

Finally, the fresh component. The real game-changing bit. Amazing what that does to a roasted veggie concoction. It brightens up the flavors, and makes the whole thing taste quite a bit lighter. You can use tomatoes of any color, diced cucumber, radishes, kalamata olives, and guess what? Grapes! Seedless grapes, cut in half. You will be surprised how well they pair with roasted veggies. I intend to try strawberries next. Why not, right? With a little rose harissa just to take it truly over the top…

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LENTILS AND RADICCHIO? YES, PLEASE!

I bet many of my readers will consider clicking away from the blog right now, because… lentils? Not the most popular item in the pantry. Radicchio? Not the veggie that jumps into the grocery cart of most shoppers. Both together? Thanks, but no thanks. Can I ask you to trust me on this? Actually it’s not even me you should trust, but someone with a lot more gastronomic fame: Melissa Clark. And credit should actually go to my beloved husband who not only found the recipe but made it for our dinner. So basically I am  giving to charity from other people’s wallets. But hey, I am the resident blogger. So there!

LENTIL SOUP WITH RADICCHIO SLAW
(adapted from Melissa Clark)

for topping:
half a radicchio head, thinly sliced
drizzle of olive oil
lemon juice to taste
1 avocado, diced very small
salt and pepper to taste
for soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 cup green lentils
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of 1 lemon, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Make topping and reserve in fridge by mixing all ingredients together in a small bowl.

Make the soup: In a large pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot and shimmering. Add onion and garlic, and sauté until golden, about 4 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, black pepper and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

Add broth, 2 cups water, lentils and carrot. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.  Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée half the soup then add it back to pot.  

Stir in lemon juice and cilantro. Serve soup and add a generous amount of radicchio slaw on top.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This soup was excellent served with a mixed olive sourdough (recipe published not too long ago in the blog, click here if you’ve missed it). I find it a bit hard to decide if the topping made the soup or if it would shine as brightly on its own. A perfect combination. We had leftover radicchio slaw, and found ourselves munching on small amounts once our bowls of soup were appropriately empty. Next day we improvised a full salad with the other half of the radicchio head, adding a bunch of goodies we had in the fridge.

We mixed radicchio, tomatoes, olives, and avocados together. Dressing was kept simple again, olive oil and lemon juice, right before serving we added a tiny touch of white balsamic vinegar. OMG this was good. Later on we decided that capers would have been perfect, and of course some feta cheese or other sharp cheese of your choice.


Simple dinner… Red snapper, a little rice and this tasty salad… 

The secret with radicchio is to allow it to sit with the dressing for a little while, or warm it up very very briefly to soften the leaves. But that is another method that I intend to share in the near future. The great thing about this preparation is that leftovers keep very well in the fridge for 24 hours. My lunch next day was this salad with a fried egg, sunny side up. I was a happy camper.

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RAINBOW CARROTS WITH ROSE HARISSA

Giving credit where credit is due, I saw this recipe over at Eats Well with Others, and made it that same evening. I did not have pomegranate seeds at the time, so I used diced mango as a sweet component. We loved it so much I made it again a few days later, this time pomegranate seeds were involved, and I can tell they are a must here. Because I used rainbow carrots, there was not that much contrast of color, but their tiny bursts of sharpness and fresh flavor contribute a lot to the sweetness of the carrots. This will certainly be a regular appearance in our meals, at least for as long as I can get my hands on the amazing ingredient that is rose harissa. Thank you, Joanne!

RAINBOW CARROTS WITH ROSE HARISSA
(inspired by Eats Well with Others)

1 pound carrots of several colors
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp rose harissa
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
lemon juice to taste
½ cup pomegranate seeds
fresh cilantro to decorate (optional)

Heat oven to 450F.
.
Peel the carrots and cut into batons. In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, harissa, cumin, pomegranate molasses, and salt.  Add the carrots to the bowl and toss well to combine. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, or until starting to caramelize and become tender.

Remove from the oven, add some lemon juice and  sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Decorate with cilantro leaves, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I am absolutely in love with this dish. I had to wait a long time to get rose harissa, since it was shipped all the way from England, so I get very protective of my bottle and always wonder if I should really use it in this or that preparation. Well, this one is definitely worth getting that couple of tablespoons from My Precioussssss.  My love for this sauce should be quite clear from the composite photo above… It is not really hot, it’s intense and complex, with a very subtle floral component from the rose. The more I use it, the more I love it. Which means soon it might be time to cave and place another order for it. Either that or emigrate to UK.

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GREEN BEANS AND CARROTS WITH SPICY ALMONDS

Green beans with almonds is such a simple recipe. A bit like avocado toast: grab bread, toast it, smash avocado on it, top with whatever you like, give it a fancy name and be done with it. Yet, here I am to share an almost non-recipe with you. It turns out that this was unexpectedly delicious. And I will be making it again and again. That makes it blog-worthy in my book. So there!

GREEN BEANS AND CARROTS WITH SPICY ALMONDS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground za’tar
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
a touch of olive oil butter
⅔ cup slivered almonds (or amount to taste)
green beans, cut into 1½-inch lengths
carrots, sliced thin
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt

To make the almonds: In a small bowl, combine the sugar, chili powder, za’tar, salt, and cayenne. Heat the olive oil in a small nonstick skillet. Add the almonds and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle them with the sugar-spice mixture and stir almost constantly until the spices are fragrant, do not let it burn. Move them to a plate and reserve at room temperature.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. You have two options: add the green beans and carrots and cook both together until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Or if you prefer the carrots a bit more tender, add them first, cook them for about 3 minutes, then add the green beans for additional 4 minutes of cooking. Drain both veggies well, lay over paper towels or a kitchen towel to remove all excess water.

Finish the preparation: Add the olive oil to the a non-stick skillet and heat over medium-heat. Add the green beans and carrots and toss well. Sautee until you get some color on some of the green beans and carrots, the less you move them around the more they will brown. Season with salt, add the almond mixture, toss just a couple of times to spread them around the veggies. Transfer to a serving dish.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Two game changers here, the inclusion of carrots and the sweet-and-spicy mix. We have green beans with almonds very often, but this preparation feels like a totally different recipe, with the carrots bringing a nice contrast of color, and the spice mixture giving just the right amount of naughtiness to the almonds. Simple, no doubt, but so delicious. Cumin could be a nice addition, although I do feel that it tends to overpower things a bit. You should come up with your own version of spices just keep the sugar and use your imagination. Keep in mind that nothing brightens up this type of dish more than a little squirt of lemon juice in the end, right before serving. I totally forgot about it.

Leftovers were great next day, but probably a lot better if someone had not picked all the almonds as a post-dinner snack. Confession: I did it. They were that tasty. I am sorry. Kind of.

Dinner is served!  Store-bought rotisserie chicken, a bit of rice and this tasty side dish.
Easy to bring to the table even after traveling the whole day.

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