Saturday, February 27, 2016

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

I've been eating a lot of meat lately, especially pork.  It's some kind of a phase, but all that bacon and sausage is hardly good for anyone.  As usual, I'm rebounding hard with borderline vegan dinners.  This one has an egg and a yogurt dressing, so it's only vegetarian.  Still, it came out way better than I was expecting.

What I was expecting was a vaguely Caribbean flair, somewhere between Cuban and Jamaican.  What I ended up making was a bean-based patty that tasted almost exactly like a medium-well burger.  I'll take it!  Like the eggplant in the Garden Meatloaf, the plantain got absorbed and was not the dominant flavor I was expecting.  The raw mix smells heavily of it and had me concerned.

What would have made this more tropical would have been a mango or papaya chutney.  By the time I thought of that, there were a lot of people behind me in the checkout line and I didn't feel like getting back in it over one piece of fruit.

The Allrecipes version that I used for initial research had comments about it falling apart and needing more eggs.  That's when I decided to work from dry instead of canned.  This is much closer to an oven-baked falafel than an all-veggie burger, and really requires the firmness of from-scratch beans.

And the salad is front and center because I finally have large enough lettuces to make a salad whenever I want!  It has been so warm that a couple are starting to bolt (flower), as is my indoor cilantro.  I think I'll take off the chicken wire cage next week.  Everything seems much stronger now.

*2/3 C dry black beans
*2 slices bread of choice
*1/2 yellow onion
1 medium plantain, mostly yellow-ripe
*1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
*3 cloves garlic
1 egg
2 Tb olive oil

1.  Soak beans in water to cover for about 4 hours and set bread slices exposed to air to get slightly stale.  Drain beans and rinse.  Refill saucepan with water to cover beans by 1 inch.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 2 hours, until very tender.  Drain and rinse thoroughly.

2.  In food processor, pulse bread into crumbs.  Set aside in a bowl.  Place peeled and coarsely chopped plantain and onion in food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not puréed.  Add beans, cumin, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic, and egg.  Pulse into a uniform yet slightly chunky mix.  You should still be able to make out some of the beans.  Pour into bowl and fold in with breadcrumbs.  Refrigerate until oven is ready.
3.  Start preheating oven to 375º.  Line a sheet pan with foil and smear olive oil on it.  This will grease the pan and provide a light layer of frying oil.  When oven is hot, get out the bean mix and form into 8 patties about the size of the buns you're using.  Bake for 15 minutes, turn over, and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, to make sure the plantain and egg are cooked.

4.  Serve hot on hamburger buns with whatever you like to put on your burgers.  The dressing in the photo is an avocado-yogurt sauce.

makes 8 patties, 1 or 2 per serving

Difficulty rating  :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mystery Fruit

I learned a little more about taking care of the grafted citrus tree last year.  For one thing, I fed it monthly when it started to flower, then produce.  I also gave it a deep watering once in a while, since it isn't getting much help from above and I cut back drastically on my landscape watering.  As a result, I have more than double the number of oranges as in previous years, and one branch that has not produced in the past five years has three fruits on it.

Here's where the problem lies: all the plastic ID tags on the branches got brittle and fell off years ago.  Papa Smurf took pictures of all seven of them when they first got the tree, so at least I have a general idea of what I might have.  Navel oranges and Meyer lemons are pretty obvious.  The smaller oranges are either Valencias (more probable) or really pale Clementines.  So the question for my mystery fruit is whether it's a misshapen tangelo, the biggest lime in the world, or a very bumpy grapefruit.  I tried scratching the skin to smell the fragrance, but all that did was scar it.  I can't tell what it is.

I'm really hoping for grapefruit.  I've been eating at least one a week since they came back in season, and buying the 4-pound bags when there's a good price.  Citrus keeps quite nicely in the fridge.  If this branch has found its mojo and I can get a few off it each year, I will be very happy.  I don't know what killed the three missing varieties.  I'm just glad this one has come back.

And my lone tomato sprout died in the February heat wave, so I'm trying beets in the front planter.  I'm also starting some basil seeds in seed cups.  Some are for people at work, but I'm also going to keep one or two.  My basil out front is several years old and spends more time flowering than making leaves.  Time to replace it with a less woody plant.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Barley Greek Salad

That damned skunk and his other urban wilderness friends keep digging up the Pond.  My traumatized lettuces and beets are taking longer to grow than I expected, but the peppers out front ripened right on cue.  So I decided to make a kind of hybrid Greek-style salad with barley as a base instead of lettuce.

All this healthy eating has done a number on my digestion.  I can eat junk and not have a reaction, but fresh food gives me reflux.  That's where the barley comes in.  It's supposed to aid digestion.  I saved the water from cooking and made orange barley water (fresh-squeezed orange juice, simple syrup, and the barley water).  It's the best way I can think of eating well and having a calm stomach at the same time.  Barley is also nice as a salad grain because it doesn't clump up and stick together like rice would. You can fluff it with a fork and serve it cold no problem.

Oh, and the war against critters has intensified.  Since the skunk repellent isn't working well enough, I bought chicken wire for a cover.  I think you need a license or something to get barbed wire.  It has to be the beets.  I have never had a garden torn up this badly until I planted beets.  Now that they're not being dug up every other night, the seedlings are growing nicely.

*1/2 C dry barley
1 cucumber
2 roma tomatoes
1/2 small red onion
1 C drained pickled peppers
2 C olive bar favorites
4 oz crumbled feta
1/4 C lemon juice (one lemon)
2 Tb olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1.  In a medium saucepan, bring barley and 2 C water (3 if you're saving the water) to a boil.  Stir briefly, lower to a simmer, and cover.  Simmer for about 45 minutes, until barley is thoroughly cooked. Drain out any unabsorbed water and refrigerate until ready to use.

2.  To make the dressing, whisk together lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper.  Keep in mind that whatever brine or marinade you have from the olive bar will contribute to the flavor, as will some brine from the peppers.  Refrigerate until assembly time.

3.  Peel, seed, and slice the cucumber into easy-to-eat sizes.  Dice tomatoes.  Slice onion thinly and cut the rings in halves or quarters to make them easy to eat.

4.  To assemble the salad, start with a base of the barley.  Top with raw veggies, peppers, and olives.  Drizzle lemon vinaigrette on top and let it soak past the veggies into the barley.  Top with feta and serve.

Difficulty rating  π

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Pickled Peppers

Well, I hardly got a peck off my red pepper bush (which is 2 gallons, by the way), and they weren't completely red, but the narrow Gypsy variety I was growing was a good size for making pickles.

Which reminds me, a little interesting bit of pepper trivia.  All peppers start out green.  The red, orange, or any other color you find have been allowed to ripen; that's why they're sweeter.  Green peppers are definitely edible, just not fully ripe; and that's why they're cheaper.  Picking peppers as soon as they're full size is a time saver to a farmer.  Why spend the extra time waiting for them to turn colors when you can pick them and encourage the plant to produce more?

I got out my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and based this on the Mixed Vegetable Pickles.  It's just a basic 2-day pickling recipe with a pre-soak for saltiness instead of salting a quick brine.  Since these were going on a salad in the next few days, I didn't process the batch.  There's nothing wrong with making a single jar as "refrigerator pickles" if you're not putting up for the year.

2 large bell peppers (don't have to be the same color)
2 C water
2 Tb pickling or kosher salt
3/4 C distilled vinegar
1 Tb sugar
*1 tsp dried mustard seed
1/2 tsp celery seed

1.  On day one, seed the peppers and cut into 1/2" strips.  My peppers were narrow enough to do rounds, but the average store pepper should be done in strips.  In a 1-quart container, stir together water and salt to dissolve.  Place peppers in water, seal, and shake a bit to distribute brine.  Soak in a cool place for 12-18 hours.

2.  On day two, pour out pepper mix into a colander and let it drip out while you prepare the container and vinegar.  First, wash a one-pint container with lid and set aside.

3.  In a small saucepan, heat vinegar, sugar, mustard seed, and celery seed until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a low boil and allow to cook for 2 to 3 minutes, so the seeds can start to hydrate.

4.  Place peppers in the container, then cover with the vinegar.  If there is not enough liquid to cover, add water.  We're not processing this, so the acid ratio and sterilizing of liquid isn't 100% necessary.  Seal container and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.  Keeps up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Makes about 1 pint

Difficulty rating  :)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Might as Well Plant

The neighborhood skunk tore up the Pond pretty badly.  The carrots and most of the lettuces survived, but the jury's still out on my seedling beets.  As long as I was going to the garden store for more beet seeds and skunk repellent, I decided to get my spring planting done.  After all, it was going to be over 80º for a week.  Yes, in February.

First up, I knew I wanted another artichoke.  This may be Artie's last year.  At the most, he has one or two more.  Since it takes an artichoke a full year to establish before it blooms, I planned ahead.  I hope I found a spot large enough for a plant nearly as tall as I am and four feet wide.  We'll find out next year.

I picked the last cherry tomatoes and pulled my miracle plant before it shriveled completely.  I was sad, but Cherry and the beefsteak out front lasted about 18 months each.  That's almost a year longer than they would have made it in most parts of the country.  It is not a good idea to plant another nightshade in the same spot for about a year.  It gives any diseases a chance to work their way out.  That cuts out tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, peppers, and probably something else I'm forgetting.  It's already too warm for peas, and I didn't feel like planting beans.  There's a ridiculous amount of lettuce growing, between the Pond and the front yard.  I noticed that I've been buying more kale than usual and decided to put in another Dwarf Kale.  I really liked the freedom to pick a few leaves at a time, and I seem to be decent at growing one.  For the pot out front, I did try to plant tomato seeds anyway.  It was too weird to think of not having any tomatoes.  It sprouted yesterday.  If it gets diseased early, I'll tear it out and put in more beets.  Let's see the skunk try to climb a two-foot pot!

Last year, I wanted to put in a blueberry bush.  They didn't have any the day I went and I ended up with a boysenberry.  That has turned out to be more of a vine than a bush, but it should produce a respectable amount of berries this year.  This time, not only did they have blueberries, I had a coupon.  It turns out that blueberries can't pollinate themselves and you should plant more than one.  I put them in the front of the house, in two places that only had low-lying succulents.  The succulents attract bees, which will help the blueberries until they become attractive in their own right.  I did plant two different varieties, Sunshine and Misty.  I gave them plenty of room to grow, since they can get well over four feet high and nearly that wide.  Sunshine will eventually cover the edge of my large kitchen window.  Misty will partially block the view of my ugly side gate that I should really fix and repaint.

I am quite aware of the extra water usage I have committed to by putting in new plants.  I'm still keeping a bucket in the shower with me to catch whatever I can.  El Niño has yet to hit Southern California.  Hopefully, it will kick in soon and do the watering for me during the crucial first month.  Once the roots establish, especially for the permanent plants, I won't need to water as often.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Enchilada Sauce

I was going to make some turkey enchiladas and went to look up my sauce recipe.  No offense to those who read this blog, but I mainly use it to make it easier to find my own recipes.  At least, if I ever posted one.  Really, I didn't post it the one time I made my own sauce?  I do remember reading the back of the can for an ingredients list, but not if that's what I made.  Sheesh, off to the internet to figure out where I got it.

I think I did reverse-engineer from the can, but the recipes gave me a good starting point.  Lightly thickened, heavily seasoned tomato sauce.  And the common thread of use as much chili powder as suits your taste.  I would say you could also spice it up with a purée of jalapeños or green chilis, or dried red chili flakes.  As for me, the spiciest thing I put in mine was paprika instead of chili powder.  The sign of a confident cook is when she changes a recipe.  New or uncertain cooks only follow recipes exactly.

1 Tb oil
1 Tb flour
1 C tomato sauce
1 C water or vegetable stock
2 Tb chili powder
1/2 tsp celery salt
*1 tsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1/2 tsp cumin

1.  Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add spices and cook until fragrant.  Add flour and cook into a crumbly paste.  Stir in water and tomato sauce.

2.  Cook mixture until spices are thoroughly mixed and sauce comes to a light boil.  If it becomes too thick for your use, add a little more water.  When sauce is desired consistency, remove from heat.  Can be used immediately or stored for up to one week.

Makes about 1 pint

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Pumpkin Bread

I had half a can of pumpkin purée left from a batch of rice pudding and decided to make pumpkin bread with it.  After reading a few recipes, I decided to start with this one from Allrecipes, cut it in half, and change a lot of it.

The biggest change was the use of applesauce.  That's my new go-to for oil reduction in quick breads, especially because I can whip some up in 15 minutes while getting the rest of the ingredients together.  I was able to reduce the amount of oil to almost nothing and replace the water with something flavorful, which also let me reduce the sugar significantly.  The total amount of liquids is the same as the original recipe.

I decided to replace the walnuts that are in most similar recipes with some of the dried fruit I always have around for oatmeal, granola, and snacking.  I already had out some dried apricots that I was going to chop up for oatmeal, and it looked like just enough for this instead.

Try not to be intimidated by the very long list of ingredients.  Half of them are in the 1/4 tsp to 2 Tb range.

*1 C pumpkin purée
2 eggs
1/2 C applesauce
1/6 C (coffee scoop) vegetable oil
*1/6 C milk
1-3/4 C flour
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
*1/2 tsp cinnamon
*1/4 tsp cloves
*dash ginger
*1/2 C finely chopped dried fruit and/or nuts

1.  Grease or butter a loaf pan.  Preheat oven to 350º.

2.  Beat together the pumpkin, eggs, applesauce, oil, and milk.  In a large bowl, sift together the flour, both sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

3.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.  Pour in the wet mixture and stir until just moistened.  Add chopped fruit or nuts and stir again to distribute.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until loaf passes the toothpick test.

4.  Cool loaf in the pan for several minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.  This is the kind of loaf that is better after resting a day or two.  Once cooled to room temperature, wrap securely in plastic wrap.  Keeping it in the fridge will extend its life a couple of days.  You can also slice it the next day, wrap in foil, and keep in the freezer.  Then you can pull out one slice at a time for breakfast or tea.

Makes one loaf, about 12 to 16 slices

Difficulty rating :)