White Bean Burgers with Tomatoes and Basil

I am so excited by how well this recipe turned out. It’s not every day that the leftovers of my meals are crave-able, but these veggie burgers were gone in a snap.
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The source of inspiration for these burgers was leftover basil.

I try not to buy basil in the winter. In the summer, I’m blessed with abundant basil that can be snipped as needed from the garden. But when I buy basil from the store, I’m always faced with leftovers in the fridge drawer. Which means I’m faced with the guilt of potential waste.

But I bought this basil for a special occasion. My husband and I have a tradition of spending the early evening hours of New Year’s Eve at home, making fresh pasta together. Romantic right? (Then we hustle off to a local friend’s house to attempt to be a little more “cool” and social). This time we made a fettuccine with bolognese sauce that was enhanced by the herbal touch of fresh basil leaves.

A few days later, I was on the lookout for recipes using basil, and settled on this one.

White Bean Burgers with Tomatoes and Basil
Adapted from oh my veggies

1 can (15 ounce) cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 Cup sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 Cup packed basil leaves
, torn
1/3 Cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 Cup panko
2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese
, grated
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg
, lightly beaten

For serving:
4 buns (hamburger, kaiser rolls, challah rolls, etc – whatever you have leftover in your freezer after your husband is overzealous and claims that more people will show up at the party!)
Optional accompaniments:
Fresh basil leaves
Romaine or butter lettuce
Fresh mozzarella or provolone
Optional sauces:
Balsamic reduction
Pesto
Basil Mayo

Basil Mayonnaise
recipe
From the kitchn
Proportions roughly followed:
1/4 Cup packed basil leaves
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic clove
, chopped
Zest of about half of one large lemon, about 1 teaspoon
1/2 Cup mayonnaise

Combine in a small food processor or blender.

Preheat the oven to anywhere between 385F and 400F (my oven runs hot so I opted for lower.)
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For the burgers, prepare your chopped sundried tomatoes and basil leaves.

Store-bought basil can be extremely dirty. Be sure to thoroughly wash by swishing in a bowl of cold water and then lifting out to leave the sand at the bottom of the bowl.

Store-bought basil can be extremely dirty. Be sure to thoroughly wash by swishing in a bowl of cold water and then lifting out to leave the sand at the bottom of the bowl.

In a food processor, puree together 1 Cup of the beans with the sundried tomatoes, olive oil, tomato paste, and garlic powder.
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The original recipe called for sundried tomatoes in oil, and less added olive oil, but I had regular sundried tomatoes. So I added some olive oil at first and discovered the mixture was still too dry and was difficult to puree, so I added more olive oil, up to the approximate amount above. Be on the lookout for the mixture seeming too dry. Next time I may experiment with adding some other wet ingredient to bring up the moisture content. Tomato sauce, perhaps?
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In a medium bowl, add the remaining beans and mash them with a fork. Stir in the pureed bean-tomato mixture, and add the basil and remaining ingredients, with the beaten egg added last.
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Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a measuring cup as a scoop, drop the burger mixture into 4 mounds on the sheet, and then shape each mound into a patty.

Note: this scoop-mound-shape method for forming a veggie burger was a worthy lesson on its own--thank you oh my veggies!

Note: this scoop-mound-shape method for forming a veggie burger was a worthy lesson on its own–thank you oh my veggies!


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Bake the burgers until they’re lightly browned on the outside and feel dry to the touch in the center, 20-25 minutes.
Mmmm yes to the melty mozzarella.

Mmmm yes to the melty mozzarella.


In the meantime, make your sauces! I made the basil mayo. I could have made pesto…but I still had some of the summer stock in the freezer.

Prepare your choice of buns with your choice of toppings.

Basil mayo followed by lettuce....

Basil mayo followed by lettuce….

...followed by burger, topped with balsamic glaze and more basil!

…followed by burger, topped with balsamic glaze and more basil!


How could you NOT crave this?

How could you NOT crave this?

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Tastes of Summer – Watermelon and Ice Cream

I bought a whole watermelon the other day. I needed it to make a delicious heirloom tomato watermelon gazpacho recipe I planned to bring to a potluck.

I was surprised that I could actually make such a delicious gazpacho!

I was surprised that I could actually make such a delicious gazpacho!

I tasted the recipe after it was demoed by Chef Harold Deiterle, who recently released a cookbook, Harold Dieterle’s Kitchen Notebook Techniques. It won me over.

But mostly I wanted the watermelon for snacking. Fresh watermelon is one of those distinctly summer foods, a flavor I associate with backyard spitting contests of my childhood. The heat and humidity of summer bring on a kind of thirst that only watermelon can truly quench.

There are a few other flavors I lately connect to summer–even if I may in fact indulge all year long. Iced tea, ice-cold beer, and ice cream.

On the day I had about a quarter of my watermelon left, I heard someone mention watermelon rind as one of those trimmings that you’re going to be stuck composting, since there’s not much you can do to make it edible, sellable, and appealing. Not that I disagree. But I took it as a challenge. I was going to make watermelon rind pickles.
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Watermelon Rind Pickles
Adapted from Food.com for 1/4 watermelon
About 2.5 lb watermelon rind (flesh mostly removed, shell included)
For the brining:
1⁄4 Cup salt
1 quart water

For the pickling syrup:
2 Cups white vinegar
2 Cups water
4 Cups sugar
1/3 lemon
, sliced thin
Spices:
1 cinnamon sticks
1/3 teaspoon whole cloves
1/3 teaspoon whole allspice

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Remove all the juicy watermelon flesh and reserve for another use. (Admittedly, I will miss having the rind as a handle when I eat the remains later. Oh well.)

At this point, I had 2 lb 8.5 ounces.
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Next you will need to peel the outer hard rind from the softer white portion. It took a fair amount of muscle power and time to remove the green shell. I used a combination of peeler and knife. Your knife should be very sharp for this, and it’s important to be very careful. Cut away from yourself and always keep hands and fingers behind the direction you are cutting!
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After 5 minutes of labor, the green parts were gone. The next step is to remove any remaining pink, and slice into 1 to 2 inch by 3/4″ pieces. This took about 7 minutes.
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Final weigh in? 1 pound 8.6 ounces of rind. So 1 pound was still going to the compost, but if I had planned to use the whole watermelon’s rind (which would make more pickles than I would know what to do with), I would have saved more than 5 pounds.
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Make a brine by dissolving 1/4 cup of salt into 1 quart of water.
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I could have used less for this rind, and you may need to scale up for more.
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Allow to brine in refrigerator overnight.

Drain and rinse soaked watermelon rind.

At this point, I used the scale of 0.375 to approximate the other ingredients: allspice, cloves, cinnamon, and lemon. I could have scaled down a little less on the sugar, water, and vinegar that made up the syrup; in the end it would have helped to have more for inside the jars.
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If you’d like, combine the spices together in a cheesecloth.

Combine the syrup and spice ingredients and bring to a boil for about 5 minutes.
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Add half of the rind and simmer until it becomes translucent. It took about 36 minutes for my first batch.
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Spoon rind out of the pan and into a clean jar. Be sure to sterilize, if you plan on preserving longer term.
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Repeat the simmering step with remaining rind.

Remove spice satchel and discard. Pour boiling syrup to cover the rind in jars. Why not include the lemon?
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Taste test results: Not bad. The cloves were a little more noticeable than I would like (I’ve complained about this before). Otherwise, the flavor resembled those Vlasic sweet and crunchy pickles, which were once the only type I could tolerate.
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Looking for other ideas for the watermelon flesh? Real Simple posted this yesterday:

onethread design via Real Simple

onethread design via Real Simple

Returning to the topic of ice cream….this same week, I thought I better make some before National Ice Cream month ends!

Ice cream (or sorbet) is another dish that can incorporate whatever you have around. Even cucumber. This time, I’m went to the herbs in my garden, and incorporated them into a rich base made with egg yolks.

Is tomato ice cream in my future?

Is tomato ice cream in my future?


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Mint Ice Cream
Adapted from Melissa Clark’s New York Times recipe

1 Cup mint leaves
⅔ Cup sugar

1.5 Cups heavy cream
1.5 Cups milk
(I used my skim)
⅛ teaspoon sea salt, finely ground
6 large egg yolks

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Combine mint leaves and sugar in a food processor. Grind together until fully combined and green.
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Pour cream, milk, sugar mixture and salt into a small saucepan and cook until the sugar dissolves. Whisk yolks in a separate heat-proof bowl.

When the sugar has dissolved, remove pan from heat and slowly whisk in about a third of the hot mixture into the yolks.
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Then pour the yolk mixture back into the pan and whisk with the remaining hot cream.
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Place pan back on a medium-low burner and cook slowly, thickening at about 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
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Turn off heat and allow mint to steep in the mixture for about 30 minutes.
Pour through a sieve to catch any solids.
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Cool mixture to room temperature and then chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
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Follow the directions for your ice cream machine and churn away.
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After 20 minutes in this frozen-bowl style, you’ll have soft-serve.
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Transfer to a freezer container to harden.
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Happy summer!
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Soup’s On

Something tragic happened earlier this month. My oven stopped working.

It was the day after my birthday, and I had plans to make pizza. I wanted to top it with barbecue chicken, because not long ago someone (who may or may not have been my husband) opened a second jar of barbecue sauce when we already had an open one in the fridge…but there’s no need to get into that.

The oven was failing to heat up on multiple settings, so as I grieved, I improvised by using the outdoor grill as an oven.

The oven failure comes at a time when we are starting to feel the chill outdoors. That means it is time to start baking, right? I read a lot of summer seasonal recipes in which people reference the fact that “you may not want to turn on your oven!” because of the heat. Honestly, I think I use the oven almost equally in summer and winter! I don’t think I’ve consciously decided not to use my oven because of the weather…perhaps I’m not discouraged because we have central air conditioning and cool tile floors. But how quickly I forget! Now I’m flashing back to the apartment I lived in right out of college, the top floor of a converted house, and how I survived one Long Island summer without air conditioning. I’m pretty sure I avoided the oven then.

Anyway, the point is, I don’t necessarily gravitate to the oven in fall. The thing I start thinking about when it comes to fall is SOUP.

Of course, soup is a great way to incorporate miscellaneous vegetables. So later that week, I found a recipe that utilized CSA peppers and eggplant, along with leeks. With the help of the immersion blender, Matt was persuaded to eat and ENJOY something with eggplant! Pretty much any roasting vegetable could be incorporated in a soup like this.

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Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Soup
Adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious
Makes 4 servings

1 eggplant (about 1 pound), halved
~12 ounces red bell peppers
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
, chopped
~1 Cup/1 leek, halved lengthwise, dunked in cool water to remove grime, and thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
4 1/4 Cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
4 Tablespoons fresh basil
, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1.5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Parmesan cheese shavings

As you can see, Matt pulled out his tools and made a fair attempt to diagnose and potentially repair the oven. Now a week and a half later, the repairman came, only to say he has to order a part and come NEXT week to see if that fixes it.

As you can see, Matt pulled out his tools and made a fair attempt to diagnose and potentially repair the oven. Now a week and a half later, the repairman came, only to say he has to order a part and come NEXT week to see if that fixes it.


This is where an oven WOULD have come in handy–the original recipe called for roasting the vegetables on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 450°F. I once again turned to the grill, cranked up high to try to keep it over 400.

Pierce eggplants all over with fork. Transfer, cut side down, to baking sheet. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes.
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In the last 15 minutes of the eggplant’s cooking time, char bell peppers over a flame or in a broiler until blackened on all sides.

The blacker they get, the easier they are to peel.  These were a challenge.

The blacker they get, the easier they are to peel. These were a challenge.


Carefully add to a ziplock bag, sealed, and set aside for about 10 minutes.

Allow eggplant to cool slightly, then remove and discard peel. Chop eggplant into large pieces. Rinse pieces under running water. Drain well and set aside.
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Take out peppers, and peel, seed and coarsely chop.
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Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and leek and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute.

Stir in eggplant, peppers, chicken stock, and tomato paste. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes.

Stir in basil and thyme.
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Either cool slightly before using a blender to puree the soup in batches, or turn off heat and use an immersion blender to blend in the pot. Once blended, season with salt and pepper, and add butter and lemon juice (general side note: if you are making soup and upon tasting think it is missing something, try lemon juice). Warm over low heat if soup has cooled too much.

Transfer to bowls, and garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese.
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The Urge to Preserve

I started to feel the impending change of season press upon me.

The weather certainly wasn’t providing any hints, as I was enveloped by hot, wet, soupy air all last weekend. I did notice brown and orange leaves start to accumulate around the edges of the streets in my neighborhood. It was the obvious things: all of a sudden, Labor Day passed, beaches closed, schools started back in session, and I was reminded that, being September, we are only one month away from October, the month it first SNOWED last year.

Fortunately, it is possible to capture the lushness of summer in a tupperware container! I long to keep the excitement of my garden treasures alive. Call it the urge to preserve.

Cue the whir of the food processor.

Bunches of my healthy basil plant and flourishing parsley plants in hand, it was time to make some sauces and condiments.
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Basil Pesto
Parsley Pesto
Fromage Fort

Pesto is one of the very few “recipes” I pretty much have memorized, and/or feel comfortable adjusting by taste and feel. It all started with a recipe Matt and I received from a cooking class put on at a now-closed local Viking Cooking School location.

Basil Pesto
From Viking Cooking School’s recipe packet for a Breads and Pizzas class
Makes about 1 Cup

1 large clove garlic, or to taste, peeled
1/4 Cup pine nuts
2 ounces/approx 1/4 Cup packed Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
, finely grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
2 Cups (packed) fresh basil
1/4-1/3 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
should be plenty

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Toast the pine nuts by putting them in a 350 degree oven for just a few minutes, watching closely and shaking the pan after the first minute or two. This can also be done in a dry cast iron or saute pan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Pine nuts will continue to brown if they sit in a hot pan.
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Combine garlic, pine nuts, cheese, salt and pepper in a food processor and pulse to make a paste.
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Add basil and pulse.
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Drizzle in olive oil gradually, ideally with the motor running, until pesto reaches desired smooth consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.
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Basil doesn’t retain its green color in pesto, when exposed to the air, so the best plan is to drizzle extra olive oil on top and put plastic wrap directly on the surface before refrigerating or freezing (it still tastes fine when it darkens). Pesto is both flavor and calorie rich, so I usually only use a little at time, which I can snag from the frozen container.
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While I was at it with the processing, I needed to deal with the variety of cheese cubes I bought on a whim at Fairway. (I swear, I have gotten much better about resisting the urge to impulse buy.) Cheese is one of those things that lasts a long time, making it easy for you to forget to use before it is too late. Fortunately, you can make something called Fromage Fort, a cheese spread, to transform the old cheese into something desirable for another week or so, and even use it for entertaining.
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Fromage Fort
From Alton Brown via Food Network online

1 pound left-over cheese, (cheddar, parmesan, ricotta, provolone, fontina, mozzarella, stinky blue cheeses all work*) at room temperature
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
, softened
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
1 small clove garlic

Grate hard cheeses and cut others into 1/2-inch cubes. Place cheese, wine, butter, herbs, and garlic in a food processor and blend until smooth, approximately 2 minutes. Serve immediately or refrigerate for at least 1 hour for a firmer consistency. Store in the refrigerator; consume within a week (no problem!).
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*I used 5 ounces of ricotta, 7 ounces of the miscellaneous cubes that were probably in the gouda and ricotta salata families, and 6 ounce of Wisconsin extra sharp cheddar. It was beyond delicious, especially broiled on some sourdough toast.

Parsley Almond Pesto
Adapted from Food and Wine

1 clove garlic
1 1/2 Cups lightly packed flat-leaf parsley
with thick stems removed
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup olive oil
1/3 Cup unsalted almonds

Puree garlic and parsley with the salt in food processor. Drizzle olive oil in gradually, ideally with the machine running. Add the almonds and pulse to chop.
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This can be saved in the same way as the basil pesto. However, it keeps its bright green flavor much better in the refrigerator.

I served this with gnocchi I made from the King Arthur Flour website.
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and a recipe that served gnocchi with zucchini and tomatoes but substituted in the parsley pesto:

Recognize those tomatoes yet?

Recognize those tomatoes yet?


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I can still taste summer!

Weekend Cooking – Part 1 – Chard

I hadn’t done much cooking during the week, with dinners out and social gatherings, so I had big plans to use up a lot of ingredients on Friday night. It was to be a “cook the pantry” type of night. Then it got to be 8:30pm before I started. Why so late? Well, there was some drama in discovering that one of our cats was refusing to eat the dry food we had always fed her, so there were two trips to Petco to find alternatives. Then I was so sleepy that I tried to take a preliminary power nap. And one of the floors desperately needed to be vacuumed, and that needed to be done before too late so as not to disturb the neighbors. So, I didn’t have time to cook everything I wanted before bed. Fortunately, there was time on Saturday too!

I was facing another batch of swiss chard, so I decided to try something a little different. Why not puree it? This soup recipe was great because it also utilized parsley, which I received in the farm share at the same time it happens to be thriving in my garden. With the added tang and creaminess of lemon juice and greek yogurt and the salty zing of feta, we had a pleasant summery soup on our hands.
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Chard, Herb, and Feta Soup
adapted from Bon Apetit
Serves 4

I’m not sure why the Bon Appetit recipe refers to this as a winter soup. Unless you have your own green house, the fresh herbs would be a big investment at the grocery store during the winter. I’m certain you could substitute spinach in this recipe, but there is no substitute for the fresh herbs.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion
, coarsely chopped (I used about 1 C of onion I had left over)
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 pound Swiss chard leaves (center ribs and stems removed), coarsely chopped (about 10 cups)
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
1/2 C fresh cilantro
1/4 C fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon dried mint
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 C plain Greek-style yogurt

Optional garnishes:
Plain Greek-style yogurt
Mixed chopped herbs
(such as parsley, cilantro, and mint)
Feta, crumbled
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh lemon juice
Olive oil

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Heat oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until translucent and soft (do not brown), 7–8 minutes.

While they cook, roughly chop your herbs.
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Add chard, parsley, cilantro, fresh and dried mint, nutmeg, and broth to the pan.

It might seem like there isn't enough broth...

It might seem like there isn’t enough broth…

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, less than 10 minutes.

.....and then the chard shrinks!

…..and then the chard shrinks!


Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Take out your immersion blender tool and go at it. DSC_4866I like the idea of an immersion blender because it is very easy to clean compared to a food processor or blender. Yet it makes a mess with its splattering. Even with an apron, I don’t recommend wearing dry-clean only clothes with this one! Especially if you want your soup really really smooth, you could purée it in batches in a blender. Return to pan.

Place a few Tablespoons of the yogurt in a separate medium bowl. Add a ladle-full of warm soup and whisk until smooth. Repeat process twice more, using the yogurt and adding a total of 1 cup more soup.

Whisk yogurt mixture into soup in saucepan. Stir 1/4 cup herbs and about 1/4 cup of crumbled feta into soup. Season to taste with lemon juice, pepper, and salt, remembering that you will be garnishing with additional feta–and my feta at least was very salty.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with herbs and feta. Drizzle with oil, if desired. Serve with a good crusty bread, ideally.
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I had almost 3 Cups of leftover swiss chard stems, which I saved from disposal and pickled using this Bon Appetit recipe as guidance. I didn’t quite double the recipe–I ended up using about 3 Cups of Sugar, 1 3/4 Cups white vinegar, 4 Tablespoons Siracha, and 3/4 tsp of celery seed. Since they are supposed to sit for a few days, I have no idea how they will turn out, but I’ll let you know!

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