[Have you been over to yesterday's post to enter the giveaway yet? Heather is giving away a full series of her online cooking classes--that's 24 classes!! Plus bonus materials galore. Go ahead and enter--but then come back here for this fantastic recipe!]
[These burgers were so good, I actually tried to learn PicMonkey for them! What do y'all think--too basic? Yea or Nay to the superimposed caption?]
Although Toronto is renowned as a multicultural city, one of the few culinary chasms is Mexican food. Oh, sure, there are Mexican restaurants here and there, but they are far outnumbered by Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Malaysian, Thai, Hungarian, Ethiopian, Fusion, and about 47 other cuisines I can’t think of at the moment. Then again, since Toronto is pretty much across the continent (about 3700 kilometers or 2300 miles) from Mexico, the scarcity makes some sense.
When The HH and I were first dating, we seemed to land at one particular Mexican place called Hernando’s Hideaway fairly often. Dim, cavernous, and located below street level, it’s one of those “great place to meet a paramour” dive-cum-bars that’s frequented by univesity students, coworkers on Thursday evening, out-of-towners, and. . . .the HH and me. It was the type of establishment where the quality of the food is often masked by the poor visibility, like a stop sign that suddenly seems to jump out at you if you drive in a snowstorm.
The HH and I, however, loved it there. We’d sit in a just-wiped vinyl booth beside the dark, unreflective walnut paneled walls, gazing at each other with newfound infatuation as we shared fully loaded nachos with guacamole, refried beans smothered in cheese, burritos, carafes of intensely dark red wine (ah! I remember the days of wine. . . ), and whatever else struck our fancy. Despite the dim surroundings (perhaps it was the starry look in our eyes that illuminated the tabletop), we’d savor every mouthful. Of course, none of it was authentic–bordering on fast-food, in fact–and we’d likely turn our noses up at the fare today. But back then, it served to ignite a love of Tex Mex cuisine (and got our own romance moving along in the process).
[My burger, with dijon, sauerkraut, sprouts and sriracha on a gluten-free bun.]
I don’t usually post Mexican dishes precisely because I have so little experience in that area, but these burgers are a bit of a fusion dish that evoked a pleasing taste of the southwest right here in my wintery Toronto kitchen. This is one of three burgers that Heather offers in her cooking classes (a full series of which I am giving away here!). These burgers were incredibly easy and quick to prepare, and I loved that they were baked rather than fried (though Heather does offer instructions for pan-frying, too).
The hardest part was waiting for them to cook, as the aroma of browning onion and chili wafted through the kitchen. Once done, they provided a perfect sandwich filling with a crispy exterior and moist, robust inside. Not overly spicy, they were nonetheless incredibly flavorful. I enjoyed mine in a gluten free bun from Aidan’s; the HH used a wholegrain bun and added a sprinkling of cheese over his sauerkraut and sprouts.
As we munched away happily, the conversation went something like this:
Ricki: How do you like it?
HH: Oh these are pretty good [chew chew]. Actually, these are really tasty [chomp, chomp]. You know, these are delicious! I really like these [masticate, masticate]. You should make these again! [Gets up to serve himself another--bun, cheese, sprouts and all.]
Well, whenever I hear the triumvirate of “good, tasty, delicious” from the otherwise reticent HH, I know I’ve got a winner on my hands!
Whether or not you’ve liked Tex Mex food in the past, I hope you give these burgers a try. They’re a perfect quick dinner that may just ignite a little spark of North American-Mexican fusion love in you, too.
Spicy Black Bean Burgers
reprinted with permission from Healthy Eating Starts Here
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (14 oz can, or 1/2 cup dried beans fully cooked)
1-2 tsp chili powder1/4 tsp sea salt or Herbamere, to taste
The beans must be fully cooked before you begin. Soak them overnight (8 hours) in lots of water, then drain and rinse. Add enough water to cover them by 2 inches, and gently boil them with NO salt. You can add a bit of kombu (seaweed) to the cooking water while they boil for improved digestibility. Black beans will take about 1-2 hours to cook. If you’re using canned beans, just drain and rinse them. If you can find a can that doesn’t use salt, that’s ideal. The burgers will have better texture if you let the beans dry out a bit in a strainer.
You can either pulse the vegetables and parsley in a food processor, then add the beans to lightly pulse, or mash the beans and stir in the grated/chopped veggies if you don’t have a food processor. A blender won’t work because it needs liquid to puree.
Stir in the nut/seed butter and spices (or pulse in the food processor) to combine, then the rolled oats. You may want to add more nut/seed butter for stickiness or rolled oats for texture and dryness. Taste for seasoning, and add salt to bring the flavors together.
Form the mix into burger shapes. Lay them on a baking sheet (ideally lined with parchment paper so they don’t stick), and bake for 30-40 minutes at 300-350 degrees F.
You can also fry the burgers to cook them more quickly. Add a bit of oil to the pan and cook about 10 minutes on the first side. Flip, and cook another 5-7 minutes.
[Note: I am an affiliate for these cooking classes. If you purchase the classes by clicking through a link on this blog, I will receive a small commission, which will go back into maintaining this site.]
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I can hardly believe it, but today is the HH and my thirteenth anniversary! And to think they said it would never last! Of course, when we met, we were just love-struck kidsa one-night standriding the subway two jaded divorcés who thought they’d never again find love.
And yet, here we are. And get a load of our conversation earlier this morning:
Ricki and the HH marvel at 13 years together (which is about 11 more years than Ellen and Portia). The HH gets ready to shave for work while Ricki brushes her teeth.
HH: You know, I had to buy this new razor yesterday. I had a two-blader, and now they only come with three blades or more.
Okay, I suppose there is something a little bit special about walking around with a cellular makeup that developed entirely while I’ve been living with the HH (and the same for him). And if cells renew themselves every seven years in dogs, too, that means Elsie really is “our” dog now (though Chaser still has a ways to go).
“Mum, that is ageism, don’t you think? I mean, it’s not my fault I’m only three years old tomorrow. And what’s up with an April 7th birthday, anyway? It’s always overshadowed by your darn anniversary.”
Well, if red is the color of passion, then perhaps these beet burgers can inject an extra shot of romance into our relationship on this special day. Not only that, they’re also the perfect recipe to introduce a new blog event hosted by Kim of Affairs of Living and me–the Sweet or Savory (SOS) Kitchen Challenge!
Following a special diet–whether because of allergies or other conditions–can sometimes feel like an insurmountable challenge. As two people who’ve both been following a special diet for some time, Kim and I understand how important it is to find delicious, appealing recipes to keep you motivated and committed when you’ve cut out certain ingredients from your diet, whether because of allergies or other conditions.
That’s why we’ve teamed up to offer the SOS Kitchen Challenge blog event! The SOS Kitchen Challenge invites you to create delicious dishes based on one key ingredient each time. You can choose either sweet or savory dishes (or both) for the event. At the end of the month, Kim and I will gather all the submissions and post them in a roundup on both our blogs—so your recipe will get double the exposure! The resulting roundup will offer a single stop where health-conscious readers can find a collection of yummy dishes to try.
Help us showcase how tantalizing and delectable healthy foods can be!
For our first challenge, our star ingredient is. . . . BEETS!
You may have noticed how much I adore beets, from salads to faux pepperoni and even a dessert. A much-loved vegetable in both our kitchens, beets are a star in the veggie universe as well: besides tasting great, they’re packed with minerals like manganese, potassium, magnesium and iron, are a great source of the B Vitamin folate, and actually help boost liver function. They contain cancer-fighting antioxidants, help prevent heart disease and reduce inflammation in the body. They’re a great source of fiber and can promote regularity. And they might just introduce a little extra passion to your mealtime.
To participate in the challenge, simply cook up a recipe using beets (beetroots, beet greens, yellow beets, red beets, or any kind of beet you like); the beets can be raw or cooked in either a sweet or savory recipe. There are loads of possibilities—salads, soups, main dishes, baked goods, even a beet-and-bean chili or a mousse!
Then, post the recipe to your blog. Of course, you can still participate even if you don’t have a blog! (For full guidelines and how to participate, see the main SOS Kitchen Challenge page). Be sure to mention the event on your post and link to this SOS page. Also, feel free to use the SOS logo in your post to help promote the event, though this is not required. Deadline is April 20th–after which we’ll both be posting the roundup on our blogs. Full details here. You can also find all the information on Kim’s SOS page.
We look forward to sharing yummy beet-based recipes with you! To start us off, I thought I’d submit this savory, yet slightly sweet, beet burger.
I got the idea for these burgers when Kim mentioned “beetloaf” one day on twitter. I do enjoy savory loaves (such as nutroasts), but wanted something that would cook up a bit faster and perhaps go well in a sandwich (since I seem to be on a sandwich kick these days). After a couple of false starts (I guess there is such a thing as “too much beet”), I came up with this version: browned and barely crispy on the outside, still moist on the inside, with a naturally smoky flavor and sweet undertones. These patties make a great main dish served alongside your favorite vegetable or even a creamy pasta.
I imagined a burger that tasted hearty without being too heavy or too earthy because of the beets. The pairing of buckwheat and beets accomplishes this goal admirably; these are a mild burger, yet one that is–dare I say it–meaty enough to really satisfy.
1/2 cup (120 ml) buckwheat, dry
1-1/3 cups (320 ml) vegetable broth of stock
1-1/2 cups (235 g) brazil nuts (or use walnuts or pecans, or a mix)
1/2 cup (50 g) whole old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cook)
1/4 cup (30 g) finely ground flax seeds
5-1/2 ounces (150 g) cooked*, peeled beets (3-4 small beets)
1/2 medium red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) parsley, chopped
3/4 tsp (3.5 ml) fennel
1 tsp (5 ml) ground mustard
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) fine sea salt
up to 1/2 cup (120 ml) additional vegetable broth or stock, as needed
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a small pot, bring the 1-1/3 cups (320 ml) vegetable stock to a boil; add the buckwheat, cover, lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove the cover, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool.
In the bowl of a food processor, process the nuts, flax and oats to the texture of a coarse meal. Add the beets, pepper, parsley, fennel, mustard and salt and process until almost smooth, yet still grainy.
Using a large ice cream scoop or 1/3 cup (80 ml) measuring cup, scoop out the mixture and flatten to patties about 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick. Bake in preheated oven 25 minutes, then gently turn over and return to oven for another 15-25 minutes, until the burgers are crisp on the edges. Serve plain or in buns. These go well with avocado mayonnaise or fresh and spicy cilantro sauce (both of these condiments will create a cool red-and-green Christmas vibe with the burgers, too). Makes 8-10 burgers. May be frozen.
* I bake the beets because I prefer the flavor and find they are a bit dryer that way, so the burgers will hold together better. If you boil the beets instead, you might like to reduce the vegetable broth by 2-4 Tbsp (30-60 ml).
[Ooh, look at those widdy bits of black bean and sweet potato in there! Who could resist?]
Even as I slog through my pile of assignments and tests, I’ve been sneaking in here to read everyone’s comments, with much gratitude. Thanks so much for the “ooomph” I need to complete all this work, and your wonderful support! You are THE BEST.
And since my willpower for staying away from the blog is about as good as my willpower for staying away from chocolate, here I am again–but only today, and then it’s back to the books. Why am I popping in, you ask?
Well, since so many of you asked about these squares, it felt shameful to keep you waiting for a recipe that isn’t even mine! Those Sweet Potato, Quinoa and Black Bean Bites that people are drooling over (and which I ate for breakfast the other day, heated up–divine!), are an easy-peasy adaptation of this recipe.
I basically followed the recipe verbatim, though my version of breadcrumbs was a fresh piece of spelt sourdough bread ground up in the food processor (for gluten-free squares, use a piece of GF bread, or GF breadcrumbs). I also used organic ketchup rather than tomato paste, fresh cilantro, and omitted the caraway seeds. Other than that, I patted the mixture into a lightly greased 9 x 9 inch pan and let it bake until dry and firm on top. Cooled it completely, then cut into little squares, which I placed gingerly on a baking sheet and re-heated until the outsides were a bit crispy. Honestly, these are fantastic.
Now go enjoy some SPQandBB bites until I get back!
Years ago, I had the pleasure of teaching for three semesters at Toronto’s renowned Ontario College of Art and Design (affectionately known as OCAD–or, when I taught there back in the Paleolithic, pre-”Design” era, simply “OCA”). I loved teaching at a place so much the antithesis of the college I’m now at, with its focus on technology, science and computers (not, as Jerry might say, that there’s anything wrong with that).
But as someone who’s drawn to art in all its iterations–and cake decorating, as we’ve seen in recent years, is also a bona fide art–and considering I find creativity in any form pretty much irresistible (at times to my detriment–to wit, three months with Rocker Guy*), I had a blast at OCA.
The students I taught at OCA were often just as embellished as their canvases, some with tatoos adorning every exposed patch of flesh, others with rainbow-striped hair in asymetrical spikes; some with handcrafted jewelry dangling from neck, waist, or ankles, and others bedecked in outfits so bohemian they practically carried their own passports. The students were also eccentric in the way only artists can be eccentric, asking questions and writing essays that, precisely because they were “out there,” elicited my utmost affection.
During those years, I had the great fortune to meet Morris, a faculty member who took me under his wing and later became a dear friend. Sweet, erudite, and the very embodiment of integrity, Morris helped me navigate the otherworldy campus politics and academic wranglings that were about as intelligible to me as a Cubist landscape. And because he was also a vegetarian, Morris introduced me to one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in the city–and one I haven’t been to since I left OCA.
In the heart of Toronto’s downtown shopping strip, Le Commensal peeks unassumingly from the ground floor entrance of a towering office building. Inside, this Montreal import offers a huge, buffet-style, culinary Disneyland for vegans. Glass cases overflow with platters of every conceivable delectation from colorful, glistening salads to grain pilafs to an ever-shifting assortment of seitan stews, skewers, casseroles, or steaks. And it attracts customers with all dietary preferences, not just the crunchy-granola set.
I can clearly remember one of the first lunches Morris and I shared there. While he attempted to explain the concept of “artist’s statement” to me, I chowed on a plate of roasted eggplant, marinated mushrooms, salad, and a sizeable slice of something I’d never had before, Sweet Potato and Buckwheat Shepherd’s pie. The combination of meaty, nutty toasted buckwheat set against the smooth, sweet and creamy potato was a heavenly match. And while I promptly forgot what an artist’s statement was (if I ever really knew it), that Shepherd’s pie, with its magical pattern of ochre potato and sepia buckwheat, was etched permanently in my memory.
Imagine my surprise when, a couple of weeks ago, I came across a recipe for Sweet Potato and Kasha Burgers while flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks, one of the first I bought when I started experimenting with vegetarian cuisine: Nettie’s Vegetarian Kitchen by Nettie Cronish. The book contains one of my all-time favorite recipes, Almond-Curry Tofu Stir-Fry . In fact, I was so taken with that recipe once I discovered it that I proceeded to cook variations of the dish at least twice a week for the following six months or so (at which point the HH tersely informed me that he would never eat a single MORSEL of tofu EVER AGAIN, as long as he LIVED. Odd, since I’m fairly certain he wouldn’t have had the same reaction to, say, steak a couple of times a week for six months. . . but I digress.)
“Steak? Did someone say ‘steak’? Ooooh, we haven’t had steak in ages. . . years, maybe. . . ”
“Elsie, what’s steak?”
I couldn’t believe my luck: the recipe featured that elusive duo of sweet potato and buckwheat! I knew I had to try it. And just what made this particular pattie so special, you ask? Well, it seems to me that in any duel between veggie burgers, you have your tofu-based on the North American side, and you have your nut-based on the UK/Antipodean side. But Nettie’s burger–while still a realistic, objective representation of “burger”–featured neither of these. The patties are based on the combination of grain and tuber, with a dash of almond butter as a binder. I have to admit, I was initially doubtful and wondered if they’d hold together, but they worked beautifully. Even the HH, with his skepticism for any non-meat proteins, enjoyed them immensely.
“Mum, I’m quite sure I heard you say ’burger”! You know we’re always happy to help out with meat of any kind. . . Oh, Chaser, you’ll love burgers! They’re sort of like steak.”
I served this hearty dish (substantial enough to eat sans buns) alongside a favorite recipe for spring salad. The interplay of colors on the plate struck me as so artistic, in fact, it made me immediately nostalgic for those artsy days back at OCA.
Surprisingly hearty and filling, these burgers are quite easy to throw together and offer a savory, almost smoky flavor. Leftovers stored in the fridge will firm up even more overnight. I halved the recipe with no problems.
1-1/2 cups (375 ml.) dry buckwheat (kasha)
3 cups (750 ml.) water or vegetable broth [I used veg broth]
1 tsp. (5 ml.) sea salt, or 1/4 tsp. (1.5 ml.) if using vegetable broth above
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 Tbsp. (60 ml.) toasted sesame oil or extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 large carrot, grated
2 large sweet potatoes, cubed, steamed or boiled until tender [I actually baked mine] and mashed
1/4 cup (60 ml.) almond butter or tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 cup (60 ml.) chopped fresh basil
2 green onions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) tamari or soy sauce (for ACD, use Braggs)
Dry-roast the kasha in a heavy skillet over medum heat for 5 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Add 3 cups (750 ml.) water and salt; bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat; cover and cook over low heat until water is absorbed and kasha is tender, about 15 minutes.
Cook onion in 1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) oil over medium heat until softened. Add celery and carrot; cook for another 5 minutes until softened.
Stir together kasha, vegetables (including sweet potato), almond butter, basil, greeen onions and soy sauce until combined. Keeping hands moist, form into 8 large or 16 small patties. Heat remaining 3 Tbsp. (45 ml.) oil in large frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook burgers 5 minutes, turning once, until golden brown and crisp on the outside. [Note: I baked half and fried half of these, just to see how they'd hold up in the oven. They worked just fine with both cooking methods, though the baked burgers never acquired that crispy blackened exterior that the fried ones had. Still yummy, though!]