Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mashed Chickpea Salad

Strangely enough, I'm finishing up my series of mashed chickpea salad recipes (for now), with what is probably the most familiar and basic of all my variations and what kicked off this pattern of experimentation. This is inspired by my go-to tuna salad recipe, and although I certainly won't give up the tuna version, this is a great alternative for vegetarians or circumstances that don't allow for refrigeration. This combination of flavors works splendidly with chickpeas as well as tuna, the creamy mayo base punched up with spicy Dijon, sweet relish, sharp red onion, and fresh herbs. Just as with tuna salad, I dare say this could also be made into a fantastic melt with a slice of sharp cheddar or Gruyere. Even if you can't see yourself swapping out your tuna salad, this makes a delicious dip for crackers or spread for crostini and can easily be scaled up to feed a crowd.

Mashed Chickpea Salad
serves 1

1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, coarsely mashed
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1.5 tablespoons mayo
1 tablespoon relish
1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, chives, parsley, or other herb (optional)
Whole grain tortilla, bread, pita, or crackers for serving (optional)
Lettuce, greens, or alfalfa sprouts, for serving (optional)

1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and stir well to combine. Place lettuce on tortilla (or other bread of choice) and top with chickpea mixture. Roll up tortilla, cut in half, and serve.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Whole Wheat Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies

Zucchini, zucchini, zucchini. The reality of zucchini season is even more true this week than it was last week, and as a result I've got many a recipe to share. This time I'm going for sweet instead of savory, because when you've got as much zucchini as I do, you've got to make a real effort to mix it up and avoid zucchini burnout.

When it comes to sweet treats, zucchini bread or zucchini cake is probably the first thought for most people, but I wanted to bake some healthy work week treats I could keep the freezer, opting instead for healthy cookies. Whole wheat pastry flour makes the best baked goods in my opinion, its light texture and subtle flavor the perfect partner for the hearty, tender oats used here. Rich and crunchy walnuts and sweet and chewy raisins each bring their own contrasting flavor and texture, the whole magical mixture kissed with lovely flecks of green zucchini. The only less-than-wholesome elements come in the form of maple syrup and butter, two ingredients that nearly guarantee happiness whenever they appear. Honey could be substituted for the maple syrup for a more economical option and applesauce used for part of the melted butter, but I love the complex sweetness and richness these ingredients add and wouldn't dream of swapping them out.

The temperatures and humidity of summer don't often lend themselves to baking, but storms darkened the skies the day I decided to bake, the fierce winds carrying the irresistible aroma of these cookies throughout the house. Our current reprieve from the dog days of summer is the ideal time to play Betty Crocker, so take the opportunity to get creative with the bounty of zucchini, be it the one you grew yourself or picked up at the farmers' market or roadside stand.

Whole Wheat Zucchini Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Hilltop Hanover Farm
makes about 20 cookies

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts, optional
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Oil a cookie sheet.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and oats. Stir in the nuts, raisins, and zucchini.

3. In a bowl, whip together the maple syrup, oil or butter, and vanilla.

4. Stir liquid ingredients into the flour mixture until well blended.

5. Using a two tablespoon ice cream scoop (or rounded tablespoons), drop onto the prepared cookie sheet, flattening slightly.

6. Bake until golden brown, 11-13 minutes. Cool 2 minutes on the cookie sheet, and then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Makes about 20 cookies.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Easy Shrimp Po' Boy

I'll freely admit most people don't have the obsession with food that I do. I enjoy time-intensive projects and DIY-ing everything I can, but not everyone has the time or inclination for that. But almost everyone has time for a slightly fancy sandwich.

I'll readily admit that I'm using the po' boy moniker pretty liberally. This beloved sandwich has its roots in New Orleans, traditionally consisting of meat or fried seafood, dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and mayo; non-seafood po' boys often have Creole mustard and/or gravy. To simplify the cooking process I've sauteed the shrimp instead of breading and frying it, but it may be considered sacrilege to use this East Coast spice on a deep South dish. Lest you think I've forgotten about the spices of South, I add a little heat to the mayo with Tabasco sauce, and then simply dress with any of the traditional toppings I'm in the mood for (I am not a fan of raw tomatoes). It may not be authentically NOLA, but washed down with a cold Abita I may just be able to close my eyes and hear a little jazz wafting through the warm summer breeze.

Easy Shrimp Po' Boy
serves 1

4 ounces raw large or jumbo shrimp, deshelled and deveined
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
Olive or canola oil
Individual French roll, demi baguette, or sub roll, split
1 tablespoon light or regular mayo
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, sliced tomato, and pickles, for serving (optional)

1. Toss the shrimp with Old Bay and set aside. In a small bowl, combine mayo and Tabasco sauce and stir to combine.

2. Preheat broiler and brush each side of the roll with olive oil. Toast under the broiler until golden brown and crunchy, 2 to 4 minutes. Let come to room temperature and spread top half with spicy mayo.

3. Meanwhile, preheat a grill or pan over medium heat and add a drizzle of oil. When oil is hot, add shrimp and cook, turning once, until shrimp are just cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

4. Place shrimp on top of bottom half of roll, add any additional topping you like, and serve promptly.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pesto Chickpea Melt

Remember how I mentioned how I can get obsessed with riffing on one kind of recipe? When it comes to mashed chickpea melts, I'm still at it. Chickpeas are an excellent canvas for all manner of flavors and I've been equally pleased with the way they've played with Indianbarbecue, and now Italian flavors. Last time I was all about barbecue sauce and sharp cheddar cheese and this time I'm all about the pesto and provolone. I spend many an hour working in the kitchen over labor-intensive recipes, but sometimes it's just the punched up quick and easy recipes that really put a bright spot in my (busy) day. When it comes quick recipes like those, prepared shortcut ingredients are your best friend. I'm made both my own barbecue sauces and pestos in the past, but when there isn't time to get Fannie Farmer in the kitchen, a great bottle off the shelf is more than acceptable. The success of this recipe really comes from a happy partnership of sauce and cheese so spending a little extra for some high-quality sauce and cheese is well worth it. Somewhere between comfort food and virtuous grilled cheese, this melt is the perfect way to add a little something special to an ordinary meal.

Pesto Chickpea Melt
serves 1

1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, coarsely mashed
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon mayo
1 tablespoon pesto
Whole grain tortilla, bread, or pita
1 ounce thinly sliced or shredded mozzarella and/or provolone (optional)

1. Mix chickpeas, onion, mayo, and pesto together in small bowl. Spread mixture evenly in center of tortilla, cover with cheese, and roll up tortilla.

2. Preheat a pan over medium heat. Add wrap, seam side down, and cook, flipping once, until filling is warm and cheese is melted, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove from pan, slice in half, and serve promptly.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Simple Zucchini Fritters

There's no doubt that it's zucchini season. The farmers' market is full of it and my coworkers and I can't stop talking about ways to use up the bounty growing in our gardens. For most people I know their first thought is zucchini bread, but for me it's grilled zucchini and zucchini fritters. I'm most certainly not anti-sweets, but when a vegetable first comes into season, I like to start with recipes that feature it, not hide it. So let's start with the basics. A fritter is a very simple thing - filling mixed with batter and fried. Delicious, right? I'm never one to turn down a deep-fried fritter at a restaurant or food cart, but when it comes to cooking at home, I'm generally a pan-frying kind of girl. It's easier and healthier and doesn't require me to plan the order of cooking things in the Fry Baby so I don't end up making donuts tasting like fish sticks. And if I'm going to make a batter, why not make it whole grain? Regular whole wheat flour can weigh recipes down, but airy whole wheat pastry flour buoys them up. Though not a flavorful powerhouse on its own, zucchini is delicious conduit and it only take a simple seasoning of salt, pepper, garlic, and fresh herbs to make this ordinary vegetable delectable.

While I started very simple, I already see myriad opportunities for customization. Trying swapping out half of the zucchini for carrots (or other veggies), experiment with different mixes of herbs, and throw in additional spices and citrus zest and juice. These fritters can fit in with any meal - alongside fried eggs for breakfast, with a salad for lunch, or next to a hearty piece of meat for dinner. If you find yourself with an overzealous farmers' market haul or overproducing plant in the garden, this recipes will help you use up that surplus at any and every meal.

Simple Zucchini Fritters
serves 1 to 2

1/2 pound (about 1 medium) zucchini
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus additional
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons minced fresh herbs (parsley, basil, chives, cilantro, dill, etc.)
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pressed through a garlic press
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry or all-purpose flour
Olive or canola oil or cooking spray

1. Using the large holes of a box grater, grate zucchini into a medium bowl. Add the salt and stir thoroughly to coat. Transfer zucchini to a colander and allow to drain for at least 15 minutes. Squeeze excess moisture from zucchini and return to bowl.

2. Add egg, herbs, and garlic to zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and mix together thoroughly. Add flour and stir to combine. Preheat a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat and coat with a thin layer of oil. Add zucchini mixture to pan, about 1/4 cup a time, making sure not to crowd the fritters.

3. Cook fritters until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Lower heat to medium. Turn fritters, and continue cooking until golden, 3 to 4 minutes more. Transfer fritters to a plate; set aside in a warm place. Repeat with any remaining zucchini mixture, if needed, adding additional oil if necessary.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Spicy Coconut Shrimp Sandwich

Shrimp was one of the first foods I recognized as a special occasion treat. Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas - they all meant starting with shrimp cocktail at my house. I was never all that excited about going out for Friday fish fry as a kid (sacrilegious, I know), but I was always eager to chow down on a plate of batter fried shrimp. As an adult, I eat shrimp on a fairly regular basis, with a much expanded repertoire of recipes, but it still always feels special to me. Yet despite it's fancy reputation, at least in my mind, it's one of the quickest and easiest proteins to prepare and is a godsend for anyone in a hurry or on a diet. I made this sandwich on a Friday night when I had plenty of time and no intentions of eating light, using that quick-cooking, lean protein to soak up a brilliant collection of flavors. The marinade begins with creamy, mildly sweet coconut milk, which is then fortified with pungent garlic, brightened with lime, and spiced up with jalapeno, with a final fresh herby note from the cilantro. Because the spice in the marinade isn't quite enough for me (though it may be for many), I added an additional nuanced layer of heat with Sriracha mayo. Cucumber and lettuce finish the sandwich with a cool and crunchy element along with a hint of astrigency from the red onion. All of these elements come together to create a sandwich that would be right at home next to a fruity umbrella drink in an exotic beach cabana, but I think it feels just perfect in my Wisconsin backyard with a cold beer.

Spicy Coconut Shrimp Sandwich
serves 1

1/3 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno (include seeds and ribs for more heat)
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces raw large or jumbo shrimp, deshelled and deveined
Olive or canola oil
Individual French roll, demi baguette, or sub roll, split
1 tablespoon light or regular mayo
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or to taste)
Lettuce, thinly sliced cucumber and red onion, and cilantro, for serving

1. In a medium bowl, combine coconut milk, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper, and stir well to combine. Add shrimp, toss to coat, and set aside for at least 30 minutes. In a small bowl, combine mayo and Sriracha sauce and stir to combine.

2. Preheat broiler (or grill) and brush each side of the roll with olive oil. Toast under the broiler until golden brown and crunchy, 2 to 4 minutes. Let come to room temperature, place lettuce leaves on bottom half, and spread top half with spicy mayo.

3. Meanwhile, preheat a pan (or grill) over medium heat and add a drizzle of oil. When oil is hot, add shrimp and cook, turning once, until shrimp are just cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

4. Place shrimp on top of bottom half of roll, top with cucumber, red onion, cilantro, and top half of roll. Serve promptly.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

BBQ Chickpea Cauliflower Melt

As so often happens with me, once I come up with one recipe of a particular kind, I get a little obsessed with riffing on it. And so is the case with mashed chickpea salad wraps. My first couple of attempts, only one of which I have shared, were both cold sandwiches, but this all wrap is hot, melty, cheesy goodness. All of the Indian food that I've eaten had created an unbreakable bond between chickpeas and cauliflower in my brain but they make happy partners in more than just curries. The smokiness and complexity of barbecue spices (provided you've chosen a really good barbecue sauce), like that of curry, works really well with chickpeas and cauliflower. Chickpeas and cauliflower on their own are pretty subtle, but they eagerly soak up any spices you might throw their way, here transforming into something reminiscent of a barbecue chicken melt. Not mashing the chickpeas too thoroughly is important here, lest it turn into baby food, with the chopped cauliflower and red onion providing extra little crunchy bites. The cheddar really brings this all together in terms of both texture and flavor, its gooeyness and sharpness the perfect final touch of this simple, deeply flavored wrap. This was a weekend experimentation for me, but with such a short list of ingredients and required time commitment, this can easily be your busy weekday dinner or work lunch, even if you have to just give it a quick zap in the microwave.

BBQ Chickpea Cauliflower Melt
serves 1

1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, coarsely mashed
1/4 cup chopped (tender-crisp) cooked cauliflower
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
Whole grain tortilla, bread, or pita
1 ounce thinly sliced sharp cheddar (optional)

1. Mix chickpeas, cauliflower, onion, and barbecue sauce together in small bowl. Spread mixture evenly in center of tortilla, cover with sliced cheese, and roll up tortilla.

2. Preheat a pan over medium heat. Add wrap, seam side down, and cook, flipping once, until filling is warm and cheese is melted, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Remove from pan, slice in half, and serve promptly.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bulgur with Steak and Chickpeas

Usually when I'm grilling (which is a lot in the summer), I'm grilling for more than just one meal. Most often it's extra veggies for salads, snacks or sides, but I'll often cook up a little extra protein as well. I'll freely admit that my weekend diet is not nearly as virtuous as my weekday one and this recipe is a great way to transition from my indulgent weekend tendencies to more healthful weekday ones. It might seem that this wouldn't be nearly filling enough with only two ounces of steak, but that smoky, meaty grilled flavor is more than enough to carry this dish, even in scant quantities. Lest you still think your tummy will still be left rumbling, chickpeas and bulgur bulk up this dish along with a healthy helping of veggies. A super simple dressing hits rich, acidic, sweet, and smoky notes and a burst of parsley adds the perfect fresh element. I adore this just as is, but it also opens up the door for lots of experimentation - switch out the bulgur for rice, quinoa, barley, swap steak for chicken, shrimp, pork, or even tofu and toss in whatever herbs or vegetables you'd like. Great warm, at room temperature, or cool this recipe provides a template that can be adapted to please nearly any appetite.

Bulgur with Steak and Chickpeas
adapted from Cooking Light
serves 1

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Dash of kosher salt
3/4 cup cooked bulgur (from 1/4 cup uncooked)
1/4 cup canned chickpeas
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons parsley
2 ounces grilled flank steak

1. Combine olive oil, lemon juice, honey, cumin, and kosher salt. Combine bulgur, chickpeas, red bell pepper, red onion, and half of the parsley. Add dressing; toss. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and top with steak.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Brie and Bacon Burger with Cherry Mayo

It's cherry season! The notable Door County cherries are finding their way to the farmers' market along with sweet and sour cherries from lots of other local farmers. It's hard to resist just eating them all plain, but I try to preserve some of each summer fruit as it comes so I can enjoy them long after the season has passed, most often as jam or preserves. Although I most frequently scoop them generously on toast, yogurt, and ice cream, subtle accents of fruit in savory dishes are a thing of beauty. The sweet-sour flavor of the cherry preserves are a wonderful complement to the savory, smoky bacon, creamy brie, and hearty beef piled high in this indulgent burger. Each bite is a complex collection of complementary flavors that traverses a host of textures, moving from creamy Brie to tender onions to charred burger, book-ended by toasty bread. A perfect choice for a summer cookout now, you'll still be a craving a journey back to this taste of summer in the depths of winter.

Brie and Bacon Burger with Cherry Mayo
makes 1 burger

2 ounces thick-cut bacon (1 to 2 slices, depending on size)
1/2 cup sliced white or yellow onion
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 whole grain burger bun or pretzel bun
Olive or canola oil or melted butter
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon cherry preserves
1 ounce sliced Brie
4- to 6-ounce grass-fed beef patty

1. Preheat a pan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, turning occasionally, to desired level of crispiness. Drain bacon on paper towels, reserving grease in the pan.

2. Reduce heat to medium low, add onions, and add a pinch of salt and ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, prepare a grill over medium to medium high heat. Brush burger bun with oil or melted butter and grill until bun is golden and toasted, just a couple of minutes. While the bun is toasting, combine mayo and cherry preserves in a small bowl. After bun has cooled to room temperature, spread top half with cherry mayo.

4. When grill is ready, brush each side of burger with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning once halfway through, to just shy of desired level of doneness (I like my burgers medium rare). Place onions and bacon on burger patty and top with Brie. Cook until burger is cooked to desired level and cheese is melted. Place burger on bottom half of bun, top with other half, and serve promptly.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cold Veggie Noodle Salad with Creamy Peanut Sauce

Although this recipe is extremely portable, I made it when I actually had time to prepare myself a lunch right before eating it. With a little time off from work over the 4th of July holiday, I took the time to treat myself. Part of that indulgence was grilling some ribs and ordering pizza, but I also took the time to make myself healthy and delicious lunches that felt like treats in themselves and loaded my body with enough nutrients to withstand the caloric onslaught to come. I love Asian-inspired noodle bowls partly for the wonderful palate of flavors they draw from but also because you can throw in almost any veggie, a particular asset when the farmers' market is overflowing. I used bell peppers, scallions, cucumbers, and carrots, eagerly gathering up little bits of a host of vegetables in my fridge, but I was most happy with my use of broccoli stems. They occasionally get made into slaws, but that delicious part of the plant all too often goes to waste when they merely need to have their tough outer peel removed. This garden bounty is accompanied by simple peanut sauce that strikes a masterful balance of richness, acidity, and spiciness, generously flavoring the fresh vegetables and nutty whole wheat noodles without burying them. Whether it's a leisurely day at home or you need to pack a meal-on-the-go, this meal will satisfy your needs in delicious and nutritious fashion.

Cold Veggie Noodle Salad with Creamy Peanut Sauce
adapted from The Kitchn
serves 1 to 2

3 ounces whole wheat linguine or Chinese wheat noodles, rice noodles, or udon noodles
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
3/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste (optional)
4 ounces mixed vegetables, cut into matchsticks (carrots, bell peppers, scallions, cucumbers, broccoli stems, etc.)
2 tablespoons roughly chopped roasted salted peanuts, divided
Cilantro leaves, lime wedges, and Sriracha, for garnish

1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking broth before straining. Run the noodles under cold water and shake to remove excess liquid before returning them to the empty pot.

2. In another bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and 1 tablespoonshot cooking broth and whisk vigorously until mixed. (It will be quite thick.) Toss the peanut sauce with the noodles until coated. Stir in additional hot cooking broth — a few splashes at a time — until the dish is smooth and creamy. (You will probably not need all of the reserved broth.) Taste and season with red pepper, additional soy sauce, and rice vinegar if desired.

3. Fold in 2/3 of the veggies and half of the peanuts. Transfer noodles to serving dish and garnish with remaining veggies and peanuts. Garnish with cilantro leaves, lime wedges, and Sriracha, if desired. This can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mashed Curried Chickpea Salad with Raisins and Almonds

I had a rare few days off from work this past week, a stay-cation of sorts. I'm the kind of person who has a hard time sitting still, but since this is the only time off I'm allowed this summer from work because of our project schedule, I made a conscious decision to give myself a break (for once) and relax. An important element of treating myself during my time off is food. I treated myself plenty to indulgent food (perhaps too much), but I also just relished having the time to leisurely prepare healthy lunches right before it was time to eat. I didn't have any intentions of coming up with new recipes during my time off, but I was struck with inspiration to make mashed chickpea salad wraps and I can't deny my culinary muses. I'm not sure what planted the inkling of this idea since I haven't been searching for recipes anything similar, but I certainly am pleased with what my subconscious created. Chickpeas eagerly soak up flavors, and here they are paired with their frequent cohort, curry, elevated by a rich almond crunch and sweet raisin bite. As with many of my more healthy creations I made this just for one, but it could easily be scaled up to feed a crowd for a picnic or provide for days of work lunches.

Mashed Curried Chickpea Salad with Raisins and Almonds
serves 1

1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, coarsely mashed
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped raisins
1 tablespoon chopped almonds
2 tablespoons regular or Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
Whole grain tortilla, bread, pita, or crackers for serving (optional)
Lettuce, greens, or alfalfa sprouts, for serving (optional)

1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and stir well to combine. Place lettuce on tortilla (or other bread of choice) and top with chickpea mixture. Roll up tortilla, cut in half, and serve.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Black Bean Nacho Burgers

Happy Fourth of July! My carnivorous tendencies tend to come out on grilling holidays like this, but you may end up with some vegetarians or health-conscious people at your holiday cookout. To satisfy their appetites, try these delicious black bean burgers. As the name would suggest, these are basically black bean nachos made into burger form, a classic combination of ingredients that are sure to please. Typical veggie burgers use grains like rice or quinoa, but these burgers get a salty, binding crunch from tortilla chips. Salsa and cheese give these burgers most of their flavor, so be sure to make choose the best of each for this recipe. As with nearly all veggie burgers, texture is the real challenge here, so use caution when flipping so they don't fall apart. For extra assurance, I recommend spraying your spatula with cooking spray so the burgers don't stick to the spatula. If you want to cook these on the grill instead of in a pan, place them on a generously oiled layer of aluminum foil instead of directly on the grate. Delicious, affordable, and practical, this recipe can easily be scaled up to feed a crowd and extras can be tightly wrapped and stored in the freezer.

Black Bean Nacho Burgers
adapted from Epicurious
makes 4 burgers

1 15 ounce can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup finely crushed tortilla chips
1/3 cup salsa, plus additional for serving
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar, plus additional for topping
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Olive oil or canola cooking spray
4 whole grain hamburger buns, tortillas, or pitas
Lettuce leaves, tomato, and red onion for serving (optional)

1. Use a food processor or a potato masher to smash beans until chunky, leaving some partly whole. Stir in crushed chips, salsa, cheddar, egg, and black pepper. Set mixture aside 10 minutes, then shape into 4 patties.

2. Place patties on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight.

3. Meanwhile, preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add patties to pan and cook until golden brown on one side, 4 to 5 minutes. Spray pan again, if necessary, flip patties and cook until underside is golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add additional cheese on top, if desired. Remove from heat, place on buns, and top with lettuce, tomato, onion, and more salsa, if desired.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup

It would figure that the temperatures would become reasonable again when I have my first cold soup to share. I made this at the height of our latest heatwave and it was a godsend to only spend a couple minutes at the stove for an incredibly flavorful dinner, a situation I know we'll encounter many more times as the dog days of summer approach. No-cook meals are an obvious way to beat the heat, but spicy bites are also a great choice for steamy weather, this soup a delicious melding of those two approaches.

Thai curry paste (red or green) is one of my favorite shortcuts to a quick and tasty meal, and one of my few complaints about the original recipe is it doesn't use that workhorse ingredient to full effect. Thai green curry paste is most predominately flavored by fresh lemongrass, tangy galangal (Thai ginger), and spicy green chilies and these bold flavors blend seamlessly with the creamy coconut milk, bright lime, and extra chilies. Cucumber is great base for this flavor melange, providing a light and clean canvas to feature this host of bold tastes. Avocado, with all its delightful creaminess and richness, is what makes this soup a substantial first course or satisfying light meal when accompanied a salad and bread. If you want to eschew any sort of cooking you can skip the toasted coconut garnish, but I think the brief encounter with heat is well worth it. Toasty, crunchy coconut is the perfect contrast to the spicy, creamy base, this easy dramatic accent bringing it all together in a feast for the eyes and stomach.

Spicy Avocado-Cucumber Soup
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 5

1 medium (approx. 12-ounce cucumber)
1 teaspoon Thai green curry paste, or more (to taste)
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1 serrano, jalapeno, or Thai chile, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1.5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, for garnish
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

1. In a food processor, puree the cucumbers until smooth. Add the avocados, curry paste, sugar, lime zest and chile. Process until blended. Add 3 1/2 cups of water, the coconut milk and lime juice and process until smooth. Transfer the soup to a large bowl and season with salt. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a skillet, toast the coconut over low heat, stirring a few times, until lightly browned and crisp, 3 minutes. Let cool.
3. Ladle the soup into small bowls or cups, garnish with the toasted coconut flakes and cilantro sprigs and serve.