Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sweet Potato & Lentil Burgers with a Roasted Garlic Avocado Spread

 Always great when a shoddy weather forecast works in your favor. Purportedly, the area was going to suffer a storm of biblical proportions this weekend, but the ground has barely gotten damp....maybe it's just tardy.

But with the sun out and the weather about-to-rain breezy, I've enjoyed three lengthy bike rides and now these delicious vegan burgers—which are sooo cheap, as well as delicious!

Turmeric adds a fleck of gold to the bold orange sweet potato, so you've got yourself a pretty patty. I threw together the roasted garlic avocado spread on a whim; I was initially going to just top the burgers with sliced avocado, but it was a simple upgrade.

Sweet Potato & Lentil Burgers 
with a Roasted Garlic Avocado Spread
Serves 4.

For the burgers:
1 sweet potato
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup lentils
1 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons milled flaxseed cereal
2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for cooking
1 pinch dried oregano
2 teaspoons turmeric

For the spread:1 avocado
1 head garlic
Olive oil (for roasting)
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 400. Prick sweet potato several times with the tines of a fork, then rub lightly with olive oil. Place on foil-lined baking sheet. Take the head of garlic, peel off the outer layers, and trim the top. Wrap in a small sheet of foil, then drizzle olive oil inside. Place on baking sheet with sweet potato. Bake for 35 minutes, removing garlic after 25.
2. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir in lentils, then lower heat, cover, and cook for 30—35 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed.
3. While the lentils, sweet potato, and garlic are cooking, quarter and peel the avocado. Using a potato masher, smash the avocado in a small bowl. When garlic is done roasting, squeeze roasted cloves into the bowl as well. Add lemon juice and stir together until fully combined. Cover and chill for thirty minutes.
4. Drain cooked lentils. Remove sweet potato from oven. Peel and smash. Place both in food processor, along with the remaining ingredients, including 1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil. Combine on medium-high.
5. Form mixture into four small patties. Heat remaining coconut oil in a medium, non-stick skillet. Cook patties, 5—7 minutes on each side.
6. Top with avocado spread and serve.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cardamom Ginger Crunch

Usually when I'm going to blog about a recipe, I have a pretty good idea as I'm making it and end up snapping pictures of the various stages (sometimes coming dangerously close to interfering with said recipe...)

But I didn't plan ahead here. In fact, it was almost midnight and I was feeling restless when I stepped into the kitchen to whip up this crunchy sweet treat. And oh man, was it worth it! My coworkers thought so too, once I brought it into work so I wouldn't eat the whole thing myself...

So even though I don't have the requisite pictures, I felt compelled to share. Any time you get the chance to envelop your kitchen in spices and melted butter, you're going to feel pretty serene. Then you take a bite and it's even better.

Rather than ground cardamom and ginger, I worked with cardamom pods (which I cracked, extracted the seeds from, and then ground the seeds) and freshly grated ginger. For the glaze, I went with a combination of cinnamon and nutmeg rather than more cardamom, plus the grated ginger. I didn't have confectioners' sugar—see above about not planning ahead—so I threw granulated sugar into the blender with a little cornstarch. Et voilà! Crunchy, spicy goodness.

Cardamom Ginger Crunch (adapted from Saveur)
Yield: 12 pieces
For shortbread:
4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cups flour, sifted
1/2 inch ginger, peeled and grated
3 cardamom pods, seeds extracted and ground
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch kosher salt

For the glaze:
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 pinch kosher salt
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar (or 1/4 granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cornstarch, blended together at high speed)
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease 7x11 in. baking dish with baking spray. For shortbread, put butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together with mixer on medium until fluffy. Add flour, gringer, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. Mix until fully combined but still crumbly. Pour into baking pan and press flat (about 1/4 inch thick). Bake for 15 minutes, until top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
2. Make the glaze by combining ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then pour over cooled shortbread. Let cool again. Cut into rectangles and serve.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Rosemary Pepper Drop Biscuits

This week at the Country Roads' Test Kitchen, I'm trying out Café Sbisa's shrimp épicé. In the New Orleans restaurant's dish, pan-seared shrimp swims in a delicious sea of andouille cream sauce. Café Sbisa serves their shrimp over a baked Focaccia biscuit, but I elected to go another route.

Rosemary pepper drop biscuits: simple, delicious, and cheap! I found the recipe on a blog called Budget Bytes, which I'm bookmarking right away. I find it far too easy to let my culinary ambitions lead my poor wallet all over town, so lately I've been trying to make my cooking experience work toward my finances. It does seem possible!

These biscuits provided an impeccable delivery system for the andouille sauce (which I must describe to you: notes of honey, soy, and ginger; sharp red onion; ripe tomatoes; and, of course, andouille and cream. It's even better than it sounds.)

It'd be a crime to miss a drop. And here's why you don't have to:

Rosemary pepper drop biscuits (from Budget Bytes)

Yield: 8 biscuits

(Note: Budget Bytes has, as expected, excellent budget-related info related to this recipe. Check it out at the link above!)
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup (1 stick) butter
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp dried rosemary
½ tsp freshly cracked pepper
1 tsp sugar
approx. 1 cup milk


  1. Preheat oven to 400. Roughly chop the rosemary to prevent large, sharp pieces. Combine the dry ingredients (rosemary, pepper, flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder) in a large bowl and stir until well combined.
  2. Take the butter out of the refrigerator just prior to using it. Slice the butter into pieces. Add the pieces of cold butter to the dry ingredients and work it in until the mixture takes on a sandy texture.
  3. Starting with ¾ cup, add just enough milk to moisten the mixture into a thick, paste-like texture (see photos below). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and scoop 8 dollops of the biscuit dough onto the paper (about ⅔ cup each).
  4. Bake the biscuits in the fully preheated 400 degree oven for 18-22 minutes or until they are golden brown on the surface. Serve warm.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Creamy Mashed Potatoes with a Turnip Puree

This week at the Country Roads test kitchen, I simmered up a little pinot "jam" for a steak topping. More of a compote than a jam, the quasi-garnish consisted of red onions cooked down with pinot noir, bay leaf, brown sugar, freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of cloves. I'm telling you, the cloves are what elevated the mixture into something special—a slight foreign twist on a well-known ingredient. That's the magic of spices. You can read more about the pinot jam here.

For a side, I wanted the hearty, filling quality of potatoes without the heaviness. The turnip puree did the trick. Despite involving milk and cream, this side had an airy, silky quality that made for an elegant addition to the steak and pinot jam.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes with a Turnip Puree

4–5 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
1/2 pound turnip, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 sprigs thyme
Kosher salt
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

1. In a medium saucepan, combine turnip, butter, milk, and thyme over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil over and then simmer, partially covered, for twenty-five minutes.
2. Remove thyme. Using an immersion blender (or a food processor), purée the mixture. Return mixture to pan (if using a food processor), and keep warm.
3. Meanwhile, place potatoes in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, covered by at least 1 inch of salted water. Bring to a rolling boil, then simmer until potatoes can be pierced cleanly by a fork (10–15 minutes.) Drain in a colander, then mash completely in a bowl.
4. Add mashed potatoes into the saucepan with the turnip purée. Raise heat to medium and, stirring, warm potatoes completely through.
5. Lower heat to medium-low. Add grated cheese; stir until melted. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Roasted Tomato and Almond Pesto

The lentil soup recipe I was using Friday night did not necessarily need anything else. It comes from Diamond Jim Moran, friend of Huey P. Long's and the party deemed responsible for bringing slot machines to New Orleans. Supposedly when he passed, the boxer Rocky Marciano lamented both the loss of the man and the loss of his legendary lentil soup.

But I couldn't resist an addition to make it my own. Tomatoes quartered, drizzled in balsamic, and roasted. Toasted almonds. Fresh basil chiffonade. All processed together and then swirled among the noodles and legumes of Diamond Jim's soup. It certainly didn't hurt.

You can find the lentil soup recipe here. I must champion its assets as a cold-weather lunch. It will warm you to the core.

And now for its full-flavored companion:

Roasted Tomato and Almond Pesto (adapted from Eating Well)
Makes 1 1/2 cups

4 vine-ripe tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil & 1/4 cup olive oil, separated
1/4 cup almonds, toasted
1/2 cup basil leaves, cut chiffonade style
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated


1. Preheat oven to 400. Place tomatoes on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Toss in balsamic and two tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for one hour, tossing halfway through.
2. In food processor, combine roasted tomatoes, almonds, basil, red wine vinegar, and cheese. Add remaining olive oil in a steady stream. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Pesto and Mozzarella Focaccia

How can you have tomato soup without a cheesy bread to sop it up?

This week in the Country Roads Test Kitchen, I revived the roasted tomato soup recipe from Il Posto Cafe in uptown New Orleans. Find the recipe here.

The soup, with its tremendous depth of flavor, needed an ideal dipping companion. I chose focaccia because it's easy and quick to make, and I love the freedom to spread my desired toppings over the dough before baking--like fancy pizza!

I adapted the pesto focaccia recipe from Whisks and Whimsy (which I hope has a meandering sister blog out there known as "Whisky and Whims.") Shamefully, I did not make my own pesto, because my food processor is broken right now. But my abashed, hanging head was rewarded with the lovely scent of roasting tomatoes. So instead of "Sorry I'm not sorry," I guess it's "I'm not sorry I'm sorry!" If that makes sense...

Back to the recipe! Once my dough was properly combined in my stand mixer (with the dough hook attachment), I left it to proof in the oven while I ran to the store for everything else. Perfect timing. All I had to do when I came back was roll out the dough, top it with pesto, onions, and fresh mozzarella, and throw it (or ya know, carefully set it down while wearing oven mitts and squinting at the heat waves) in the oven for 25 minutes.

While the bread cooled slightly, I finished my tomato soup. Then sliced the bread. Then dipped. Then sighed. Happy eating!

Pesto and Mozzarella Focaccia
Makes one large pan.

2 teaspoons rapid-rise dry yeast
1 cup water, warmed to about 115 degrees
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup prepared pesto
4 oz. fresh mozzarella (pearls or torn into 1/2-inch pieces)
1/2 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced

1. In the bowl of your standing mixer, combine the yeast, water and sugar. Stir to dissolve, and let sit for 3 minutes, until foamy. With the mixer fitted with a dough hook, turn the mixer on low speed and slowly add 3 1/2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Add the dissolved salt (doesn’t have to be completely dissolved) and slowly pour in the olive oil. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium and mix for about 8-10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Add the remaining flour a tablespoon at a time if the dough is too sticky.

2. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead a few times before forming the dough into a round ball. Place the dough ball into a large oiled bowl, turning it so that it is coated with olive oil. Leave the dough ball in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size.

3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and coat a sheet pan with olive oil. Turn out the dough on your work surface. Roll and stretch the dough roughly into a rectangular shape (doesn’t have t be perfect); the dough should be about a 1/2 inch thick. Transfer the dough to the oiled sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 15 minutes.

4. Uncover the dough and use your fingertips to make dimples in the dough. Brush the dough with extra-virgin olive oil and then brush the dough lightly with the prepared pesto and top with fresh mozzarella and onion slices. Bake the bread in the lower third of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top is golden.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sesame Salmon and Quinoa Salad

This is going to be a fairly quick blog post, because I wasn't planning on blogging the recipe so I didn't take the usual plethora of pictures, but also because it's very simple!

I've been trying to increase the qualities of "cheap" and "healthy" in my meals lately (which can be fairly difficult living in New Orleans and also having a mountain of cookbooks/Internet access), and that drive has led to a little more "what can I work with in my pantry?" than usual.

For this meal, I got a bag of the cheap frozen salmon fillets (probably the most painful price cut of all) and set about slightly modifying a favorite recipe of mine: Quinoa and Pistachio Salad with Moroccan Pesto.

First off, I took out the pistachios. So expensive! (I will now take a moment to google: "How the heck can you grow your own pistachios, because damn the man.)

I also substituted the Moroccan pesto for a jar of basic pesto I had on hand, amped up by the addition of sriracha and honey, an enhancement I started using after making charmoula sauce. Sweet heat! So good. (Results from pistachio search: I would need to grow trees, and I am quite without a backyard. Innovation/scheming will continue later.)

And I added zucchini! For a little more green, I seasoned the zucchini slices with salt, pepper, and cumin and roasted them alongside the red peppers. For the salmon, I patted the fillets dry, rubbed them with oil, and formed an oregano and sesame seed crust on one side. Seared them in my cast-iron, then served!

There you have your pre-paycheck mods for a delicious dinner. Hope you enjoy!

Sesame Salmon and Quinoa Salad
Salmon serves 2. Salad serves 4—6.

2 frozen salmon fillets, thawed and skinned
1/2 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken stock
1 cup water
1 15.5 oz can chickpeas
1/4 cup pesto
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 tablespoon honey
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, stem removed, halved and seeded
1/2 tablespoon cumin
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400. On a large rimmed baking sheet, coated with cooking spray, spread out zucchini in a single layer in half the pan. Season with cumin, salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and toss. Place bell pepper halves in other half of pan, cut side down. Roast in oven for 30 - 40 minutes, turning zucchini over halfway through. Remove when pepper is blackened and zucchini slices are browned. Let pepper cool, then remove skin and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa, stock, and water over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Cook for 10—12 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
3. Meanwhile, season salmon fillets with salt and pepper on both sides. On top side, sprinkle with oregano and sesame seed picture, pressing sesame seeds into the fillet.
4. Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil is shimmering, add fillets (crust side up). Cook for 4—5 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and set aside.
5. Mix pesto, sriracha, honey, and chickpeas into quinoa. Serve each plate, topping quinoa mound with zucchini and red peppers. Serve salmon alongside.