Back in the Kitchen: Mushroom and Brown Rice Burgers (with Lemon and Herb Hummus)

the sprouted kitchen: a tastier take on whole foods is a  recently published cookbook and it's my new go-to. Sara and Hugh Forte, the husband-and-wife team behind the very popular Sprouted Kitchen, have put together one of the most beautiful collections of recipes I've seen since Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty hit the scene. The photographs are gorgeous and the food tastes delicious. Some day, one day, I hope that I can improve upon my food photography. If and when that (ever) happens, I hope my pictures will look something like Hugh's. I wouldn't mind having Sara's taste instincts either…and this is one cookbook you should own.

I've made a bunch of Sara's dishes, including her recipe for Lentil "Meatballs" with Lemon Pesto, and it has become one of my favorites.
It's been a few weeks since I've been in the kitchen. And I've missed it.
We managed to move (without incident) from the northwestern section of Denver, all the way over to the eastern side of the city. I'm not really sure what section of town we are in-- some people call it Hilltop, some refer to it as Crestmoor, and Lowry gets thrown in there too. We've signed a short 6 month lease, so maybe I'll figure it out before we move (again)...hopefully to a place of our own... 
Anyway, take-out dinners were the norm the week before we moved. The packing seemed endless and, having two boys under the age of 3 to care for, just added to the juggling act. I managed to eek out a Tomato Tart and Fresh Tomato Cream Soup, but that was pretty much it.
Unfortunately, two days after we moved, a devastating family emergency brought me back to NYC. I'm reluctant to write more about the seriousness of what happened, mostly because my writing can not possible convey the ordeal our family faced over the past few weeks. While the events that transpired aren't a secret, I have to respect that fact that my parents and brother might prefer a bit of privacy, not wishing to broadcast every detail on a public forum such as a blog. As of now though, things are much better than they were two weeks ago. For that we are thankful. And we continue to maintain a positive outlook. We truly appreciate all the good thoughts and prayers that have been said on our behalf. 
That said, it has been a crazy few weeks. There has been very little time to cook and not much time to eat a real meal.
This is pretty much marks my foray back in to the kitchen after almost a month away.
This mushroom and brown rice burger, while a bit time consuming to put together, hits the spot. It's really fantastic. I topped it with sauteed shallots and a lemon and herb hummus. The dip is positively delicious. Since I had a bit of avocado salsa already made, I added that to the burger too. But feel free to experiment; you can really add whatever condiments and toppings you like or have at your disposal. 
A note on the ingredients: I am sensitive to the fact that purchasing certain ingredients can get expensive. But I think that the taste that comes from these specialty flours, herbs or seeds, enhance the dish exponentially. They are well worth it, in most cases. 
It took me quite a bit of time to build up my pantry (with things like flax meal, for example). But now I seem to have most of the ingredients I need on hand. Unless you want to go all-out and buy everything at once (which can be pricey), build up your pantry by prioritizing what you will use the most and what tastes you favor. This requires a bit of patience, but it beats boring, bland, unhealthy food, right?! 
Hope you enjoy this vegetarian burger and the first few days of fall! 
Happy cooking...
Mushroom and Brown Rice Veggie Burgers (Courtesy of Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods, Sara and Hugh Forte)
Serves 6 (I halved the recipe and it made 4 burgers)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 cups stemmed and finely chopped cremini mushrooms (about 1 pound). (I used baby bella mushrooms, which work, because...)
5 cloves garlic, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup ground flaxseed (flax meal)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained well (I used organic canned)
3 Medjool dates, pitted
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 egg
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 1/2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 cups coked and cooled brown rice (Generally speaking, I use a ratio of 1:2-- rice to water. I then add more water as needed, usually ending up with closer to 3 cups, but that might be because I cook at altitude. I add a splash (or two) of veggie stock for more flavor.)
1 to 2 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats, as needed (I didn't need them.)
4 large shallots, sliced thin
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive-oil or coconut oil
6 whole grain English muffins
3/4 cup hummus (recipe below)
2 avocados, peeled and sliced (I used avocado salsa, recipe below)
2 cups arugula
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan. Add the mushrooms, garlic and a pinch of salt and sauté until the mushrooms are softened and the excess water has cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.
Combine the ground flaxseed, Parmesan, chickpeas, dates, parsley, egg, fennel seeds, tahini, tamari, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper in a food processor. Give the mixture a few pulses to combine well and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Once the mushrooms are at room temperature, add them, along with any juices in the pan, to the bowl along with the rice and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. At this point the mixture should be pretty moist, but if it seems too wet to form into a patty, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons of oats to soak up some of the moisture. The recipe can be prepared to this point up to a day in advance.
Arrange a rack in the upper third of your oven and preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. 
Form the mixture into 6 patties, each about 1 inch thick. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone baking mat and arrange the patties on the baking sheet with space in between. Bake them in the oven until toasted on top, 14 to 18 minutes. 
While the burgers cook, prepare the shallots. Warm the oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and a pinch of salt and sauté until the edges begin to brown, 5 o 7 minutes. Set aside for assembly.
After removing the patties from the oven, toast the English muffins while the burgers rest for a moment. Put a swipe of hummus on each muffin half and assemble the burgers by layering the patty, avocado slices, arugula and sauteed shallots. Serve immediately.
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Lemon and Herb Hummus (Courtesy of Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods)
Serves 6-8
3 cups cooked chickpeas (about 2 15-ounce cans)
1 roasted shallot (To roast the shallot, peel it and cut into quarters. Rub a bit of olive oil on the surface and roast in the oven or a toaster oven at 400F for about 20 minutes.)
3 tablespoons tahini
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (I omitted the dill because I didn't want to shlep back to the supermarket.)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
Optional Garnish (Not for the burger)
1/2 English cucumber, sliced paper-thin
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, roasted shallot, tahini, lemon zest and juice, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and the red pepper flakes and pulse to combine. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream. Stop the food processor when the hummus reaches the desired smoothness. (I thinned mine out with a few tablespoons of water at this point.)
Add the herbs to the hummus, and pulse a few times until combined.
Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you'd like. Pulse the processor while adding 1 to 3 tablespoons of water to thin out the hummus, as needed, remembering that it will firm up in the fridge.
To make the optional garnish, toss the cucumber with the parsley and vinegar. To serve, put the hummus on a serving plate, top with the cucumber mixture and feta, and garnish with fresh chopped parsley and fill. 
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I never did get around to posting Ezra Pound Cake's Summer Corn Cakes (above), but here is a slightly modified version of her recipe for Tomato and Avocado Salsa (seen in the blue bowl above). I dolloped it on top of the mushroom and brown rice burgers, but please note that I added this particular topping because I already had it in my refrigerator. Sara, (of Sprouted Kitchen) adds sliced avocado to her burger, so feel free to do that if you are: a) short on time or b) don't really feel like adding a step to this meal.
Avocado Salsa, adapted by Ezra Pound Cake from Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen
Makes about 2 cups
1 scallion, trimmed and minced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 small clove garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and diced
Place all of the ingredients (except the avocado) in a bowl, and stir to mix. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve, for up to 2 days.
Just before serving, add the avocado, and mix gently. Adjust salt. Serve! 

Lunch Is Served: Senegalese Saladu Awooka ak Mango (Avocado-Mango Salad)

Generally speaking, I'm not someone who typically eats a salad for lunch. But yesterday I found myself craving a salad-- not lettuce or spinach based-- something with a little bit more heft. I saw this recipe for Saladu Awooka ak Mango in Saveur Magazine and since it's packed with avocados, I was pretty sure it would leave me feeling sated. 
The verdict on lunch? It was absolutely delicious and bursting with flavor. The Senegalese like eating this refreshing salad because it's a nice break from their traditional stews which tend to be much heavier. I thought it was the perfect lunch. It was just over 80 degrees in Denver yesterday, so light(er) was the way to go.
Making this salad reminded me that I really want to delve into West African cooking, though I think that this particular dish seems rather Caribbean too. And while I'm going the West African route, maybe I should try to cook my way through the whole continent! There's a ton of diversity in African cooking (from ingredients, spices, styles, influences, etc.), and that means that there are lots of options. I know that most people don't typically think of vegetarian fare when they think of Africa, but there are some really great national dishes that don't use meat. Well, okay, unless you are Masai (Maasai). They eat cow and...that's pretty much it. 
I travelled to Kenya and Tanzania a few years back, and actually had amazing vegetarian food-- thanks in large part to the sub-continental Indian community's influence on East African cuisine (many Indians were recruited to work on the British railway that connected points in Uganda to the Indian Ocean at Mombasa.)
Of course North African cooking (Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian and Egyptian) has some great options for vegetarians such as tagines, couscous and legume dishes. And there's Ethiopian food, one of my favorites...but I don't think I'm confident enough to start with that just yet.
So there you have it. My first West African post. I hope to explore more Senegalese dishes in the future. 
Happy eating!

Saladu Awooka ak Mango (Avocado-Mango Salad), Courtesy of Saveur Magazine, A Feast for All
Serves 4–6


½ cup finely chopped parsley
¼ cup peanut or canola oil (I used peanut)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1/4" cubes (I went with 1/2 inch)
2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled, and cut into 1″ chunks
1 small navel orange, peeled and cut into segments (I only had half an orange left, so I used it)
2 tsp. unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)


1. Whisk together 6 tbsp. parsley, oil, both citrus juices, jalapeño, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add mangoes and avocados, and toss gently to combine; cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate to meld flavors, about 1 hour. (I didn't chill it for an hour, and still thought that the avocado and mango soaked up the flavor.)
2. To serve, transfer avocado salad to a serving bowl; halve orange segments crosswise, and lay over salad. Sprinkle with remaining parsley, and coconut if using. Serve chilled.

Food Lab's Best Basic Guacamole

I saw this recipe posted on Food Lab: The Best Guacamole (and the Science of Avocados) and knew that I had to try it. I had a bunch of avocados in my kitchen...and they were getting riper by the minute. 
This really is a fantastic guacamole that takes about 15 minutes to make. I made two adjustments: I used about 1/3 cup of cilantro (instead of the recommended 1/2 cup) and replaced serrano chili with jalapeño because that's what I had in my house. My only caveat is this: don't serve this guacamole with super-salty chips. The dip has enough salt in it, and if you use a salty chip, it could be a bit a much. That said, this is now going to be my go-to guacamole recipe. Chunky, creamy and the heat's just right. There aren't many ingredients (6 to be exact) and this is a very affordable homemade party dip. The texture is perfect and the taste is fabulous! Enjoy.
Best Basic Guacamole (Adapted from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, Serious Eats
Serves 8 as an appetizer
1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 jalapeño chili, roughly chopped (original recipe uses serrano)
1/3 cup picked cilantro leaves, finely chopped, divided (original recipe uses 1/2 cup)
2 teaspoons kosher salt (*go with 1 1/2 teaspoons to start, and add more to taste)
4 ripe avocados
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Place onion, chili, half of cilantro leaves, and salt in a mortar and pestle. Pound into a fine paste. Alternatively, combine onion, chili, half of cilantro, salt, and half of lime juice in a food processor or blender and process until smooth paste is formed, scraping down sides as necessary.
Split each avocado in half, discard pits, and spoon out flesh into a medium bowl. Roughly mash with a stiff whisk. Add onion/chili puree, remaining cilantro leaves, and half of lime juice. Fold to combine. Season to taste with more salt and lime juice. Serve immediately with warm tortilla chips.

Heidi Swanson's Avocados and Mustard Seeds

Dear Avocados, you're so creamy, delicious, rich and flavorful. I've turned you into cold soup and sliced you with grapefruit. I've tossed you in salads and eaten you whole (minus your pit and skin). I am, officially, an avocado aficionado. But around the time we left Brooklyn, my delicious avocados, you were almost 3 bucks a pop. 
I was wondering if there was some kind of avocado-blight. Maybe something similar to the blight that wiped out potatoes during the Great Potato Famine in Ireland? Or something similar to the fungus that hit our tomato share last summer? Why were they so expensive? I never did get to the bottom of that inquiry, but now it hardly matters. Here in Denver I've been finding avocados for .89 cents each and that means I'm busting out my avocado recipes.  
I've become particularly fond of this one for Avocado and Mustard Seed. I first spotted the recipe in Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Every Day. But the original source for Heidi's adaptation was Julie Sahni (and her Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking). Since I'm a big fan of both Julie and Heidi, I knew this dish would become a favorite. And it has. 
You can serve this as a starter/dip or as a side. It's a great way to do something more creative with your avocado. So if you like chilies, cilantro and curry, this has got your name on it. The serrano's heat melds beautifully with the curry powder, mustard seeds and onions. It's, like, the perfect dip for that Sunday football game...go Broncos?! (Did I just type that? Next thing you know I'll be buying fleece from REI. Just kidding. That will never happen.)
Be sure to use ripe avocados. Oh, and definitely DO NOT wipe your eyes after handling the serrano chile. I made that mistake earlier today and I'm still feeling the burn. Ouch.

Avocados and Mustard Seeds (Courtesy of Heidi Swanson, Super Natural Every Day)
Yields about 2 cups 
2 ripe avocados
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt (don't heap the teaspoon)
1/2 cup coarsley chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon clarified butter or extra-virgin coconut oil (I used coconut oil for the first time.  I found a jar at Sunflower Farmers Market.)
1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
1 small yellow onion, mined
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Indian curry powder
1 small serrano chile, minced
Cut each avocado in half, remove the pit, and scoop the flesh into a small bowl. Add the lemon juice, salt, and most of the cilantro. Mash the avocados a bit with a fork, but don't overdo it-- you want the mixture to be quite chunky. Set aside.
Heat the clarified butter or oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the mustard seeds. Keep a lid on hand because the seeds will scatter as they pop. When the spattering stops, after about a  minute, stir in the onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic, curry powder, and chile.  
Count to ten, and then remove from heat. Stir in the avocado mixture, but just barely, and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with remaining cilantro. 

Frankie's Tomato, Avocado & Red Onion

Frank Falcinelli (of Frankie's Spuntino/Frankie's 457 fame) loves to say that this salad "makes gazpacho in your mouth."  It's so simple and so delicious.  My other-half loves all things tomato, so this is right up his alley and perfect for August salads.  We have already started getting heirloom tomatoes in our CSA share and I'm anticipating that we will get more in our next pick up.  Yes, please!   
On Friday night Yana F. and her significant other brought dinner over to our place.  It was the nicest thing because we are in the middle of packing up our apartment and we don't have much time to put dinner together.  Going to a restaurant at 8 p.m. on a Friday night is also a bit challenging given the bedtime of No. 1 and No. 2.  So they brought the dinner to us.  We had delicious Italian fare including eggplant rollatini, penne and chicken for the non-vegetarians in the bunch.  Yana and I also put together a variation of this Frankie's Tomato & Avocado Salad.   I didn't want our CSA lettuce go to waste so we made the recipe below, added it to the lettuce, and tossed it with some Goodess Dressing.  It was really good. 
* * *
This salad is so seasonal and it's so flavorful.  It only takes a few minutes to make and with a million boxes to pack in preparation of our impending move (9 days!), time is precious... Sure, you could just cut those juicy red globes up and eat them plain, but this way is nice too...
Tomato, Avocado & Red Onion Salad (from Frankie's, by way of NPR )
Serves 4
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 small (or 1/2 medium) red onion, thinly sliced
Fine sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Hass avocados
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Core the tomatoes and slice into wedges. Combine with the sliced onion, a large pinch of salt, and the olive oil and vinegar in a large bowl. Gently toss, and divide among four serving plates.
2. Halve, pit, peel, and slice the avocados and divide among the four plates. Sprinkle the avocado with a small pinch of salt and drizzle each plate with a little olive oil. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper just before the salad goes to the table.