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.
 * * *
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. 
* * *
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! 

Heart Healthy Wake-Up Call: Kim Boyce's Oatmeal Pancakes (and a picnic treat)

Kim Boyce: pastry maker, amazing baker and James Beard Award winner. She has a huge following and I'm about one click away from ordering her book Good to the Grain. (Or I might just place an order at my local bookshop instead of ordering online.) Kim's bakeshop is supposed to be fantastic and it will be high on my list of places to eat when I go back to Portland.
Anyway, I've been meaning to make these Oatmeal Pancakes ever since I saw them on The Wednesday Chef blog. I finally got it done. 
For some reason I thought they would take a long time to prepare, which is not the case at all. This recipe uses rolled oats-- as a porridge (oats boiled in water for 5 minutes) and as a flour (oats pulsed for about 1/2 minute in the food processor). A quick and easy way to convert oatmeal into a pancake and get some soluble fiber into your diet!
I had a few cups of rolled oats left over from some Swedish Chokladbollars I made during a play date a few weeks ago, so it was time to make these pancakes.
As you can see, they were a total hit with Otis. He ate 5. That's him in the picture below showing you how many he ate. So between the Quinoa Patties and these Oatmeal Pancakes, I'm batting over 300. That's pretty good. And speaking of batting, baseball season is just around the corner! Yippee. Andy Pettitie is back in pinstripes after coming out of retirement. And even though I'm living in Denver, I am still a 5th generation New Yorker, so I'll still be rooting for the Bronx Bombers...well, at least for this year. 
Oatmeal Pancakes (Courtesy of Kim Boyce via The Wednesday Chef)
Makes about 18 pancakes
3/4 cup oat flour (pulse 3/4 cup rolled oats into a food processor or spice grinder until finely ground)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (plus extra for the pan)
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup cooked oatmeal*
1 tablespoon unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses or 1 tablespoon honey
2 large eggs
1. Whisk the oat flour, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the butter, milk, cooked oatmeal, honey and eggs together until thoroughly combined. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Using a light hand is important for tender pancakes; the batter should be slightly thick with a holey surface. Although the batter is best if using immediately, it can sit for up to 1 hour on the counter or overnight in the refrigerator. When you return to the batter, it will be very thick and should be thinned, one tablespoon at a time, with milk. Take care not to overmix.
2. Heat a 10-inch cast-iron pan or griddle over medium heat until water sizzles when splashed onto the pan. Rub the pan generously with butter. Working quickly, dollop 1/4-cup mounds of batter onto the pan, 2 or 3 at a time. Once bubbles have begun to form on the top side of the pancake, flip the pancake and cook until the bottom is dark golden-brown, about 5 minutes total. Wipe the pan with a cloth before griddling the next pancake. Continue with the rest of the batter.
3. Serve the pancakes hot, straight from the skillet or keep them warm in a low oven.
* To make oatmeal, if you don’t have any leftover: Bring 2 cups of water, 1 cup of rolled oats and a pinch of salt to a boil and simmer on low for 5 minutes. Let cool. You’ll have some extra oatmeal, which you can eat while you’re cooking.
* * *
After breakfast we had to do a quick wardrobe change (Otis, who was my sous chef, was covered in batter), and then we were off to spend a wonderful afternoon in Washington Park. I picked up a sandwich from Vert--the Tortilla Espanola and a side of spicy peanut slaw. It was scrumptious. I really love that place. 
I also made some Beet Tahini the night before. I brought that along on the picnic too and served it with some crudités. The picture is not great, but the recipe is FANTASTIC. It's the perfect summer dip, one that I'm going to have on hand at all times. Yes, I liked it that much. And I knew I would since it's an adaptation of a Moro East recipe.
Beet Dip with Tahini (Adapted slightly from A Lovely Morning, Adapted from Moro East)
3 large beets
1/2 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (though I left it out one time I made this dip and it was still delicious)
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
sea salt and pepper
Preheat over to 400 degrees. The actual recipe calls for boiled beets. I decided to roast them (as suggested by A Lovely Morning) since don't usually boil beets. I drizzled them with a little bit of olive oil, sprinkled them with some salt and black pepper, wrapped them in tin foil and baked for about 1 1/2 hours-- or until tender. Let them cool and then peel the skin off. Coarsely chop them and transfer them to the food processor. Add garlic, olive oil, and tahini and pulse in the processor until you have a nice semi-smooth puree. Then add the mint, vinegar, salt and pepper and pulse for a minute more.
Taste. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add lemon juice if you like. 

When we got home, Otis went to sleep. This time it was Theo who needed a wardrobe change. Then we played ball with Omar in the yard. It was another great day in Denver. Well, minus the 'lake incident' when Otis decided to chase the geese right into the lake, fully clothed and with his shoes on. He came out soaking wet, partially-covered in mud, but he laughed all the way to the car. 
I was not laughing quite as much...

Heidi Swanson's Quinoa Patties

Wanting to make something seasonal to celebrate the arrival of spring, I thumbed through my Heidi Swanson cookbooks (this one and this one) to see what I could find. Initially I settled on a spring minestrone soup, but then the thought of shopping for ingredients I didn't have on hand stopped me in my tracks. That will be for tomorrow, I thought to myself. So I settled on an oldy-but-goody, Heidi's recipe for Little Quinoa Patties. 
I took a quick peek in the pantry and sure enough I had about 1 1/2 cups of dried quinoa sitting in a bag. This plan was starting to come together...
I used leftover chives that I bought for a Fresh Pea Soup and some extra Gruyere in the fridge also came in handy. I cooked two cups of (dry) quinoa, but ended up with much more than the 2 1/2 cups required for this recipe. Not a worry, I'll make some other quinoa salad this week. 
I ate the patties plain on the first night and topped them with fresh avocado and some Panola hot sauce the next night.  Both ways were great, but boy do I like hot sauce with these patties.  
Notes on subsequent takes of this recipe {updated 3/2013}
  • I used 1 cup of dried well-washed quinoa and 1 1/2 cups of water. I put those in a medium sauce pan and brought them to a boil. Then I turned the heat down to medium-low. I added another 1/4 cup of water about 15 minutes into the cooking time. The quinoa was ready after 25 minutes or so.
  • I used 3/4 of a yellow onion, instead of a whole onion.
  • I used about 3-4 ounces of goat cheese instead of Gruyere since I had some in the fridge. I didn't add any hot sauce or avocado this time.
Everything else remained the same (see below). Otis ate about 3 patties and wanted "more, more, more..." so I'm going to consider this a big success since he's become a very, um, particular eater (I think that's the nice way to say it). 
Well time is short and the boys will be waking up soon. 
Enjoy the spring and happy cooking! 

Quinoa Patties (Courtesy of Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson)
2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, at room temperature
4 large eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives
1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Gruyère cheese
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup/3.5 oz /100 g whole grain bread crumbs, plus more if needed
Water, if needed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or clarified butter (I needed about a tablespoon per batch of 6.)
Combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the chives, onion, cheese, and garlic. Add the bread crumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. At this point, you should have a mixture you can easily form into twelve 1-inch/2.5cm thick patties. I err on the very moist side because it makes for a not-overly-dry patty, but you can add more bread crumbs, a bit at a time, to firm up the mixture, if need be. Conversely, a bit more beaten egg or water can be used to moisten the mixture.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat, add 6 patties, if they'll fit with some room between each, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms are deeply browned. Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes and continue to cook until the patties are browned. Carefully flip the patties with a spatula and cook the second sides for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties. Alternatively, the quinoa mixture keeps nicely in the refrigerator for a few days; you can cook patties to order, if you prefer.
To cook quinoa:
Combine 2 cups of well-rinsed uncooked quinoa with 3 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, decrease the heat, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, until the quinoa is tender and you can see the little quinoa curlicues.

Heidi's Farro Soup with Curry Powder, Black Lentils and Salted Lemon Yogurt

I consider myself a soup aficionado and a connoisseur. I love it chilled, hot, spicy, thick and stew-like and yes, even consommé. For a long time my favorite soup was Black Bean, heavy on the cumin. I made it several times a month and even large batches seemed to disappear within a day or two of being made. Then Heidi Swanson's Summer Squash with Thai Curry Paste and Tofu Croutons got into the mix. Only to be followed by a Cauliflower Soup with Mustard Croutons and my perennial favorite, Pesto-MinestroneNow I've got a new soup in my rotation

It's another Heidi Swanson recipe- one for Farro Soup with Curry Powder, Lentils and Salted Lemon Yogurt. It's delicious, so don't let my photograph fool you because I don't think it does the soup justice!  The soup is incredibly easy to make and it took me under 20 minutes to prepare. The soup simmers for 45-50 minutes, but that's hands-off time. And when it's done simmering, you'll probably agree that nothing is nicer on a chilly night than this soup...and a glass of wine.  

On a totally unrelated note, I read an interesting piece in the New York Times last week. The article questioned whether cookbooks would survive the rising popularity of digital media like e-books and recipe apps (applications, not appetizers). Would cookbooks go obsolete? I don't have the answer and only time will tell. But I can tell you that I am getting that seasonal-itch. You know the one that surfaces right around the holidays and compels you to buy another 10 cookbooks because, well, who doesn't need more cookbooks? 
I love looking through great cookbooks--the ones with gorgeous photographs and tantalizing recipes. I like to dog-ear the pages, scribble in the margin and get sauce marks on the page. Know what I mean? 

But back to Heidi's soup, which comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Super Natural Every Day…

Farro Soup with Curry Powder, Lentils and Salted Lemon Yogurt (Courtesy of Heidi Swanson, Super Natural Every Day)
Serves 8
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1 cup peeled, diced sweet potato or winter squash
Fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Indian curry powder
2/3 cup semi-pearled farro
1 1/4 cups green or black lentils, picked over and rinsed
6 cups vegetable broth or water (I went with low-sodium broth)
1 cup plain yogurt of Greek-style yogurt or creme fraiche (I've used both)
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions and sweet potato. Add a big pinch of salt and saute until the onions soften a bit, a couple of minutes.
Add the curry powder; stir until onions and sweet potatoes are coated and the curry is fragrant, a minute or so.
Add the farro, lentils and 6 cups of the broth broth. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. (I used semi-pearled farro and it took me 45 minutes for the soup to cook.  Then I let it sit in the dutch oven, covered, and off-heat for another 15 minutes.)
Taste and season with more salt, if needed. (Don't under-salt or the soup will taste flat.) While the soup is cooking, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, lemon zest and juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Serve each bowl of soup topped with a dollop of lemon yogurt and a drizzle of olive oil.

* * *
Happy Thanksgiving! 

Tabbouleh with Watermelon

I always thought of tabbouleh, also spelled tabouli, as a Palestinian meze.  You can find it on the streets of Jerusalem and Ramallah (as well as in Israel in both Israeli and Palestinian restaurants), but in fact tabbouleh's origins are in Lebanon and Syria (at least according to the Oxford Food & Nutrition Dictionary). The differences between the ubiquitous bulgur wheat salad in Lebanon and Syria is the proportions (or omissions) of several ingredients. But generally speaking, this salad contains parsley (the Lebanese use more), onion, mint, lemon, oil, and spices. Tomato is also traditionally used. The Turks have a similar dish called kisir and it contains tomato and pepper paste.  
This tabbouleh recipe in Martha Stewart Living caught my eye.  Here, "watermelon replaces the traditional tomato in this Middle Eastern salad, giving it bursts of sweetness. Goat cheese, another new add-in, provides creamy contrast." 
It's not difficult to make-- in fact it's very easy-- and it's a great summer side dish.  I would add a spritz of fresh lemon juice before serving, but that's pretty much it.  It's simple and not too ambitious.  Give this twist on tabbouleh a try! 
Tabbouleh with Watermelon (Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living)
Serves 4
1 1/4 cups water
Coarse salt
3/4 cup bulgur wheat
8 ounces watermelon (about 1/2 small), peeled and coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
Bring water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in bulgur, and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and let stand, uncovered, until cooled, 15 to 30 minutes.
Transfer bulgur to a bowl, and toss with watermelon, parsley, scallions, oil, lemon zest and juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gently fold in goat cheese.