Fennel and Leeks

Fennel and Leeks

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chickpea, Cheese and Onion Burgers

My father deserves full credit for discovering this recipe. He was reading an article about Paul McCartney's new cookbook based on meat free Mondays, and this recipe was featured in the article. Brad, Olivia and I were traveling through Oregon while on a ski trip to Mt. Bachelor. When we arrived in Eugene to spend a few days with family, my dad had this recipe on the counter, alongside all of the required ingredients. He couldn't have made it any easier for me to prepare the following dish. Thank you, Daddy-O!

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (14-ounce) can lentils, drained and rinsed
1 (14-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded Gruyere
1 cup crumbled feta
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
all-purpose flour, for dusting

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet. Add onion and cook over medium heat until tender and not colored. Add garlic, cumin and cayenne, and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

Put lentils and chickpeas in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add onion mixture, tahini and parsley and pulse again until nearly smooth. Spoon into large bowl and add egg, breadcrumbs and cheeses.

Mix with hands and add salt and pepper. Shape into patties and lightly dust with flour. Heat remaining oil in large skillet. Place burgers in pan and cook until golden on both sides. Serves 4.

Okay, this burger was seriously tasty. It ends up that lentils and chickpeas are great partners. The combination provided a hearty, substantial product that served as a great background for the flavors of the cheeses and spices. Feta cheese served a textural purpose but the Gruyere was the star for me. Vegetarian burgers can sometimes be dry but the Gruyere added a wonderful creaminess that helped the burger maintain moisture.

The flavor profile was really pleasing. Although Feta and Cumin go well together, I would have never thought to combine Gruyere and Cumin or Gruyere and Tahini. The combination of these ingredients, however, worked perfectly. The only change I made to the recipe was to omit the cayenne. My dad did not have cayenne in his pantry so we decided to go without. I don't feel as though the recipe suffered as a result, but I will try it with cayenne next time for comparison.

The most special contribution to this recipe was the high quality breadcrumbs. My father purchased a loaf of Spelt Bread from Cottage Grove Farmhouse Bakery and my step-mom converted it to breadcrumbs. This particular bakery is located south of Eugene in a small town called Cottage Grove. They use no chemicals, no additives and their motto is "just real honest bread." The only ingredients in this loaf were organic wholegrain spelt flour, water, honey, yeast and salt. Spelt is a cereal grain in the wheat family that has a lower amount of gluten than regular wheat flour. It is rich in protein, B vitamins, magnesium and fiber. Although not gluten free, spelt seems to work for many people that have wheat allergies. I have been eating variations of spelt for years and I have always enjoyed it in any form.

I would like to give a shout out to my brother, Nick, who received a special treat in his burger; a small piece of wooden spoon. My dad and step-mom have a 1970s Oster Blender that I used instead of a food-processor. It ended up working just fine but somehow during the process, a chunk disappeared off the wooden spoon I was using. Oops. :) Anyway, my brother handled it like a champ and moved forward with enjoying his meal.

"Meat Free Monday Cookbook" by Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney via relish.com

Monday, January 14, 2013

Classic Chicken Stock

I believe this may be the most basic recipe ever featured on my blog. I know it sounds like a no brainer, but I have never made chicken stock from scratch. I have prepared vegetable stock on the fly, without a recipe, but that is the closest I have come to preparing classic stock. As many of you know, I have not eaten chicken in over 13 years so touching and preparing raw chicken is a stretch for me. Even though this recipe allows for chicken bones, wings and thighs; I chose to use a whole free range organic chicken from PCC Market. This was much easier to handle than separated sections of chicken.

I have not yet decided what I am going to make with my stock. I may end up freezing it in recipe portions or preparing homemade soup for dinner tomorrow night. Either way, this should be delicious and it is so much less expensive than purchasing pre-prepared organic chicken stock.

4 lbs chicken with bones (or chicken bones, wings and thighs)
4 qts (16 cups) cold water
1 onion, stuck with 4 cloves
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp black peppercorns

Place chicken and water in large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove any remnants that rise to top of water. Add onion, carrot, celery, parsley, bay leaf, thyme and pepper. Simmer 2 to 3 hours.

Strain, cool and refrigerate. Lift off fat with spoon.

Use within 2 to 3 days or freeze. You may also freeze immediately after cooking. Makes about 2 quarts but recipe may be doubled. Hint: make in large quantity and freeze in portions that match amounts required in favorite recipes.

I tasted the stock and it is quite flavorful. I also appreciate that the degree of saltiness is mine to determine. Although I followed the above recipe, I couldn't resist making a few additions; 2 smashed cloves of garlic and one extra rib of celery with leaves. I would also consider adding chopped fennel to my next batch.

As a side note, all vegetables used in this recipe were organic and the parsley was harvested fresh from my garden. Enjoy!

"Creative Soups and Salads" by Lou Seibert Pappas
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