I love to bake, and I really get a kick out of posting photos of delectable desserts on this blog. Not only do baked goods taste great, but they photograph really well.
I enjoy having a bite of something sweet after a meal but I’m pretty determined to not overdo it when eating desserts. It infuriates my son, Sam, that I can eat half a cookie and “save the rest for later”. So as much as baking is great fun I’m always searching for savory dishes to make that are both tasty and healthy. David and I don’t believe in depriving ourselves of any particular foods (except those with gluten) although we actively avoid anything “processed”. We use organic ingredients whenever we can and do most of our cooking at home. Every so often, usually on a weekend, we can get ambitious and tackle an all-day sort of recipe.
Last fall we conjured our inner “Julias” and “Inas” and made this gorgeous Boeuf Bourguignon for David’s office holiday party:
It was divine. A more recent undertaking was this traditional Greek moussaka. We were trying to recreate a delicious dish that was served at our wedding in November:
This was my first time making a béchamel sauce and I wasn’t sure how the gluten-free flour would do but it came out great. We are already thinking about a veggie version using portabello mushrooms.
But day in and day out we keep it simple–roast chicken, steaks on the grill, salmon and lots of quinoa dishes, rice and veggies. And we both love a good burger. While David has pretty much mastered hamburgers on the grill (and we have a great Cat Cora lamb burger recipe as well), we were itching to try some new ingredients and mix it up a little. Not as easy as I thought it would be…
Visual “A”, Taste “B”, Consistency “F”
First up was a recipe for turkey burgers. I can’t really explain my past aversion to these things. Over the years I substituted ground turkey for beef in meatballs and chili and enjoyed them both, but biting into a turkey burger just never appealed to me. David orders them out on occasion and he really enjoys them so I thought I’d give them a try. The recipe I chose was for a spicyish version. Ingredients included jalapeño, lime juice, cumin, red onion, sharp cheddar cheese and cilantro. Per the recipe instructions we grilled them for 5 minutes or so on each side and here’s how they came out:
Don’t they look great? Definitely an “A” for visual appeal. Unfortunately these babies had nothing on hockey pucks-very dense. The flavor was nice enough. Our meal consisted of finding ways to add moisture to the burger (slather on the avocado, dip in the salad dressing) and my musing about what went wrong. White meat non-fat turkey? Uh, probably not a good idea. Too little liquid? Actually there was a teaspoon of lime juice. Too long on the grill? But doesn’t turkey need to be cooked all the way through?
Hmmm. I have a few ideas for making a better turkey burger but this one was a disappointment.
We had delicious veggie burgers yesterday in Tubac–spicy black bean with a bit of corn. Admittedly they looked suspiciously like the Southwest Garden Burgers I used to buy frozen but with the cheese and fried onions it was still pretty great. So we decided to try our hand at making from-scratch black bean burgers for dinner last night.
Since David was helping me I decided to give food blogging a shot and take pictures of the cooking steps. The ingredients for these were pretty simple-quinoa, black beans, cilantro (again!), sautéed shallot and red pepper, cumin, red pepper flakes and smoky paprika. Everything goes into the food processor. First the beans and veggies:
then the quinoa and cilantro:
Pulse, pulse until you get this:
I couldn’t shake the thought that this looked a bit like chopped liver (which I can’t stand the sight of). Uh oh…
The mixture gets formed into patties:
coated with panko bread crumbs and pan fried:
I clearly do not have a future as a food blogger because I stopped taking photos at this point. I got side-tracked because of the non-sear of my pan fry and I was unhappily anticipating another disappointing dinner. BUT, we added more oil, turned up the heat and managed to get a nice crust on the outside. Actually by the time we served them up they looked quite a bit like “real” burgers. Not bad.
I struggled with these texturally because there was no “bite” to the bite. After the crust the inside was totally soft. The flavor was good though. Throughout this meal I kept feeling like this mixture, rolled into balls and fried in more oil (kind of like falafel) would be quite good. Alternatively, we could just make them thinner to shift the soft to crunch ratio. David really liked these because he’s less bothered by the texture thing, but I’m pretty sure I can tweak this recipe and have something we will both enjoy.
Loosening up in the Kitchen
As I am writing this I realize that I may be creating an impression that I have an easy way with improvisation in the kitchen. Add this, adjust that! Actually I really don’t. In fact another reason I love to bake is that precision is key. I am rewarded for following the recipe exactly.
When it comes to trying out recipes for savory dishes I always start with the recipe “as written”. I don’t know about you but it drives me nuts when reviewers of recipes on line post a review after changing nearly all the ingredients! Aside from adjusting salt and pepper seasoning I can get a little paralyzed if a dish doesn’t work out the first time and I’m more likely to scrap it and find another recipe. I guess that’s not the worst approach considering there’s always another recipe to be found on the internet. But I do think that it would behoove me to loosen up a little and play a little more in the kitchen. Since these recipes were “close but not quite there” I think I will take my budding improvisational self out for a spin and try to make them work. I will report back with the results.
In the meantime I welcome any and all tips, suggestions or favorite recipes.