So here’s the thing about veggie burgers. They’re not great. Just as a general rule: even the highest quality, truffle infused, butter brushed, created by gastronomic geniuses who have taken their studies of cuisine down to the molecular level vegetarian burger will pale in comparison to the most basic frying pan beef patty. That’s the name of the game. Burgers are just meant to be meat. However; if you (like me) want a burger-adjacent vegetarian option-I’m going to show you a fantastic runner up. Forget about bean burgers; people chase after the perfect bean patty because it’s the closest texture wise to ground beef, but at best they end up tasting like, well, beans – and at worst the taste like salty dirt. What we need to do is make something that will taste great and forget about the rest. Flavor is king, everything else comes second. Mushrooms are a great option (just imagine a nice, fat slab of portobello on a bun) but they can be a non-starter for some picky eaters. Instead, for this burger I’ll be using eggplant steaks. Smokey, creamy, with an umami tang that rivals the meatiest of burgers, this vegetarian option will make you forget the taste of a beef burger – almost.Continue reading “Veggie Burger and Fries”
It means: old clothes, but if my laundry filled the apartment with the same smells as this dish, my washer and dryer would never run. I think the first time I ate Ropa Vieja was in Curacao, probably snagging it out of a Cuban friend’s lunch. It wasn’t an entirely unfamiliar dish, I had had beef slow-stewed in tomato sauce before, but Ropa Vieja is the dish I come back to time and time again. Maybe, it’s just the name. Maybe it’s the way the roast shreds into a crimson pile of aromatic strands of beef that melt on your tongue. Maybe its the sharp, bright, and spicy flavors – the way the tomatoes render into sweet umami paste that coats each bite of beef and blends perfectly with the cumin and the cilantro and the chili peppers. Whatever the case may be, this dish is dead simple and drop-dead delicious. Eat it plain, with rice, beans, and plantains; layer it on top of a ham and cheese sandwich to make a Cubano that’s out of this world; or – my personal favorite – pair it with fresh onions, avocado, and cilantro, then roll it all up in a tortilla.
Once upon a time, I told Alexis about a recipe I had found on YouTube that I wanted to make. It was the most wondrous and magical of recipes; it delivered a meatball sub, where the roll was as warm and springy as a golden cloud on a summer afternoon; the meatballs were juicier than any The Lady or The Tramp had ever rolled across a plate at each other; and everything else in between – the creamy ricotta, the crisp greens and tomatoes, the deep and romantic red sauce – made a meatball submarine capable of sinking aircraft carriers by way of sheer awesomeness. I made this meatball sub for Alexis more than five years ago, and we’re getting married in January. I’m not saying those two things are directly related to each other (but I’m not saying they aren’t, either). Feed this sandwich to others at your own risk, you may be stuck with them happily forever after.
Stir-fry is my bread and butter. If there is any open space in the book when I’m planning out dinners, you can bet that I’m making stir-fry. If Alexis goes out of town, all I’m eating while she’s gone is stir-fry. I’ll give my brother credit for getting me wok-ing (wok: a big, high-lipped saute pan in which one fries, stirs); when I lived with him in high school, he had just gotten back from Taiwan, and this is what we ate eighty percent of the time. In college, my first cooking job was in an Asian restaurant and I got it by washing dishes for months. That is how much I wanted to stir-fry. Here’s why: stir-frying – as a method of cooking; as a palette of foods; as a formula for developing dishes – will fill your plate with consistently delicious meals chock full of vegetables, flavor, and (best of all) cheap and easy to cook ingredients. It doesn’t take a lot of time, money, or skill to make stir-fry. Sitting down with my brother night after night to heaping bowls of stir-fry inspired me to cook and gave me an avenue into cooking (and enjoying) dinner every night, hopefully it can do the same for you!