Veggie Burger and Fries

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.

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An Off Week

This week was supposed to be bagel week. I spent about four hours reading twenty different bagel recipes and hunting every video I could find of the inside of a New York bakery. A learned the difference between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ water and now know that New York’s water supply (fed by precipitation – i.e. rainfall and mountain runoff – in the Hudson River Valley, running hundreds of miles to a 900 million gallon reservoir in the city, dubbed: “The Bathtub”) is one of the ‘softest’ in the country. A former mayor has been quoted calling it “the champagne of tap water.” The city has been quoted saying “there’s probably still a fair number of lead pipes in older buildings.” The information I gathered is this: homemade bagels are not worth the time, effort, or skill required to attempt; homemade bagels will taste better than any bagel you’ve ever had; you should support your local bakery by buying their bagels; bagels originated in Poland and were modeled after a equestrian-inclined King’s stirrups; and, while ‘soft’ water can impact flavor, rise, ph, and yeast development in bagel dough, New York tap water probably doesn’t make that much of a difference. Oh, and you should never, ever make bagels with anything other than bread flour.

So, I made my first batch with all-purpose flour.IMG_0634 Here’s they are. I went with brown sugar cinnamon and everything (poppy and sesame seeds, dried onion and garlic, sea salt; you know, a real breath freshener) flavors; one sweet, one savory. I tried two different methods of mixing yeast in – something I’ll go into more depth when I finish my bagel recipe. All in all, I learned a lot.

I learned that, as fun as it is to roll and shape bagels, it is going to take a bit more practice before I can make them with holes in the center. I learned that when baking at a temperature above 400 degrees, I should probably roll the sugar into the dough, not just rub it over the top. I learned that I shouldn’t have trusted the pudgy New York chef (who looked like the patissier from Ratatouille) when he said “New York bagels should always have a lot of salt.” And I learned that you really, really need to use bread flour if you’re going to make bagels. As I understand it, bread flour (a.k.a. “high-gluten flour”) will make the stronger and more aerated dough I knead (that’s a bun-pun) to get these to work. Flavor-wise, initial reviews are coming back positive, so things are looking good on that front. So, I’m going to go out and buy some bread flour, and I’m going to ask you to wait a week for me to figure these bad boys out.  However, I have two small miniature recipes to tide you over.

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Meatball Submarine

Once upon a time, I told Alexis IMG_0516about 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.

 

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