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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White Bean Ravioli

There’s something inherently pleasing about eating ravioli. Talk about the texture, that soft pop as you break through the skin of pasta and reach an explosive filling. Or the distinct, two-tone flavor. Just as you’re starting to enjoy the childhood simplicity of buttered noodles – oh, you heard me, I serve these with butter – SNAP! The whole thing tears open and an avalanche of filling bursts forth. To everyone who takes more than one bite to eat ravioli: you’re doing it wrong. And with a filling like this – creamy ricotta fortified by cannelloni, accented with Parmesan and subtle notes of nutmeg, the whole deal complemented on the opposite side of the pasta wall with butter and a warm, garlicky tomato sauce – there’s no better surprise and few things more enjoyably edible.

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This Recipe is Capr-easy

So, I did a dumb thing. Less than intelligent. I decided to try my hand at starting a weekly blog in the same year that my fiance and I were planning our wedding. In the weeks leading up to it, the deluge of “this needs to get done or else” got me a little off track. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of the phrase “like herding cats,” but this was a little closer to planning, outlining, and executing a number of seminars designed to train cats to herd even more rambunctious, anarchic, “why do we need to get our suit jackets now, when we can wait till the week before the wedding when there wont be any time to get them adjusted” kittens. But, after a month off; after Christmas, New Year’s, and a fantastic wedding – I’m back. It’s time to get back into it. New year, same tasty food. I don’t know about you, but after all the Holiday feasting I was dying for something fresh. And nothing quite hits the spot like a Caprese Salad.

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Pasta e Fagioli

Sleet is defined as a semi-crystalline combination of snow and rain that – while distinguishing itself from ice pellets (little droplets of ice that fall to earth like many thousands of aquatic meteorites) or freezing rain (liquid rain so cold that it crystallizes into ice once making contact with the ground) – holds a hallowed place in the Hall of Miserable Precipitation as the worst thing to get trapped in on the commute home. After drying myself of the damp, freezing water that had managed, in my 40 second sprint from the car to the door of my building, to adhere itself to each and every exposed square centimeter of the skin on my hands and face, and then seep its way under my coat and through the cotton protection of my pants; I decided I needed a dish that would wholly counteract the frigid effects of sleet. An “anti-sleet” if you will; a warm, semi-solid stew administered via heaping gulps of rich, tomato broth and fortifying hand cut noodles, spotted here and there with the winking pupils of black-eyed peas. This is my take on Pasta e Fagioli and, whether you find yourself pursued by freezing rain or no, it’s damn delicious.    

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Lentils and Spaetzle

Alas, a proper recipe for bagels has eluded me for yet another week. For anyone who has been waiting, I have been making batches with bread flour, but I’m still working out some of the kinks with how I prove my dough and ensure good rise. The attempted bagels are coming out delicious – doughy, chewy, just salty enough – but they are going to have to wait a little while longer.

So, this week I bring you Lentils and Spaetzle. img_0664.jpgGrowing up, this dish would land on the dining room table to great applause and much fanfare. A cheesy, hearty, stomach-filling dish made by European Mountain People (Swiss and Germans) to warm themselves from the inside out. The true beauty of this dish (aside from the cheese) is that it’s essentially buttered noodles and stewed beans – something I think even the most picky of us can get behind. As a former Floridian, the temperature drop here in Memphis made me run to the stove to get everything boiling. This is the kind of dish that fills your kitchen and your house with a warm, foggy perfume. This is the kind of dish that you and your favorite couch blanket can curl up with. Yes, it’s October and the temperature sank only into the fifties, but I’m getting chilly, so this is Lentils and Spaetzle.

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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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