The most awesomest tofu burgers!

As I have mentioned many times before, DH is a vegetarian.  Not being a vegetarian myself, it’s hard to make meals we both can enjoy together.  Eating together isn’t the issue, it’s the enjoy part.  Plus, since I am pretty much the only one cooking, I need to make sure we are both getting the nutrition we need.  So, I have made huge strides in making everything tasty as well as healthy.  I subscribe to countless blogs, read web sites all the time, and have more cook books than I can decently list here.  One of my old standby websites is Heidi Swanson’s “101 Cookbooks”.  She has a great approach to food, that just happens to be vegetarian.  Go local and go fresh, and although she lives in the San Francisco area, it applies all over the country.  (Please note, not vegan, just vegetarian).  She had a tofu burger recipe that I tried a few times and we loved each time we did it.  I do give Heidi credit here, but honestly I have made changes to her basics and made it mine.  I also find that the ingredients here can easily change, making this awfully versatile.  Similar to the Portobello burgers I posted recently, the condiments here can be just about anything you like, you can swing to the more Asian style, French mustard, barbecue, anything and they will still be completely wonderful.  A word to those of you that just want a burger to LOOK like a burger… give up.  These are definitely not going to look meaty, but they taste heavenly!

Tofu Burger’s

1 pound / 16 oz / 450 g extra-firm tofu
2 large eggs
1 cup  bread crumbs
1/2 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, cashews, whatever you like)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (preferably unsalted)
1/2 cup mushrooms (slice finely and whir first in your processor)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon garlic powder (or dehydrated garlic or onion)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (do not use table salt here, kosher or sea is best)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Place the mushrooms and nuts into a food processor and pulse until they start to look finely chopped.  Add in the remaining ingredients except 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs and the olive oil and process until a smooth paste forms.  Scrape down the sides of the food processor once or twice if needed. If it seems a bit thin to you, add the remaining bread crumbs a small handful at a time until everything comes together.  This should resemble a thick and pasty mixture, so the burgers retain their shape when formed. 

Divide the mixture into eight equal portions and use your hands to press and form into round but flat-ish patties. (It helps to lightly oil your hands.)  I usually freeze half of them for future use.

Pour the olive oil into your largest skillet over medium-high heat, and arrange as many patties as you can without crowding. Cover, and cook turning once, until deeply browned on both sides. Roughly ten minutes. You want to make sure the middle of the patties cook through. If your pan is too hot you’ll burn the outsides before the middle cooks up, so be mindful of that.  The cooked texture should be firm when you press in the middle of the patty, similar to the fleshy pad near the thumb of your hand.  Don’t worry if they crack a bit, that’s fairly normal.

Dress these as you would any burger.  I always love cheese and really sour pickles with them.  Remember that if you use a more flavorful nut, like walnut or pecan, they will taste strongly of that.  You can mix types, I find cashew and walnut or almond work well together.  Also – the cayenne can be replaced by anything if you don’t like a little mild heat.  You will truly barely notice the heat if you do use it.  I have tried dried basil, half the amount of thyme, and a mixture of whatever I had on hand and it always works.

Enjoy!  And let me know how you flavor your burgers!!

Swiss chard, how I love you!

Sorry for the large break between posts, but guess what?  I got a JOB!  So – my last couple of weeks has been occupied with the whirlwind of interviewing, waiting, accepting and finally starting the new job in very short order.  The joy of a new job and adjusting to working in a non-profit is overwhelming.  We also had Tim get hired into the company he has been contracted to for a while, so all in all it’s been a very eventful couple of weeks!  So, on to my lovely recipe of the day!

One of the delights of my cooking life is greens.  I am addicted to lovely, bitter broccoli rabe, kale in any of it’s forms, garlicy wilted spinach, smokey, yummy collards and finally, the rainbow of colors that is Swiss chard.  Years ago, long before I moved to Michigan, my mother was operated on and during her recovery period, she was craving Swiss chard.  So I made it in as many ways as I could.  I make chard soup, wilted chard and I steamed it like a pro.  Then I happened to be going through my cook books and I found this recipe for Swiss chard strudel.  I know it sounds odd, a dish that usually includes apples and lots of butter, but believe me this one is anything but sweet.  The original recipe called for Jarlbserg cheese and Parmesean, and for a while I did make it that way, but I made it today with VanGogh cheese (think a cross between really sharp cheddar and an aged gouda) and a beautiful smoked blue cheese we happened upon at Hirts this morning.  If anyone reading this is ever in Eastern Market in Detroit, get yourselves to JR Hirts.  It’s a wonderland of cheeses and meats and all kinds of yummy goodies.  They even have vegetarian cheese!

On to the most delish Swiss chard recipe I know!

Swiss Chard Strudel

1 large bunch of Swiss chard, about 15 oz (washed well, drained, stems separated and chopped, leaves roughly chopped)
2 tbsp olive oil
6 garlic cloves sliced or chopped roughly
1 small onion chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp dried basil (optional)
4 1/2 tbsp good breadcrumbs
1/2 cup shredded flavorful cheese (your choice)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or another flavorful dry cheese)
1/2 stick good butter, melted and cooled
6 sheets phyllo dough (or good puff pastry)

In a large saute pan, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and add the garlic and onion.  Saute until the onion and garlic until soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes at medium heat.  Stir while softening, don’t allow either to brown or burn. Add in the chard stems and saute until they are also soft, about 6 more min at medium heat.  To speed up the process you can cover the pan and walk away for a few minutes.  When everything is cooked, add in the chard leaves and stir well, making sure they are coated by the oil, add the dried basil.  The leaves will wilt but won’t cook down like a spinach, so cook them, stirring occasionally another 6 – 8 minutes.   Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool.  After cooling a few minutes, drain some of the liquid off the chard, put the mixture in a large bowl, add in 1 tablespoon of the bread crumbs, the cheeses and salt and pepper to taste, mix well and set aside.  (*Note, the cheeses tend to be salty, so go very easy on the salt, taste after you add all the cheese before you add salt.)

While the chard mixture cools, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, then prepare a large baking sheet.  Mix the remaining olive oil into the cooled butter and with a brush, lightly butter the baking sheet and place one of the phyllo sheets on it.  Butter the sheet all over and sprinkle it with breadcrumbs.  Place the next sheet of phyllo over this one, and repeat the butter and crumb process with the remaining 5 sheets.  You need to work fairly quickly here, since the phyllo will dry out quickly.  Don’t worry if there are tears in the sheets, all the layers will cover most holes and you will never even notice it after baking.

Spread the cooled chard mixture onto the phyllo sheets, spread it all over the sheet, leaving 1/2 in margin all the way around the sheet.  When you have spread it evenly, fold over the margin onto the chard.  Starting at the short end of the pastry, roll the phyllo over the filling, making a streudel shaped roll.  Lay flat on the baking sheet with the seam side down.  Use any remaining oil/butter to paint the outside of the struesel, and cut some shallow slits into the top of the struesel, to allow any steam to escape.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes, you will know it’s done when it is golden brown on the outside.  Allow to cool for 10 minutes or so, cut and serve.  You can serve this at room temperature, or hot.


The best Portobello burgers

Well, Tim is a vegetarian.  I was intrigued at first, then I tried everything I could do to make meals taste like meat without meat.  Then, after about 2 years of being successful, but running out of steam, I decided to do a better job at looking at the vegetarian dishes I was going to cook next.

So I have recipe’s for vegetarian stroganoff, and all kinds of nifty tofu burgers made from scratch.  But my best, favorite, and easiest one is Portobello burgers.  And they are so easy, you’ll wonder why you haven’t made it before.  You will find they are a meaty textured alternative that is high in zinc, and very low in calories.

First, let me tell you, you can make these in a simple cast iron pan, a non-stick saute pan or even a grill pan.  I know how people feel about non-stick, but it’s easier and you can use no oil (if you are cutting calories)!  It’s up to you how you want to cook them.

So – here it is, the basics of it, and you can riff on it however you like!

Portobello Burgers
(serves 2)

2 large Portobello mushrooms, stems trimmed, wiped with a damp paper towel and as dry as possible
salt to taste
pepper to taste
fresh herbs chopped finely (about 1 tbsp.)
2 tbsp. olive oil or neutral vegetable oil (optional)

Garnishes: (of course all the below are optional)
2 Burger buns or 4 slices of the bread of your choice
Cheese of your choice (I live goat cheese, and blue cheese is particularly good)
Lettuce or greens of your choice
Sliced tomato
sliced pickles
relish of any kind
Ketchup, mustard, mayo… anything you would use to dress a burger.

Make sure the mushrooms are as clean and dry as possible.  I come from the “never wash mushrooms under water EVER school” but of course, it’s up to you how to wash them.  The important point here is that they are very dry when you are ready to cook them.

Place 1 tbsp. of the oil in a skillet or rub your grill pan with the oil and heat it until hot.  If you are grilling the mushrooms, rub the oil on the mushrooms and let them sit for a few minutes.  Oil and season both sides of the mushrooms with salt and pepper and the herbs you have chosen, I find that thyme is great with mushrooms.  If you only have dry herbs, use them sparingly, they tend to be much stronger than fresh.  Place the mushrooms gills side down on the pan or grill.  If you used oil, they will flare a but, don’t worry.  If using the grill put them on the cooler side of it.  A high grill/pan temperature will only burn them, not cook them through.  If you are using a skillet, do the same, gills side down first.  As they cook, you will see them render juice out, that is fine, and should happen.  After about 7 minutes, turn them over, lower your heat to medium and cook them an additional 5 – 8 minutes.  When you turn them gills side up, you can/should put the cheese in the cup that is formed, they will continue to cook and the cheese will melt.  When you turn over the mushrooms, avoid the temptation to press on them.  They will flatten naturally, but pressing them down will force the juice and flavor out and they will shrivel up and dry out.  This is not what you want, you want a juicy, well flavored mushroom.

After another 5 – 8 minutes, you will notice they flatten out a bit and become thinner.  At this point they are cooked.  Remove them and place them immediately on the bread you are using.  Let them rest for a minute or two.  Then, have fun dressing them!!

I have made these many times, and I recommend the grill cooking, because it adds a great charred flavor to the taste.

Enjoy, and let me know how these turn out and what twists you use!