Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mexican Black Bean Quinoa Burgers

This week I started a new job so I've been overwhelmed with meeting new people, training for this new position, and altering my daily schedule.  I'm really excited about this change in my life, but when I came home from work after a long day of learning a brand-new area of law, I was pretty exhausted!  Luckily before I started this new job, I came up with an idea for a quick and yummy dinner that I was excited to test out.  After day one on the new job, I came home eager to see if my idea actually worked!

I love finding new ways to enjoy my favorite cuisine: Mexican food.  And when a recipe also includes some healthy components and is easy to put together, it's a jackpot.  These little burger patties are chock full of healthy ingredients.  Quinoa is a delicious source of protein and fiber, and I absolutely love to make quinoa into patties and burgers because it develops an amazing, nutty flavor when fried.  So this recipe was perfect for throwing together on a day when I was mentally and physically beat.  Everything goes right into the food processor, making it super simple to whip up.  And the ingredients are extremely healthy, so I felt good about eating more than my fair share of these tasty burgers.  I paired mine with some heart-healthy avocado and fresh salsa.  These Mexican black bean and quinoa burgers were an absolute delight.  I'm sure you and your family will agree!

Mexican Black Bean Quinoa Burgers
serves 2

1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup regular bread crumbs
1 1/2 tbls chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 cloves garlic, grated or minced fine
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
4 scallions, diced
1 cup cilantro
Juice from half of a lime
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt & pepper
2 tbls olive oil

Put the diced carrots into a food processor and pulse until the carrot is finely chopped.  Add the scallion, black beans, quinoa, bread crumbs, chili powder, cumin, garlic, cilantro, and salt and pepper.  Pulse until combined.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.  Once the mixture is seasoned to your liking, add the beaten egg and pulse until combined. 

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Form the mixture into 4 patties.  Cook each patty until heated through, about 5-6 minutes per side. 

Serve with avocado slices and fresh salsa

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ricotta and Scallion Gnocchi

There are certainly perks to being single and not having a roommate.  One such perk is that nobody is around to judge you when you want to eat chips or popcorn for dinner, or when you eat pasta with butter and garlic salt for three days straight.  When things in my life get really busy, something has to give, and occasionally it's cooking.  These past few weeks I've been moving nonstop, working on a fundraiser, meeting up with friends, getting ready to start a new job, and preparing for the marathon this Saturday.  With all of that going on, my kitchen time has fallen by the wayside and I've enjoyed many atypical meals!  I also had a stellar brunch at Tilia and another one at Wild Acre Eatery, and had the pleasure of a few lunches at the food trucks in St. Paul.  So I haven't been a complete lost cause!

But things are settling down and I was feeling unbalanced.  I stole a friend's cookbook while babysitting her kids and realized I needed to get back into the kitchen and start eating deliciously again.  A recipe for gnocchi made with ricotta cheese and scallions sparked my interest and I figured it would be a great preparation meal for Saturday's marathon! The pasta turned out wonderfully.  The scallions added a little bit of spring freshness to what can sometimes be a dense dish and the ricotta made the pasta light and creamy.  Paired with a simple tomato sauce, you'll have a perfect springtime pasta dish. 

Ricotta & Scallion Gnocchi
from Simply Organic by Jesse Cool
serves 4

16 ounces full-fat ricotta cheese
7 scallions, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/2 cups - 2 cups all-purpose flour

Place the ricotta in a colander and allow it to drain over a bowl for 15-30 minutes.  Discard the liquid.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. 

In the meantime, combine the ricotta, egg, salt, pepper, green onions, and Parmesan cheese in a medium bowl.  Gradually add the flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, and combine the ingredients with your hands until the dough holds together in a ball and is no longer insanely sticky. 

Remove a teaspoon-sized piece of the dough and roll it into a ball on a floured surface.  Drop the ball into the boiling water.  If the dough falls apart in the water, add more flour to the dough by tablespoons until it forms into a ball.  Repeat the test until the ball holds together and floats to the surface. 

Divide the dough in about 6 equal parts.  Roll out each section on a floured surface into a rope about one inch in diameter.  Cut the dough into one-inch pieces and lightly press each piece with a fork.  At this point, you can toss the gnocchi in flour and freeze for later. 

If you plan to cook the gnocchi immediately, salt the boiling water generously, and gently drop the gnocchi in the boiling water in batches.  Stir gently to prevent them from sticking.  About 5-10 seconds after the gnocchi rise to the top, remove them with a slotted spoon and place into a serving dish.  Repeat as needed. 

You may serve these gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce or even with olive oil or butter.   

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sundried Tomatoes, Ramps, and White Beans

Have you ever tried ramps?  If not, then you definitely should get on that.  I had read about ramps in some of my cookbooks, but was never curious enough to try them out.  But ever since joining the group of Minnesota Food Bloggers and following some very talented cooks on Twitter, I've really learned a lot about delicious ingredients.  My Twitter feed has exploded lately with talks of ramps, and this season I decided that it was time to try them out.  Ramps are wild leeks and that are harvested in the early spring, and are one of the first greens to pop up from the ground in April.  Their season is also quite short, and they will be disappearing just as quickly as they came, at the beginning of May.  So it makes sense that everyone is talking about these greens, because the time to talk about ramps is fleeting.


But is the talk worth it?  Absolutely.  As soon as I cut into one of these delicate greens, I knew I was going to fall in love.  The flavor of a ramp is reminiscent of both onion and garlic in their most subtle forms.  Think about a garlic chive, but then add a wild, earthy note.  That's what you'll get from ramps.  I'm legitimately upset that I have been missing out on these greens all of these years, and even more so that I finally came around so late in the ramp season.  I plan to stock up some ramps and have a wild, ramp cooking spree until the season is over.  If you were to try one or two ramp recipes this season, be sure to try this one.  The mellow flavor and texture of the beans allows the ramp-ness of the dish to really come through.  And the ramps pair nicely with the sundried tomatoes.  But don't be can certainly add more ramps to this dish! 

Sundried Tomatoes, Ramps, and White Beans
adapted from Clean Start by Terry Walters
serves 2

1/2 cup boiling water
4-5 sundried tomatoes
4 ramps, washed, roots removed, bulb and greens sliced thin
1-2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp mirin
1 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 large slices of thick country bread, toasted

In a small bowl, soak the sundried tomatoes in the hot water for about 15 minutes or until they are soft.  Remove the tomatoes but reserve the soaking liquid.  Chop the tomatoes and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the sundried tomatoes and saute for about 2-3 minutes.  Add the ramps and mirin, and continue to saute for another minute.  Add the tomato liquid by tablespoon as needed to prevent sticking.  Pour the beans into the skillet and add another 2 tablespoons of the tomato liquid.  Continue cooking until the beans are heated through and there is no liquid left in the pan.

Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.  Remove from heat.  Serve over a piece of toasted bread.