Thursday, February 28, 2013

Veggie Burger Week: Greek Quinoa Burgers & Tzatziki

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In honor of veggie burger week, I wanted to make a healthy and filling veggie burger that would stand out from the typical Morningstar or Boca Burgers you'd find on the shelf. I also have been going through a bit of a Quinoa "phase" and have obscene amounts of it taking over my cabinets. I first saw a recipe for Quinoa Patties on Two Tarts. I wasn't crazy about the combination of herbs, so I decided to change it up by putting a Greek spin on it. I swapped in fresh dill, scallions, feta and served it with tzatziki sauce (tzatziki recipe at the bottom of the post). I was so happy with the result and even happier that it made enough for lunch all week! I found 2-3 patties were more than enough for a meal.

To make the Greek Quinoa Veggie Burgers you will need:

2 cups of cooked quinoa
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp chopped scallions
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup of fresh feta cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Extra virgin olive oil

First, cook the quinoa according to the directions on the package. I like to cook my quinoa in broth, either vegetable or chicken broth, because it adds a lot more flavor. But if you don't have any on hand, water will do just fine. Once the quinoa is cooked, set aside to cool. 

Then chop up all of your fresh herbs. As I said, I used dill and scallion, about a small handful of each, but you can substitute these with any fresh herbs of your choosing. 

If you bought a block of feta, chop it up into small pieces. I used a Bulgarian feta because it was half the price of the Greek feta and I like the creamy consistency.

Combine the whole eggs, scallions, dill, feta, bread crumbs, and salt into a large bowl and mix it all together with a fork until it is all mixed together. You don't have to beat the eggs separately, just mix them in with everything else. The cheese should break into slightly smaller pieces. Then, mix in the quinoa and stir until it is evenly distributed. 

Form the mixture into small patties. I made mine about 2 inches in diameter so they were more like sliders, but you can make them bigger for a more traditional-sized burger. 

In a large frying pan, heat a small amount of olive oil- just enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan- over medium heat. Then place a couple of the patties into the pan and brown for 3 minutes on each side. 

After they are golden brown on both sides, I placed each on a piece of paper towel to drain any excess oil. Repeat with the remaining patties. The whole thing took about 30 minutes from start to finish- quick and easy!

There are as many tzatziki recipes as there are Greek mothers, but here is mine. In a large bowl combine:
  • 1 pint of Greek yogurt (I used fat free, but go with your preference)
  • 1 large handful of fresh chopped dill
  • 3 large finely minced cloves of garlic
  • Lemon juice from one half of a freshly squeezed lemon
  • 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 cucumber- cut into quarters, scoop out the seeds, and cut into thin slivers
Mix it all together and serve along side the Greek Quinoa Burgers! It will be even better if you make it 2-3 hours ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to serve! 

Thanks for joining us for veggie burger week! If you didn't get the chance yet, check out Amanda's Black Bean Burger recipe! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Veggie Burger Week: Black Bean Burgers

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This week, Liz and I thought it would be fun to share with you our favorite veggie burger recipes.  Although I am not a vegetarian, I am not a very 'meat-centric' eater.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good steak.  But, it is not uncommon for me to go a full day without eating meat.  That said, I always struggle to come up with creative recipes for meatless Fridays during Lent.  For some reason, it seems like on Fridays during Lent I am more tempted to eat meat!  One of my go-to favorites, however, is a black bean burger.  Last week I broke out the recipe that I've been using for a few years now.  It's based on this one that I found using a simple Google search.  

You will need the following ingredients for 6 burgers:

1 (16 ounce) can black beans
1/2 green bell pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 onion
4 cloves garlic
1-2 eggs
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/3 cup bread crumbs

To begin, chop up all your vegetables.  I always make them into really small pieces, but if you want a bit more 'crunch' in your burger you can leave them in bigger pieces.  Set the veggies aside.

Open the can of black beans and rinse them using a colander.   Add them to a medium size bowl.  

For the next step you will need a bit of elbow grease.  Mash the beans completely until they form a thick paste.  I used both a wooden spoon and a fork to accomplish this, but a potato masher would also work well.  Stir in the vegetables to the black bean paste.

In a separate small bowl, mix the egg, cayenne pepper, cumin, and hot sauce.  Start with one egg, and if the black bean mixture is too dry, reserve the second for extra liquidity. I also always add extra cayenne and hot sauce because I like the burgers a bit spicier.

Stir in the egg mixture to the black bean and veggie paste.  Mix in the breadcrumbs until the mixture becomes a sticky paste.  You want to have some moisture, but should be able to form a patty that holds together.  Often times I have to play with the ratio of breadcrumbs to egg, which is where the second egg comes into play. 

Form 6 patties.  Grease cooking surface (either a grill pan or an outdoor grill) and heat to medium.  Once the surface is hot, add the patties and cook for 6-8 minutes on each side.  When you flip them, do so carefully.  They are a bit more delicate than meat-based burgers and have a tendency to break apart if handled roughly.

I added avocado and goat cheese and served these with homemade baked sweet potato fries.  This meal has been a crowd pleaser with many meat-loving men. (And women, too, of course. But I find the men more gratifying because they are always VERY skeptical.)  I've actually had them ask me to make them specifically!  So, give them a try, and let me know what you think! Check back on Thursday for Liz's Greek Quinoa Veggie Burgers.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lentil, Sausage & Kale Soup

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Let me start by telling you that I am not a soup fan.  I know most people get warm happy feelings when they think about curling up with a hot bowl of soup on a cold, rainy day.  I am just not one of those people.  I think it's because I associate eating soup with being sick; my very Italian mother always insisted I eat chicken soup the minute any sign of an aliment appeared. Probably the only exception to my soup aversion was the Sopa de Lentejas my Spanish host mom used to make me when I lived in Sevilla.  So, when I was presented with this recipe for Kale-Lentil Soup, I caved.  Let me tell you, I am so glad I did.  I might be a soup convert.

We slightly modified this recipe to make it our own. You will need:

3/4 pound Andouille Sausage
1/2 pound Italian Sausage
2 tablespoon Olive Oil
2 cups chopped Carrots
2 medium Onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz can Tomato Paste with Basil, Garlic, and Oregano
12 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth (3 boxes of broth)
1 16 oz bag of Lentils
2 cans Garbanzo Beans
1-2 cups chopped Kale, as preferred

First, chop all of your veggies and set them aside.  Slice the sausage into 1/2 thick pieces.  

Put one tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch Oven and cook the sausage over medium heat for about 7 minutes, until it is cooked through.  Transfer it to a bowl and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the Dutch Oven.  Cook the carrots, onions, and garlic over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Once the veggies have begun to soften, add the can of tomato paste to the pot.  Cook the mixture for an additional 2-3 minutes until vegetables are fully cooked.

Next, in the same pot add all of the broth, garbanzo beans and lentils.  Bring the soup to a boil, cover and reduce to low-medium heat.  Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Return the cooked sausage to the soup along with the kale. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes on low heat.

This soup was so indescribably delicious. The combination of sausages added delicate heat and spice.  I'm not normally a huge fan of kale, but it actually absorbed the flavor of the broth and was a great aspect of the soup.  I also felt that the liquid to solid ratio of the soup was perfect--i.e. not too 'soupy', but enough to soak up some broth using garlic bread.  I highly recommend this soup.  It is affordable, simple and serves 6-8 meals depending on portion size.  You could also half the recipe if cooking for one.

What is your favorite soup?  Maybe I will be adventurous and try some other recipes....

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Equinox Restaurant Week

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For restaurant week, Amanda, our friend, Jackie, and I went to Equinox. Just a few blocks from the White House, this restaurant is a DC establishment and has been on my must-try list for a long time. Lately, I've strayed from the fine dining experiences as there are so many other interesting options around town. That said, Equinox was a perfect choice for Restaurant Week. The meal was definitely indulgent, but it was worth the splurge. The food and service were impeccable.  

First off, our waiter helped us pick a Pinot Noir. When I think of Pinot Noirs, I usually think Oregon or France, but this Chilean Pinot Noir was surprisingly delicious. 

To start, Jackie had the Artichoke and Red Lentil Bisque. She described it as rich and flavorful, but not overwhelmingly creamy. She opted for the vegan version, which didn't have pancetta. When Amanda tasted it, she likened it to a lentil gazpacho-style soup.  Probably not the star of the meal, but a solid appetizer. 

Amanda and I both got the Grilled Shrimp appetizer. It was served over a kabocha squash puree with a vegetable medley. The dish was simple, but perfectly executed. As usual, Amanda thought it needed more sauce, but I thought there was plenty for the number of shrimp. The swiss chard in the vegetable medley perfectly balanced the shrimp and varied the texture of the plate. I would definitely order it again. 

As an entree, Jackie ordered the blackened salmon. It was served over red swiss chard, caramelized fennel, and caulifower puree. Jackie enjoyed both the flavor and the consistentcy of the salmon and would definitely order this again off the regular menu. 

Amanda and I ordered all of the same dishes off the menu! Good to know our blog has some consistency! For the entree, we both ordered the beef short rib. The more common way to see this dish prepared is braised, but these short ribs were actually cooked in the sous-vide method. I liked that the waiter took the time to explain the cooking method with us. Essentially, the meat was cooked at 152 degrees over a 60 hour period. This caused the short ribs to become incredibly tender and fall apart with just a fork! They were served over a bed of creamy polenta and mushrooms. Yum. 

For dessert, all three of us ordered the chocolate-peanut butter mousse. This might be the definition of decadent. Rich, creamy, and totally over the top. Truthfully, one of these would have been enough to share. 

We loved that the chef, Todd Grey, came out to chat with us at the end of our meal and brought over some desert wine. He seemed genuinely interested in how we enjoyed our food. What a treat! 

Restaurant Week is a great time of year to try restaurants that would normally be out of your price range. A common gripe is that the menu options are limited and the kitchen doesn't seem as focused as they would be on a normal night. I am happy to report that Restaurant Week at Equinox provided a perfect dining experience and delicious food and wine. 

Did you go anywhere amazing for Restaurant Week this year? We'd love to hear your recommendations and reviews!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

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Hey there! I’m Grace, a college friend of Liz and Amanda. I was so excited to be invited to their Tiny Dinner Party last Saturday night and even more excited to be asked to write a guest post for fooDCrave. For appetizers our friend Abby made crostini three ways, and for the main course, Liz & Amanda made beef brasato with fresh papardelle & rosemary. Going with the Italian theme, I made biscotti for dessert. It's also a perfect recipe to make for your valentine tonight!

I used my cousin’s personal recipe for chocolate almond biscotti. You will need:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs (large, not extra large)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2  1/4 cups all purpose flour
1  1/2  teaspoons baking powder
1/4  teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup toasted slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 325. To start, I creamed the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. If you have a standing mixer, use that. If you’re like me and haven’t gotten married yet, you can use a hand mixer and a deep bowl or even a pot (I had to improvise, I wasn’t cooking in my own kitchen).

Then add the eggs one at a time and the vanilla and blend until smooth. This is what heaven looks like!

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Then, use your mixer to blend the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, make sure not to over beat. When that was done, I toasted the almonds in a pan on medium heat until fragrant and golden.

I then mixed the almonds and chocolate chips in a bowl. The chocolate chips promptly melted. Woops! Moral of the story: if you want chocolate chip biscotti, and not chocolate biscotti, toast and COOL your almonds ahead of time. Or don’t toast them. Your call.

Fold in the almonds and chocolate with the batter and place on a lightly floured surface.

Divide in two and knead each ball a few times and then shape into two slightly flattened logs about 2 inches wide, 1 inch high and 12 to 14 inches long on a non-stick baking sheet covered in parchment paper. 

This is where the process gets a bit long. So, start an episode of whatever has been hanging out on your DVR. This is also a good time to lick the beaters and maybe do the dishes.

Bake the biscotti for 25 minutes or until barely golden. Take out and place on a rack to cool for 10 minutes. This is what mine looked like:

Once cooled, slice diagonally into ½ inch thick pieces and bake again for 20 minutes.

At the 8-10 minute mark, carefully flip each piece over 180 degrees and put back in the oven for 8-10 minutes. When you take them out they shouldn’t be too dark.

We served the biscotti with coffee, but it was Saturday night, so we also had some of this (it's Prosecco, in case you can't tell!):