Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Black Bean Burgers

When first we decided (well, I  decided.  Art had to go along with me) to give up meat, we were casting about for hamburger substitutes.  We tried the commercially available versions and, while they filled up the 'burger bun - most of the time - they weren't close in terms of texture or taste.  Finally we hit upon the black bean burgers at Costco.  No, it still wasn't a 'hamburger' and didn't have that burger taste or texture, but if you cocked your head to the left and squinted your right eye closed it was close. 

When we arrived in Razorback State, I searched  high and low but couldn't find a Costco.  (Um, this IS the home of WalMart.  Costco is viewed as pornography here.)  What to do?  Well, I searched for recipes to make my own meat-free, soy-free patty-as-burger-replacement.  As Friday began our first holiday weekend in Arkansas, I decided it was time to try them out.

Alas, I don't have a full-size food processor BUT I do have a very handy compact food processor courtesy of Kristen (thank you Swee'Pea).  The recipe specifies  combining the beans, an egg and oatmeal in the food processor.  Um, can you see the size of my midget marvel?  I was lucky I could fit a cup of beans in the bowl. No worries, I was able to achieve the desired results in two batches.  Further, I don't think the Midget Marvel was able to handle my request for 'chopping' the onion.  Again, no worries.  We're nothing if not resourceful here in The Natural State.


 Onions pre-chopped a bit, we're back in business.  I was surprised as the black bean mixture was much lighter than I expected.  I mean, they're black beans after all, right?

Final step in our bean burger formation was the addition of an egg and just a smidge too much chipotle chile powder.  Ooops.

And the finished product!  Six or seven minutes on the grill and we had fresh black bean burgers of toasted ciabiatta buns with fresh-from-the Farmer's market tomatoes.  A good start to our first holiday in Little Rock! 

(Sidebar: the recipe specifies canned beans.  I always have reconstituted beans in the freezer.  I find it's so much easier to put a pot o'beans on to soak, add onions, spices and other flavorings and when they're done, freeze them in either pint or quart jars with 3 parts beans, 1 part cooking liquid.  They're easy to thaw and always handy.)
Makes 4 to 6 Servings

Slightly adapted from a now-unknown source.  If I've stolen your idea, let me know and you'll receive full credit!
Time: 20 minutes with cooked beans
This is the way to go when you want a burger and have neither the time nor the inclination to fuss. When made with chickpeas, they're golden brown and lovely; with black beans, much darker; with red, somewhere in between. Lentils give you a slightly grainy texture. There are, of course, an infinite number of ways to jazz these up (see the variations, as well as "13 Ways to Build Delicious Burgers"), but this has good flavor and texture and is excellent served on a bun with the usual fixings. If you start with beans you've cooked yourself-especially well-seasoned ones-the results will be even better, and you can put the bean-cooking liquid to good use (I usually don't use the liquid from canned beans, which often has a tinnier taste than the beans themselves). Like almost all veggie burger mixtures, these will hold together a little better if you refrigerate them first (ideally you'd refrigerate both before and after shaping, but that's only if you have the time).
2 cups well-cooked white, black, or red beans or chickpeas or lentils, or one 14-ounce can, drained
1 medium onion, quartered
1/2 cup rolled oats (I use steel-cut)
1 tablespoon chili powder or spice mix of your choice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
Bean-cooking liquid, stock, or other liquid (wine, cream, milk, water, ketchup, etc.) if necessary
Extra virgin olive oil or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, as needed
1. Combine the beans, onion, oats, chili powder, salt, pepper, and egg in a food processor and pulse until chunky but not puréed, adding a little liquid if necessary (this is unlikely but not impossible) to produce a moist but not wet mixture. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes if time allows.
2. With wet hands, shape into whatever size patties you want and again let rest for a few minutes if time allows. (You can make the burger mixture or even shape the burgers up to a day or so in advance. Just cover tightly and refrigerate, then bring everything back to room temperature before cooking.) The mixture will be rather wet.  Grill the patties on a sheet of foil coated with oil and grill for 5 - 7 minutes, carefully turn and grill until firm.
3. Serve on buns with the usual burger fixings. Or cool and refrigerate or freeze for later use.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Did you lose a bet?

That was the question I heard first when I announced we were moving to Little Rock.  The woman posing the question was Diana Selene (formerly Nancy Lee Watts).  Diana's father was my godfather so I think it's fair to state Diana (whom I still, in my mind, refer to as Nancy Lee ((and for us, she was always first-and-middle name)) has known me longer than anyone save my sister Nancy (hence the middle-naming of Nancy Lee/Diana).

The decision to leave Portland was relatively easy (except for the NO! I CAN'T LEAVE MY GRANDCHILDREN panic, that is).  Art was being recruited by the University of Little Rock for Medical Sciences (UAMS).  It was a plum spot for Art and would offer him a great finish to his career - for he's promised me when he retires at 70-and-a-half, we'll return to Portland.  Then too, this job, while great fun and incredibly interesting, saved him the day-to-day stresses of co-owning the firm he'd begun in Portland in 1989.  He wouldn't have to worry over payroll/taxes/staffing/un-staffing.  He would go to work and come home; that's all.

Our first experience in Little Rock was the trip we made in November, 2013.  We'd been spending a month in Arizona when Art received 'The Call' from his friend and mentor (and now, boss) Mark.  Could we be in Arkansas next week for three days?  Scrambling, we booked flights to Little Rock (no airline flies direct to LR), made reservations at Embassy Suites (hey, it's worth any extra; I can drink for free!) and arranged a rental car (which, here in the south, they call a rent car.)

Sidebar on the car: we thought the Camaro convertible would be fun.  Sheesh!  With the top up even I struggled to get in.  Seriously.  In order for Art or Mark to sit, the top had to be down.  Really.  It was fairly entertaining watching them try with the top up, though.

My assignment, while Art was meeting with 12 vice-chancellors at UAMS, involved sitting in the realtor's car and taking a whirlwind tour of Little Rock neighborhoods.  Val was pointing out restaurants as we cruised their version of NW 21st, saying, "that's a really good steak house and they have killer barbeque and, that place has the best burgers in town."  I explained to Val we don't eat meat...his eyes kinda glazed over and he said, "um, I think Subway has salads".  Needless to say, we don't dine out much in LR.

But that's a good thing, right?  We spend less and we cook at  home more.  Hence the new blog.  The aforementioned 'friend of longest standing,'  Diana, suggested I should journal so I could look back in five years OR blog so all could enjoy out southern experience.  Blogging won out.  I'll have an ever-growing audience, right?  You'll spread the word, won't you?

I've been dutifully photographing dinner preps most evenings this week and will pull my stuff  (this is a family blog, after all) together this weekend for the first-ever cooking-documentary post from TheVegetarianRazorback.  Enjoy, y'all!