Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Spinach, Ricotta, and Mushroom Tartlets

I’ve always enjoyed playing with pastry dough. But, crimping the edges of a pie crust, cutting and weaving lattice pieces, or making leaf shapes of pastry for the top of a pumpkin pie is about as far as I’ve taken it. When I received a review copy of The Pastry School: Sweet and Savoury Pies, Tarts and Treats to Bake at Home, I soon realized how much more could be done. These pies and tarts are works of art. For Julie Jones, pastry is her medium of choice, and she’s practiced the skills to produce masterpieces. There are recipes for different types of pastry including shortcrust, puff pastry, choux pastry, gluten-free, and vegan followed by tips for rolling, baking, blind-baking, and decorating. I appreciated the tip for blind-baking a tart shell with overhanging pastry beyond the edge of the tart pan. I’ve seen many pastry shells shrink down below the top edge of tart pans over the years. By leaving extra in place, you’ll have a full height of pastry in the tart pan when you trim the baked excess. And, the suggestion for trimming the edge is to slide a vegetable peeler along it until it’s level with the edge of the tart pan. Such a great idea. Another great tip is to use a pasta rolling machine to get extra smooth, thin pastry. A lot of the decorations are achieved by using very thin sheets of pastry cut and shaped into designs that are then adhered with egg wash to a very thin pastry lid cut to the size of the top needed. So smart. In some cases, the filling becomes part of the design as well. The Apple Rose Tart is made with curled apple slice roses and pretty flower- and leaf-shaped pastry pieces. For the little Mango and Coconut Cream Tartlets, the decorations are very thinly sliced grapes and tiny coriander flowers. The Pistachio Tart with Rhurbarb Tiles, shown on the book cover, is particularly stunning with perfectly lined-up rectangular pieces of rhubarb topped with a pretty profusion of swirling apple slices, blackberries, and pastry pieces. There are also savory pastries, and the Griddled Greens, Cauliflower, and Lemon Triangles made with sheet pastry and baked until shatteringly crisp look delicious. It was the parquet look of the Chicken, Chorizo, and Spinach Pie that I had to try. I decided to limit my first attempt at this type of decorative pastry to smaller tartlets, and I filled mine with a vegetarian mixture. 

I made the shortcrust pastry and let it chill while working on the filling. I sauteed a mix of mushrooms and set it aside. Next, spinach was sauteed with garlic and allowed to cool. I mixed the spinach with ricotta. Next, I rolled out half of the pastry and cut and filled tartlet pans with overhanging pastry. I cut parchment paper to fit into each pan, and filled them pie weights for blind-baking. After 20 minutes, the pie weights and parchment were removed, and the tartlet shells baked for another 15 minutes. Once cool, the overhanging edges of pastry were trimmed with a vegetable peeler, and the pastry shells were cleaned of crumbs with a pastry brush. For the decorative tartlet tops, I rolled the other half of the pastry through my pasta machine. I cut thin sheets of pastry into circles to fit the tops of the tartlets. Those base tops were chilled to firm them up. Next, I used more of the thin, pasta machine rolled pastry to make tile shapes. I measured and cut the rectangles and then placed them in the parquet design on the chilled thin pastry lids. I worked on top of parchment paper, and flipped the whole assembly over onto another piece of parchment paper so I could trim the tiles to the edge of the bottom layer of pastry. I flipped the whole assembly back to parquet-side-up and chilled the finished tops. While the tops were chilling, I filled the tartlet shells with the ricotta and spinach mixture and topped that with mushrooms. I ended feeling like the day had gotten away from me, and I only topped two tartlets with the parquet effect. The other two received plain pastry lids. The chilled pastry tops were set in place and brushed with egg wash and the tartlets went back into the oven until golden and crisp. 

Let me tell you what I’ll do differently next time: I won’t attempt to do all of these steps on the same day. The pastry can be made in advance and refrigerated. The tartlet shells can be blind-baked and trimmed in advance. The thin pastry lids on which the decorative layer is placed can be cut and chilled in advance. And, of course, the filling can be made in advance. With everything prepped and ready, more time and attention can be focused on the fun, decorative layer. I loved learning these tips for working with pastry; I especially loved all the inspiration for amazing pastry art; and I look forward to getting more practice.




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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Flautas de Rajas con Queso with Salsa de Aguacate

As soon as I opened my review copy of Chicano Eats: Recipes from My Mexican-American Kitchen by Esteban Castillo, I knew I was going to have fun cooking from this book. This is a collection of Mexican food and flavors transformed by time and place. Castillo has been inspired by the cooking of his mother while growing up in California and by his grandparents whom he visited as often as he could in Colima, Mexico. And now, he puts his own stamp on family favorite recipes and creates new takes of his own. First, the book has a joyful feel to it from the layout and use of color to the many, richly saturated photos. The recipes start with basics like salsas, beans, rice, and sauces and move on to everything from appetizers to desserts and drinks. There are so many things I want to try; this book will be at my side in the kitchen for the foreseeable future. I fell for the book when I flipped it open to the page with a torta filled with delicata squash seasoned with a spice mix based on chorizo flavors. A few pages later, there’s a Rigatoni with Cilantro Pesto and Sauteed Oyster Mushrooms and then the Shrimp Ceviche Tostadas. Of course, I was hooked. There are a few versions of pozole, lots of options for tacos, and delicious drinks with and without alcohol. In the head note for the BBQ sauces, there’s a mention of grilling quail which I think would be fantastic with the Hibiscus BBQ Sauce. That sauce is also used to marinate the Tequila BBQ Chicken Skewers. I’ll have to try both. I also predict I’ll be trying several options in the Drinks chapter. I’ve never made homemade horchata, but I want to try it. There are three versions here: classic, matcha, and coconut, and all can easily be made dairy-free. And, the aguas frescas all look incredibly refreshing especially the Cherry Lime Chia Agua Fresca and the Strawberry-Jamaica Agua Fresca. The Desserts chapter reminded me that I’ve been meaning try a chocoflan for ages. It’s a layered dessert that’s made with chocolate cake batter topped with flan custard. As it bakes, the layers switch places, and the flan moves to the bottom of the pan. It sounds like magic, and I want to see it happen. To get started cooking, the Flautas de Rajas con Queso looked like a surefire hit, and I had a craving for the accompanying Salsa de Aguacate. 

I don’t know why I had never made avocado salsa before. It’s a perfect mix of guacamole and salsa verde. The day I made it, I declared it was my favorite thing I’d made lately. I keep making it now so it’s always in supply in my refrigerator. It’s a simple puree of avocados, garlic, green onion, tomatillo, cilantro leaves, serrano, lime juice, and salt. It couldn’t be easier. For the flautas, I had some locally-grown poblanos on hand, and they were seeded, sliced, and cooked with chopped crimini mushrooms, and minced onion. Garlic was added, and the mixture was seasoned with salt, pepper, ground coriander, and ground cumin. Then, I strayed from the recipe just a bit. Strips of panela cheese were suggested. With a strip of cheese, you could just add one piece to each tortilla before rolling it up with the filling. I opted for an aged goat cheese that I shredded. Corn tortillas were filled with the rajas and mushroom mixture and some shredded cheese, and my tip is to use a toothpick to hold the rolled tortillas closed. Once they were all filled, they were fried, seam side down with the toothpicks removed, until golden and crispy. I topped them with cilantro leaves, sliced jalapeno, and that delicious salsa. 

I always love bright, spicy, bold flavors like what’s found throughout this book, and the flautas and salsa were two great examples of them. And, I was right. This book is a lot of fun with its mix of traditional and creative approaches. I need to get back to the kitchen. I have lots more cooking to do.


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Thursday, July 23, 2020

Spiced Salmon Skewers with Parsley Sauce

Like everybody, I’m a big fan of all the books from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. So naturally, I was excited to read the latest from Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley which is Falastin: A Cookbook, and I received a review copy. This is a collection of recipes and stories about Palestinian food and culture. Some dishes are classics, some are reconsidered classics, and they all sound like something I want to cook. At the start of the book, I learned that there is no “P” in the Arabic language. Falastin refers to the Palestinian people, the land, the culture, and more. The authors’ goal with this book was to “strike a balance between telling it like it is in Palestine and conveying the upbeat spirit and ambition of the people.” The stories of cooks, farmers, producers, and restaurants that appear among the recipes achieve that goal well. And, the recipes move from breakfast to every course of a meal with one delicious idea after the next. This is straightforward, home-cooking that’s easy and craveable. I stop every time I flip by the photo of the labneh balls rolled in herbs, chile flakes, and za’atar. I have to make those soon. I might even attempt a vegan yogurt version. There’s a chapter for Veggie Sides and Salads, and I don’t know why I’ve marked pages because I want to make everything here. Every single thing. The Roasted Cauliflower and Charred Eggplant with Tomato Sauce; Spiced Chickpeas with lots of herbs and green onion; and Bulgur, Tomato, and Eggplant Pilaf are a few examples. Ordinarily, a Soups chapter may or may not interest me much, but although it’s a small chapter here, it stopped me in my tracks. Butternut Squash and Saffron Soup with Caramelized Pistachios and Herb Oil and Chard, Lentil, and Preserved Lemon Soup with crispy onions are just two options I can’t wait to try. Also, the Sumac Onion and Herb Oil Buns and Za’atar Bread are on my list. The chicken dishes all look delicious, and I’m imagining ways of making the various meatballs and stuffed vegetables with either ground poultry or a mushroom and bean mixture instead of the lamb and beef. I really do want to make everything. That definitely applies to the Fish chapter as well. Fish Kofta with Yogurt, Sumac, and Chile; Roasted Cod with a Cilantro Crust; and Prawn and Tomato Stew with a Cilantro Pesto are all competing for what I’ll cook next. First though, I fired up the grill for Spiced Salmon Skewers with Parsley Oil. 

The head note mentions that these skewers are “a winner with all when served,” and I whole-heartedly agree with that assessment. They were only served to two of us at my house, but the recipe was definitely a winner. After the fish was cut into chunks, it was tossed with a Fish Spice Mix and olive oil and was left to chill for an hour. That part could be done the day before. The spice mix was made with ground coriander, ground cumin, ground turmeric, and paprika with added sumac and salt and pepper. There’s a suggestion to make more of this spice mix than you need since it works so well on so many things, and you should. I want to marinate all things in this spice mix. Now, I have to admit, I took a couple of liberties with the recipe. The idea was to cook quartered onions in olive oil and cool them before stacking them on skewers with the salmon. Since the salmon cooks quickly, this gives the onion a head start. The assembled skewers were to be cooked on a grill pan. I made the onion chunks a bit smaller, added some summer squash, peppers, and cherry tomatoes to the skewers, and seared them on a hot charcoal grill outside. There’s a great tip for making sure the salmon cooks evenly: if you have some thin pieces from the tail end, fold them in half to make a thicker cube on the skewer. For the parsley oil, parsley, garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper were pureed until smooth. The skewers were served with the parsley oil and lemon wedges on the side. 

Let me say, this is something I’ll be making often. The flavors from the spice mix and the punchy parsley oil made the salmon and vegetables addictive. I already had a habit of making lots of skewers for the grill, and now I’ll be making even more. I’ve learned more about Palestine from this book--I’m now trying to find Palestinian olive oil so I can taste how delicious it is--and I’m going to be cooking a lot of great food from it as well.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Sourdough Brioche Cinnamon Buns

I’ve really liked baking with sourdough since my first attempt years ago. I have a few favorite recipes that I bake often like sourdough bagels, baguettes, and a rye and wheat combo loaf that seems foolproof. I realized that I may have gotten stuck in my habits with sourdough. I’m used to the recipes I’ve made several times, know how the timing will work, and understand when there is flexibility in the scheduling. Dare I say, I’d gotten stuck in a sourdough comfort zone? It was time to try something new, and Modern Sourdough: Sweet and Savoury Recipes from Margot Bakery, of which I received a review copy, by Michelle Eshkeri was great inspiration. These breads from Margot Bakery in North London are varied in origin but all rely on great flavor from sourdough. The book also includes some cakes, cookies, and bars offered at the bakery that are not made with sourdough, but I was intrigued to find Sourdough Rye Brownies, Fennel and Feta Muffins, and Aubergine Einkorn Galettes all made with sourdough in the recipes. The Margot loaf is a round, country-style loaf with Khorasan and white bread flours, and it rests for a long, slow rise in the refrigerator before baking. There’s also Focaccia, Challah, Simit, Beetroot Bread, and even laminated pastry dough all made with no commercial yeast or other leavening. There’s even a version of Rugelach made with that laminated pastry dough that looks delicious. But, it was the brioche that got my attention. I’ve made brioche several times and in different ways in the past. Most recently, my old mixer broke and I ended making a very rich brioche dough by hand with lots of kneading. I’ve made a sourdough brioche before that was used for hamburger buns, but that recipe included some yeast in the dough. Here, the brioche is definitely rich with eggs and butter, but it was all up to the starter to make it rise. I had to give it a try. I was torn between using the dough for a Babka loaf or Cinnamon Buns. Both are made with the same dough and same filling and I’ll eventually come back to try the Babka, but a cinnamon bun craving had to be addressed first.  

The recipe itself was a multi-day process after I had fed my starter for a day to revive it. Stage one just involves feeding a small amount of active starter with the amounts of water and flour listed. Stage two mixes the Stage one starter with more flour and water, and this time a little sugar. Stage three is for mixing the brioche dough with a pause for the autolyse, a long ferment in a warm oven with a bowl of water, and then additional resting in the refrigerator to make the dough easier to handle. Once chilled, the dough was patted into a rectangle and schmeared with a butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon mixture. With every other cinnamon bun recipe I’ve ever made, the dough is always rolled into a log and then sliced into rounds. Here, the dough was cut into strips first and then rolled three strips at a time before being separated into rolls and placed in a baking dish. It prevented the dough from becoming stretched and elongated. Once the rolls were formed, they sat, covered, at room temperature for 16 to 24 hours before baking. At last, the next day, they were baked. I can never resist topping cinnamon buns with cream cheese frosting, and I did that here as well with a coffee-flavored frosting. In the book, a simple syrup is poured over the buns while they’re still warm from the oven for a simpler look. 

To call these cinnamon buns decadent would be an understatement. They are delightfully rich, and all the waiting time was worth it for the flavor it produced. While I have no complaints about these at all, next time I might reduce the amount of filling since it did escape the rolls a bit. But first, I need to try those brownies and the focaccia and the muffins.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Roasted Tomato and Zucchini Tarts

A trip to France seems especially dreamy right now. Dreamy and impossible. But, it’s a perfect time to transport yourself through food. Melissa Clark’s Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France of which I received a review copy, is just the book for that. She was introduced to French food at an early age on trips to France with her parents, and they incorporated that food into meals back at home by using books by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. She grew up knowing New York food and French food and combinations of the two, and that experience continues to inform her cooking now. This new book is a look at how she cooks today with that mix of influences in mind. I was first struck by the scandalous abundance of cheese, cream, homemade mayonnaise, and eggs in dish after dish, but that kind of richness is a signature part of French cooking. After reading through the recipes, there are plenty of options with a leaner profile too. For a brunch dish described in the head note as “over-the-top rich and creamy,” the Twice-Baked Cheese Souffles made with leeks, herbs, gruyere, parmesan, and cream look like decadent fun. I’d also like to try the Cornmeal and Harissa Souffle with a green salad for dinner. In the Cheese chapter, the Croque Monsieur Casserole sounds like a crowd-pleaser, and latkes are shown with added gruyere in them. You’ll find some lighter fare in the Salads chapter with Classic Salade Nicoise that sticks to the tradition of good canned or jarred tuna and Shaved Zucchini and Melon Salad with Mint and Almonds for a warm weather meal. There are also soups, savory tarts, fish dishes, chicken and other meats, a chapter just for vegetables, and dessert. The Giant Prawns with Preserved Lemon, Herbs, and Brandy is one of those less-rich dishes made with an herby-lemony sauce that will work just as well with shrimp if you can’t get prawns. I’m hoping to find myself with lots of sungold tomatoes soon so I can try the Buttery Crab Pasta with Golden Tomatoes and Chervil, and The Ratatouille Sheet-Pan Chicken will make a perfect dinner for eggplant season. Most of the desserts are simple in nature like the French Yogurt Cake with Cherries and Cardamom and the Raspberry-Lavender Clafouti. I’ve marked the page for the Almond Milk Sorbet and can’t wait to follow the suggestion of dropping a scoop into a glass of cold brewed coffee. But, for now, zucchini and tomato season is in full swing, and I got started on the Roasted Tomato and Zucchini Tarts when I saw them. 

For these petite tarts, the crusts are made in a muffin tin. I made the dough by hand, and it was left to test in the refrigerator for an hour before being divided into eight equal pieces. Each piece was rolled into a thin round and fitted into a muffin cup. It was suggested in the recipe that the dough be weighted down while blind baking either with another muffin tin on top or with foil balls. I just docked the dough and pressed it down again when I turned the pan at the halfway point. Once golden, the crusts were left to cool. Chopped zucchini and halved cherry tomatoes were tossed with olive oil, seasoned, and sprinkled with rosemary before roasting. I wouldn’t have thought to reach for rosemary here, but I’m always happy to snip a bit off the shrubs taking over my yard. While the vegetables roasted, ricotta, egg, chopped parsley and chives, and minced garlic were whisked together. I opted for a vegan ricotta since I’ve been eating less dairy lately. It’s not a strict rule for me, and I did use butter in the dough, but just a reduction overall in cow dairy. The ricotta mixture was spooned into the tart shells, the roasted vegetables were added on top, and I added chopped olives for a salty bite rather than parmesan cheese. The muffin pan went back into the oven for another 25 minutes until the filling was bubbly and hot. 


I served the tarts for dinner with arugula salad and then for brunch with eggs, and both meals were delicious. The summery taste of first of the season zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes is always so good, and the herbs in both the roasted vegetables and the ricotta filling brought bright flavors to the mix. More virtual travel through meals is definitely on the menu. 

Roasted Tomato and Zucchini Tarts 
Recipe reprinted with publisher’s permission from Dinner in French: My Recipes by Way of France

Serves 8 

FOR THE CRUSTS 
3/4 cup (97 grams) all-purpose flour 
1/2 cup (77 grams) whole-wheat flour 
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt 
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks / 141 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes, plus more for greasing 
1 large egg yolk 
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more as needed 
FOR THE FILLING 
1 pound zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes 
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes 
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves 
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed 
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed 
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
1/2 cup (4 ounces) fresh whole-milk ricotta cheese 
1 egg 
2 tablespoons mixed chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, and chives 
1 small garlic clove, finely grated or minced 
5 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese 

1. Make the crusts: Using the ingredients listed above, prepare the crust according to the directions on page 117, adding the egg yolk along with the ice water. Gather the dough into a ball and then form it into a disk. Wrap the disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 1 hour. (Note that this sticky dough comes together best in the food processor—which distributes the butter and egg more evenly—but you can do it by hand.)  
2. Heat the oven to 375°F. 
3. Grease 8 cups of a standard 12-cup muffin tin, leaving the other 4 cups ungreased (or use two 6-cup pans). Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, shape each one into a golf ball–size sphere, and roll each ball out to form a ⅛-inch-thick round. Press each round into a greased muffin cup and lightly crimp the edges. Nestle a second muffin pan on top of the first to help weight down the crusts. (If you don’t have a second muffin tin, crumple up balls of foil and place them in each doughlined muffin cup instead; the goal here is to keep the pastry from shrinking too much.) Transfer the muffin tin(s) to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the top tin (or foil balls) and continue to bake until the bottom of each crust is just dry to the touch, about 5 minutes more. Transfer the muffin tin to a wire rack to cool.  
4. Prepare the filling: While crusts cool, raise the oven temperature to 400°F.  
5. In a bowl, toss the zucchini and tomatoes with the rosemary, salt, pepper, and oil. Spread the mixture out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast it, tossing the vegetables occasionally, until they are tender and light golden, about 25 minutes.  
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg, mixed herbs, and garlic. Season with a large pinch each of salt and pepper.  
7. Spoon an equal amount of the ricotta mixture (about a heaping tablespoon) into each cooled crust. Top the ricotta with the roasted vegetables. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top. Transfer the muffin tin to the oven and bake until the tarts are bubbling and golden, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly before serving. I like to pop these out of the tins with a small offset spatula, but a butter knife also works. 

Thinking Ahead Dough: You can make the tart dough and chill it in the refrigerator up to 2 days in advance. Flatten it into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap before chilling. Tart shells: You can bake the shells up to 1 day in advance before filling them. Store them, uncovered, at room temperature.


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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Island Banana Bread

I feel like I’m missing out on some of the quarantine kitchen fads. I already enjoyed baking with sourdough, and I already cooked a lot. So, the newfound popularity of those things isn’t really affecting me. Maybe baking banana bread was an attempt to jump onto a bandwagon, any bandwagon. But, this particular version sounded so good, I had to give it a try. It’s from Toni Tipton-Martin’s new book Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking of which I received a review copy. After the years she spent researching the African American cookbook authors whom she wrote about in The Jemima Code, she next wanted to share a “broadened African American food story.” She writes that this new book “celebrates the enslaved and the free, the working class, the middle class, and the elite. It honors cooking with intentionality and skill, for a purpose and with pleasure.” It reaches beyond stereotypical ideas about soul food or southern food and displays the practiced cooking ability of cooks past and present. Some of the recipes are modern takes on dishes found in historical cookbooks, and those original recipes are included as sidebars for reference. Other dishes are inspired by contemporary chefs and cooks. Tipton-Martin explains the source and her changes for each. There’s a nice focus on hospitality and cooking for friends and family with recipes for everything from appetizers to dessert. The beverages chapter had me craving cocktails with Planter’s Punch with bourbon and Rum Punch. And, although the Calypso Coffee with chocolate and rum is suggested as an after-dinner drink, I’d love it for brunch too. In the breads chapter, I’m fascinated with the Quick Cinnamon Rolls made with a baking powder biscuit-like dough. There are also several versions of cornbread to consider along with muffins, biscuits, and sweet potato bread. Moving through the book, you’ll find gumbos and a crawfish bisque, and a peanut soup that sounds delightfully decadent with butter, cream, peanut butter, and hot sauce. There’s a Sweet Potato Salad with orange-maple dressing and pecans and raisins that sounds light and lovely for a fall meal and an intriguing dish called Beets Etouffee that’s a saute of beet matchsticks with green apple. In the main dishes chapter, the Lamb Curry is a combination of ideas from Alexander Smalls and J.J. Johnson, Marcus Samuelsson, and Dunston Harris. The flavors from green pepper, celery, and garlic plus the spices, rum, and lime sound like a mixture I’d love to try on chicken or tofu or a spoon. There are also several classic desserts. But, I had to flip back to the breads chapter for the Island Banana Bread. It was adapted from a B. Smith recipe and gets great color and flavor from molasses and dates. 

Toasted, chopped pecans and pitted and chopped dates were tossed with a little flour and set aside. Next, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger were whisked together. With a mixer, softened butter, brown sugar, or muscovado as I opted for, were combined until light. Then, eggs were added one at a time. In a third bowl, bananas were mashed with molasses, buttermilk, and vanilla. The flour mixture was mixed into the butter in three additions alternating with the banana mixture. Last, the nuts and dates were folded in. The batter was scraped into a prepared loaf pan and baked for about an hour. 

I don’t make banana bread very often, but it’s nice to have it on hand. Toasted slices slathered with butter made some delicious breakfasts while it lasted. And, flavors from the spices, dates, and molasses were lovely here. I’m going to try those Quick Cinnamon Rolls next, and who knows, they just might become the next big baking fad.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Black Bean-Chipotle Falafel Mini Burgers

Beans seem to be having their heyday as they’ve been flying off the shelves, and everyone who had never tried Rancho Gordo before is now placing orders. That has made it good timing for a new a cookbook devoted to beans. I was delighted to receive a review copy of Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein by Joe Yonan. As someone who has always been a fan of beans, I think it’s great there are so many new bean enthusiasts even though it’s made availability a little more challenging right now. My hope is that everyone continues to enjoy them, and supply and variety increase to meet demand. This new book offers a wide array of dishes to use just about every type of bean there is. There are snacks, salads, soups, handhelds, main dishes, and even drinks and desserts. You can choose to cook your own or open a can or two, and there’s a list of what beans are similar and can be substituted for each other. Yonan presents the recipes as entirely plant-based, but ingredient options include dairy-based butter and cheese. I’ve never met a bean dip or spread I didn’t like, so I loved seeing options like Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Dip and Garlicky Gigante Bean Spread in addition to several takes on hummus. The salads all look fresh and hearty at the same time. The Charred Zucchini, Corn, and Ayocote Bean Salad seems perfect for summer. And, I can’t wait to get my hands on some sungold cherry tomatoes for a weeknight meal of Quick Sungold Tomatoes, Chickpea, and Greens Curry. The Chickpea and Quinoa Chorizo sounds like something I’d like to have in my refrigerator at all times for use in tacos, especially breakfast tacos, and grain bowls. The Cannellini Cannelloni is fun to say and must be delicious to eat with a creamy bean filling and tomato sauce. The desserts involve sweetened beans and bean purees in inventive combinations and aquafaba, the liquid from canned chickpeas, stands in for eggs. I have my eye on a cocktail made with aquafaba instead of egg white for a foamy top. As soon as I open another can of chickpeas, I’m saving the liquid for the Salty Margarita Sour. First, I wanted to try a new-to-me technique for a bean burger. Rather than making a burger from cooked beans, these were made like falafel with soaked but not cooked beans. It makes all the difference in texture. 

As with falafel, beans, black beans in this case, were soaked overnight. The next day, the drained beans were added to the food processor with chopped onion, garlic, salt, and chipotle and pulsed. Mashed sweet potato was added to the mixture. In the book, the mixture is made into regular-size burgers, but I made mini burgers instead. They were placed on a baking sheet and chilled for a couple of hours before frying. I doctored some store-bought mayonnaise with chopped cilantro, garlic, lime juice, and salt and pepper, and gathered the other toppings including sliced pickled jalapeno, sliced tomato, and chopped lettuce. I served the mini burgers bunless with the toppings on the side. 

The soaked-but-not-cooked-beans concept definitely produces a good result and avoids mushiness. The falafel burgers were crisp on the outside and tender in the middle. Of course, chipotle always adds great flavor too. Next time, I’ll make them regular-size and maybe even use buns. And, there will definitely be a next time for these.

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