April 2010

This past weekend I had the pleasure of hosting a CouchSurfer from Austria. She came into Roanoke for a conference after far too many delays thanks to Eyjafjallajökull (say that one time fast) and due to my crazy schedule I wasn’t able to cook with her as much as I wanted, but by Sunday morning things died down enough for me to be able to whip up some gluten-free banana bourbon pecan waffles while listening to the week’s Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me (at least this week Georgia didn’t make the news…).

I really love Sunday mornings.

The waffles didn’t need to be gluten-free (neither of us are gluten-intolerant), but you know me, I have to go the extra mile to see if it’ll work. With my overripe bananas, a freezer full of pecans, and a bit of Maker’s Mark left in my cupboard, I figured why not, let’s see if buckwheat & sorghum can do the trick. And they did. Sorghum is, I think, one of my favorite gluten-free flours simply because it doesn’t have a weird taste/texture and it always performs well when I use it. These waffles are, perhaps, the best waffles I’ve ever made. Ever. And even with the mix being half buckwheat (a flour I love love love but which many people think has a strong taste), the waffles just had a nutty, whole grainy taste to them. The buckwheat definitely wasn’t overpowering. And who can say no to bananas and nuts and liquor?

If only I’d had a mimosa to go with them…

Gluten-free Banana Bourbon Pecan Waffles

1 c buckwheat flour
1 c sorghum flour
1 1/2 c soy milk (or other nondairy milk)
1/4 c bourbon
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tbsp turbinado sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 over ripe bananas
1 c pecans, chopped

Preheat waffle iron.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the bananas until they are a smooth puree. Add the sugar, soy milk, bourbon, and oil and mix thoroughly to combine.

Add the flours, salt, and baking powder and mix to combine (until there are no lumps). Stir in the chopped pecans.

Scoop 1/4-1/3 cup batter into the waffle iron and let cook for 4-5 minutes, until golden brown and crispy on the outside (my circa 1955 waffle iron stops steaming at the point the waffles are done). Remove waffles with a fork and repeat until all batter is used.

Makes 6 large waffles.

It’s come to my attention that I haven’t updated in…oh…a month? My goodness, how time has flown! You don’t need to hear my excuses, but I do want to assure you that I didn’t die in Atlanta, since that’s where I last left you, and that I am alive and well and cooking (although the cooking thing and I took a month off too). The important thing is that I’m back and I’m going to start slogging through my GoogleReader to catch back up with you all too. I’ve missed you!

This past Sunday we celebrated Neighbor’s Day at our weekly potluck and given the beautiful weather (tall, stormy clouds punctuated by bright blue sky–no rain) we ate outside in the courtyard of the apartment building. It seemed like there were at least 20 people at some point, a great number, and definitely a smorgasbord of food and wine.

Like I said, I haven’t been cooking much, but I decided to whip out the kitchen knives and have a go at a recipe. Five sweet potatoes were left from my last farmer’s market haul of 2009 and since the first farmer’s market is this weekend (which I’ll miss due to the triathlon, sigh) I decided to use ’em up. I knew we would be grilling in the courtyard in addition to just being outside, so I decided to go with a potato salad based on sweet potatoes. A quick search came up with Mark Bittman’s Sweet Potato Salad with Black Beans and Chili Dressing and it sounded way too good to pass up.

Truth be told, I didn’t change anything in the recipe besides add an extra chili or two to the dressing and it was a hit. The roasted sweet potatoes add a sweetness to the salad while the raw peppers add crunch. The dressing, with it’s acid base and chili kick is the perfect complement. And who doesn’t love black beans? I served the salad warm because I cooked it right before I took it to potluck, but after having some leftovers that were chilled, I’m a huge fan of it that way too. I know sweet potatoes aren’t the most seasonal ingredient, but this is definitely something to keep in mind for your next cookout if you’re looking to shake up the traditional items a bit.

Sweet Potato Salad with Chili Dressing

from Mark Bittman

5-6 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large red onion, chopped
3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tbsp minced fresh hot chili, like jalapeño (I added a dried Thai pepper and another one that was roundish–no idea what it was–for extra heat)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 c lime juice
2 c cooked black beans, drained (1 can’s worth)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 c chopped fresh parsley or cilantro (I went the parsley route since I detest cilantro)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Put sweet potatoes and onions on separate large baking sheets, drizzle with 3 tablespoons oil, toss to coat and spread out in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, turning occasionally, until potatoes begin to brown on corners and are just tender inside, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven; keep on pan until ready to mix with dressing (Note: the onions didn’t need to be roasted as long as the sweet potatoes, so I took them out first).

Put chilies in a blender or mini food processor along with garlic, lime juice, remaining olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Process until blended. (Note: at this point, adjust for taste–add more lime juice or another chili as desired).

Put warm vegetables in a large bowl with beans and bell peppers; toss with dressing and parsley/cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature, or refrigerate for up to a day.

One of the joys of simultaneously being a substitute teacher and a grad student is that I get two spring breaks–one from my classes and one from teaching. Granted, while I’d rather be earning some money, the break from work gives me the perfect excuse to do something fun with my time (something I failed to do while on spring break from graduate school). So tomorrow I’m headed south to Atlanta!

I haven’t been to Atlanta since Thanksgiving, so I’m super stoked to meet up with friends, eat great food (Soul Veg, Green Sprout, Holeman & Finch, here I come), drink at my favorite bars (a pint at The Marlay, a glass of wine at Carroll Street Cafe? Don’t mind if I do), watch some cycling on tv (Tour of Flanders is on Sunday), and enjoy the gorgeous spring weather at my favorite parks (Grant Park, Lullwater, Fernbank Forest). I’ll also be heading over to my brother and sister-in-law’s place to celebrate my nephew’s 1st birthday, and, at some point, I have to remember to keep running in order to stay somewhat on track for the triathlon in just one month (May 1). Thanks to Sara’s post on Vibram’s FiveFinger shoes, I think I’m going to use my REI 20% off coupon and my giftcard from Christmas to pick up a pair of the Sprints to run in–anyone use fingershoes, have any tips/suggestions?

Whew, it’s going to be an amazing-exhausting weekend. But I cannot wait, so excited!

And since I’ve tuckered myself out just thinking about the next four or five days, how about a sandwich?

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a veggie burger–mostly because I think they’re all pretty much the same. I mean, they’re not, but they are? Beans + breading + spices + some veggies is the formula for most. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great formula, but it’s not exactly the most blog-friendly or exciting formula ever. But when Barbara posted a recipe for some eggplant tofu meatballs, I knew I had to make them, with a vegan twist!

I already had some eggplant that was about to go bad and a block of tofu in my fridge, and, since flaxseed acts as an egg replacer, I knew the burgers would hold together nicely. The only trick was to play with the spices and other seasoning components to get it right. While these aren’t gluten-free as is, the other day I found rice bread crumbs at the Asian grocery store and I think they’d be a great substitute for regular breadcrumbs. As for the texture, well, they are a little mushy, but that’s due to the tofu–if you freeze the tofu beforehand and then crumble it in, the texture will be a bit more meaty. Otherwise, the flavor of these is great and, personally, I don’t mind the texture at all. My favorite way to cook them is to defrost/cook them in my George Foreman Grill and then toss them in a cast iron pan with a little olive oil and fry them crispy on the outside. Served on a sweet potato roll with sauted garlicky kale and veganaise, these little burgers are just plain delicious.

Also, don’t forget to check out Meghan’s new tutorial on everyday superfoods–and if you blog about it today or email her, you might be able to win a free copy of it!

Eggplant Tofu Burgers

adapted from Barbara of Dish n’ That

olive oil
1 large eggplant, peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp smoky paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 lb firm tofu
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp tamari soy sauce/Braggs Amino Acid
1 1/2 tbsp ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tbsp water to make a flax egg
1/4 c nutritional yeast
1 1/2 c panko bread crumbs/rice bread crumbs (available at Asian grocery stores)–you will need more or less depending on how wet your mixture is

Saute the eggplant in a skillet over medium-low heat in 1-2 tbsp olive oil for 10-12 minutes, until browned. Set aside.

In another skillet (or in the same, without the eggplant in it), saute the onion and carrots in 1 tbsp olive oil for 7-10 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute more, until fragrant. Add the herbs and spices and saute for 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

After the eggplant and the onion mixture have cooled, in a large bowl, combine the eggplant and onion mixture. Crumble in the tofu. Add the tomato paste and soy sauce/Bragg’s. Add the flax seed mixture. Mix thoroughly. Add the nutritional yeast. Mix in the breadcrumbs, using more or less, until you can form individual patties.

Form patties and bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes, grill on a George Foreman (or regular grill), or brown in oil on the stove. Individually wrap the remaining burgers in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag in the freezer for future use.

Makes 14-16 medium-sized burgers.