The goals of simplifying your life and being more healthy can sometimes seem to be at odds with each other. Making more stuff from scratch, eating more balanced meals, eating less meat....can all seem, at first, to make life infinitely more complicated. I am finding however, that once some of these things (like soaking and cooking beans, making stock, and chopping vegetables) become habit and incorporated into my daily routine - they really don't take any extra time or effort. They even become little tasks I look forward to in the middle of all the mundane ones.
I am also figuring out recipes that both simplify my day and are more healthy. I happen to love vegetarian 'burgers', and used to buy those pre-made vegetable patties from the freezer section all the time back in the States. They were ok, but always left me a little dissatisfied. I have attempted making plenty of different homemade versions - but they always seem too soft or too crumbly and simply fall apart when you try to cook them - let alone while eating them. Not so with these. These have the added bonus of using super cheap ingredients that I usually have in my pantry anyway.
Starting with dried beans, draining them very well, and using nice toasted breadcrumbs all seem to help to make these nice, solid patties that hold up well in both cooking and eating. The cumin and cilantro and cayenne pepper make them nice and flavorful (black bean patties can often be horribly bland) and you can easily freeze the uncooked patties to pull out of the freezer for a fast and convenient meal (from this recipe I made 7 patties and froze 5 of them). The sweet potatoes are so simple it hardly seems worth writing out as a "recipe." I simply sliced into matchsticks, tossed with salt and olive oil, spread out evenly on a cookie sheet and cooked at 220 Celsius until they were done to my liking - turning once or twice while cooking. They were the perfect accompaniment to these spicy black bean burgers - and I even froze half of them to have for a quick snack later.
Spicy Black Bean Burgers
4 cups (32 oz) cooked black beans*, drained very well
1 1/2 cups whole wheat toasted bread crumbs
2 tbs mayonnaise
1 egg white
3 garlic gloves, minced or pressed
3 tbs cayenne pepper (or just to your taste...to me this makes it mildly spicy, but your mileage may vary)
2 tbs cumin powder
1 tsp dried oregano
2 or 3 tbs fresh cilantro, finely chopped
In a food processor, combine a bit more than half (or up to like 2/3) of the beans with the breadcrumbs, mayo, egg white, garlic, cayenne pepper, cumin, and oregano. Pulse until it forms a thick paste (you might have to scrape down the sides a few times...the paste should be quite solid and thick).
(to make breadcrumbs - take 4 or 5 slices of good whole wheat bread, remove the crusts, chop up and pulse in a food processor or blender until medium-ish crumbs form. Toss in a tbs of olive oil and spread evenly on a cookie sheet and cook at 180c/350 f, tossing occasionally, until light golden and crispy. I learned this invaluable lesson from Alice Waters)
Mash the remaining beans with a fork or potato masher until they are in smallish chunks. Combine the paste, remaining beans, and chopped cilantro - mashing together with your hands until well combined. Form the mixture into patties (whatever size you like, I made some big some small for a total of 7 patties).
To cook, heat a heavy frying pan with a splash of olive oil over medium high heat. Cook the patties on both sides until nice and brown and crispy. Reduce heat and let cook a few more minutes until heated through. You could also cook in the oven or on the grill.
I ate them on a whole wheat English Muffin - and idea I got from a local American-owned burger joint, The Bird. I simply topped with a piece of fresh lettuce and some garlic mayonnaise. I'm sure, like a burger, they would be good with just about any condiment you can think of - salsa, some crumbled cotija cheese, a tomato slice, jalapenos, etc. I am thinking those patties I have sitting in the freezer would be great on a breakfast sandwich or with a fried egg as well.
*To prepare your dried black beans, first soak overnight. Place the dried beans in a large bowl, cover with cool water (like 3x more water than beans) and let soak for a good 12 hours at least. Drain. To cook the soaked beans, place in a large pot (wider the better) and cover with cool water, so that the water is a few inches above the beans. The beans should not get crowded. Bring to a boil, skim off the foam, then reduce heat to low and simmer very very gently for around 2 hours (taste the beans after one hour, fresher beans cook faster). Keep an eye on them and add more water if it lowers to the level of the beans or below. Do not add salt until the end of the cooking time, after you have tasted and they seem good add some salt and let cook for just a few more minutes. Let completely cool in their cooking water, then use as needed. This is another invaluable lesson I learned from Alice Waters. I will usually cook at least 2 pounds of dried beans at a time and freeze in 16 oz (2 cups) containers, with their cooking liquid, to use as needed. 2 lbs usually gives me around 12 cups cooked beans, the rough equivalent of 6 cans.
I heart film. - A little over a year ago I bought a Canon Ae-1 and last week I found the first roll of film I shot on it and finally had it processed (Its been a crazy year ...