Monday, February 25, 2013

Vegetarian Pumpkin, Beet, and Mushroom Couscous Burgers [Zack]

While walking through the grocery store, I’m sometimes enticed to stroll past the vegetarian section. I like the idea of being able to cook something quick and healthy from the veg aisle, but I usually refrain from buying something because the products look so processed. It seems like a strange dichotomy: a good portion of people go vegetarian for health reasons, but end up losing some of the benefit due to all the long list of additives in processed foods.

And why would you force tofu to look like pork meat strips that you get in gyros? Or ground beef? Yuk. I’m getting off track….

Lauren had made a very good black bean and quinoa burger a few weeks ago, and I was craving a similar version. We didn’t have quinoa, but we did have bio couscous and some veggies that we could construct into a patty. This is a very healthy alternative to the meaty version. It takes about 45 minutes to make a batch because you have to let the veg cool off once you cook it, but you can double the recipe and freeze some pre-made burgers (separated by wax paper.)  Pop em in the oven on a week night, and eat up!


Start by slicing the pumpkin into strips and roasting it in an oven at 400F/200C. Put down a light coating of olive oil on your baking sheet, and sprinkle some salt and pepper on top. Bake until the edges slightly brown and it gets fork-tender.

While the pumpkin is going, you’ll need to cook your couscous and sauté your other veggies. Start a small pot of 1.5 cups of salted water boiling.

Heat up a pan on medium heat. Wash and slice your mushrooms, dice your red onion, and dice your beet. Add some oil to the pan, and then add in your mushrooms and onions. Stir them around until they are almost cooked - about 5 minutes, then add your diced beet and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

When the water is boiling for your couscous, pour the 1 cup of measured pasta into the pot and remove it from the heat. Yes, I just learned that couscous is pasta made from grain.  Thanks Google!

Empty out your sautéed vegetables into a nice big bowl and let them cool off. If you try to make the burger with hot ingredients, the steam will make them mushy and it won't stick together. Less water = good.

Your couscous should be finished by now, so fluff it with a fork and add it into the bowl.

Take the roasted pumpkin out of the oven, and let it cool for a few minutes. Add this to the bowl as well. Smash up the everything with a fork or a potato ricer to get rid of the large chunks. Include your breadcrumbs and flour, which will help bind everything together.

Pour in the mustard, sriracha, and oregano, give it another stir, and then you’re ready to make patties.

Quickly make up the sauce – stir together diced feta cheese, yogurt, and some diced red onion.

Form the burgers into hockey pucks the size of your burger buns, and place them in a non-stick skillet.  Cook, turning once for about 3 minutes per side.

Top your toasted buns with the crispy burgers, the creamy sauce, sliced red onion, and fresh lettuce.

6 baby bella mushrooms
1 red onion
1.5 cups roasted pumpkin
2.5 cups cooked couscous (1 cup dry couscous + 1.5 cups boiling water)
1 tsp dried oregano
1T flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1T dijon mustard
1 tsp sriracha

1/2 cup feta
1/4 cup yogurt
1T minced red onion

Techno Healthy Euro Burger Jams:  Major Lazer: Jah No Partial
Jah No Partial by Major Lazer on Grooveshark

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mozzarella in Carrozza al la Koulermos [Mike]

I remember going with the family to Scott's Corners to Di Nardo's, an Italian restaurant, to grab one of the best pizzas in Westchester. Rhonda and I started taking Zack when he was just a baby. Soon it was the whole gang, Nick, Matt, Zack, Rhonda and me. We would order a large pepperoni pie and always shared a mozzarella in carrozza. As they got older one order soon turned to two. Talk about a grilled cheese sandwich, this was the ultimate. Great tasting homemade mozzarella that just strung out when you cut into it.



8 slices of country white bread
1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced, (or better yet use fresh buffalo mozzarella)
1/2 cup of whole milk
3 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of flour
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
Olive oil, for frying

Place slices of mozzarella on a slice of bread. You can remove the crust if you want to, I say why waste good bread. Cover with another slice of bread, making a sandwich.
Whisk the eggs in a shallow bowl, then whisk in the salt, pepper and add a dash of milk. Dip sandwich in milk/egg, then flour. Use a toothpick to hold the sandwich together while frying.

Heat about 1/2 inch of olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium high heat. Place the sandwiches into the skillet as the oil comes to temperature. Fry, turning once, until golden brown on both sides, about 5 or 6 minutes per batch. Drain sandwiches on paper towels.

Coat the sandwiches with the marinara. Mama Tommy's has several great red sauce recipes...much better than the bottled stuff!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pumpkin, Sage, and Ricotta Mini Quiche Cups [Zack]

If you ever ask me whether I like to bake, I will give you some long rambling speech about hating to measure ingredients precisely. Creating posts for this website has been a challenge for me in that aspect. I like the freedom of adjusting flavors as I cook, so I always have a few messy measuring spoons nearby so I can capture what I’m doing for my posts. But for most baking, you have to decide all of your quantities up front, and then hope for the best. Bleh.

This is why I always keep puff pastry in my freezer. It’s both better AND easier than anything that I can make from scratch, and it has saved my booty many times when I wake up on a weekend morning and don’t want to trek to the grocery store.  Plus, no measuring is required :).

The only time I make a pie crust from scratch, is when I ask Lauren to make it for me…..

Here is a recipe for mini quiche cups using puff pastry. This recipe was a weekend morning invention – we had leftover roasted pumpkin, ricotta, and sage ravioli filling in our fridge, and a lot of eggs. We brainlessly mixed the pumpkin ricotta filling together with the eggs. Poured them into the puff pastry sheets that we formed inside of muffin tins, and baked it. It’s that easy.


Begin by roasting your pumpkin and draining your ricotta. Slice the pumpkin into strips, brush them with some olive oil, sprinkle some salt on top, and roast them in the oven at 400F / 200C until they are slightly browned on the edges (about 20 mins). Meanwhile, open your ricotta and drain the water out by pouring the excess off. If you want to really go crazy, you can use a cheese cloth to squeeze more water out.

Keep the oven on after you take your pumpkin out – you’ll need it to cook the quiche.

Defrost your puff pastry sheets by separating them and laying them all over your house. Butter or oil the inside of your muffin tin and form the puff pastry to form cups.

Once your pumpkin is cooked, mash it in a bowl with a fork and let it cool off. Add the ricotta to the bowl, plus some diced onions and sage. Scramble your eggs together in a separate bowl, and then pour your pumpkin mixture in with the eggs.

Give it another mix, crack some fresh black pepper, a pinch of salt, and pour it into the puff pastry.

Cook the mini quiches at 400F / 200C for 15-20 minutes, until the egg has set and the pastry has browned.

If you want, you can add some kick with a dabble of srircha on top!


½ cup roasted pumpkin
1/3 cup ricotta cheese, water drained out
10 leaves fresh sage
½ onion, diced
5 eggs
10 puff pastry sheets

Creativity options for mini quiche:

  • Goat cheese, rosemary, roasted squash
  • Sriracha, roasted red pepper, feta
  • Cream cheese, smoked salmon, red onions
  • Ham, emmental cheese, caramelized onions
  • Sweet corn, jalapenos, and bacon

Funky Morning Jam:  Daniel Merriweather - She's Got Me (thanks to Lauren listening dutifully to Dutch radio for me)
She's got me by Daniel Merriweather on Grooveshark