This Sweet and Smoky Beet Burger recipe comes straight out of my newly purchased cookbook, The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia. Believe it or not, I’m not a big cookbook buyer: I guess I can partially blame this on the lack of storage space in my closet of an apartment, but mostly it’s because I seek out a lot of my recipes from cooking websites and blogs. (Plus my two staple cookbooks, The Moosewood Cookbook and American Medical Association’s Family Health Cookbook, are so wonderfully comprehensive.)
That being said, what drove me to purchase The New Persian Kitchen? Specifically, to pre-order and carry home upon its arrival, hugged tightly in my arms, like a proud, excited child who had just acquired her very first homework assignment?
The descriptors in this recipe title —sweet and smoky—hold a clue. What drew me to The New Persian Kitchen was the juxtaposition of savory and sweet in almost every recipe. Riddled with the aromatic fresh herbs one would expect from Middle Eastern cooking: dill, mint, parsley, cilantro, and tarragon; a heavy reliance on onions and garlic, and unique regional spices such as turmeric, dried limes, and lemony sumac; this cookbook has it’s savory and spice side down pat. But what really intrigued me were the natural sweet flavors it was always paired with: pomegranate molasses, chopped dates, dried cherries, rose petals. The result is a balance of “hot” (gardi) and “cold” (sarmi) flavors, as Louisa describes, which play off each other in a most harmonious and flavorful fashion.
Case in point: these delicious burgers! Smoky paprika, sautéed onions and garlic, and earthy lentils and brown rice make up the bulk of the “meat” of these burgers, which are dotted with jewels of golden raisins, sweet beets, and nutty walnuts. (Yes, spend that extra $3 and buy golden raisins. It’s worth it!) These bursts of sweet flavor offer a pleasing, unexpected jolt that make this “veggie burger” anything but your plain ol’. Upgrade your choice of condiment by replacing ketchup with a saucy fruit chutney or cool mix of plain Greek yogurt, diced cucumbers and tomatoes stirred in red wine vinegar, and generous sprinkling of fresh dill.
This recipe makes 8 servings. I recommend making the entire batch and refrigerating (for up to 5 days) or freezing the remainder for another meal. Between the lentils and brown rice, the burgers take a bit of time to make, so get your prep done in one fell swoop to eliminate the time commitment for next round!
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I’m going to start this post with a caveat: there will be no lighting your kitchen on fire in the making of this dish! My oh-so-poetic title for this Shrimp Sauté, sans Flambé dish is not a flambé-gone-terribly-wrong kitchen horror story, but rather a well thought out cautionary approach with a likable rhyme to boot. I intentionally skipped the risk of lighting my kitchen (and myself) on fire by foregoing the flambé step. For all my chef 101s, flambé (pronounced flahm-BAY) is when one adds alcohol to a hot pan to create a burst of flames. But I am posting this recipe because despite forgoing the flames, this dish still has serious fire— and is totally delish.
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The beginning of Passover kind of reminds me of the start of school. Every year it sort of creeps up on us, its commencement marked by the requisite shopping trip. The obligatory matzoh pick-up at the supermarket is like going to Staples for school supplies.
Opening the first box is reminiscent of a reunion with a long-lost friend. Its so good to see you again! Has it really been a whole year? But after we excitedly make our first matzoh PB & J and enthusiastically assemble some matzoh pizza, we start to get a bit bored of our square, unleavened friend. Maybe there’s a a matzoh brei thrown in there as well to mix it up (although I’ve never been a huge fan.) Serious Eats does offer a great guide of 3-ingredient matzoh sandwiches kosher for Passover here. But by day 5, its the texture variety from other grains like a toasted bagel or slippery bowl of pasta that I miss the most.
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One swallow does not a summer make. But one sardine does a winter make? For this humble but mighty fish, an unexpected cold-weather benefit confirms it surely does!
Named after the Italian island Sardinina, sardines are definitely the herring family’s hippest and healthiest member. Famed restaurateur Gabriel Stulman’s newest West Village hotspot, Chez Sardine, literally translates to “House of Sardine.” And while ordering the minute ocean-dweller off a menu will most likely feature the fish in it’s entirety, eyes, skin and all; canned sardines (available skinless and boneless) provide an excellent alternative for easy and painless home cooking.
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I’m at it again—in defense of tofu.
I woke up on this lazy Saturday morning, in deep rumination over what kind of omelette to make for breakfast; conducting a complete mental inventory of all available veggies and cheeses. I open the fridge, and:
No eggs. I blink. No. Really? Really, confirms the refrigerator. It’s 17°F degrees outside, Accuweather informs me. Feels like: 11°F. Inside, I’m already wearing a blanket and wool socks. So my corner bodega run is out of the question.
And then I see, partially obscured in the crowded kitchen cabinet, a box of silken tofu. It is staring at me. (It IS.) I challenge you, it smirks silently. OK, I think, challenge accepted! Let’s do this. I’ve been reading a lot of rave reviews over tofu breakfast scrambles; egg-lovers swear they are converts to the soy substitute based solely on this dish.
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In winter, I find that I’m prone to two distinct types of soup cravings. The first is for hearty chunky soups, like a loaded minestrone, and the second demands a thick pureed soup, like a smooth-as-silk squash. Possessed of the latter, I found the prettiest acorn squash at the Farmers Market last week (I have to brag, it was gorgeous!), and set out to make this Roasted Acorn Squash Soup with Rye Crostini.
I can’t say enough about what an exquisite medium acorn squash is for a soup. It perfectly complements the flavors of so many soup-friendly ingredients. Apple, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves enhance the squash’s natural sweetness, while autumn-rich notes like sage, ginger and onion tip the scale towards savory, balancing out the sweet. Beta-carotene rich carrots gives the soup a substantive texture boost while illuminating it’s signature orange hue. The result: a melt-in-your-mouth maze of flavors, every bite as smooth as it is scrumptious—and nutrient packed too! In fact, this soup is so rich in taste that a generous dollop of Greek yogurt is recommended to mellow it out a bit pre-serving, adding even further creaminess along with a healthy protein boost.
Equipped with a a flattened, round loaf of Nordic Bread’s Finnish Ruis bread—a dense, hoppy-tasting whole-grain rye from the Union Square Greenmarket —I set out to make croutons, but the bread proved too flat. Instead, I came up with something even better: crostini mini-spoons! I toasted thin, slivers of bread, which crisped perfectly in the toaster oven thanks to a quick spritz of olive oil. The crostini mini-spoons acted as the perfect vessel to sop up the pureed soup. Cut along a thin diagonal, the crostini slivers can also be made easily with a whole-grain baguette.
Upon serving, the dish was really beautiful: a vibrant tangerine-hued soup, laced with thin swirls of creamy white yogurt, accented with the floating crostini crisps on top. Add a thyme sprig for a final aesthetic touch, and this one-pot-wonder—a must-have starter for cold-weather dinner parties— will certainly turn heads. Warning: requests for second helpings will keep your ladle busy!
Time Saving Tip: The squash can be roasted up to a day in advance, and then refrigerated until you’re ready to start the soup. Also, after removing the squash seeds, feel free to salt & roast them along with the squash, removing from heat after 30 minutes. They make a nice crunchy snack while waiting for the soup!
Roasted Acorn Squash Soup with Rye Crostini (derived from A Sweet Pea Chef)
Yield: serves 4 as main dishes; 6 as a side
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Ginger cookies are a holiday staple, and this recipe delivers quite the gingery bite with its mix of both freshly grated and ground ginger. Crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside, a hearty dose of molasses delivers a richly spiced burst of flavor in every bite. They may be small in size, but these cookies are not subtle in taste.
While the ginger is certainly the supporting actor in this play, it is the whiskey that steals the show; used in three different ways to elevate these cookies way above and beyond your average gingersnap. Soaked up in the cherries (which deliver a lovely sweet contrast to your spicy cookie), mixed in the batter, and drizzled in the frosting, the whiskey delivers a silky warmth that enhances the ginger flavors without overpowering. People often make fun of my grandfatherly love of McCallan on the rocks, but even if you aren’t a big whiskey fan, I promise the spirit’s presence won’t turn you off to this cookie. Similar to using white wine when roasting chicken, the heated whiskey brings depth to its surrounding flavors and softens the saccharine sweetness, rather than delivering an alcoholic punch.
If you choose not to ice your cookies, make sure to dip each dollop of batter into raw or white sugar before baking—they are designed to be frosted with sugar, and thus are not as sweet as a regular cookie on their own.
Iced Whiskey Ginger Cookies (adapted from Half Baked, created by Batch from Scratch)
Yield: 2 dozen cookies
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Although I have an effusing love for all winter vegetables, the historically picked-on brussels sprout holds a special place in my heart. Neither cucurbita nor root vegetable, this stand-alone guy needs someone to have its back! Correction: needed. Now, a new preparation for the sidelined vegetable has elevated its status to most popular at the table.
Whether the thin crispy shreds are generated by mandoline or sliced by hand, the hash-like consistency of a shredded brussels sprout has suddenly become cool, reassigning its traditional whole-baked preparation to an old and farty distant cousin. And topped with a fried egg? Could not be trendier. These shredded sprouts are popping up all over New York City on brunch and dinner menus alike.
So, what’s so wonderful about these tiny (and now established, shredded chic) cabbages? They’re nuanced with flavor subtleties, perfected in this Crispy Brussels Sprout Hash with Cider Glaze dish. The brilliance of this recipe lies in the flavors that you only just taste—a slightly nutty brussels sprout, a barely there warmth from a toasted hazelnut, a tangy apple punch that’s tempered by the bitter sprout. Each bite unmasks an enchanting conduit of complementary tastes, carefully crafted— but chew slowly, or it might pass you by.
The reduced cider glaze is so enticing, it’s hard to resist from drinking the leftovers by the spoonful. I recommend saving it for the next time you oven-roast vegetables. Using apples two ways, the hearty cider glaze ads a signature caramelized sweetness and shout out to autumn’s favorite fruit. If you have access to the NYC Greenmarket, I highly recommend using Red Jacket Orchard’s Spiced Apple Cider. Cold-pressed, unfiltered, and sans added sugar, the fresh juice is about as close to eating whole fruit as you can get. Plus, the mulling spices add wonderful subtle hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
While the word “hash” usually immediate conjures an association with “unhealthy”, this recipe is quite the opposite. When it comes to nutrients, brussels sprouts earn an A+. Containing sulforaphane (hello anti-cancer properties), vitamin C (goodbye oxidative stress), plus good sources of dietary fiber, vitamin A, folate, potassium, and manganese, whether you eat this dish for breakfast or as a main meal side, know you’re starting off on the right foot.
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What a great marriage of two abundant summer staples in the height of their season-corn and blueberries- in this Maine Blueberry Cornbread recipe! Like any good couple, they complement each other well: the blueberries bring moisture to the traditionally dry bread, plus a sweetness to the course, earthy base. I think these two are going to be very happy together.
I love how this recipe adapts a traditional hearty winter bread into a light, sweet treat for summer. However, because frozen blueberries are an option here, this cornbread can be made all year around. Whole wheat flour added to course cornmeal creates an earthy whole grain base, and 2/3 of the fat traditionally derived for butter are substituted for a heart-healthy vegetable oil such as olive oil or canola. Honey adds a lovely floral fragrance that gives more depth to the bread than granular sugar, and further brings out the natural sweetness of the blueberries.
I toyed with the idea of adding fresh corn kernels to the recipe, but ultimately decided against it to preserve the light and airy nature of the cornbread. If possible, eat this blueberry cornbread while still hot: the blended flavors are truly mouthwatering fresh out of the oven.
Optional toppings include, jam, butter, or an extra drizzle of honey. Try a few fancy butter ideas from Recipe Girl: honey-cinnamon butter (1 stick softened butter + 1 tablespoon honey + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon) or maple butter (1 stick softened butter + 1 tablespoon maple syrup).
Chop into large squares for an easy on-the-go breakfast or serve as a mid-afternoon snack with a hot cup of tea. This Maine Blueberry Cornbread also makes a great addition to a late summer picnic: wrap a loaf and pass around to break off piece by piece.
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I could easily just eat spoonfuls of this pesto on its own, but this Sundried Tomato Pesto 3 Ways can potentially apply to three different dishes -crostini, cold pasta salad and hot pasta.
Although full of fresh Italian flavors (sundried tomatoes, quality extra virgin olive oil, garlic, hot red pepper flakes, and red wine vinegar), this pesto does not contained processed basil - which is actually not a required ingredient for the name. Pesto is derived from the Italian word pestare, meaning to pound or crush (think mortar and wooden pestle) and defined by the hearty consistency from its finely chopped ingredients. Sundried Tomato Pesto 3 Ways’ versatility stems from both a variation of ingredients and texture flexibility, depending on whether you want to make a tapenade or a sauce.
What really make this dish is my tried-and-true secret ingredient: cottage cheese! I really like to sneak it in thicker sauces because it provides a creamy and cheesy element that is both filling and lowfat. It especially stands out in this recipe because it eliminates the need for too much olive oil- an over oily pasta salad is one of my kitchen pet peeves. The intense flavors of the sundried tomato are perfectly balanced with the mild cottage cheese, creating quite the tasty combo.
This recipe was inspired by The Pioneer Woman’s Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad. I liked the idea of using tomatoes in two forms (fresh chopped and sundried pureed), and how refreshing a cold pasta salad can be on a hot day (yes I am thinking of you Thursday, 97 degrees? Really?) Another way to explore the versatility of this recipe might be to create the pesto as a tapenade for a baguette-based crostini, but make extra and thin it out with additional vinegar and olive oil to use later as a sauce for pasta.
Use the measurements in this pesto more as a suggestion; you should focus on achieving the right consistency in the food processor and that will require some flexibility. For the crostini, the pesto should be textured, choppy and free of liquid. For the cold pasta salad, aim for a thick sauce and firm veggies (you might want to blot the fresh tomatoes to rid them of extra juice before adding in.) The warm pasta variation is the only one where liquid is a good thing- feel free to sautee tomatoes and olives in chicken broth and/or white wine before adding to the dish; serve with a generous slice of Italian bread to sop up the broth.
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Change in our kitchens
Reflections on cooking — and a career that’s based largely at the stove.
Flatbreads from around the continent
Beyond a supporting role
The great Sicilian-Neapolitan kitchen rivalry
Five ideas each month for eating better