Archive | October, 2010

A New Kind of Burger -or- Making Things Better Than the Original to Nix Nostalgia

26 Oct

In all honesty, I never thought I’d find myself writing a food blog. I don’t consider myself the type with such a fine-tuned palate that I could be overtly critical of restaurants, New York Times style. With such an ineptitude in this department, I never imagined flaunting my opinion of other people’s cooking around the internet and settled instead on providing the rare, pithy review on Yelp. On the home front, I’m not particularly inventive in the kitchen to the point where I’d put up my own recipes, at least not before this point in my newly WCRS-free life. Most of my shots-in-the-dark have either failed miserably or been so simplistic that they would not register as any sort of culinary achievement. That’s not to say I’m not daring with my cooking. I’ve gotten soufflés to rise, I’ve perfected the art of rare-cooked steak, I’ve successfully “candied” without a thermometer. But in terms of my own invention I struggle with ingredient proportion, I rarely deviate from the “noble meats”, chicken and beef, and I end up pitching more that I am able to enjoy. However, I find myself increasingly altering recipes now to the point where I can no longer call them someone else’s. It’s sort of a point of pride for me, and in the case of tonight’s burger, born of necessity.

I’ll preface this by saying that I fully intended to put up my altered “Apricot Glazed Chicken” recipe, a newfound crock pot concoction which was sure to be foolproof. Needless to say, I’m the 1 in 10 that screwed up a crock pot recipe, a blunder that found me with a dish full of what pavers typically use to seal driveways. On a Monday night after class I was left with nothing for dinner and only a few ingredient with which to come up with something.

With burgers being one of the foods Tre attested to missing the most, I decided that tonight would be the night to throw together my attempt at a burger recipe. I always encourage Tre to think of the positives and not dwell on what he can’t have. But for his top few things that he cannot live without — burgers being one — I decided to take his mind off it all together and create a substitute that would be surely better than the original, enough so to kick nostalgia to the curb. It would of course have to be bun-less, but what is so interesting about a burger on a plate? Harkening back to a Jewish open-mic night at a local coffee shop and a song “Bubby bring the kanish cart around” I decided to give latke a try as a bun-substitute. In addition to the latke bun, I dug into the pantry for some other fun burger toppers and decided to use some leftover swiss cheese (cheese being a new diet staple for Tre), a vidalia onion that had sprouted, and some guacamole that I’d made the night before for snacking. The results were impressive, and by far the highest-rated dish, according to Tre, since consciously cooking WCRS-free.

Latke (adapted from Potato Latke recipe)

  • 2 cups peeled, shredded potatoes
  • 1 tbsp minced onion
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp garbanzo bean flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup olive oil for frying
  • Directions

    1. Place the potatoes in a cheesecloth and wring, extracting as much moisture as possible.
    2. In a medium bowl stir the potatoes, onion, eggs, flour and salt together.
    3. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot. Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Let drain on paper towels.

    Guacamole Swiss Burger

  • 4 ground beef patties
  • 1 vidalia onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated swiss cheese (or 1 slice per patty, sliced swiss cheese)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup guacamole*
  • 4 strips turkey bacon, cooked and halved
  • Garlic powder
  • Onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • Directions

    1. Heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil on low in a small pan. Add sliced vidalia onions and cook on low heat stirring occasionally until onions are soft and caramelized. Remove from heat.
    2. While onions are cooking, add 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil to another pan and heat on medium heat and preheat your oven broiler. Season beef patties with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper to taste on both sides. Place beef patties in the pan and pan sear both sides, about 1 minute on each side.
    3. Transfer patties to baking dish and place under broiler. Broil times will vary but about 2 minutes for medium, 3-4 minutes for well done. Remove from oven and add 1/8 cup grated swiss cheese (or sliced cheese) to each patty. Return to oven under broiler for no more than 1 minute. Remove from oven and begin burger assembly.

    *Guacamole was premade with 2 avocados, pitted and mashed with the juice of one large lemon, coarse sea salt to taste, pepper to taste, and cajun seasoning. Store-bought guacamole or mixes will do as well.

    Open Face Latke Burger

    To assemble, I put down a fresh latke and placed the beef patty on top after removing it from under the broiler. I then topped it with the halved bacon slices, sauteed onions, and a scoop of guacamole.

    Despite not having a bun, condiments, and typical fries on the side (roasted carrot pictured, recipe coming soon) Tre declared that this was one of the best meals he’d had ever. The trick to this meal was really in the timing: I prepared the latke mixture first and then put it aside. I started the onions while seasoning and pan searing the beef patties. I fried the latke after putting the beef patties under the broiler. All in all I’m quite proud of the results and will be returning to this one again very soon.


    Beef Stew -or- My First Battle With Garbanzo Bean Flour

    21 Oct

    The Monday after finding out about Tre’s allergy was the first time I found myself trying to think of a WCRS-free dinner that I could throw together quickly. The scale of the adjustment has been overshadowed by the fact that Tre and I are knee-deep in grad school and the time commitment there further complicates the care required to cook in this new fashion. I took a mental inventory of all the recipes I knew of and tried to think of something easy that we could have for the rest of the week… and I recalled recently cleaning out my crock pot.

    Crock pot dishes were meant for this time of year when it starts to get cold and everyone’s schedules begin to get more complex. This type of cooking has been my go-to for simple, filling dishes that can be tupperwared and stored for meals throughout the week.

    The first recipe I pulled, of course, required flour for pan searing the meat and thickening the sauce. My first opportunity to ease in the garbanzo bean flour had presented itself. And of course, I would quickly learn that garbanzo bean flour does not respond quite the same as wheat flour.

    Beef Stew: Adapted from Wegmans’ Country-Style Beef Stew

    Finished product waiting to cook overnight in the crock pot.

    • 2 lbs boneless beef cut for stew
    • Garbazno Bean Flour for Pan Searing
    • 2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
    • 2 slices Turkey Bacon, cut in 1/4-inch strips
    • 2-1/2 cups baby carrots, whole
    • 4 celery sticks, cleaned and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 5 extra small yellow onions, whole, peeled with root side removed
    • 10-15 extra small red potatoes, cleaned
    • 6 Tbsp Garbanzo Bean Flour
    • 4 cups Beef Culinary Stock
    • 1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes
    You’ll Need: 6-8 qt crock pot


    1. Dust beef with Garbanzo Bean flour.
    2. Heat oil on MEDIUM in large pan. Add beef; brown, turning to brown all sides, 8-10 min. Remove beef; place in crock pot. Add bacon to pan and cook until crisp; place in the crock pot. Discard all but 1 Tbsp drippings from pan.
    3. Add carrots, onion, and celery to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, 4-5 min. Whisk* the remaining Garbanzo Bean flour in 1 cup beef stock until dissolved. Be sure to break up clumps. Pour mixture into the pan with vegetables, stirring to loosen browned bits on bottom of pan. Cook 3-5 min, until liquid is reduced by one-third, to a syrupy consistency; bring to simmer.
    4. Pour broth mixture over beef in slow cooker. Add potatoes and whole tomatoes; stir slightly.
    5. Cover; cook on HIGH for 1 hour and switch to LOW for 6-9 hours.

    As you can see, the Garbanzo Bean flour just kind of sits there.... I'll be mixing it outside the pan next time.

    *I made the mistake of just adding the Garbanzo Bean flour right to the cooking vegetables and quickly realized that it didn’t break up and dissolve quite the same way as regular flour. I think it’s best to pull it aside and break it up by whisking in beef broth before adding. That said, it worked very well for pan searing the meat!

    You can see this recipe was adapted to suit both Tre and my allergies. I subbed in turkey bacon for normal bacon and obviously gave the Garbanzo Bean flour a shot, although it played only a minor role. This gave me some useful insight into how Garbanzo Bean flour behaves, being protein based and less soluble than wheat flour. I’m glad I sampled it in a less-intensive dish before diving in to a more involved recipe using something I’ve never worked with before.

    The stew came out awesome for being such an easy recipe to make and it fed Tre and I for almost a week! As my first deliberate WCRS-free dish, I’m pretty pleased!

    The Switcheroo: Garbanzo Bean Flour

    19 Oct


    Bob's Red Mill Garbanzo Bean Flour

    Bob's Red Mill Garbanzo Bean Flour


    The first thing Tre did when he learned about his allergy to WCRS was take a mental inventory of all his favorite foods that he could no longer eat.

    • Pizza
    • Subs
    • Loaves of bread in general
    • Bagels
    • Wheat Thins

    It’s difficult to tout the power of positive thinking when you’ve been deprived of something you enjoy even if it is “just food.” Tre’s allergy put a substantial bottleneck not only on his list of favorite foods, but also restaurant options, quick & easy meal options, snack options, etc. It wasn’t about losing almost a whole food group from his diet, it was the complication that comes with cutting out some of the most prominent food staples in the western world. I recall similar despair upon learning about my own allergy to pork. The only thought in my head was that I could no longer experience the glory that is bacon.

    While Tre lamented and entered into the 5 stages of grieving, I took to the internet to look for a viable substitute for the most common wheat-product: flour. The most prominent result was almond flour made entirely from ground almonds. Upon locating it my local Wegamans however, it packed a powerful punch in terms of price: $9.99 for a mere 22 oz. Without thinking twice, I grabbed for its shelf mate, an unheard of “Garbanzo Bean Flour” listed at nearly 1/5 the price.

    Garbanzo Flour is made entirely of stone-ground garbanzo beans, or as we affectionately refer to them, chick peas. Garbanzo beans are most famous as the base ingredient for hummus and are a staple in restaurants house salads across the country. Mild and creamy in flavor, garbanzo beans are unoffensive yet distinct. My favorite presentation, fried garbanzo beans are eaten like popcorn but have a richer weight and texture and a pronounced french fry appeal.

    Price and flavor considered, garbanzo bean flour was instantly intriguing to me. 1/4 cup boasts:

    • 6g Protein                              (Compared to 3g in bleached white flour)
    • 5g Dietary Fiber                   (Compared to <1g in bleached white flour)
    • 18g Carbs                               (Compared to 23g in bleached white flour)
    • 10% Daily value of iron     (Compared to 6% in bleached white flour)

    Not to mention, being WCRS-free, it’s safe for Tre’s new diet. Here was the first step in re-inventing wheat based foods.

    Although garbanzo bean flour has a similar consistency to regular white flour white when dry, it needs to be manipulated in cooking in order to behave the same way. Unlike some other nut and bean flours, garbanzo bean flour can be used on it’s own without having to be combined with other flours in baking. It can also be used as a thickener or filler for sauces and stews much like wheat flour. However, as I discovered in my first garbanzo bean flour adventure, it’s not as soluble as wheat flour and takes a little effort to dissolve into water. I also have yet to see if it can be leavened into breads with yeast or eggs.

    I look forward to experimenting with garbanzo bean flour and am quite pleased by my accidental discovery. Recipes ahead, stay tuned!

    The Backstory

    19 Oct

    I’ll preface all this by saying, living without wheat, corn, rice, and soy (you’ll see it here as “WCRS-free”) was not a choice a la an “atkins diet” desire to try to lose weight. Well OK, for me it was a choice, but for my boyfriend (you’ll see him here as “Tre”) it was not.

    Less than a week ago I got a text message from Tre simply saying “I’m sad.” The pithy is not uncommon in our interactions, and for any assortment of potential reasons for sadness, I asked that he tell me what was up. Tre and I are in business school together, trading our souls for coveted MBAs at the Simon School (you’ll see it here as “Simon”). Despite not being a person, Simon can be extremely depressing. It’s the reason why I typically come off as “disheveled” to onlookers. Tre tends to pull himself together with more poise than myself, but there are days when it’s clear that the academic grind wears him thin. Plainly said, Simon is a perfectly legitimate reason to be sad sometimes.

    There is also Tre’s business, which is not particularly saddening so much as a stressor for the already prone boyfriend of mine. The opposite of me, Tre schools full time and works part time in accounting at his family business — a food processing facility — while I work full time at the University and take only evening classes. Though I don’t know all the in’s and out’s of the family and its business, it keeps Tre on his toes and often elicits a colorful message or two.

    Other possible reasons rattle through my head. Did his favorite show, Dexter, get canceled? Did he get another ticket from the University parking gestapo? Did he drop the tub of hummus open top-down on the floor? Over a week had passed since his trip to the doctor and I’d completely forgotten that he was expecting results. After a short wait, he replied “so the doctor says I’m allergic to wheat, corn, rice, and soy.”

    This was last Thursday.