Avocado Blues

Behold: The Avocado.

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This smooth, creamy, fatty (but the good kind of fatty) fruit, used free wheelingly in both sweet and savory applications alike, is coveted by Foodies near and far. The catch? Catching them. Not physically getting your hands on them, of course. Avocados are widely available at your local grocery, don’t ya know. But it’s the trick of catching them when they are edible that’s the real trick. They are plucked from their treetop homes while still green and allowed to ripen as they make their trek to you, the Anxious Heralder of Healthy Fats. So we’re left with a conundrum of culinary proportions: how to tell when the avocado is ripe and ready to rock your palate. Thankfully, the folks of The Great and Powerful Interweb have solved yet another of life’s Great Mysteries. Check this out…

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Yes. Those little molar-wrecking masses on the end of your avocado aren’t just Mother Nature’s sick joke to ruin your day and send you running for the dentist. You can ACTUALLY use them to tell you whether you will encounter perfectly ripe, gloriously green flesh inside of your avocado, or…that other stuff. You know what I’m talking about. The brown, speckled, slimy, “I’m-so-mad-I-spent-$1.49-for-THIS-junk” interior disappointment. The avocado of shame. How can this be? Easy. If you flick off that little button and see a gaping hole of dark brown to blackish material, run away!! But if you see a paler, more green-yellow like eye winking back at you, epic guacamole is in your future.

So now that we at the bakery have found ourselves with an overload of ready-or-not avocados on our hands (that’s the other catch…once they’re ripe, you have to move like a spastic Ninja to make use of them before they turn into the Black Hole Sun of over ripeness we so elegantly illustrated above), we decided it was time to go Mexican. And then we took it even further South and threw in some quinoa because, well, quinoa is delicious. But this post is about avocados, not quinoa. Focus.

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There’s the stuff. For 4 burritos you’ll need approximately 2 cups, cooked. There’s no instruction needed here other than “follow the instructions on the package”…but replace the water you boil the quinoa in with either chicken or veggie stock. Because why WOULDN’T you want to add more flavor EVERY chance you get? And so now we have a pile of avocados, a steaming vat of ancient grain, and a hunger to unite them in some sort of gastronomic marriage. There is only one tie that can bind these two. I give you, the burrito wrap.

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*Swoon*.

Ok so you’ve undoubtedly noticed there is more to this burrito than just avocado and quinoa. How very astute of you. Let’s make it interesting.

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Chicken. Grilled. About 3 ounces per burrito. This one is spiced up very simply with some black pepper and granulated garlic. But you could let you inner over achiever run wild and marinate your chicken in some garlic, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and a splash of olive oil overnight before grilling. We didn’t. And it was still good. Imagine the possibilities.

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Next we shredded the grilled chicken breast into long threads. You can do this with 2 forks, your hands, your teeth…you make the call.

Then it’s on to the seasoning. We used just a squeeze of lime juice, some basic chili powder and salt, to your taste. There are no rules here in our Wonderful World of Burrito Creation. Oh, and toss in some cayenne pepper. A micro-pinch if you’re a lady. A generous pinch if you’re, well…..not 🙂

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Then we piled on some sweet corn kernels, a smattering of black beans, and a bit of shredded cheese, (Manchego would be amazing here, but the cheddar we had on hand did the trick), and a drizzle of chipotle sauce (and since that’s our secret recipe, you’re on your own with that one!) and we arrived at our destination.

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Yum. Lunch special, anyone?

So the next time you’re feeling that familiar pang of buyer’s remorse over your unripe avocados, consider the burrito to be the answer to your frustration AND your hunger for something that magically, perfectly compliments your mid week margarita. And it ‘s a great way to get in some healthy grains and fats, too. And if you’ve missed the window for ripeness on your avos, we suggest just scrapping the whole thing, making yourself a second margarita, and ordering take-out!

Curried White Bean Soup with Apples

I’m not sure where you hail from, but I’m writing this post in frosty, frigid Massachusetts and today is a WICKED cold January day. And wicked cold days in Massachusetts can be made slightly cozier and more bearable by one thing: soup. Namely, Curried White Bean Soup with Apples.

Curried White Bean Soup with Apples

Curried White Bean Soup with Apples

This soup is bursting with some pretty intense flavors-curry, cilantro, apples-all of which come together in perfect harmony. It is exceptionally hearty and has a slight kick to it, two elements that are sure to help thaw us out today. So let’s get to it, I’m freezing over here!

Spices

Ingredients:

  • 3 TB olive oil
  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups white beans, canned or freshly cooked (if using canned, drain and rinse first)
  • 2 TB curry powder
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 4 apples, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 TB fresh cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime

Start by prepping all of your vegetables.

This is me preparing to prep my vegetables.

This is me preparing to prep the vegetables.

Spices, cilantro, and garlic

In a large, heavy bottomed soup pot, heat olive oil. Saute the carrots and onion until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 3 more minutes, being careful not to brown the garlic.

Saute onions and carrots

Add the white beans, apples, broth, lime juice, and spices. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until carrots and apples are fork tender.

Curried White Bean Soup with Apples

This crazy looking device is called an immersion blender and will make this next step very easy:

Immersion Blender

Using either a nifty hand blender like the one pictured above or a food processor, puree the mixture until smooth. If using a food processor, puree the mixture in batches.

blend until smooth

Once your mixture is smooth, place it back into your pot and add chopped cilantro and heavy cream. Stir to combine and heat through. Once it’s hot, you’re ready to eat!

Curried White Bean Soup with Apples

Cilantro garnish is optional…we’re just good like that.

“Not Another New Years Resolution” Butternut Squash Salad

Before you leave this page because you see “salad” and “New Years Resolution” in the same sentence, I want you to just look at this AMAZING salad:

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Pumpkin Seeds and Maple Viniagrette

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Pumpkin Seeds and Maple Vinaigrette

Now that you have seen it, maybe you’re ready to talk resolutions. Remember how after consuming all that food and alcohol on New Years Eve you vowed to be healthier? Yeah….how’s that going? Maybe you have more will power than I do and you’re still going strong but if you’re like me and have had a relapse (or five) involving  scones and cinnamon rolls (I work at a bakery, people!) here is a delicious and New-Years-resolution approved recipe to get you back on track…or keep you going!

 Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Spicy-Sweet Pumpkin Seeds and Maple Vinaigrette

(adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe)

To make this salad you will need:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • Salad greens (we like spring mix)
  • sliced red onion (optional)
  • goat cheese, crumbled… Parmesan is fine too if you’re not down with the goat
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (a.k.a. Pepitas, a very fun word to say)
  • 3 TB sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • dash cayenne pepper

For the Maple Vinaigrette:

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 TB Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. maple extract or maple flavor

Start by peeling your butternut squash, scooping out the seeds, and chopping it into 1 inch chunks.

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 450 degrees for 30-35 minutes, turning once after 15 minutes. Be sure to not over crowd your baking sheet- use two sheets if you need to. Squash will be soft and lightly caramelized on the edges when done.

Roasted Butternut Squash

While the squash is baking, place 1 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas! are you saying it yet?) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Pumpkin Seeds

 In a small bowl, combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, and dash of cayenne pepper. Set aside. When the squash has about 5 minutes left to bake, place your pumpkin seeds in the oven. Roast for about 4-5 minutes, or until you hear them popping and they have browned lightly.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

While the pumpkin seeds are still hot, carefully transfer them to a bowl and toss with 2 teaspoons of honey, mixing well. Add the spice mixture and stir until evenly coated. Place the seeds back onto your baking sheet, spreading them out, and let them cool.

While the squash and pumpkin seeds are cooling, make the vinaigrette. Place balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, maple extract, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper into a food processor. Process until combined. With food processor on low, carefully stream in the olive oil until completely emulsified. Set aside.

Now you’re ready to assemble your salad. Place spring mix in a large salad bowl and top with sliced red onion, squash, pumpkin seeds, and goat cheese. Toss with maple vinaigrette and you are good to go!

This looks way too good to be healthy...but it is!

This looks way too good to be healthy…but it is!

Whether you’re “resolving” or not, we highly reccomend that you try this salad. It’s incredible! And if you’re not resolving, or if you’ve done a great job and have earned a treat, or if you just don’t care either way, we’ve got plenty of pastries and other yummies at the 2nd Street Baking Co. so come see us and we can talk about how we’ll start eating better next year.

All photographs by Julie Chagnon

New Years Eve Tapas Party!

New Year’s Eve: a magical evening where we give ourselves a chance to start fresh, to do better, and of course, to PARTY (a.k.a. drink so much that we swear we’ll never do it again)! And what New Years party would be complete without some scrumptious little hors d’oeuvres and desserts? We’ve put together a fabulous menu to help you welcome the new year with a very satisfied stomach so you can face your resolutions with steely determination (and tapas and liquor)!

Happy New Year!

First, a bit about tapas….

The word “tapas” is derived from the Spanish verb tapar, “to cover”. Originally tapas (according to The Joy of Cooking) were bits of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips. This was a practical measure meant to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. Neat-o. That’s not what we’re making here though. And it’s mot definitely not fruit fly season, as we nearly froze our butts off in our icy cold bakery kitchen (we’re on vacation, after all) to make these plates of little bites (you can call them appetizers if you’re not on board with the whole tapas thing). So let’s get started before Julie and I turn into popsicles.

Our New Years Eve Party for 4 Menu (which ended up being somewhat Asian influenced with a splash of Argentina…Asian fusion anyone?):

Sesame Spring Rolls with Orange Peanut Dipping Sauce
Roasted Shrimp Cocktail with Chimichurri 
Blue Cheese Stuffed Pears with Prosciutto and  Balsamic Reduction
Toasted Almond Dessert Shooters

Sesame Spring Rolls

Sesame Spring Rolls

Roasted Shrimp Cocktail with Chimichurri

Blue Cheese Stuffed Pears with Prociuitto and Balsamic Reduction

Blue Cheese Stuffed Pears with Prosciutto and Balsamic Reduction

Toasted Almond Dessert Shooters

Toasted Almond Dessert Shooters

Let’s start with the spring rolls. These are insanely easy, versatile (you can literally clean out your fridge and find plenty of ideas for what to stuff these with!) and they’re light, healthy, and crunchy – a perfect way to start a night of indulging whilst crammed into a fancy cocktail dress and impossibly uncomfortable strappy heels. So start by either raiding the fridge for leftover veggies that look like they need a home, bits of meat from last night’s dinner, or my favorite re-use it item, leftover rice from Chinese take-out. For our Spring Rolls we started by gathering the following veggies and chopping them into a fine julienne:
3 green onions
8 snow pea pods
1 carrot
1 cucumber

We also gathered the rest of our ingredients (it helps to lay everything out ahead of making the rolls, as once you are ready to assemble them, you have to work pretty quickly).
1 cup pre-cooked brown rice
sushi vinegar (if you can’t find this seasoned vinegar at the store you can use rice vinegar)
black sesame seeds
6 rice paper wraps (we used a sesame variety, but any rice paper wrap will do…you can find these at most grocery stores or Asian markets)

Sesame spring roll ingredients

Now the fun part. Rice paper wraps are delicate and brittle, so handle them gently from the package. Depending on the variety you purchase, you will need to soak them in hot water for anywhere from 30 seconds (for the very thin wraps) to a couple of minutes (for thicker ones). Follow the package directions according to your wraps (hopefully they have an English version…not always the case). You will notice the wrap becoming transparent and very tissue-like. At that point, remove it from the water and place it on a clean dish towel. Immediately spoon about 2 tablespoons of rice onto the wrap in a strip down the middle. Sprinkle the rice lightly with sushi vinegar, then top with a few shreds of carrot, cucumber, green onion, and pea pods (or whatever you found in YOUR fridge…steamed chicken or shrimp, basil leaves, and jalapeno also works well in these).

Sesame Spring Roll

Now GENTLY fold one side of the wrap over the filling, tucking in the sides and rolling forward as you would a burrito. If your rice paper falls apart, you soaked it too long. If it breaks or snaps and won’t roll, you didn’t soak it long enough.

Once rolled, as the rice paper starts to dry out a bit it will stick to itself and seal up. Sprinkle the tops with black sesame seeds (or toasted white sesame seeds if that’s what you have).  Let the rolls sit on a damp towel as you do them one by one, and then cut them all at once before you serve them.

Sesame Spring Rolls

I like to serve these on a bed of lettuce leaves, as the moisture from the lettuce both keeps the rolls from sticking to the plate AND keeps the rolls from drying out.You can make these ahead several hours and keep them this way, lightly covered with damp paper towel in the refrigerator, until you are ready to serve them. Cut them in half and arrange them with some dipping sauce, and you’re good to go. Dipping sauce you say? Try this one:

In a bowl whisk together:
3 T peanut butter
1/4 cup sesame oil
1/2 cup sushi vinegar (or rice vinegar)
juice of 1/2 a large orange
3 T orange marmalade
pinch of salt and pepper

If your sauce is too thick for dipping (this depends on the type of peanut butter you are using), thin the mixture out with a few tablespoons of warm water until you get the consistency of a thick salad dressing. If you like a little spice, add a chopped jalapeno or a 1/4 tsp. dried chili flakes.

Sesame Spring Rolls

Now onto the shrimp.
Shrimp cocktail is a New Years staple. And we all have that jar of chunky orange-red, horseradish-laden cocktail sauce that’s been in the back of the fridge since LAST New Years. Or since 1970, which is how long that style of shrimp cocktail has probably been around. So prepare to turn it up a notch with one of my favorite sauces, Chimichurri. Traditionally used on grilled steaks and other meats in Argentina, this sauce is zesty, flavorful, and goes really well with most fish. And it’s easy.
In a food processor combine:Chimichurri
4 cloves of garlic
3 T each of fresh oregano, cilantro, and parsley
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 T red pepper flakes (dried chilis)
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of salt and pepper
1 T honey (add an additional tsp or 2 to taste)
Process until the sauce is well combined and the herbs and garlic are finely chopped. This can be made ahead, and in fact, the flavors meld together nicely if they are allowed to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

For the shrimp, we simply marinated half a pound of large raw shrimp in the juice of 1/2 a lemon, a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, and a pinch of salt and pepper for about 30 minutes. The we placed them on a lightly sprayed foil lined baking sheet in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 3 or 4 minutes, just until the tails curled and the shrimp were pink.

Marinate the shrimp

Marinate the shrimp

The shrimp is done when it turns pink and tails curl

The shrimp is done when it turns pink and tails curl

Then we threw it back to good ole 1970, filling our champagne glasses with a lettuce leaf and bit of the sauce. Then we dipped each shrimp into the Chimichurri sauce and hung them on the rim. Sometimes you can’t mess with perfection.

Baked Shrimp Cocktail with Chimichurri

Pears

And now, stuffed pears. These are ridiculously easy but the flavor combination is sublime. You will need:

4 Pears, any kind, but we liked the Bosc pears best for their texture and flavor.
Blue Cheese Crumbles, about 1 cup
8 slices of Prosciutto
salt and pepper
olive oil

Start by cutting the pears down the middle. I like to leave the stems on (they look prettier). Use a melon baller or small scoop to core out the seeds and make a well in the center. Place them on a foil lined baking sheet and fill the wells with blue cheese. Then wrap a thin slice of prosciutto around the pear to cover the cheese, and drizzle the whole mess with olive oil. Salt and pepper lightly.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Pears with Prosciutto and Balsamic Reduction

At this point, they can be covered and refrigerated until later, or if it’s already 10 to midnight, get in the kitchen and  immediately roast them in a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the Prosciutto is crisp and the pears are starting to brown slightly.
Now finish them off with a drizzle of balsamic reduction. This is really just 3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar boiled until it is reduced to a thick syrupy consistency…easy to do, but watch it because if you walk away it can reduce very fast and burn. We did this experiment to verify the results, unfortunately. And open a window because the fumes will burn out our nostrils. Probably best to do this the day before the party so your kitchen doesn’t smell like a Chemistry Lab when your guests arrive.

Blue Cheese Stuffed Pears with Prosciutto and Balsamic Reduction

Now onto dessert. Which is also a cocktail. Bonus.
Dessert Shooters have been popular for years now, probably because they are so versatile, easy to serve, and mini anything is all the rage! You can literally make a million flavor combinations of these cuties, but we chose to do a take on one of my favorite blended drinks, a Toasted Almond. So for this you will need:

a small bit of chocolate or yellow cake (you can use your own, get store bought pound cake, anything goes here…it’s really about the alcohol anyway)
a cup of sweetened whipped cream (1/2 cup heavy cream whipped with 1 tsp. vanilla and 2T confectioner’s sugar)
2T toasted sliced almonds
2T toasted coconut
4T coconut rum
4 delightfully tiny glasses and spoons

Not rocket science, in each teeny glass just layer a drop of whipped cream, a cube of cake, 1 tsp of coconut rum, a few almonds, repeat, finishing with whipped cream and a bit of the toasted coconut, and there you have it. Is it a dessert? A shot? Doesn’t matter, it’s midnight and you won’t remember any of this tomorrow 😉

Toasted Almond Dessert Shooters

Just layer the ingredients

Adorable mini spoons

Add adorable mini spoons

Toasted Almond Dessert Shooters

Voila! Cute, delicious, and soaked with liquor…what more could you ask for?

Now you’re all set to commence partying! We wish  you all a happy and safe New Year and may your celebration be as goofy and as tasty as ours.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Best Bread Ever- Christmas Stollen

Stollen Bread

Why yes, we are submerging that entire loaf of bread in melted butter. Why, you might ask? Because it’s the holiday season and all of our New Year’s resolutions about dieting are just around the corner so we’re attempting to consume as many calories as possible in the meantime. And because it’s possibly the most delicious bread you will ever eat. Ever.

Stollen

This fabulous bread is called Stollen and is studded with liquor-soaked dried fruit, marzipan, and citrus zest. If we didn’t get your attention at liquor-soaked, how about the part where the bread is dunked in butter and then rolled in sugar…THREE TIMES. And if that doesn’t pique your interest, I guess we’ve just gotten the meaning of Christmas all wrong.

Start by soaking 1/2 pound of dried chopped fruits (we like apricots, plums, cranberries, currants, and raisins) in 1/4 cup each of the following:

  • Grand Marnier (orange liqueur)
  • Amaretto
  • Whiskey
  • Dark Rum
  • Spiced Rum

Also add the juice and zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange and enough boiling water to cover the fruit. The fruit can soak for up to a week in the refrigerator, and in fact it is best to soak it at least 24 hours before making your Stollen.

Boozy Fruit!

Boozy Fruit! It may not be all that pretty, but it’s fruit and booze- what’s not to love?

To make the dough:

In a pot, bring to a gentle boil:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 lb butter
  • 2 tsp salt

Remove from the heat and add:

  • juice and zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tsp orange extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Cool mixture to room temp.

In the bowl of your mixer (mixer should be fitted with a dough hook attachment), add the butter and milk mixture to:

  • 2 cups of warm water (as warm as you can comfortably stand, not too hot or you will kill your yeast! Too cold, and the yeast will not activate.)
  • 2 eggs, room temp.
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 T instant yeast
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you have it)

Mix this around a bit to dissolve the yeast, and then let it sit to get the yeast going for about 15 minutes. By then you should see the yeast bubbling away in the bowl.

Now add your (room temperature – let it warm up otherwise it will make the dough too cold) boozy fruit with an additional 1 cup of the soaking liquid (if your fruit soaked up all of the liquid, add 1 cup of Grand Marnier instead). Mix the dough on low, about 6-10 minutes, adding more flour a little at a time until a soft but not too sticky dough forms (this can take up to 6 or 7 cups of flour, depending on the absorption of the particular flour you are using and how much liquid your fruit has soaked up). The dough should form a ball and come away from the sides of the mixing bowl, not stick to your hands when you touch it, but it should be very soft, not stiff or dry.

Place the dough in a bowl sprayed with pan spray (spray the top of the dough as well) and cover just the dough surface with plastic wrap (do not seal up the bowl as the yeast turns sugars in the dough into carbon dioxide and will give off gas as the dough rises – give it some room!) Set the dough aside in a warm spot to rise until it doubles in size (about an hour).

On a lightly floured surface, turn out the dough and divide into 2 portions. Flatten each portion into a disk shape, about the size of a large dinner plate. Roll a log of marzipan, about 5 ounces in size, and place on the center of each of the doughs. Roll up the dough around the log, tucking in the sides (like you would roll a big burrito!) and place it seam side down on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake at 350 for about an hour, or until golden brown on the top and bottom. To test bread for doneness, you can tap it repeatedly on the underside. If it sounds hollow, it is done. If it sounds like a dull thud, it hasn’t dried out enough inside and it will be doughy. Let it go a little longer.

While your bread is baking, melt 4 lbs. of butter (in a pot large enough to fit the finished loaf) over low heat and add to it 1/2 cup of Grand Marnier. Set aside. Fill a large mixing bowl with powdered sugar (you will need at least 3 two pound bags). Set that aside.

When the loaves are done baking, let them cool on a wire rack just long enough for you to be able to handle them. Make several punctures with the tip of a sharp knife through the loaves; these holes will allow for even more butter to be absorbed into the bread. Paula Dean would be so proud of us!

Now dunk (drown?) the first loaf in butter, holding it under for about 10 seconds to soak, and immediately drop it into the powdered sugar, rolling it over a few times to coat it. Then quickly dip it back into the butter, and then back into the sugar, pressing the sugar to the loaf to form a crust. Then ONE MORE dip in the butter and back to the sugar, and then immediately wrap in 2 layers of plastic wrap. Repeat the process with the second Stollen Loaf.

First Dunk

Dunk

Roll in sugar.

Roll in sugar

Repeat

Repeat

Bread has reached maximum capacity for butter and sugar.

Bread has reached maximum capacity for butter and sugar.

You can store them in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. The flavors intensify as it ages, but the texture does get a bit drier. You can enjoy it cold, at room temp, or toasted with butter (as if it needs more…but why not) or you can freeze the Stollen for up to 6 months for later (like after you give up on those silly New Year’s Resolutions)

Happy Holidays from all of us at the 2nd Street Baking Co.!

all photographs by Julie Chagnon

So This Happened…

Ok. So this is neither a recent pic nor a “bakery item”. So before you get your hopes up and start planning your lunch tomorrow, we do NOT have this on the menu at the bakery. Yet.

38741_1430436052281_1512975_nQuinoa Veggie Burger

This open-faced gastronomical (and vegetarian) adventure on a bun was my crowning achievement of the Summer. Last Summer, to be exact. But it was SO GOOD I felt it not only deserved its own blog post, but also a “better-late-than-never” blog post.

So I’d like to start by declaring that I grew – yes, GREW – the succulent heirloom tomatoes you see in this pic. Not impressed? Well, you shouldn’t be, really.  But for me, the Supreme Murderess of all that is (or was) soil bound, this was an achievement tantamount to squaring the circle. Not only did I start the seedlings in my painfully dark and small kitchen with only 1 window, but I got them to sprout, I transplanted them to a raised bed in my sand-filled yard, I *actually* remembered to water them regularly, and voila! I got the most beautiful 6 tomatoes I’ve ever seen. Ok…so obviously I am far from winning any blue ribbons at the annual County Fair, but the point here (I promise I am getting to one) is that even someone like me who lacks anything resembling a green thumb can grow something edible if there is just enough will to do so. But I digress. More on my gardening skills gardening “endeavors” in a later post.

Back to the burger. So this recipe was born out of :

1. My periodic foray into the world of vegetarianism, usually prompted by the latest independent food film to be released that serves to remind me of the evils of our industrialized food industry and how the polar bears are dying because I ate a steak for dinner and contributed to global warming climate change…and that Monsanto is a very bad, bad company. Something along those lines.

2. My indignation about paying almost $6 a piece (a PIECE!) for store made 1/4 lb. Quinoa Burgers/hockey pucks, and

3. My thrill seeking nature in the kitchen…and of course, my desire to make ANYTHING that utilizes my Ninja blender.

So here is the recipe (see? I told you there would be a point in here somewhere):

Laura’s “Because I’m a Guilty Meat Eater”
Quinoa Burgers

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (I like the tri-color. Because I’m a girl, and it’s pretty. But use whatever you have on hand or can find at the local grocery.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1T flax seed
  • 1/4 of a small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour (Ok, too exotic? Use whatever flour you want, the idea is to stick this thing together with something)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup hummus, any flavor (I used roasted red pepper, but garlic would be great as well)
  • 1T Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooking oil

I approached this like I would meatloaf. Nice huh? Relating my guilt-free vegetarian fare to that which plagues humanity…but really, it’s a similar process.

Start by cooking the quinoa according to the package directions with a pinch of salt in the water, and if you’re a true Kitchenista/multi-tasker, you can also be sauteing the garlic and onion in a small amount of cooking oil over med-low heat. You don’t want to brown the garlic (it gets bitter and burned faster than you can say “carbon footprint”) you just want to soften the onions and infuse the oil with all of the, well, oniony-garlic goodness. About 3 or 4 minutes will do it. Then add the spices. Lightly toasting the spices with the oil and onion/garlic mixture will release their flavors, something I learned from a few brief encounters with Indian cooking. Now add the flax seeds and immediately remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool. When the quinoa has absorbed its liquid and is tender (but no mushy!), drain off any remaining liquid and set it aside to cool as well.

In a bowl, mix together the cooked quinoa, spice/garlic/onion/flax mixture, egg, lemon juice, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, hummus and the flour.

Meanwhile, back at The Ninja (in reality any food processor will do here, but that was funny, yes?) remove 1/2 of the quinoa mixture and process in the food processor until it is a thick paste. Mix this back into the other half of the quinoa mixture. Now you’re ready to form the patties.

Coat your hands with a small amount of cooking spray or oil, and press the mixture into 5 or 6 balls (depending on the size you prefer the resulting burgers to be), and press the balls into patties. At this point you can refrigerate the patties for an hour to firm them up, or freeze them for later use.

Once the patties are chilled, heat a tablespoon or 2 of cooking oil in a shallow pan on medium heat. Add the patties, leaving some room to flip them, as they tend to want to fall apart more than their evil cousin, the hamburger. Brown the patties for 5 minutes on one side, flip and brown them on the other side for an additional 3-5 minutes. If they are browning too fast, lower the heat a bit. don’t worry about cooking them, as all of the ingredients are already cooked. You are just browning the patties and heating them through. If you are cooking previously frozen patties, thaw them in the refrigerator prior to cooking or you will end up with black patties that are still frozen in the center…unpleasant.

I layered my quinoa burger, open-faced, on half of a multi grain roll with whole grain mustard, Swiss cheese (sorry vegans, this one’s not for you…I’m not that guilty brave yet) and some mixed sprouts dressed with a little bit of sea salt and lemon juice. And of course, the star of the show, my miracle of blood-sweat-and-tears heirloom tomato.  Admittedly, this is not as much a “burger” as it is a very tasty grain-and-veggie patty. But it is packed with good stuff you can feel good about. And the faces of those poor polar bears won’t keep you up at night.