Oh, What a Beautiful Mooooorning! Oh, What a Beautiful Daaaaaaaay!

In American, Beans, CSA, Rice, Salad, Vegetables on November 11, 2011 at 1:30 pm

That’s the type of song I have to sing to myself at 6:30 in the morning as I prepare for a training run.  That’s right.  I signed up for a 15k on December 17.  G-d help me.

After wearing 6″ heels at my bachelorette party in August and falling numerous times (I’m chalking it up to the marble floors), I’ve been blessed with a mysterious foot/ankle injury.  According to one of my friends, this officially deems me a real runner.  Of course, I am so stubborn, and refused to have it looked at, what with the stress of a wedding, and honeymoon, etc.  However, I finally put on my big girl pants and had my doctor diagnose the condition.  It’s something-something-something-itis.  Basically fluid in my foot, takes about 6 months to heal.  I can still run, thankfully, but I just have to endure the pain.  Lovely.

Yesterday morning, I braved my first run in about a month.  It was only 3 miles, but felt so awesome and awful at the same time.  It really was a beautiful morning – bright, sunny, temperate. It made me want to spend the afternoon in Prospect Park picnicking and drinking pumpkin Ale.  I stretched on my terrace, and noticed how beautiful the fall foliage has become (a tree really does grow in Brooklyn).

Then, the inspiration struck.  Why not create a picnic-style dinner infused with fall hues?  It would be an indoor urban picnic, but that will be our little secret.

When I think of picnics, I think of 2 things: grilling and copious varieties of “salads”.  I use the term salad lightly, because sometimes people will make a KFC Famous Bowl inspired salad that is basically bacon mixed with potatoes mixed with cream and cheese.  Not really my idea of something light and refreshing, especially accompanying bacon cheese burgers and brats.  I’m more of a vegetable salad kind of gal.  You know, the kind that have some green in them?  It doesn’t have to be lettuce and lemon juice, but even an arugula with cranberries, walnuts and goat cheese would pass my test.  I love coleslaws, corn/bean/avocado salads, and even a nice fruit salad.

When I was a young college coed, I would frequent the campus Lubavitch and Hillel dinners.  There were always lots of different kinds of salads at those meals.  Olive, pickle, cucumber, cabbage.  It was nice to have some vegetables in there (even if there was more mayo than I’d prefer).  One of my favorites was this broccoli, cashew, and red onion salad.  Yes, there was A LOT of dressing, but most of it sinks to the bottom so you kind of have to deliberately pour it on.  I decided I’d make something similar to this recipe, only a little more…lean.  They would also serve a carrot salad, but more sweet style with raisins in it.  I had all this dill at home, so I figured I’d make my own Jewish-style dill carrot salad; every good Jew loves dill [pickles].

Since the salads would need time to marinate, I started working on those first.  For the broccoli, the original recipe used frozen/thawed broccoli florets.  I had fresh broccoli.  This meant blanching was in order.

I filled a large pot with water to boil.  While that was working, I chopped up the broccoli , and included some of the stems, too.

When the water was boiling, I dropped in the broccoli and cooked only for 1.5-2 minutes.

While boiling, I prepared a bowl of ice water to put the broccoli in after boiling.  This helps stop the internal cooking process.

Then I prepared the dressing.  Just a tbsp each of vegan mayo and champagne vinegar, salt, and pepper.  I diced up the red onion, and added some cashews.  Then I used a strainer to add the broccoli to the rest of the ingredients.

I mixed everything together.  It looked so pretty.

Once that was in the fridge, I started to prepare the carrot salad.  Just carrots, dill, a scallion, champagne vinegar, salt, and pepper.

I could have gone the lazy way and used the food processor.  In the spirit of home cooking, I decided to use the box grater.  Also, I feel like a jerk using a food processor for 2 carrots.

5 hard-working minutes later, the vegetables of my labor…

I used half of the dill bunch, half of that (so a 1/4 for all you mathletes) for the salad, and half for some dill mayo dressing I’d use for my “burger” (which I know I didn’t even mention yet, but I will discuss shortly).  Look at how green the dill still is, and this is 5 days after I took it home!

I mixed all the ingredients together.  Another masterpiece.

Okay, so now I will discuss the burgers.  I’m not a big fan of “veggie” burgers.  That is also a loose term.  Usually, veggie burgers contain no veggies, AT ALL.  They are usually soy burgers.  And are so processed and genetically modified to resemble a beef burger that it’s disgusting. I have actually made veggie burgers from scratch.  They’ve contained peppers, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, you name it.  However, my burger tonight is actually a bean burger.  Or as I like to call it black bean falafel (because who am I kidding, a bean patty is NOT a burger).

Remember last week when I made my enchiladas with mole sauce?  I made all those black beans in the slow cooker.  These did not go to waste.  I froze them into individual freezer bags (about 1/2 cup each).  I used 4 bags for this recipe.  I took them from the freezer and let them soak in the bags in water while I had prepped all those salads.

The patties only take about 5 minutes per side to cook, so I got my cornbread ready and in the oven before attacking the bean batter.

I love cornbread.  It’s an excuse to eat dessert with your dinner.  It is also one recipe in my repertoire that involves baking.  I don’t really bake, I kind of actually suck at it.  This recipe is a smidge “healthier” than the kind I’d order from Jake’s BBQ.  It uses whole grain corn, whole wheat pastry flour, low calorie almond milk, and maple syrup as the sweetening agent.

Usually I make this recipe in muffin tins, but I wanted to make them more flat as to create more surface area for the size of the patties.  I mixed the dry ingredients, and then the wet ingredients in separate bowls.

I added dry to wet, poured into a greased pan, and let the bread bake in the oven.

Now it was time to assemble the burgers.  In a bowl, I combined the beans, some brown rice, minced garlic, and cumin.  I really wanted to use millet for this recipe, but I still had leftover rice from Monday’s meal.  Guess the millet would be saved for a later date.

Using a potato masher, I mashed everything together until it looked like this:

Adding some EVOO to a saute pan, I divided the batter in 4, rolled each portion into a ball, and then played a little patty-cake with myself.  I browned the first side for 5 minutes, and then flipped.

After flipping, I prepared the dill mayo.  I used just a tbsp of mayo, a splash of vinegar, TONS of dill, and some minced garlic.  I finished with salt and pepper.  So delish.

I decided in the end to not use the cornbread as a bun for the burgers, but rather as a side.  I placed the burger on a bed of the red lettuce that was left from my CSA share.  I topped with the mayo and some organic ketchup (it’s still Heinz, but no corn syrup – the closest I can find to the real thing).

Everything was so flavorful.  It really reminded me of a summer picnic in flavors, but autumnal in colors.  The dark red, the robust orange, the yellowish green.  Even some brown for those leaves that have fallen from the trees and float around with the wind to knock you in the face while you run to escape the blows from the East River.

In this meal, I used up the rest of the broccoli, all the carrots, half the dill, and the rest of the lettuce.  The dill seems to have some more life her, so I should be able to use that next week.  I still have a handful of braising greens left, so will try to add it to my breakfast tomorrow.  Week one = success!  Can’t wait to see what this Saturday’s bounty brings me.

What are some ways that fall inspires your cooking?  Do you have a favorite/go-to dish or drink?

  1. […] got some coffee and went on to Lululemon.  I got a new winter running set, so I am very happy and inspired to train for the upcoming 15k!  I should also be inspired to cook some appropriate training fuel, but we’ll see if that […]

  2. […] original recipe included a dough recipe.  Like I’ve mentioned in other posts, I suck at baking and bread-making.  Luckily, I had bought whole wheat pizza dough from TJs a […]

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