I realized the other day when talking to an old friend that I essentially have a philosophy on life: Try new things and eat vegetables. That’s it folks. If I had to sum up all the wisdom I’ve learned in my 29plus years on this planet, it would be that. Be adventurous, and find pleasure in the things that are good for you.
Yesterday, I spent a really lovely day with sunshine and good friends and a grill. We then spent some time at the Andersonville street fair, crammed full with people and craft booths and food. Pleasure, I think, is good for you. It’s a vegetable. It makes you feel attached to the world, participating in it. Friends are good for you.
Focaccia is good for you, especially if you top it with vegetables.
I made this the other day when it was thunderstorming and ridiculous outside.
I took out my aggression on the dough.
With the help of this book I picked up at Myopic:
adapted from the Good Housekeeping Baking Cookbook
1 1/2 c. warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3 3/4 c. bread flour
5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. kosher or course sea salt
1 package of cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
1 head of green garlic, rinsed, peeled, and diced
3 to 4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1/2 c. parmesan
salt and pepper
In a large bowl, combine 1/2 c. warm water, yeast, and sugar; stir to dissolve. Let stand 5 minutes, or until foamy. Add remaining 1 c. warm water, flour, 2 tbsp. oil, and table salt; stir to combine.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7 minutes, or until smooth and elastic (dough will be soft; do not add more flour). Shape dough into ball; place in greased large bowl, turning dough over to coat. Cover bowl and let stand in warm place (80 to 85 degrees) until doubled, about 1 hour.
Make the toppings: Over medium heat in a pan, saute the green garlic (with a bit of salt and pepper) until soft. Set aside to cool.
Lightly oil a cookie sheet with a lip (not one that talks back; I mean one that has about an inch-long border around all sides). Punchdown dough and pat into prepared pan. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. With fingertips, make deep indentations, i inch apart, over entire surface of dough, almost to bottom of pan. Drizzle with remaining 3 tbsp. oil; sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover looselty and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450.
Sprinkle the garlic evenly over the dough. Spread the tomato halves over the dough. Sprinkle the thyme, then salt and pepper. Grate the cheese and sprinkle over everything.
Bake focaccia on lowest rack about 18 minutes, or until bottom is crusty and top is lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Though the weather in Chicago hasn’t fully committed to summer, its people have. And damn straight. We deserve it after such a crappy, gray spring. The festivals are in full bloom, farmers markets are back, bikers are flooding the streets. And the barbecues! You can walk down the street at any given time of day and inhale the tell-tale smell of charcoal and grilled meats wafting from balconies.
This burger didn’t make it to any party, but was a thrifty reuse of lentil leftovers, which had started their life in this iteration:
And ended up, the next day, like this:
Homemade Lentil Burgers
For the lentils:
1 c. dried lentils, rinsed (I used red lentils, but any would work)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 stalks of celery, rinsed, ends removed, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 tbsp. tamarind concentrate
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
water to cover
salt and pepper
For the burgers:
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 c. flour, added gradually
on a toasted bun or toasted wheat bread
In a large pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the garlic and onions and gently saute for a minute, then add the carrots and celery. Sprinkle in salt and pepper and let the veggies soften, about 3 or 4 minutes. Add in the lentils, tamarind, bay leaf, vinegar, and cover well with water. Let them simmer vigorously for about half an hour, stirring occasionally and checking to see that there’s still enough liquid in the pot. You want them to absorb most of the liquid, but not burn. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
You can eat some now if you’d like (try them with roasted asparagus, fried egg, a drizzle of balsamic, and grated parmesan). If you do eat some before you make the burgers, then be sure to halve the amount of egg and flour you use for the burgers.
When the lentils have cooled and you are ready for burgers, add them to a mixing bowl. Add the egg(s), and gradually stir in the flour. The consistency should be thick enough to fry. The more flour you add, the denser the burgers will be.
Bring a few tablespoons of oil in a pan to a very high heat. Spoon a large heap of the batter into the hot oil and flatten with a spatula. Let it fry a few minutes, until you can see that the sides are brown. Flip. Add cheese. Fry until the sides brown, another few minutes. Serve with the fixin’s I suggested above, or any that float your boat! Bask in your thriftiness! And (hopefully) the summer sun!