Turkey and Zucchini Mini Burgers

There are hardly enough words to express the joy of a few weeks off between a busy school year and the next work endeavor. While the past year has been rewarding in its own way, making it clear to me that I made the right decision when I was deciding which school to attend, there is still a lot to be said for the rewards of a day spent simply. It’s the difference between sitting on the couch with a textbook versus a best seller, with a much-needed late evening coffee to power through a study session versus a beer just because, with cheap Chinese food from the hole-in-the-wall by the subway stop versus a seasonally-inspired home-cooked meal.


While I spent the first bit of my brief break relaxing on the beaches and mini golf courses of Delaware, I have returned with a small but sufficient farmer’s market load (do you see those flowers?), dusted off my cookbooks, and restocked the pantry for a few days of quality cooking before my upcoming internship becomes all-consuming. And after a delicious but not nutritious very long weekend of meals out, daily ice cream, and more than daily beer, I am going to be going the healthy route for these next few posts.

Turkey Zucchini Burger

But change works best when it is implemented gradually. So, today, I bring you turkey and zucchini mini burgers. They’re as satisfying as a traditional burger (though they taste nothing like it), pack a nice melange of green vegetables and herbs, and go great with a yogurt-based sauce and some salad. They’re even great at room temperature, making them a solid cook-ahead meal to enjoy with your lunch, at, say, a new summer internship.

Turkey and Zucchini Mini Burgers

Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook

Makes about 18 mini burgers

1 1/4 pound ground turkey (preferably from the thigh)

1 medium zucchini, coarsely grated

3 green onions, finely sliced

1 egg

2 tablespoons chopped mint

2 1/2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup sunflower or vegetable oil, approximately

Sumac Sauce

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place all the ingredients except for the oil in a large bowl and use your hands to mix together. Use your hands to form about 15-20 small burger patties.

Ready for Mixing

Heat the oil (it should be enough to coat the pan with about 1/8 of an inch of oil) over medium-high heat on a frying pan. Cook the burgers until they are seared on each side, but do not worry about cooking them through. This should take about 5 minutes per side.

That Turkey Zucchini Base

Place the burgers on the baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 8 minutes, until they are cooked through.

Serve with pita, a Mediterranean salad, and a sumac sauce (made by throwing together your favorite proportions of greek yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and sumac).

Turkey  Zucchini Burgers


On Carbo Loading (Or, Why Reason Does Not Equal Logic)

Today I registered for the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Yesterday I entered the lottery for the New York City Marathon. Given the serious training regimens races of this caliber require, it is only sensible that today I share with you a recipe for mushroom lasagne. And before my attempt at athletic prowess lead you to think that this is some sort of health recipe consisting of little more than fresh organic mushrooms, low-sodium tomato sauce, and gluten-free noodles, note that this recipe contains not two or three but, indeed, five different kinds of cheese. And, let’s be honest, that’s not even making mention of the butter and whole milk.

Mushroom Lasagna Slice

I could reason that at the least, such a decadent recipe might be good for carbo loading, but, if we’re continuing with this honesty streak, we know that any of the benefits of the lasagne noodles are negated by the pure fat they are swimming in. If running 26.2 miles won’t hurt your bowels, I’m pretty sure all this dairy might (at least, if you have even a whiff of lactose intolerance). Logically, this should be the last thing I am tempted to eat while training, and, yet…

I’ve been telling myself that now is the time to run these various races because of some recent medical adventures that have left me feeling like now is the time to get started on some of these bucket list items. Lest I panic anyone, I am perfectly healthy and not facing any sort of impending peril. And yet, one week with a few too many doctor’s appointments (even though they didn’t indicate anything wrong) have left me feeling like the time is neigh. Logical? No. Reasonable? I’d like to think so. And what does this have to do with mushroom lasagne and running? Well, if I can’t convince myself the recipe is good for me while training, I can at least reason that I’ll have earned it after the race.

Mushroom Lasagna Section

Mushroom Lasagne

Adapted from Plenty

Makes 6-8 servings

1 1/4 ounce dried porcini mushrooms

1 3/4 cups warm water

11 tablespoons unsalted butter (separated into two portions of 5 1/2 tablespoons)

2 pounds mushrooms, sliced (a mix is best)

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped

4 tablespoons parsley, chopped

salt and pepper

1 shallot, chopped

1/2 cup flour

2 1/3 cup whole milk

13 ounces ricotta

1 egg

5 ounces feta, crumbled

6 ounces Gruyere, grated

1 pound dried lasagne

5 ounces mozzarella, grated

1/2 cup Parmesan, grated

Mushroom Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the dried porcini and water in a bowl for 5 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, making sure to get out as much liquid as possible. Save the liquid for later in the recipe.

Melt 5 1/2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the thyme, dried mushrooms, and fresh mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it looks like the fresh mushrooms have started releasing some of their liquid. Take the pot off the heat and the the tarragon, parsley, and salt and pepper to season. Set aside in a bowl.

Using the same pan you used to cook the mushrooms, make the béchamel. Melt the remaining butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for a minute. Add the flour and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, until the mixture turns to a paste but does not change color. Add the milk and the reserved mushroom liquid slowly, whisking with each addition. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and whisk until the mixture is boiling. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce starts to become thick, and then remove from heat. This should take about 8 minutes.


In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta and egg, and add 3 tablespoons of the sauce you just made. Add the feta. Add the remaining Gruyere to the béchamel.

Being careful so that they do not stick together, pour boiling water over the lasagne noodles. Soak for 2 minutes, then remove and dry on a cheesecloth or tea towel.

Mushroom Lasagna

Prepare a 10 by 14 inch dish to assemble the lasagne. Pour one fifth of the béchamel on the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of lasagne noodles. Add one quarter of the ricotta mix on top, and then one quarter of the mushrooms, and then one quarter of the mozzarella. Repeat again, beginning with the béchamel, until you have used up all of the components. Finish with a layer of a noodles covered with béchamel. Finally, sprinkle the parmesan on top, cover the dish loosely with foil, and bake for 50 minutes. Remove the foil when there are 10 minutes left in the cooking time to allow the cheese to brown. The dish is ready when the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling at the sides. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Brown Butter Snickerdoodles

Some New Year’s resolutions are about improving upon things we do already, while others are about trying something altogether new. Sure, we want to get back on top of flossing, but we also want to bungee jump off a cliff, and somehow it makes sense to put these two things on the same list. I, personally, aim to finally pet a llama this year, but this being a cooking blog and all, let’s save that story for another day.


And while my cooking goals for 2015 don’t involve large and furry animals, they still run a pretty wide spectrum. I plan to use my new fancy schmancy immersion blender to make all the creamy and velvety smooth soups I’ve dreamed of for years, and I’d like to start making some fancier cakes for special occasions. I’ll compete in at least one cooking competition so I don’t completely lose my mass cooking mojo while in grad school, and maybe even write a blog post during the semester. Throw in the requisite attempt at healthy cooking, and my 2015 resolutions are complete.

Cinnamon Sugar Bowls

And some cookies were actually made before the new year, so none of the above applies.

Brown ButterBrown Butter Snickerdoodles

Adapted from Baked Elements

Makes about 20-30 cookies

2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter

2 3/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons cinnamon, separated

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1 tablespoon milk

3/4 cup and 3 tablespoons sugar, separated

2/3 cup light brown sugar

All Together

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, swirling it occasionally. Do this until the butter turns nut brown, which will take 7 to 10 minutes. Pour the butter in a stand mixer and beat on medium-low speed for 6 or so minutes to cool the butter.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and salt.

Flour Spice Everything Nice

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs and milk.

Add the 3/4 cup of sugar and the brown sugar to the butter and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Turn the speed to low, scrape down the bowl, and add the egg mixture. Once the egg is incorporated, add the flour mixture in three batches, and mix just until the mixture comes together. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours, and up to a day.

Sugar Butter

Once ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the remaining sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Use your hands to roll the dough into ping pong ball sized balls, roll in the sugar and cinnamon, and place on the baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart from each other. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating half way through the bake time. The cookies are ready when they have cracked and the breaks look like they have set.

Cool the cookies. They will keep for a few days in an airtight container.


The Best Chili in the World: Beef, Beer, Bacon

Did I ever tell you about that time I won honorable mention for best barbecue flavor at South‘s chili competition? This site has no lack of chili recipes–perhaps why I have waited almost a year since I received the honor to post this recipe to the site. Or maybe it has something to do with typing up what may seem like an excessive list of ingredients. I assure you, I would be remiss to exclude any of them. And for most of the ingredients, all you have to do is throw them in a slow cooker. But enough making excuses for myself and for this recipe–it takes a little elbow grease and the finished product will be the best reward for a little hard work you have ever tasted.


While this is certainly the best chili I have ever had, I am also fairly confident in saying this is the best beef brisket I have ever made. (Or at least I think that is what it means when Harry keeps sneaking more bites of beef when he thinks I am not looking.) So, feel free to skip the chili recipe and go the brisket sandwich route instead. Better yet, make a double batch of brisket: one for the slow cooker and one for you.

Browned Beef

Beef Beef

Triple B Chili (Beef, Beer, Bacon) 

Makes a big slow-cooker full

For the beef chuck:

2 teaspoons canola oil

3.5 pounds beef chuck

salt and pepper

4 onions, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

2-4 beers, preferably lager

For the chili:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large white onion

6 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons chipotle in adobo, finely sliced

11/2 jalapenos, finely diced

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3/4 tablespoon dried oregano

1/4 cup chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 28 ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, chopped coarsely with juices

1/2 tablespoon tomato paste

1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 12 ounce bottle of amber or brown beer

6 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and chopped

2 15 ounce cans of kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Beef MeatFirst, make the beef chuck. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Prepare the beef chuck by patting it dry and rubbing it generously with salt and pepper. Heat the canola oil over high heat in a heavy saucepan. Add the meat, and brown each side well. This should take about two minutes per side. Once all sides are browned, remove from the heat.

Reduce the heat to medium, and add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the onions have softened. Add 2 bottles of the beer and the meat. If the meat is not mostly submerged, add more beer until it is.

Browning Onions

Place in the oven and cook for 2-3 hours, until the meat separates easily from the bone. Remove the meat from the pot, and let it cool until you can handle it with your hands. Use a fork or your hands to shred the meat. Put meat aside while you prepare the rest of the chili.

Boiling Beef

To prepare the chili, heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, until onions have softened and slightly browned. Add the chipotles and jalapeño and cook for another 4 minutes.

Place the onion mixture, shredded beef, and all ingredients other than the bacon and kidney beans in a slow cooker. Stir well. Cook on high for 5 hours. Add the kidney beans and bacon, and cook with the top removed for another 30 minutes.


Serve with sour cream, cheddar cheese, avocado, red onions, avocado, fresh cilantro, tortilla chips, victory, and all the other makings of a great bowl of chili.

Being Judged

Soup Double Hitter: Tomato Soup and Coconut Sweet Potato Bisque

What this post lacks in exposition, it makes up for in recipes. I bring you the soup double-hitter: a simple but creamy and rich tomato soup, and a more complex and also creamy but dairy-free coconut sweet potato bisque. Both are delightfully easy to make, pair great with salad and cheese sandwiches, and bring comfort on these (finally) cold winter days.

 Tomato Soup SandwichBisque and Salad

Tomato Soup

Adapted from Tupelo Honey Cafe

Makes 4-6 servings

24 ounce can crushed tomatoes

3 cups water

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 cup heavy cream

Tomato Soup

Place the tomatoes, water, tomato paste, bay leaf, sugar, and salt in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, reeducate heat to medium, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the soup thickens and can lightly coat a spoon. Add the pepper and cream and cook for about 4 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Tomato Soup and Sandwich

Sweet Potato Bisque

Coconut Sweet Potato Bisque

Adapted from Tupelo Honey Cafe

Makes 4-6 servings

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced

4 cups and 3 teaspoons water

14 ounce can unsweetened coconut milk

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon maple syrup

3 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon pumpkin spice

4 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Sweet Potatoes

Combine the sweet potatoes and 4 cups of the water in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Reduce the heat to medium and use a potato masher to break up the potatoes. Add the coconut milk, sugar, honey, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and pumpkin spice, stir, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the soup begins to thicken. Combine the cornstarch and 3 teaspoons of the water in a small bowl to form a thick paste. Add the paste and cayenne pepper to the soup and stir and cook for about 5 minutes, until the soup coats the back of a wooden spoon. Use a hand blender to blend the soup until smooth.

Creamy Soup