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.

Flowers

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

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Vaguely Asian (and Vaguely Healthy) Brussels Sprouts and Tofu

Well, well. Just when we all thought winter would never end, it not only came to an abrupt halt, but save for about ten days of torrential downpour it seemed to turn right into the beginnings of a sweltering summer. Where have the five to eight weeks of temperate weather that scream, “It’s gorgeous out–you should go for a run!” gone? It’s 10:30PM, the temperature just got below 80 degrees in the past couple of hours, I won’t comment on the dew point (but suffice it to say there is a 100% chance of rain in the next few hours), and all this to say, when did this happen and how did I not see this coming?

Health Food?

Alas, there is no winning with nature this year. It does not care how much time you need to create your beach-ready body (someone please reassure me that three weeks is enough). And of course with the extra months of cold this year, there were many extra servings of the comfort foods that everyone loves best.

Baked Brussels

But those days are over, and in keeping with the quickly changing times, I present you with a more nutritionally-minded recipe for the brief time between snowpocalypses and sweatpocalypses. It’s vaguely Asian, vaguely (maybe mostly?) healthy, and seems like the kind of dish that can fill you up and fuel you for not just one but two workouts. So get to it!

Sprouts

Baked Brussels Sprouts and Tofu with Asian Glaze

Adapted from Cookie + Kate 

Makes 4 servings

For the brussels sprouts:

1 1/2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise

1 tablespoon olive oil

sea salt (a variety with a little texture)

For the tofu:

15 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and cubed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon tamari (you can use soy sauce instead but the fins product will taste saltier)

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

For the glaze:

1/4 cup tamari

3 tablespoons honey (I recommend using a dark variety)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

3 teaspoon sriracha (use less if you are a wimp)

1 teaspoon fish oil (optional)

For the rice:

4 servings brown rice, cooked according to package instructions

For garnish:

sesame seeds (which you can toast for a few minutes on a pan)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Brussels

For the brussels sprouts, combine all ingredients in a bowl and make sure the olive oil and salt are distributed well amongst the brussels sprouts. Spread the brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and set aside.

For the tofu, whisk together the tamari and olive oil in a medium bowl. Place the tofu in the bowl and stir to coat it evenly. If you want, you can leave the tofu to marinate for a few minutes…or you can go right ahead. Sprinkle the cornstarch on the tofu and mix to coat it evenly. Spread the tofu in an even layer on a baking sheet.

Tofu

Place the brussels sprouts and tofu in the oven–the tofu should be on a higher rack–and baked for 30 to 40 minutes, flipping over both the brussels sprouts and the tofu in the middle. The tofu is done when it is golden and the edges are browning. The brussels are done when they are turning golden brown–or you can do as I like to do and overcook them until they are turning a darker brown.

More Baked Brussels

For the glaze, combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Stir over medium-high heat until the sauce reaches a boil. Then reduce the heat so that the sauce is just between simmering and boiling, and let it simmer/boil for about 10 to 15 minutes, until it has slightly thickened.

Glazing

When all items are ready, assemble by spooning the tofu and brussels sprouts over the rice, and pouring sauce over the dish. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Brussels Sprouts and Tofu

Detoxing for the New Year

If you’re like most twenty-somethings, you probably spent last night thinking you could still party like it was 2006, and have woken up this afternoon to the sad reality that it’s 2013 and those seven years since 2006 have wreaked havoc on your ability to process alcohol. My guess is you are also in search of something that requires minimal effort while offering maximal hydration. May I suggest to you carrot apple ginger juice; sweet, tart, spicy, it’s a meal in a glass. Thank goodness for that juicer I got for Christmas.

Carrot Apple Ginger Juice

And if you have about ten minutes of work in you, you can prep some delicious black bean ragout to wake up to after your next nap of the day. It’s healthy, makes a mountain of food to keep you fed for the rest of the week, if not month, and will have you feeling fed, cured, and surrounded in a blanket of warmth and homey love for the rest of the evening.

Black Bean Ragout

Ready for Mixing and Drinking

And lest you think I am a mature adult, you should know I had leftover pad thai for breakfast and plan on having pancakes for dinner. As far as the juice and ragout–maybe next year.

The Bean Feast

Carrot Apple Juice

Makes about 2 good-size, rehabilitating servings

8 carrots

5 apples (Granny Smith work well for this juice)

1 egg-sized piece of ginger, peeled

1 lemon, peeled and pith removed

All You Need

Run all ingredients through juicer. Enjoy straight from the juicer or chilled.

Juiced

Black Bean Ragout

From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

The Ragout:

3 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and diced (optional)

1 pound dried black beans, rinsed

1 large white or yellow onion, finely diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 dried chiles, chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons table salt

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 cups unsalted vegetable stock

5 1/2 cups water

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

The Toast:

Several slices thick bread, as much as you want

Olive oil, enough for brushing the toast

Coarse salt

1 garlic clove, halved

The Pickled Onions:

1/4 red onion, diced

2 tablespoons lime juice (Do not try to substitute with lemon juice. I tried and it does not work.)

Generous pinch salt

The Garnishes:

Sour cream mixed with ground cumin

Fresh cilantro or parsley

B-B-B-Bacon

For the ragout, combine all ingredients except for the lime juice in a slow-cooker. It doesn’t matter how you put them in, but give them a good stir. Cook on high for 3 to 6 hours, until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Mix in the lime juice.

B-B-B-Beans

The Spices

If you don’t have a slow-cooker, you can cook the ragout in a large pot on the stovetop. Bring the ragout to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook, covered, for about 3 hours.

Slow Cooking Awesome

For the pickled red onions, combine the onion, lime juice, and salt, and let sit for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pickled Onions

For the toast, brush each pice of toast with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in oven under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until toast is crisp. As soon as toast is ready, rub each piece with the halved garlic clove.

Garlic Toasted Bread

Serve the ragout by pouring over toast and sprinkling with pickled onions and fresh parsley. Serve with a dollop of cumin sour cream.

Half Way Done

The Toppings

Stay tuned for food resolutions of 2013, coming to a blog near you as soon as I feel up to it.