A Dressed Up Veggie Burger

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I’m entering my second week of interning at Serious Eats and I’m already feeling the strain of summer in the valley. The tiring commute that steals 3 hours away a day, my money being sucked into a black hole of no return, laziness, excitement for something new and utter boredom. Working four days a week has not been enough to entertain me; I still feel jittery when unoccupied and bored when not hanging with friends — something that doesn’t occur very often anymore. The sizzling heat that I love so much has not yet arrived and the damp, chilly air of last week refuses to leave even though the rain has already petered off. I know I should be starting something, learning something new but I feel quite unmotivated to push myself into a challenging direction and surrender the ease in my days. Surprise, surprise.

I started looking through one of my former favorite blogs and have become slightly inspired again, though. Inspired enough to write this post and talk a little bit with myself in a productive way. It’s about time that I start cooking again and practice my photography and kitchen skills. There’s nothing like a diligent visit to the grocery store to restore some vigor. Cooking is an easy way to nudge my brain and tell it to come back from sleep mode.

Anyways, while I have yet to cook anything at home, I still have a good stock of photos of dishes I made while in school that I didn’t have time to post until now.

This veggie burger was one of many that I’ve consumed in the past few months. I’ve become hopelessly addicted to veggie burgers and I’m not sure how. They’re just so savory and delicious while still delivering the meaty satisfaction of a beef patty. I feel a little less guilty about them and they’re easier to finish off on schedule than a large package of ground beef. This one features some feta and Tahini to give it a Mediterranean flair I suppose and to dress it up a little from being just an ordinary veggie burger.

 

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Servings: 1

Ingredients:
1 frozen veggie burger patty
1 pretzel bun, split
Tahini sauce
Feta
Arugula
1 cucumber

Directions:

1. Microwave patty for approx. 1-2 minutes. Then crisp up in fry pan for about 3-4 minutes , flipping to brown each side — no oil necessary.

2. Split your pretzel bun and toast in toaster or in another pan.

3. Cut ends of cucumber. Then, with a vegetable peeler, slice thin slivers of the cucumber, lengthwise. Don’t use the first slice as that will be all skin, no flesh.

4. Slather Tahini onto top pretzel bun. Place hot veggie burger onto bottom bun then top with a thin square of feta or about one and a half tablespoons of crumbled feta. Pile on slivers of cucumber and arugula and then cover it all with the top bun. I suggest holding the burger together with a toothpick until ready to be eaten.

Ginger Fried Rice

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Fried rice is a genius dish, the perfect trifecta of savory, simple and easy. Whenever I’m in a bind, I simply drizzle some soy sauce and sesame oil onto a bed of rice and top it all with a sunny-side up egg. It’s the ideal solution for a hungry stomach on a tight schedule.

But while there’s little you can do to mess up fried rice, there are little details you can pay attention to to elevate the quintessential Asian dish. This recipe is one of those detail-oriented fried rice dishes, with soft, buttery onions strewn throughout the rice and topped with a sprinkle of fragrant fried ginger and garlic bits. It’s a college student’s take on Jean-Georges’s ginger fried rice, and while it might not be as beautiful as his perfected version, I find it a valuable recipe to have on hand.

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Ginger Fried Rice

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked white glutinous rice
1-2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1 egg
Canola oil

Directions:

1. Mince ginger and garlic into tiny bits and pieces. Dice the onion.

2. Heat tablespoon of canola oil in a pan on low heat. Add garlic and ginger pieces and fry until golden brown. This shouldn’t take very long at all so be very careful and watchful. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel folded onto a plate.

3. Add tablespoon of canola oil to pan on medium heat and cook diced onions until softened and translucent.

5. Then add the rice and mix thoroughly.

4. Add sesame oil and soy sauce and mix until rice and onions are coated.

6. Remove everything from pan onto plate.

7. Fry an egg sunny-side up and slide onto rice. Top with fried garlic and ginger bits.

Roasted Asparagus and Garlic Soup

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Yes, yes, spring is on it’s way and it’s supposed to be time to put away the heady soups and stews, but when you have a healthy bunch of asparagus you don’t have the confidence to finish alone this is what happens. Besides, what could be wrong about a cozy bowl of soup on a late Sunday afternoon? I found that there is nothing, nothing at all.

Ingredients:

A generous bunch of asparagus (look at photos for estimated proportion)
1 small head of garlic
1/2 cup vegetable stock
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano (the real stuff)
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Remove woody ends from asparagus: take each end of asparagus and bend until the asparagus snaps. The stem will break right where the woody part ends and the fresh asparagus begins. If it seems like you’re wasting a lot of asparagus, just try the ends – even if they look green and healthy they will taste distinctively bitter.

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2. Slice the head of garlic in half crosswise (horizontally), keeping the peel on.

3. Rinse trimmed asparagus in water. Then make a little tin foil box (see photos below) for the asparagus or place them on a sheet pan. Drizzle on a little olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Add the two halves of garlic, cut side up, into the tin foil box or onto the sheet pan.

4. Roast for 20 minutes at 500˚F. Your oven may take less time, mine is pretty shabby. Toss the asparagus around half way through.

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5. While vegetables are roasting, grate 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano.

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6. Blend together roasted vegetables and 1/2 cup vegetable stock for about a minute (I used my Magic Bullet). There shouldn’t be any chunks or pieces but it’s okay to have little, teeny bits in the soup.

7. Heat up blended vegetables in a pot. Pour in 3 tablespoons of heavy cream and parmigiano-reggiano. Mix together until cheese is melted and everything is incorporated.

8. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper accordingly.

9. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil (about a teaspoon).

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Put an egg on it (BLT)

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Having survived six months, so far, of cooking on a college student budget, I can attest that eggs are magical. They can transform anything into a complete meal, make a regular sandwich into the ultimate sandwich, make a regular burger into the ultimate burger. They can even transform a plate of Brussels sprouts into dinner.

There’s a beauty to the perfect sunny-side up; it’s the balance between a slightly crispy exterior, tender whites and a gooey, oozing, buttery yolk that stains everything on your plate. And when you achieve something this superb, yes, it’s guaranteed that your meal will be that much more delicious.

Below is a no frills, no fuss BLT recipe, elevated to another level with the addition of, you guessed it, one perfectly cooked sunny-side up egg. A thin layer of regular mayonnaise moistens the bread and melds the ingredients together. Fresh, wild arugula adds a necessary peppery bite that cuts through the fat, and juicy slices of tomato counterbalance the thick-cut bacon, fried until crispy but not crunchy.

P.S. Never buy low-fat mayo. Please don’t make the mistake I did. The second I sunk my knife into that goopy, thick, stiff “mayo,” that tasted unnaturally eggy and fatty and was clearly not the mayonnaise I know and love, I cursed the fact that I let all the hoopla about buying “low-fat” get to me.

Ingredients:

2 slices of bread of choice
2-3 slices of bacon
1 large handful of fresh arugula
2-3 slices of ripe tomato
1 egg
Mayonnaise

Directions:

1. Toast bread of your choice.

2. Fry up slices of bacon.

3. Fry one egg, sunny-side up. The trick to this: let the egg do most of its cooking on one side, then flip and cook other side for about 40 seconds.

4. Assemble sandwich. Spread thin layer of regular mayonnaise onto both pieces of toast. Pile on as much arugula as you can onto one slice of bread, top with tomato and bacon. Slide egg on top and finish with other piece of toast.

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Balsamic Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

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Ladies and gents, I love Brussels sprouts. Ever since two years ago when my cousin brought a dish of balsamic braised Brussels sprouts to Thanksgiving, I’ve discarded my presumptions about this dense mini cabbage-like vegetable and embraced its leafy goodness. When cooked down in the oven in a bit of balsamic and oil, the acidic vinegar melds with the sprouts’ natural sugars to create an almost thickened glaze, that caramelizes the crispy exteriors and helps create a sweet, tender inside. Fry up some smoky bacon bits in a pan, and toss in the Brussels sprouts at the last minute to crisp them up even more and let the bacon fat infuse its flavors. Top with a fried egg to make this dish a meal. My egg pictured above was a bit overcooked; I recommend going sunny side-up for a gooey yolk that will unite all the flavors wonderfully.

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Balsamic Braised Brussels Sprouts

Servings: 1

Ingredients:
5 Brussels sprouts, halved
2 strips of bacon, diced into “bits”
1 egg, sunny side-up
5 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.

2. Cut off ends of Brussels sprout stems and halve brussel sprouts vertically down its stem.

3. Toss in baking pan with a drizzle of olive oil and enough balsamic to coat and a little more (about 2 and a half tablespoons).

4. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes.

5. After 20 minutes, take out pan. Toss the sprouts around and pour in about 2 more tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and another drizzle of oil and toss to coat again. Place back in oven for about 10 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, fry up bacon bits in skillet until crispy. Take Brussels sprouts out of oven, toss again in pan juices and vinegar, and spoon the sprouts into the skillet. I tilted the pan so that the rendered bacon fat would slide under the sprouts and the flavors would meld together.

7. After about a minute, the bacon should be crispy and the Brussels sprouts have caramelized a bit on the outside. Transfer everything to a clean plate.

8. Wipe down skillet quickly or get a new one and fry one egg, sunny side-up. Or over easy, whichever you prefer.

9. Top plated Brussels sprouts and bacon with fried egg.

On what it means to be “home”

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It always feels a little bit lonely when I return to school. Entering an empty apartment and having no one really to call up and hang out with is a sobering experience. For some reason, it happens to me often, despite having roommates. When I’m back at home, I never feel the same sense of loneliness even as I spend days by myself cooped up in my room. I suppose that is the blessing of sharing a house with your family – that consistent sense of home, of company, reminded to you by the leftover plates lingering from breakfast, my brother’s video games strewn across the family room floor, the half-filled laundry basket at the top of the stairs. Even when there’s no one home, I never feel truly alone. It is a little different in an apartment with roommates.

Even beyond “home,” I realized during finals week in December that I didn’t really have many friends to call up and hang out with at my whim. Once the bustle of daily classes were gone, my days became empty, boring, lonely. In some ways, I suppose that’s a good thing – having solitude. It teaches you things, a lot of things, about yourself, about life, about how things are and about how things could be instead. But a little too much of that starts wearing out your soul and the stamp of loneliness begins to look more permanent than ever. I wonder if my life will ever change and one day I will have friends to call on just for fun, just because I’m bored. This absence in my life probably causes my dependence and attachment to Chris in a strong way – he is the only constant, the most reliable source of company, affection, attention. As I write this I’m realizing that maybe it’s a little pathetic of me. And that I should probably just grow up and move on. As Peggy’s mom said to Peggy in Mad Men after her daughter revealed she wanted to move in with her boyfriend, “If you’re lonely, get a cat.”

Creamy Tomato and Tuna Penne (Recipe adapted from foodwishes.com)

Does this recipe sound a little unnatural to you? I didn’t think it was that weird until a few friends said it was. But I promise you this is one of the most delicious pasta dishes I’ve ever made. Can you believe it? My “most delicious pasta,” made from canned tuna and tomato soup? I’m not sure if that’s really a good thing…but nonetheless, if that doesn’t give you a little faith to make this pasta then I don’t know what will. It’s super cheap and super easy to make – perfect for a big batch dinner for company.

Ingredients:

6-7 ounces of canned tuna (or preferably tuna in a jar packed in olive oil)
4-5 tablespoons of olive oil (if not using jar tuna described above)
3 cups of good quality cream of tomato soup (I used Pacific Organic Creamy Tomato Soup, found at Whole Foods)
14 and a 1/2 ounces of penne
3 cloves of garlic, minced
A big pinch of dried oregano
A big pinch of red pepper flakes
Two big handfuls of fresh arugula
Freshly grated parmesan

Directions:

1. Sauté tuna, minced garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes in olive oil until the garlic becomes fragrant. If using canned tuna, used 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil, if using tuna packed in oil, use all the olive oil from the jar.

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2. Then, pour in the tomato soup and let simmer until the sauce thickens a bit.

3. Add in the pasta and arugula and toss together gently until the sauce has coated the penne and filled in the tubes. The arugula will naturally wilt in the heat as you do so.

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4. Serve with a generous grating of fresh parmesan (not the pre-packaged stuff!)

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