The working title of this post was "Bleak House," but that just seemed well, too bleak. Late January leaves one scrounging around for ways to lift the spirits. Even my vase arrangements consist of bare twigs. If I am lucky they will slowly bud and I will get a tiny taste of things to come.
The wind and rain this week provided an abundance of broken tree branches to bring indoors for forcing.
Scrounging was the theme of the day as I looked in my fridge for something to cook. Cooking often means always having an assortment of leftover odds and ends to choose from. Today's pick was a bit of sauteed spinach, some cooked quinoa and a handful of chickpeas. Amanda had expressed interest in a bean burger post so I thought why not? These three items could make a good meal and if I added some spices it might be even delicious.
Leftover ingredients can lend themselves to beautiful new creations in the kitchen.
Spice mixtures are a great way to perk up simple ingredients. They are also a great way to add versatility without having to buy and blend all the separate spices yourself. These premixed blends are also a simple way to sample the flavor base of another cuisine. When I travel I always look for culinary items that express the region I have visited. Curry powder and Herbs de Provence are two examples of spice blends that reflect a specific culinary culture. Don't overlook airports as a great place to pick up local food items if you haven't already grabbed some during your stay.
This Caribbean spice blend added some warmth to a cold day.
Today, for my chickpea and quinoa burgers, I pulled out some Island Creole Seasoning I found at the St. John Spice store when I was in St. John, US Virgin Islands last year. The blend consists of salt, cayenne pepper, thyme, marjoram, garlic, onions and bay leaf. What would have taken me several minutes to assemble myself was immediately at hand in this blend. The bean patties took me 15 minutes to prepare from start to finish. AND they came out sooooooooo good. I often wonder if the mere act of pan frying makes everything delicious. Well it certainly doesn't hurt!
Because all the ingredients are already cooked, the patties only need a few minutes of pan frying.
These patties had a nice texture due to the quinoa- very light and almost fluffy. The spinach added some color and a little depth, but no pronounced bitterness. You could serve this to a non-spinach eating person and they would probably not notice or mind. The chickpeas served as a hearty, nutty-flavored base for the whole thing.
Quinoa, a whole grain found in most supermarkets and health food stores cooks like rice in 20 minutes.
I would not expect most people to have this particular combination of leftovers available at any given time. The point here is to allow things to happen in the kitchen. Beans + Veg + Starch + Spice. A simple formula that can have happy, easy and QUICK dining results!
Chickpea, Quinoa & Spinach Burgers
1 cup of cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup cooked spinach, squeezed of excess liquid and chopped
1 cup of cooked quinoa
1/4 cup grated onion
1 teaspoon of a spice blend of your choice
3 Tbs. flour
for frying- 2 Tbs. canola oil
Roughly mash the chickpeas with a potato masher. To the chickpeas add the rest of the ingredients and blend well with a spoon. Divide into burger shapes. Heat the frying oil and when hot, pan-fry the patties for 3 minutes on each side.
Before getting into what I already have in mind for the wine, I want to quickly comment on the Arame dish from our last post. Deb's recipe was easy and outstanding! I am now addicted to this dish and in fact, I'm going to run to the store after work to stock up on Arame so I can make a big batch! (I wonder if it's possible to eat too much Arame?) Love it! Can honestly say Deb's dish is one of my favorite new recipes!
Now - onto the Chickpea burgers - again, seems straightforward, healthy, and has ingredients typically on hand. Love that combination! I want a wine with good fruit, but an earthy quality as well. I personally want red with these burgers. I want something simple, yet elegant, not something overly complex or intense. Just an everyday red that I can enjoy next to a casual meal. One of my favorite red wines is the Chateau Pesquie Cuvee Terrasses. The 2008 vintage just arrived and it promises to be as delicious as the past vintages. For $11.99 (and consistently highly-rated) this is the quintessential everyday wine. It is soft, with red and black fruit flavors and a hint of spice. The fruit is lush. Hailing from the Cote de Ventoux region of the Rhone Valley, the wine is a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah.
If you are using Indian spices, Caribbean spices, or what have you, the wine should be a great match. I love the idea of some "stronger" spices with this wine. The thought of a combination of Indian spices, for example, enjoyed in conjuction with some kind of fruit side, like a mango chutney, causes me to salivate. So it is with this wine. The spices in the burgers combined with the beautiful fruit-forwardness of the wine should work famously together!
Also remember, you don't have to go find this exact wine! (Though it is worth seeking out!). You can go into your friendly neighborhood wine shop and ask for their recommendations on a wine from the Cote du Ventoux- or ask for a grenache/syrah blend. Wines from this region, or of this type of blend, in general will work just as well!