Pearled couscous & french lentils with yellow squash, and burgers!

Pearled couscous and french lentils with yellow squash, tomatoes and fresh herbs

Pearled couscous and french lentils with yellow squash, tomatoes and fresh herbs

I’m in a little bit of a blue funk these days. MId-summer slump? Mid-life crisis? A skewed perspective? I’m anxious about the future and regretting a past that hasn’t even happened yet. I’ve been looking at my life from the outside too much, maybe, and that’s never a good thing. You can’t think about it too much, right? You just have to splash through it like it’s cool creek water, try not to slip on the mossy rocks, and enjoy the dousing you get if you do. But I’m not going to talk about that, because who cares!! I’m going to talk about Adventure Time, again. I just love it, as Malcolm would say. I find it such a comfort…it makes me feel happy. I love the friendship and the humor, and the way that the whole world of the show is morally complicated but ultimately righteous. We bought the second season the other day, and we got a few Tintins at the same time (I have to tell you that we got some real books, too, with lots of words and chapters and the like, just so you don’t worry too much about the boy’s intellectual development.) And I had a major revelation! I love Adventure Time the way I used to love Tintin, and maybe haven’t really taken to anything else since. It makes me happy in the same way: watching it reminds me of being little with a new Tintin and a plate of fries, which was such a good feeling. (It’s not fries anymore, it’s grolsch and punjabi mix, which we had yesterday during a thunder storm, and which will surely be one of my best memories of this summer.) Well, I started to think about similarities between Adventure Time and Tintin, and I think I’ve gathered enough that I could write a thesis on it. A nice thick scholarly thesis. They both wear the magical Tintin blue. They’re both drawn in bright solid colors, they both have yellow-blonde hair. They’re both young boys who live, improbably, in a dangerous adult world, with only a dog for a companion. In both cases the dog is a sort of saltier, more mature individual…Snowy with his whisky drinking, and Jake with his gruff voice and tail-wagging appreciation of imaginary cute girls. The dogs are like manifestations of the maturity that these strangely independent boys lack but need to survive in the world. Tintin and Finn both cheerfully and eagerly face every challenge, and it’s this very enthusiasm that helps them to win the day. Yes, I love these boy-and-their dog stories, but it got me thinking that what the world needs now is a girl-and-her-dog story. It will be about Clio and me! A perplexed overgrown child, strangely out of place in the complicated and often sinister adult world, and her wise-cracking canine companion. Of course in this scenario, it’s Clio who has all of the enthusiasm, gumption and curiosity, but she has enough for two, so that’s alright. Our adventures will be slightly more low-key than those of Finn and Tintin. We’ll sleep an extra hour after the alarm goes off! We’ll chase cats (and squirrels and birds and dried leaves) on the tow path! We’ll walk the boys home from school! Can’t you just see it? Can’t you hardly wait to read about our exciting adventures?

Couscous french lentil burgers

Couscous french lentil burgers

We got some big beautiful yellow squash from the farm, along with some pretty plum tomatoes, and lots of fresh herbs. I wanted them fresh and flavorful, so I only sautéed them lightly, and I made a sort of pilaf of whole wheat pearled couscous and french lentils as a sort of base for the bright vegetables. We topped it all with pine nuts and grated mozzarella. Nice summery meal. Everybody liked it, even the picky boys. The next day, I combined the leftovers with some romesco sauce to make burgers, and they were almost better than the initial meal! Juicy and flavorful. We ate them with fake bacon, smoked gouda, lettuce and sliced tomatoes. If you don’t happen to have romesco sauce lying around, it’s worth making some just for these, but also because it’s so delicious in its own right.
Couscous and french lentil burgers

Couscous and french lentil burgers

Here’s Finn’s Baby Song, it’s been stuck in my head for days!

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Grillable vegan burgers!! And grilled flatbread

Beet & bean burgers

Here at The Ordinary, we have an extensive labyrinth of underground bunker-kitchens. In this subterranean kingdom we work on our most specialized and top secret foods. (We’re currently working on a candy that glows with a blinking light and flits around your backyard on soft summer evenings – you have to catch it before you can eat it! Don’t tell! Very hush hush] Well, for years, we’ve exhausted innumerable resources and personnel trying to develop a vegan burger that would be grillable. It needed to stay together, and not fall apart in a crumbly mess. It needed to actually become browned and crispy – not just leave all the brown and crispy bits clinging to the grill. It needed to taste good, and be easy an economical to make. Mwah ha ha ha!!! WE HAVE DONE IT! [lightening strike!]

Beet burger

Actually, this was our first attempt, and it worked, and we had so much fun making it, and were so thrilled that it worked that it’s just silly. The burger is made of roasted beets, shallots, and garlic, basmati rice, bread crumbs, roman beans, and seasoning. That’s it! Simple, cheap, and really tasty! We seasoned ours with sage, rosemary, smoked paprika, and just a smidge of chipotle and marmite, but you could easily use any seasoning you like. You could make spicy burgers with more chipotle, you could make curried burgers. You could also use a different bean, pinto would be nice! Try these even if you think you don’t like beets, because beets that are roasted/toasted, and then mixed with other stuff, and then grilled, would probably appeal to just about anyone, be they a beet lover or a beet hater. If you really really can’t eat beets, I think these would work with roasted mushrooms instead. I’ll try it and let you know!! Can I just say that this particular combination, when being mixed and mushed, looks disconcertingly like ground beef! Very strange.

Grilled flatbread

We ate these with flatbreads, which we also grilled!! They were browned and crispy on the outside, and soft and flavorful inside. We cut them in half, lengthwise, and put a burger and lots of lettuce and tomato inside. Very fun to make, very tasty! We also ate these with a slice of sharp cheddar melted on top. The burgers may be vegan, but we’re not! I’m sure it would be good with vegan cheese, or no cheese at all.

Malcolm and a beet burger

We wanted to use the beet greens as well, because they were so pretty, so we boiled them for a few minutes, and then sautéed them with zucchini, garlic and red pepper flakes. Then we tossed a small handful of chopped roasted cashews, and a small handful of grated coconut (the sweet kind!) and a few fresh basil leaves. Delicious!

Beet greens, coconut, and cashews

Here’s George McCrae with WE DID IT! What a happy song!

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Black quinoa & beluga lentils 2 ways; And semolina buns!

Black quinoa & beluga lentils

We ate quinoa a few times last week, and – as I promised the boys – we turned into Incan super heroes. (It is a “superfood,” you know!). Oh the adventures we had! I’d love to tell you about them, but I’m legally bound to silence, because they’re going to make an animated series based on our exploits. The animation will be a collaboration of Ray Harryhausen and Jules Bass, the music will be supplied by Damon Albarn and Harry Mancini, and Saul Bass is working on the credit sequence as we speak. Each episode will follow a set of normal, modern characters who will suddenly find themselves faced with a problem that only a family of Incan superheroes can solve. When our super powers wane, we eat mounds of quinoa to restore them. (Quinoa companies are currently duking it out for endorsement contracts) In one running gag, the littlest Incan super hero, based on Isaac, refuses to eat his quinoa, and the rest of us say, “We’ll have to go on our adventures without you!”

But let’s get back to the food, man. I remember when it was all about the food. I went to Whole Foods a few weeks back, and I stocked up on black grains. Black barley, black rice, black quinoa… (What, quinoa is not actually a grain, it’s a “pseudocereal”? Good god.) I like black grains and grain-like products because they’re very pretty, and because they usually have a nuttier, meatier taste than their paler cousins. Black quinoa is no exception. It stays a little crunchy, it turns a lovely garnet color, and the little pale squiggly spiral comes out to tell you that it’s done. I thought the quinoa would taste nice (and look good!) with beluga lentils. I wanted to try something a little different with the seasoning, because I feared I was getting stuck in a rut. So I opted for tarragon, fennel seed and ground coriander in a sauce made from white wine and orange juice. Fruity, citrus-tart/sweet, and anise-y! I thought it was nice! I thought it would go well with sweet potatoes and carrots, so I added some of those, too. And I threw in handfuls of baby spinach at the end, because everything is better with baby spinach! We ate it with basmati rice and a salad of arugula and more baby spinach. The rice is probably overkill with the quinoa, but it was one thing I was sure the boys would eat. I grated some sharp cheddar on mine, and I thought it was a nice addition.

Quinoa burgers

We had some quinoa mixture left over, and some extra beluga lentils, so I decided to make them into burgers. I added a little smoked paprika and tamari, for that smoky, meaty edge. I added an egg and some bread crumbs, for substance, and I fried them in a little olive oil. Delicious! They’re a little delicate, but very tasty. I wanted to make rolls for my burgers, so I made some out of semolina. I wanted to keep them simple, but I kept thinking how nice the chinese dumplings we made were, with a little extra sugar, and a touch of vinegar, so I added that. The rolls were tasty, but quite dense. Which was a funny combination with the delicate burgers, but I liked it, although I concede that nice soft store-bought hamburger buns might make more sense in this instance. I heaped some lettuce and fresh spinach and fresh sliced tomato on, and I ate my whole burger! The boys ate them with barbecue sauce, and we made some oven roasted fries to go with them.

semolina buns

Here’s Talib Kweli & MF DOOM with Old School. It’s about cartoon superheroes, and it’s one of my favorites ever!
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