Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bean Burgers with Squash Soup, a quick dinner

Because I am a professional chef and an attentive mother, people some times fantasize that I am some kind of miracle worker, that dinner at our house every night must resemble the fancy food I cook at work or the dinner I cooked for a celebration with friends, and that my children love everything that I cook.

Let's be clear: I am not a "wonder" mom or a "wonder" chef. I do not miraculously cook elaborate perfect meals every night for my family. In fact, when I was cooking full time professionally (which is always more than full time) when I got home, my feet hurt and I was tired, really tired, so my husband did most of the cooking. Recently, since I still have 2 young children, I have been doing food work that is oriented out of the kitchen: cookbook writing, food policy work, improving school food and many other things. All of this has left me more energy than ever to cook at home, a welcome gift.

Life is still exceptionally busy, but the inspiration and desire to cook is constant, and the need to pull my self out of a boring-dinner-cooking-rut a welcome challenge. Often as I am racing from one place to another either for work or for kids, I start thinking about what ingredients reside in my fridge or freezer and how I might combined them into something delicious and nutritious...and something different than what we've eaten for the last 3 nights. On many evenings this thought process revolves around a partially empty fridge, a stray carrot, some broccoli or frozen corn, some dry grains, a small piece of meat or a block of tofu and lots of condiments and spices. The essential question: How can I make something from virtually "nothing"?

The answer to this question has yielded some fabulous results at times, one night we had sushi from a cup of rice, 2 carrots, 1/2 a zucchini, and 6 frozen shrimp, another night: corn pudding, black beans and garlic sautéed broccoli using frozen corn a few eggs, 1 can of beans and 1/2 a head of broccoli. Tonight's meal had a prize ingredient of a whole butternut squash, a luxury these days, so not a meal from "nothing" but these bean burgers certainly fall into that category. They were a welcome change from the usual plate of rice and beans, and the kids loved them!

Bean Burgers with Squash Soup
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 egg
1/2 cup cooked rice (reheated)
1 scallion (or 1/2 a small onion, finely diced)
2 sprigs cilantro (optional)
1/2 cup flour (any type is fine)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper to taste (and garlic powder if desired)

1. mash everything together with a fork until well combined.
2. in a preheated frying pan over medium heat, add a small amount of oil. scoop about 1/4 cup of the bean mixture into the pan and flatten into a burger about 3 inches wide and under 1 inch thick.

3. cook burger until well browned on one side, flip over and press slightly with the spatula to flatten the burger. Repeat until you have used all the batter. If the burgers seem in anyway too soft in the center, you can bake them in the oven for a few minutes to dry them out. This batch can out great, so I hope yours will too. This is a great base recipe to add any sort of seasoning you want, ginger, lime, garlic, curry or anything else. You can shred some spinach, toss in some corn, red pepper or broccoli as well to get some more vegetables into your meal.

makes about 8 medium sized burgers.

I also made some quick squash soup with a butternut squash I had roasted off the night before.

1 squash
6 cups liquid (divide between water and stock to your liking, or even add some milk if you want)
1 onion
salt and pepper

1. cut squash in half lengthwise. rub with a small amount of oil, season with salt and pepper and put on a baking pan cut side down. roast in the oven at 375 until soft when poked with a knife or fork, about 40 minutes.
2. cut onion and saute in a pan with a little oil or butter. season with salt and pepper.
3. scoop squash out of the skin and add to the pot along with the stock and water. simmer for about 15 minutes. puree with a stick blender if you have one, or in a regular blender. serve

My kids enjoying dinner. Papa works late on Mondays so I was flying solo.

Again, this is basic simple recipe that you could add a lot to. roasting some apples or celery root with the squash adds a wonderful twist to the soup, fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary are great too. peanut butter and cilantro would put a Senegalese twist on it too. A recipe for squash and peanut soup from the Fair Haven Community Health Center appears in the cookbook I just finished, New Haven Cooks/Cocina New Haven.


  1. this meal is totally on my list for next weeks menu! yum!!
    love you

  2. tagan that was me, kendra, above...not shosh.