Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Memorial Day Weekend Cooking Continues (and in under 30 Minutes)

Check out the Bandersnatch the next time you're on campus during the academic year and get your own pizza bagel!
For me, one of the quintessential college dishes is the pizza bagel, and it just so happens to be a specialty at The Bandersnatch, a late night, coffee shop open mic night-esque spot on campus open from 9pm-2am Monday-Sunday. Building off of yesterday's post, I felt the need to continue to cook up the veggie burgers and use up my homemade hamburger buns before they sat around too long and needed to be thrown away. Luckily I was able to save them all, and use up quite a bit of the lettuce I also bought at the farmers market, this weekend, preparing my own version of pizza bread and spicy lettuce wraps.

What I particularly love about the pizza bagel is its overall simplicity. Though I would never tout it as the healthiest thing a college student (or anyone else for that matter) can eat, it's certainly filling from the crisped, doughy bagel and warming from the golden brown crust of the cheese that protects the light layer of tomato sauce. Top it off with pepperoni and the familiar pools grease that make one consider whether or not to indulge or pat with a napkin, and you've got a sure winner. Arguably then, the version I made on Sunday is slightly healthier, beginning with a Kick Start herbed breakfast veggie patty from Luna Burger that I heated up with a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. (Make sure your oven has begun to preheat at 375°F if it hasn't already.) In the pan, I mashed it up a bit so it looked more like cooked, ground beef, and added about 2 tbsp jarred pasta sauce. Of course, you could add your homemade sauce if you so happen to have it already cooked up. And then comes the best part... the cheese!

I won't harp too much on the parmesan (you can read about its relatives here), but I do want to talk about my second favourite cheese: smoked Gouda. For whatever reason, cheese just wasn't my thing growing up, unless it was melted and/or brûléed onto something else. Indeed, the idea of eating cheese in its raw form just wasn't appealing. And then I met Gouda, but again more specifically the smoked variety which always reminds me of the joy of eating bacon. In an earlier post, I wrote about AOC/POD distinctions, i.e., the protection of the usage of a product's location to identify said product; the important note here is that Gouda--the cheese of which is named after the process and product created in this Dutch city--is not a protected name. In contrast, Gouda specifically coming from the Netherlands is protected as Gouda Holland [cheese]. However you get it, slice as thick a piece of Gouda as you'd like and put this directly onto your bread which should itself be sitting on an ungreased baking sheet.

On top of the Gouda (or Swiss, or whatever meltable cheese suits your fancy), pile on the burger sauce (enough for two bagel/burger bun halves) and top this off with shredded Parmesan cheese. Get this into the oven for about 7 minutes or until the Gouda has melted and then switch the oven to broil for about 2-3 minutes to crisp up the Parmesan. As a side note, there's no need to add any salt at any point in the process as the crisped Parmesan will add more than enough flavour. Do keep a fairly close eye on the pizza bread, as you don't want the broiler to burn your work.

As if this final product was a sandwich, I needed a bit of colour and so I topped off the pizza bread in all its crisped and gooey goodness with a chiffonade of lettuce. The heat coming from the cheese and sauce slightly wilt the lettuce, making it part of the fold of this quick and easy to make comfort dish.

From the savoury to the sweet, on Memorial Day, I felt a bit patriotic and aimed for a dessert (no, it didn't include a veggie burger) that incorporated red, white and blue. At first, this proved to be a bit difficult, as I'm trying to cook with as many ingredients I already have as possible (I will soon be moving out of my apartment and leaving Denison for the summer, but more on that in future posts). The blue component was the easiest to figure out (probably because so few foods are naturally blue), and I pulled out a bag of dried blueberries. I knew I didn't want them in the cake, and so I got 1/4 c and put them in a bowl; I then topped these off with just enough Chardonnay (which you could replace with water, lemonade, etc.) to cover them and microwaved the lot for about 20 seconds. This warm liquid would essentially rehydrate the blueberries to the point of making them juicier as opposed to transforming them to their original state. To make the process work, leave them alone in the liquid for about 25-30 minutes, or even longer if possible.

As I looked back in my pantry after setting my oven to preheat at 350°F, I saw I barely had any flour and so the prospects of making a dessert with the colour scheme I had in mind seemed to diminish. Nevertheless, I went with a simple cake that I adapted from a series of vanilla and white cake recipes (1, 2, and 3). It turned out I had 3/4 c flour making it easy enough to work with half the batter these recipes seemed to yield. To the remaining flour I did have, I added I used my fingers to combine the flour, a pinch of salt, 3/4 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 c unsalted butter that I divided into smaller pieces. To this mixture was added 1/2 c granulated sugar; continuing to combine the ingredients, the end result should resemble wet sand in texture.

In a separate bowl, I whisked one whole egg with 1/4 c milk. This lot then gets mixed into the "wet sand" mix, until fairly smooth. (It's totally fine if it's a bit lumpy.) Instead of adding vanilla extract, I wanted to use the white cake as my literal base, and to incorporate strawberry preserves for the colour, making this the red component of my dessert. To the batter, I then added 2 heaping tbsp strawberry preserves and, because strawberries and lemon are oftentimes a good combination, whisked in about 2 tbsp limoncello for added flavour and moisture.

Into an ungreased loaf pan and into the preheated oven the soon-to-be cake went. As it is a pretty low volume, relatively thin cake, it only took about 15 minutes until the outer edges were golden brown and the cake was fully baked. Depending on how quickly you can work and how well your ingredients were prepared, the cake takes less than half an hour to make.

For my spicy lettuce wraps, I was inspired by the third variety of Luna Burgers I had purchased on Saturday: peanut cilantro. And as I thought of lettuce wraps, I wondered just how difficult it would be to make my own peanut sauce to go with the dish I was envisioning. From what I saw between these two recipes (1 and 2), a proper sauce seemed to necessitate an awfully long list of ingredients, much of which I didn't have lying around. I did, however, have peanut butter and even though many a website said not to use it, I did so anyway.

To 1 T creamy peanut butter, I eventually settled on whipping in 2 tsp each regular soy sauce, sesame seed oil and water, and 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes. Do be careful actually whipping the ingredients, unless you want a mess all over you. Rather, slowly work the other ingredients into the peanut butter until it essentially becomes of one consistency. Play around with the textures and taste until you settle on your desired endpoint. If you want like the flavour but want to thin out the sauce, add a touch more water. For a saltier taste, add more soy sauce. Add more crushed red pepper flakes for more heat, sesame seed oil for balance, and peanut butter for sweetness.

With the sauce now ready, I cooked one peanut cilantro veggie patty; after removing it from the pan, I cubed it. In the limited juice from the patty, I began to cook one diced chicken Frank (because it's customary to have some kind of hot dog on Memorial Day weekend, no?) before adding the veggie patty cubes back in. To this lot, I added one whole hamburger bun that I had split in half and then cubed. Essentially stir frying these ingredients together, I let this all cook until the chicken Frank got some charred colour and the bread started to get a slight crust on the exterior (with the interior having soaked up any additional flavours).

And whew! Let me tell you... the veggie patty on its own lives up to its jalapeño kick and is slightly bumped up by the peanut sauce. Luckily, you get the bread and lettuce to help cool things down. But then again, my tolerance for spice is still developing. (As is the case with the other dishes mentioned here, this definitely takes less than half an hour to put together.)

As far as dessert was concerned I found that the strawberry preserves did not turn the cake red as hoped for, so perhaps in the future it should be warmed up to be whipped in more as a liquid. In any case, it still worked with the moist texture of the cake. To top it all off, I added a quenelle of vanilla bean ice cream (for the white component) and added the rehydrated blueberries, including some of its Chardonnay sauce and some mixed berries hanging around in my freezer. And with this, I sign off on the planned cookery of May and look forward to the summer months ahead. For these and other photos from my Memorial Day weekend cooking, check out the album by clicking here.

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