Tofu Burgers with Beet Relish and Tahini Sauce

Simply prepared vegetables and cooked grains are what we’ve mostly been eating this fall. We still get a lot of kale from our little allotment garden plot – I can’t believe it yields crop until December in Finland! It was especially surprising ot find out since kale is pretty expensive and very hard to find in supermarkets around here. Food industry is quite a mystery, but that has nothing to do with this recipe, other than that kale leaves would be a nice addition to any burger really.

beet_tofu_burger

Now these burgers are not about the patty, since the “patty” is actually just a slice of fried tofu, and I guess that in the US these might most likely be called sandwiches instead of burgers. But the main thing that’s going on here is the beet-sauerkraut relish, with its sweet-tangy taste that goes so very well with the rye bread, and its beety texture that is quite lovely with the fried tofu – especially when everything is drenched in creamy tahini sauce. Simple, quick, and tasty, just the way we prefer our dinners to be right now.

This recipe makes enough for 4 burgers, with some extra beet relish and tahini sauce left over. The relish is mighty tasty as a side dish as well, and we often serve this sauce with cooked grains like quinoa or barley. We also filled our burgers with pea sprouts and sliced yellow bell pepper, and enjoyed them with a side of carrot sticks.

The Tofu:

  • 300 grams tofu
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • canola oil for frying
  • black pepper to taste

Heikki first cut the tofu in 4 slices, pressed them for a bit with some cheesecloth, and then fried them in canola oil until slightly brown on both sides. Then he drizzled the liquid smoke and the soy sauce in the pan and turned the slices over a few times to make sure they got an even coating, and crackled plenty of black pepper over the tofu when it was ready.

The Beet Relish:

  • 2 large beets, julienned (or even grated)
  • 1 and 1/2 dl sauerkraut (about 100 grams)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1/2 tablespoon canola oil
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • (a sqeeze of lemon juice)

I heated the oil in a frying pan and fried the onion until slightly browned. Then I added the beets and the sauerkraut in the pan, and fried for about 5 minutes, until the beet started to soften. Now I added the salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice, covered the pan, and let it stew until everything else was ready to serve (it took about 10 minutes).

Tahini Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 dl nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 dl water
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Heikki just dumped all the ingredients in our mini food processor and mixed until thoroughly combined and creamy. The thickness of this sauce can be easily adjusted by cutting the amount of water – this makes quite a runny sauce.

To assemble, we buttered out two toasted rye bread slices with a bit of vegan margarine, slathered the bread slices with tahini sauce, then added a pile of the beet relish on the bottom slice. That got drizzled with some more sauce, then covered by a slice of tofu and a bunch of veggies, and another drizzle of the sauce.

Chocolate Peanut Blondies

These can well be my new favorite sweet treat – the batter itself bakes into a fudgy center and caramelized edges, and the occasional bite into super-dark chocolate balances out the sugary experience.

blondie

I use white whole wheat flour all the time now that it’s finally available here, and it works very nicely in heavier baked goods like cookies. Maybe because of all the sugar and a touch of vinegar, these blondies don’t taste whole-wheaty at all, quite the opposite – not that whole-wheaty is necessarily a bad thing, just not what I usually aim at when making dessert. Peanut butter is just a slight side note in the taste – I am not a huge fan of sweet peanutty things, but here it adds a little something important. These were good right after baking and excellent straight from the fridge later on.

The Dry:

  • 2 and 1/2 dl white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

The Wet:

  • 3/4 dl coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 2 dl whole cane sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar

The Egg-Replacer:

  • 2 tablespoons gram (chick pea) flour
  • 3 tablespoons soy milk

The Chocolate:

  • a handful of chopped dark chocolate, 85%

First I preheated the oven to 175 degrees Celsius, chopped the chocolate, and sprayed a glass baking pan with a bit of olive oil. I used a small, 15 X 20 cm baking pan, and the result was fudgy and kind of sticky in the center. Very delicious, but a larger pan would yield more of the caramelized edges that were probably my favorite part of this dessert.

To make the batter, I first mixed the wet, the dry, and the egg-replacer ingredients in separate bowls. The chickpea flour is a bit lumpy so it’s important to mix well. Now, I combined everything and stirred with a fork just so that there were no dry lumps visible. I folded in the chocolate, poured the batter in the pan, and baked for 25 minutes. For the last 5 minutes I covered the pan to prevent too much browning – it might be wise to check after the first 15 minutes and cover when necessary.

Chard Chips

One of the things we’ve been growing in our garden this year has been Swiss Chard. Usually we put it in a stew like the Tunisian-style dish that Anni blogged about before, but this time we wanted to try something different. Many people have been blogging about kale chips, so we figured why not try making chips from chard too? These chard chips made a great light snack, and were really easy to make.

Chard chips

This is what we used:

  • Bunch of fresh chard (enough to cover two baking sheets)
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Japanese seven spice (shichimi togarashi)
  • olive oil for spraying

First we set the oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Then we prepared the chard: washed the leaves, removed the stems, and cut the remaining parts into bite-size pieces. Now we crumpled a baking parchment, spread it on the baking sheet, and sprayed some olive oil on it. Then we covered the baking sheet with the chard pieces, taking care that individual pieces didn’t overlap, and sprayed them with some olive oil. We ground the nutritional yeast, salt and seven spice in a mortar, and sprinkled half of the spice mix on the chard bits. We made two sheetfuls of chips, so the rest of the spice mix was for the second batch.

Chard pieces

Now we baked the chard for 7 minutes. They burn really easy, so we started watching them after 5 minutes or so. When they were dry and crunchy, we took them out of the oven. They are best eaten right out of the oven, since they lose their crispness fairly quickly. We devoured two sheetfuls of them in no time – their airy texture and spicy taste is quite addicting!

Chewy Snack Bars

The muesli bars, energy bars or snack bars you can buy at the groceries are often either too dense or too sweet or even a little bland to my taste. But I do like a sweet snack every now and then, and these chewy four cereal bars fit the bill quite perfectly! As a bonus they’re quick to prepare on the stove top, and the ingredients can be adjusted to what happens to be on hand.

snack_bar3

Instead of just rolled oats I use a four grain mix that includes rolled oats, rye, barley and wheat. The grains have been precooked and then flattened to make them quick to prepare, just like oats often are. This specific four grain mix can be bought in any little grocery in Finland, and we usually cook it into porridge which takes 3 to 10 minutes – we use organic cereals that are ready in 5 minutes. Of course there’s a whole world of cereals, nuts, dried fruit, and seeds you could toss in these bars!

I’ve made three variations so far and they’re all pretty great – the one with peanut butter and sunflower seeds is a basic cupboard-staple option with a sweet caramel undertone, cocoa with cherries is always a lovely combo and satisfies my sweet-tooth quite perfectly, and the mandarin-pistachio-cranberry-goji is the most colorful and sparkles with fruity flavor. I would make each one of these again, but to be honest I guess it is much more likely I’ll experiment with new combinations and ingredients for each batch I make!

Basic Peanut Sunflower Snack Bars:

  • 1 and 1/2 dl four grain cereal (or rolled oats)
  • 1/2 dl gram (besan, chick pea) flour
  • 1/2 dl sunflower seeds
  • 1 dl whole cane sugar
  • 1/2 dl apple juice
  • 3 tablespoons smooth natural peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

peanut_snack_bars

Cocoa Cherry Quinoa Snack Bars (pictured below):

  • 1 dl four grain cereal (or rolled oats)
  • 1/2 dl gram (besan, chick pea) flour
  • 1 dl puffed quinoa
  • 1/2 dl dried cherries, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 dl whole cane sugar
  • 1/2 dl unsweetened apple sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cashew butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Zesty Berry Pistachio Snack Bars (pictured above):

  • 1 dl four grain cereal (or rolled oats)
  • 3/4 dl gram (besan, chick pea) flour
  • 1 dl puffed quinoa
  • 1/2 dl dried cranberries, chopped
  • 1/2 dl dried goji berries, chopped
  • 1 dl whole cane sugar
  • 1/2 dl unsweetened mango sauce
  • 1 dl (unsalted, shelled) pistachios, chopped
  • grated zest of 1 organic mandarin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

I toasted the cereal and gram flour (and sunflower seeds for the peanut version, or walnuts for the pistachio one) on a dry frying pan until fragrant and just lightly browned, for about 10 minutes.

While I was toasting the cereal, I placed the sugar and the apple juice (or the apple sauce for the cocoa version, or mango sauce for the pistachio one) in a small cooking pan and cooked over medium heat for about 6 minutes until thick and bubbly. Then I added the nut butter (if used), salt, vanilla, and cinnamon or cocoa powder (if used) in the pan and mixed thoroughly.

Now I poured everything in a mixing bowl and stirred with a fork until there were no dry lumps visible. I placed the dough between two pieces of baking parchment and pressed it with my fingers (I needed to use oven mittens, it was so hot) to a square about 3/4 cm thick. Then I let it set in room temperature, which took about an hour or so, before cutting into bars – this batch makes about 9 to 12 depending on how large you like them. If the bars seem too sticky, I let them dry on the counter for about an hour on each side and they’re easier to handle.

I store these in zip-lock bags, separated by layers of parchment paper to avoid sticking, and in room temperature – these keep pretty well, and this batch isn’t huge either. In warmer climates it might be a good option to store these in the fridge, tightly sealed to avoid moisture creeping in.

choco_snack_bars

Blueberry Dressing for a Summer Salad

Forest blueberries are in season and  I know nothing better than having a walk in the forest near our family’s summer cottage and coming home with my fingertips tinted deep purple-blue. Blueberry pies have been abundant this year, and now that we have our fridge in the city packed with blueberries I’ve been thinking of ways to use them in savory lunches as well. The inspiration, and actually most of the recipe below came from the FatFree Vegan Kitchen -blog. I added some extra virgin olive oil and omitted a few other ingredients, but I’ll be sure to try the original recipe as well as soon as we have the required shallots on hand.

blueberry_dressing

Our simple lunch salad consisted of a bunch of home-grown kale, lollo rosso and lettuce, with fried tofu cubes and cashews. I added a pinch of cayenne to the tofu along with the usual dashes of soy sauce and balsamico to get a bit of heat to complement the sweet-tart blueberry dressing. Forest blueberries are not as sweet as cultivated blueberries, so the amount of sugar might need tweaking depending on the type of berry that is used.

The Blueberry Dressing:

  • 1 and 1/2 dl fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)
  • plenty of freshly ground black pepper

I mixed the dressing with our immersion blender and that’s it. This made enough to dress two huge lunch portions, and would probably yield four portions of a more moderate size.