Black Bean Burgers + Grill Fries

I hope you had a chance to get outside today. My goodness was it beautiful. The birds were singing, the trees were swaying, and the grill was hot.

I’ve been craving black bean burgers and sweet potato fries for a solid week. Today, I finally brought my dreams into reality. These burgers were designed for a cast iron, but the fabulous weather compelled me to try them on the grill.

I followed a recipe, though proper panda protocol required I doctored it up a bit. I used masa for my binder and Parmesan for my cheese. I also tripled the cumin in the recipe, because it’s amazing, and I love it.

Spending time outside felt so good. I encourage you to follow suit. Fire up the grill, plan a picnic, or just eat your takeout by an open window. Eating with your eyes is just as important.

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Trashy Mac

We’ve finally run out of boxed mac’n’cheese. After a quick prayer for our absent compatriots, I set to work on the ever elusive Bechamel sauce.

I cheesed my sauce up with cheddar, cream, and american cheeses. It’s what I had on hand, but you can use pretty much anything.

Something about broccoli and cheese sauce makes my tummy happy, and I’m not worried about why. I rounded out this Trashy special with another “chicken tender” appearance. They may not be proper meat, but they fit the bill for affordable, tasty protein.

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Cabinet Curry

It’s time to reach deep into the cabinet and make something with whatever you pull out. For me it was this ancient jar of pickled Gongura. I have no idea where I picked it up, but it’s come with me through 2 moves now. After a quick internet rea-search, I decided it would go well in a tomato and coconut based curry. Oh boy, was I right. Lentils, potatoes, and mushrooms all added some hearty sustenance to this bitter, tart, and super spicy curry.

Now, I challenge you to reach into the back of your cabinet, and see what you can do with your forgotten pantry items.

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Chicken Parmesan

This was a quick and dirty dinner that paid off big in the flavor department. My partner picked up some processed chicken tenders at a steal, and as soon as I saw them, my brain went straight to chicken Parmesan. I feel like it’d been too long since I’d had this cheesy, bready delight, so I got right to work.

The sauce is canned marinara that I spruced up. First, I browned some shiitake mushrooms with garlic and onions. Then, in a surprise move, I added in some diced sweet potato as well. My dad always used to put a bit of sugar in his pasta sauce, so I guess this is my high fiber nod to family traditions. It all worked out perfectly, and we explored our comfort food vibes with full and happy bellies.

Guest Post: Eric’s Greek Journey

*Panda’s Privilege*: Sometimes panda’s need a nap. While I go do that, please enjoy this post written by one of Trash Panda’s most fabulous friends.

My good friend, and colleague Eric had the pleasure of vacationing in Greece recently. Following are a few photos of the fabulous feasts he enjoyed. Starting from the left we have: Dolmas, Fried Feta with Honey, Shawarma, and Grilled Sardines. Note the liberal use of raw tomatoes and cucumbers as garnish. These two ingredients, prepared simply, show up all over the place in Greek dining. For more on Eric’s exploration of Greece, check out my co-blogger Kerith at “Have Library Card – Will Travel.”

Venison Tonkotsu Ramen

Preparing tonkotsu ramen is a labor of love. The broth is made by boiling bones for hours. This process breaks the bones and the marrow inside down, and emulsifies them into the liquid. When the broth is done, it’s creamy and fatty and so utterly perfect for ramen.

I garnished this ramen with some leftover grilled apples, onions, and bokchoi. Since I used venison instead of pork, my broth had a red meat essence that I brought out by adding some horseradish. Sourcream went fabulous with the horseradish bite.

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Oyster Gnocchi

You can make gnocchi out of anything.

I fried up some oysters the other night, but when I was done there was leftover breading and oyster liquor. I hate letting things go to waste. When I was a kid, whenever we fried fish, I’d always mix the leftover breading with the egg and fry up little dough patties. My parents thought I was weird, but I persisted.

I mixed the two leftovers together and then plopped the paste into a flour mountain. Being careful not to incorporate too much flour, I slowly worked the paste into the flour until I had a dough. I rolled it out into gnocchi and boiled them until they floated.

Once the gnocchi were done, the only remaining question was the preparation. A lot of people like cocktail sauce with their gnocchi, and I happened to have a half full jar of cocktail in the fridge. Coincidence, I think not. This was fate!

Gastriques are some of my favorite sauces in existence. At its base level a gastrique is just caramelized sugar and vinegar blended 1:1, and then reduced until thick. You can take that formula to so many different places, using different vinegar, sweeteners, and flavoring compounds.

My favorite trick is to finish the gastrique by mounting it with butter at the end of its reduction. That’s what I did here. The sauce is cocktail sauce, reduced with bread and butter pickle juice, and then mounted with butter. It was so good, and you could really taste the oyster flavor in the gnocchi.

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Shiitake Burgers

I don’t usually call out specific businesses, but today I’m making an exception. These mushrooms were cultivated by a wonderful local company, MV mycological. They use local surplus wood that would normally end up in a chipper, and the environmental impact is minimal as all of their wood is stored outside, without climate control. The mushrooms also taste amazing.

My order had a few super big caps that reminded me of portobellos. So I did what any self-respecting grill owner would do. I set up the fixings for burgers. I smooshed a ton of crushed garlic into the gills of the mushrooms. Make sure to get grill marks on the cap side before flipping the more delicate gills towards the caramelizing heat below. Grilled, onions, peppers, potatoes, and bok choi round out the accouterments.

I like a bit of cheese melted on my mushroom burger, but feel free to leave it out if it doesn’t suit your culinary delight. Our “buns” were toasted sourdough loaf courtesy of my lovely partner. Without her, I’m not sure if I would have had any bread to eat this whole quarantine. Thank goodness for bakers.

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Beet Gnocchi and Island Treasures

Gnocchi are so much fun to make. Sure my kitchen is now covered in a fine layer of flour, but look at these pretties. It was totally worth it.

These gnocchi are made without eggs, which is convenient for any vegan followers out there. They also have a much nicer texture than I expected. I’ve always thought that eggs as a binder were essential to good gnocchi, but it would seem I was mistaken. With the power of gluten, these gnocchi stood up to the boiling water, and oil frying without falling apart at all.

My partner is amazing, and has been picking up local produce every Friday on her way home from work. Pictured here are locally farmed shiitake mushrooms and kale rabe. The mushrooms are produced by once of my old childhood friends. He, and his business partner have been growing them in Chilmark on local wood. It’s a sustainable process with low energy impact. All things good pandas should care about. The rabe is just kale that has begun to go to seed. Unlike broccoli rabe, it is sweet instead of bitter.

To accompany this local dinner I’m breaking into my tepache stash. Tepache is a fermented drink made from pineapple skin and brown sugar. I made this tepache ages ago, and have been waiting for the right opportunity to try it out. I mixed it with whiskey and a touch of orange juice, and the results were right on the money.

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Sunday Yumday

Days off are the best. You get to lie around the house doing whatever you please with yourself. Naps whenever you feel like it. Reading your favorite books. Eating amazing breakfasts, and yes perhaps even day drinking.

Pepper bacon, mustard glazed hash, and chive bombed eggs compose this breakfast of day off champions. The offering is made complete by a world famous “Trash Panda Bloody Mary.” The trick to this bloody is liberal use of hot sauce and pickle juice, as well as a smattering of edible garnish. Served with a fork for easier munching.

After a long day of lazing and such about the house it was time for dinner. A local restaurant had just opened up, and was offering wings. We got super excited, but were let down by our inability to get in contact with a live person. So, we did what any self-respecting hungry person would do. We cried, then we decided to make out own bar snacks.

Roasted oysters are always a nice treat, but these are particularly special. We ran out of bread and breadcrumbs, so we were forced to use cornmeal for the topping. This ended up being an amazing choice, as the cornmeal soaked up all of the oyster juice and turned itself into polenta. After cooling, the polenta brick slid right out of the shell with a whole oyster stuffed in the center. Best substitution surprise ever.

We were sad that we had eaten our first batch of pupusa, so we made a double batch to ensure that we’d have leftovers this time. Great success!

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