Homegrown Right in Our Own Backyard – Spicy Black Bean Cakes

It’s no secret that I am totally intrigued by Michael Pollan and his musings on food. Many of his complex thoughts are boiled down in the 12 Commandments for Serious Eaters.  One of the things he mentions in commandment 10 is that everyone should grow at least some of their own food at some point.

When I was a kid, my parents put in a sizable garden EVERY year.  Tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, corn, carrots, peas, cukes and probably a lot more stuff that I just don’t remember.  I do remember exactly what my mom did throughout the summer and especially as days started getting shorter and summer drew to a close.  She “put up” all the veggies.  She froze the corn, beans & peas.  She made her own tomato sauce, tomato paste, & ketchup.  She let cucumbers sit in crocks and made the most tasty pickles.  As a kid this all just slipped by me as a part of summer.  Now as a grown up (on most good days, anyway), and with the current state of food and eating in our country and culture, I find this all absolutely amazing.  I wish I had paid more attention to the spices that went into the crock for pickles, how the jars were sterilized, what she added to the tomatoes to make that ketchup (the ketchup that I whined incessantly about asking why we couldn’t just eat Heinz like everyone else!).

This past spring the family got bit by the gardening bug. Big Little One and Medium Little One attended a gardening workshop for kids where they learned about planting a “Three Sisters Garden” – corn, beans & squash.  They came home with little seed packets (one kernel of corn, one squash seed, and one bean seed).  I decided we should take a leap of faith and go for it.

Determined to not pay $100 at Home Depot for a box garden (can you say highway robbery?), I got creative.  I ended up “borrowing” a little wooden crate deal from behind the local supermarket.  I’m pretty sure they were done using it, so I may just borrow it indefinitely.  It was the perfect size and so into the fresh new soil went the corn, beans and squash accompanied by some tomatoes, carrots, radishes, pumpkins, basil, and lettuce.

garden

Just like that, our already cramped, postage stamp-sized SoCal backyard had a garden! The troops were amazed.  I think the Hubs was too.  There weren’t many gardens being tended in Paris when he was a kid growing up.

Even more amazing?  The stuff actually grew!  (with the exception of the lettuce whose refusal to flourish we chose to attribute to “bad seeds”)

corntomatoessquash

Now I’m sure you hearty midwestern stock are just shaking your heads and chuckling about now.  But for my little born and bred SoCal girls, this has been the highpoint of their summer!  Especially the Medium Little One who has been out in the yard in her PJs every morning without fail, watering “her” (yes, we have territory issues) garden.  She just about squealed when we ate “her” corn, tomatoes, squash and green beans all in the same meal!

So thank you, Michael Pollan, for reminding me to grow some of our own food and for stirring up memories of the gardens of my childhood.

We have now cleared two more flower beds and added to our veggie patches.  Don’t worry, I’m on the straight and narrow with the borrowing thing and paid for 2 more box gardens fair and square from Tuesday Morning.  In the current anticipated crop lineup: green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, eggplant, 2 more tomato plants, & zucchini.

We enjoyed our very own own tomatoes the other night as an accompaniment to these great Spicy Black Bean Cakes.

I kicked things off by grating a sweet potato in the food processor.

bean burger sw pot

In a skillet, I heated some oil and then sauteed a few scallions.  I added in some cumin, some garlic and a finely diced jalapeno.  I moved that little mixture to a bowl and then rinsed and drained 2 cans of black beans.  I added the beans to the scallion mixture  and then mashed them coarsely with a potato masher – leaving some of the beans in tact for a nice texture.  I seasoned with some salt and pepper at this point.

bean burger mash

Next, I added in the grated sweet potato, an egg, and some fresh bread crumbs.

bean burger mixture

I formed about 8 equal sized balls from my mixture and then flattened them into patties.  I placed the patties on a baking sheet brushed with oil.

bean burger raw

I broiled the patties  in the oven for about 10 minutes.  Then I gave them a flip and broiled another couple of minutes on the other side.

I mixed up some lime jalapeno sour cream to go with the bean cakes. Just a  little bit of lime juice and some diced jalapeno mixed with the sour cream gave things the perfect amount of kick.

bean burger sour cream

I roasted our home grown tomatoes with some olive oil and balsamic and served the tomatoes and bean cakes with a little green salad. Quick.  Easy.  Healthy.  Done.

bean burger final

Here’s the complete recipe for Spicy Black Bean Cakes , adapted from Martha’s Great Food Fast cookbook.

Eggs for Dinner – Zucchini & Sweet Potato Frittata

Egg recipes.  Sometimes they are winners and sometimes they just don’t measure up.  Sometimes the ones that sound “dinner-ish”  just end up tasting like breakfast in a thin disguise.  If you have ever seen the move Julia & Julia, you’ll remember the classic omelette scene.  I love that scene because I gave up on the perfect omelette long ago.  I really think it’s a patience thing.  It starts out as a nice omelette and before I know what’s happening, and before I can control my spatula, it has turned into scrambled eggs – “messy eggs” I believe is the more chic term used in some brunch places.  My sister-in-law, on the other hand must be a very patient gal.  She can cook an absolutely perfect omelette.

So having abandoned ship on my omelette skills, I have explored lots of other egg options.  I went through an egg casserole phase.  I had a stratta phase (a little too bready and heavy for me).  We did an “oeuf a la coq” phase.  And also a frittata phase.

This particular frittata recipe I almost passed over because I somehow couldn’t imagine the flavors coming together.  But something kept drawing me back to it.  Well am I ever glad I gave it a whirl.  The texture and melding of flavors was great AND I learned a new little technique that may just help me creep back into being a contender against my sister-in-law’s perfect omelette.

I started this one off by peeling two medium sweet potatoes and slicing them into pretty thin rounds.

sliced swpot

I then heated some butter in a large skillet and sauteed the sweet potatoes until they were starting to brown nicely.

SWPOTSAUTEE

While these were sauteeing, I sliced up a medium zucchini – again in pretty thin rounds.

sliced zucchini

After the sweet potatoes were evenly browned, I added the zucchini to the pan, along with some chopped fresh basil,  and continued sauteeing for about 4 more minutes.

Personally, I “paused” my recipe at this point because I was juggling soccer practices, water polo practices, and other crazy schedule challenges.  I just left this waiting on the stove until all eating mouths had returned to the nest.

I then beat 8 eggs with a whisk – making sure to get as much air beat in as possible.

eggs

I brought the zucchini and sweet potatoes back to a warm temp and then poured the eggs over.  I let things cook on low for about 10 minutes until it was well set.  Only the top still looked a little goopy.

frittatacooking

I heated up my broiler and then popped the whole skillet into the oven to finish off the top (my newfound omelette finishing trick).

I served this with a slice of cantaloupe and a green salad – a nice light meal.

frittata final

The sweet potatoes really carried this dish and made it very dinner-like.  The only thing I would change next time would be to make two frittatas instead of just one.  It was devoured in no time and small people were asking for seconds.  Luckily we had a copious dessert to follow.

For the complete recipe, click here.

This recipe adapted from The Paleo Diet Lifestyle