Veggie Burgers / Hamburguesas Vegetarianas

My husband loves veggie burgers. Me?... not so much. I love real burgers but I don't eat them very often. I have to have a huge craving for a burger to eat one and then, I'm usually very picky with the place I want to get my burger at. Veggie burgers... hmm, there are so many brands out there but it is hard to find a good one.  I always find them a little bit too dry for my taste. Veggie burgers often are too dense and heavy and they lack that juicy flavor I like in real burgers. My husband buys them every now and then, he likes them but I have never been satisfied with any of the brands we have eaten. Recently, while visiting Caro's blog, I found her recipe for milanesas vegetarianas and I got the idea of making my own veggie burgers. I made mine with quinoa and fresh vegetables. My veggie burgers turned out to be fluffy and the vegetables added moisture and freshness to the patties. My husband loved them so much that we have not bought any burgers since I made my own.

Quinoa is an excellent plant from South America that is now cultivated in The United States. The most common use of this plant is its grain-like seeds but its leaves are also edible. I'm lucky to find both the seeds and the leaves in one of my local farmer's markets.  Quinoa can be used as a substitute for rice or couscous. It has a fluffy consistency and a  mild, delicate, slightly nutty flavor.  Quinoa leaves make a pleasant vegetable, like spinach (some vendors at the market call it wild spinach). I like to eat quinoa leaves in a stir-fry or in a salad. They taste good and they are probably more nutritious then most lettuces.

I found white and red quinoa at the farmer's market so I made veggie burgers with both colors of quinoa. The flavor is good with both but my favorites were the white ones.

Veggie Burgers
(6-8 burgers)
3 cup red or white quinoa, cooked
1 large zucchini, grated
2 carrots, grated
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tablespoons parsley or tarragon
1 egg
1/2 cup chickpea flour (more or less as needed)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup graded cotija cheese (optional)
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

The quick and easy method to prepare quinoa is by using 2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa, which will give you 3 cups of cooked quinoa. Rinse quinoa thoroughly, drain excess water and place quinoa and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). Set aside to cool completely.

In a large bowl, place the cooked quinoa and stir in all the vegetables and egg. Add chickpea flour a little bit at time as needed to give your mix the consistency of ground meat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Shape into burger patties (I used the lid of a plastic container to make same size patties). Arrange patties in a single layer on a tray and place in the freezer until they are cold and easy to handle (about 15 minutes). After this, they are ready to be cooked or to be individually wrapped in plastic and put back into the freezer for a future use.

When ready to cook, slightly defrost the patties. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Mix bread crumbs and cheese, if using, in a plate and season with salt and pepper. Bread the patties and fry in the hot oil until golden-brown (about 2 minutes on each side). Place on paper towels to drain the excess oil. Assemble veggie burgers on a hamburger bun and add your favorite trimmings. 

My husband likes his burger with nothing but ketchup and mustard.  In addition to that, I like mine with some kind of lettuce and sliced onions. Sometimes I use mayonnaise instead of ketchup and mustard; it is really up to whatever I have on hand. 


Tamale / Tamal

Sweet Tamal with Cheese and Dulce de Leche

Mexico is the country with the most extensive variety of tamales (tamalli, from clasical Náhuatl). Each region and state has its own type of tamal, so many that the variety is believed to reach 500 to 1000 in the entire country.

Mexican history and archeological evidence show that tamales were part of everyday life during prehispanic times in cultures such as Olmec, Aztec and Mayan. In some special ceremonies young hunters offered their prayers to the God of Fire and the priests would give them tamales in return - warm, cooked tamales symbolically transformed by fire. 

Today, tamales are an important part of the Mexican diet and are very popular during festivities such as Christmas, the Day of the Dead and Mexican Independence Day. 

My family only prepares tamales during Christmas time. A few days before Christmas every year, my sister and I get together at my mom's home for our annual tamalada. We make tamales of all kinds; chicken with vegetables, pork and beef with red sauce, some with spinach for the vegetarians in the family, and we also make some sweet ones with pineapple, raisins, and nuts. It takes us about two days to finish but we always have a great time laughing and sharing stories.

I broke away from the tradition of making tamales only once a year and I have prepared them about 4 times this year, and a couple of times I have made them by myself! Of course, I didn't make hundreds but I made a good number and they were all good. I came up with this recipe which my family has not made, but I can't wait to prepare this recipe with my sisters in our annual tamal making party at Christmas.

I used the tejolote to weigh down the husks into the hot water 

Zucchini Blossom Tamales 

Ingredients (28-30 tamales):
30 dried corn husk, soaked in warm water until softened, drained well
1/4 lb. lard (may be substituted with vegetable shortening or butter)
1 Tbs. baking soda
Salt to taste
1-2 lb. prepared corn masa or use 1 lb. masa harina (Maseca brand will work)
2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (some times more)
15-20 zucchini blossoms, pistil removed and chopped
1 cup chopped zucchinis
1/2 cup corn kerrnels
1 lb. queso fresco, sliced (if queso fresco is not available use a fresh mild feta cheese)

Beat the lard and baking soda until spongy. In a separate bowl, combine the masa or masa harina with salt and add the broth a little bit at a time. Beat for 10 minutes. Combine with the lard and continue beating for 2 more minutes or until smooth and easy to spread. Stir in the chopped vegetables and  the corn. Taste and correct seasoning, if needed add more salt (masa should taste a little saltier than normal).

Assembling tamales:
Spread 1-1/2 tablespoons of masa on a corn husk leaving about 1/2" clean space on all sides of the husk. Top the masa with 1 or 2 slices of cheese. Fold the long edges toward the center to enclose the filling. Fold one end of the husk about  half way to give it shape. Place on a tray being careful so the filling doesn't come out. Repeat with the rest of the corn husks.

I found another good use for my Molcajete - to weigh down the lid of my steemer

To cook the tamales:
Pour 4 cups of water in a large steamer. Stand the tamales upright around the edge folded end down. Cover and cook for 1 hour, until the tamales are cooked through and the filling pulls away from the husk. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy with your favorite hot sauce

Lazy Blog and Kitchen Club have invited all bloggers to participate in a Mexican food contest and I'm submitting this recipe with the purpose of sharing another dish of my beloved Mexican food of which I'm very proud.