Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Tribute to Sophia Lisa: Black Bean and Farro Burgers

Black Bean and Farro Burger Tortas

Thank goodness for the internet.  We are so blessed to have such a wealth of information at our fingertips.  It is sometimes hard to believe that not much more than a generation ago, we got most of our information from perpetually outdated encyclopedias that our parents had to finance to provide for us.  Now all we have to do is type in our query, and like magic we have thousands of results instantly.

My daily Google searches are usually limited to recipes and uses for things like samphire or pandan, why my tulips won't bloom or how I can get a stain out of velvet, you know, really important stuff.  Another one of my frequent searches, and I really hate to admit this, is the obituaries from the online newspaper in the town where we used to live.  Unfortunately, I have found as you get older you start to see more and more names on the screen that you recognize.

A few days ago I was reading through the obits and came across the name of an old friend from high school.  I had known for sometime that she was ill because a little over a year ago this same paper had done a long story about her.  She had been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) several months earlier and her employer, to whom she had given several years of loyal service, was honoring her with a tribute and a large contribution to the ALS Association.  Now sadly, just a few short months later she is gone.

I met Lisa in high school.  She was the girlfriend of one of my boyfriend's friends.  She was nice enough, albeit a bit quirky, but that was kind of what I liked about her.  We would often eat lunch together with our boyfriends and it was at one of these lunches she introduced me to my very first veggie burger.  She had mixed it up from a package of soybeans and dehydrated vegetables, fried it and stuck it in between two slices of white bread.  Much to my surprise, it was actually quite good.  So good in fact, that I never forgot it. 

Lisa had aspirations of going to culinary school, which back then was a strange desire for a girl from a small Texas town in the middle of nowhere, but as I said before, she was a bit different.  Well, from what I understand she did head to culinary school and even spent time cooking in London and for the Merchant Marines before returning to Texas and settling not 40 miles away from that small town where we both grew up.  

It was about this time that she replaced the middle name she had gone by for so many years and started using her more glamorous first name, Sophia.  She eventually married, gave birth to three children and enjoyed a successful career in the beauty industry.

I ran into her several years ago and we did briefly exchange pleasantries but not much more.  I guess too much time had passed for us to rekindle our friendship and neither one of us felt it.  That was kind of a shame, because as I discovered from reading up on her, we had quite a bit in common.  We both had a passion for cooking, we both lived in England for a time, we were extremely proud of the families we created, and after a couple of trips around the sun, we had both landed up in the same place. 

So as you can tell, I've been thinking a lot about her these past few days.  I've also been thinking about her family and the painful struggle that they have all been through, and how much they are going to miss her.  Most of all, I am thinking about that healthy, vibrant young girl who split a soy burger with me in the middle of the city park, on a nice spring day while sitting on the hood of a red Opal Cadet.  What a nice memory.  Rest in peace Sophia Lisa.

By now I'm sure you've guessed where this post is going, and rightly so, because without a burger there wouldn't be a memory or a story.  The hardest part of this post was finding a recipe for a burger that was as good as that very first one.  After a couple of tries and much tweaking, I am happy to say that this is even better.  

This is a pretty lengthy list of ingredients, but if you use your food processor with the grater attachment to prepare the vegetables, you can assemble it pretty quickly.  Without a doubt this is probably the best bean/veggie/grain burger I have ever eaten, so you’ll find it is worth just a few extra ingredients. Even my son who is super, super picky, had to admit he loved these.

15 ounce can black beans, well drained
1/2 small yellow onion, grated
1 large celery stalk, grated
1 large carrot, grated
1/3 red bell pepper, grated
1/2 poblano pepper, grated
1 large clove garlic, crushed
2 slices bread (I like to use a hearty bread like granary or whole wheat), grated  to make crumbs
1 cup cooked farro or brown rice
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small egg, beaten
1 cup flour
4 tablespoons cooking oil

Place beans in a strainer to drain; set aside.

Heat a non-stick or cast iron skillet over a medium high heat.  Add the grated onion, celery, carrot and peppers.  Sauté until they are soft and all juices have evaporated, approximately 5 minutes.

Place drained beans in the food processor and process until smooth, or mash well with a potato masher.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the sautéed vegetables, bread crumbs, farro or rice, lime zest, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, egg and salt and pepper.  Stir well until the mixture is completely combined.
Line a small cookie sheet or large plate with plastic wrap.  Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions.  Roll each portion into a ball then flatten into 1/4 - 1/2” patty that is a similar shape to the buns you will be using (they will be sticky).  Gently roll each patty in flour, dusting both sides and tapping off excess.  Place onto prepared cookie sheet, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour.

Pour the oil into a cast iron or non-stick skillet and heat over medium high.  When the oil is hot, add the patties being careful not to crowd them in the pan.  Cook for approximately 5 minutes on each side or until they are golden brown and crispy.   If your pan is the same size as mine, I had to cook my patties in two batches, so I divided the oil in half for each batch.

Remove patties from the pan and serve immediately while they are still hot and crispy.  Leftovers are delicious but I prefer reheating the patties in a preheated 350 degree oven to restore the crispiness as microwaving will make them soft.

Makes 6 patties

I made my burgers into Mexican tortas with buttered and toasted bolillos, guacamole, chipotle mayo, Mexican blend cheese, and lettuce and tomato, but you can dress them any way you want.


Angela said...

Lovely post, Karen.

Danielle D'Ambrosio said...

Gosh I love that story. So sweet...and what a delicious dish! Great memory - I always feel like I'm right next to you when I read you're writing!

Haley @ Cheap Recipe Blog said...

What a great story and tribute to your friend's memory.

Nancy said...

I love this post. Isn't it amazing how powerful food memories are? That was a lovely tribute, and the burgers look delicious.

Holly @ abakershouse.com said...

Thanks for sharing your memories of your friend. Your writing always draws me in and I could read on and on.

Vickie said...

Karen your writing is so wonderful and what a lovely tribute to an old friend. I want to make these for my daughter next week - they look delicious.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Lovely tribute to Sophia Lisa. I didn't know her, of course, but now I do through your words. And know you a bit better, too. And such a nice recipe! Veggie burgers can be wonderful, and this one is. Thank you.

ashley - baker by nature said...

I have to admit I got a bit teary eyed reading this. My boyfriends aunt passed away last xmas from the same disease... such a shame. this was a wonderful way to tribute your friend.

Lea Ann (Cooking On The Ranch) said...

What a great story Karen. I find her quite amazing that she was making that recipe so many years ago. Being from Kansas, Farro would have been a foreign language. Thanks for sharing your memories.

Bret said...

This is really nice, Fantastic :)