I now appear to have a regular lunch date with a gregarious bunch of new friends.
We love to cook and we love talking about cooking — so this little thing about never having met hasn’t exactly stood in the way of our growing friendships.
It all began with a lazy Sunday morning conversation on Twitter when three women, one in Paris, one in San Diego, and one in New York, started craving BLT sandwiches. That blossomed into our first intercontinental BLT lunchdate, which nudged us to new levels of creativity.
Ellise in Paris made a beautiful BLT with chipotle mayonnaise and Poilane bread and Karen in Atlanta created a mouthwatering grilled fontina cheese BLT. Nicole in San Diego actually baked a truly unusual Basque sheepherder’s bread for her BLT. (You’ve got to check out Nicole’s sheepherder’s bread pictures — it was a yeasty architectural wonder if I ever saw one.)
Our virtual lunch left us (temporarily) sated — but hungry for more.
So, for our next lunch, we decided to tackle another standard: Burgers.
I’ve loved burgers all my life, even as a child in Singapore, when Mum would take us to McDonald’s for cheeseburgers as special treats. (I confess to continuing to have an unhealthy relationship with McDonald’s. I’ve even been to McDonald’s in Paris–twice. So I clearly have no shame.)
While I sometimes make basic burgers — marinated with salt, pepper and soy sauce, which I often use for flavoring meat — I like to experiment.
Burgers marinated and basted with sweet and salty Hoisin sauce are frequently thrown on my grill. And earlier this year, I created a “Cheryl Burger” for Cafe Asean in New York City that I wanted to taste like a big Chinese dumpling without a wrapper — it was made with minced chicken, cilantro, ginger and various other Chinese seasonings and served on a brioche bun with saffron mayonnaise and crisp slices of mango and jicama.
For our burger lunch, I was thinking: Shrimp.
One of my favorite little hors d’oeuvres to serve at a dinner party is a shrimp and tofu croquette that comes with a soy dipping sauce. They’re small, airy and irresistable — I often find myself popping several into my mouth while setting the dinner table and having to hastily refill the plate before my guests arrive.
I decided to try to see if ingredients like that would work in a burger.
I took some beautiful looking shrimp and firm tofu and began tossing in flavors that I love to taste in dumplings: ginger, garlic, sesame oil, white pepper. With no chives in the fridge, I tossed in a few minced scallions instead.
After pulsing it altogether in a food processor, I ended up with a mixture that looked and felt like a very dense feta cheese, which made shaping the patties easy.
(Note, you have to use firm or extra firm tofu to get this texture — anything softer and the patties will fall apart.)
Next, I started putting together a little topping for the burger so diners wouldn’t have to dunk the burgers into a dipping sauce, which can get a little messy.
I came across a stellar scallion salad recipe by Momofuku chef David Chang a few years ago while looking for pairings for Korean-flavored steaks that I like to make. It’s soy sauce-based and has some kick from thinly sliced fiery chili peppers but also has a lovely sweet nuttiness from Asian sesame oil.
I decided to whip up a batch for my shrimp and tofu burgers.
Next, I toasted some English muffins, which I had made just the day before …
… and minutes later, a shrimp and tofu burger with a scallion salad topping on an English muffin was on the lunch table.
How did it taste?
Well, while there’s no beating a bloody grass-fed beef burger in this red meat-loving gal’s book, this shrimp and tofu version was both tasty and satisfying. Sort of like eating the inside of a light dumpling — but bigger.
(I may try it with a different bread next time, though, perhaps a
buttery brioche. I felt the more subtly flavored English muffin didn’t
really stand up to the strong Asian flavors in the patty and the
But overall, I liked the flavors and it didn’t leave me feeling like I’d eaten too much, which is always a plus, especially when it comes to lunch.
So, folks, what’s for lunch next?
Check out the following burgers that other #LetsLunch folks put together:
Cathy‘s “Tempting Tempeh” sliders at Showfood Chef
Chris‘s spicy pepper cheeseburgers at Blog Well Done
Ellise‘s roquefort-bacon-avocado burger at Cowgirl Chef
Karen’s feta-stuffed lamb burger with mint-yogurt topping at GeoFooding
Kelsey‘s spicy “Uncle Will’s Burgers” with an onion-ring filling at The Naptime Chef
Or, go to Twitter and search #LetsLunch.
Message me if you’d like to join in on the next international lunch date!
Cheryl’s Shrimp & Tofu Burger Recipe
Shrimp & Tofu Patty
- 1 lb peeled shrimp
- 1 block of firm tofu (12 or 14 oz.)
- Four cloves of garlic, minced
- Two or three scallions, finely chopped
- Two teaspoons minced ginger
- Two teaspoons of Asian sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)
- Generous sprinkling of ground white pepper
- Combine three tablespoons each of Asian sesame oil and vegetable oil, reserve for frying
- 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
- 2 red chilis, seeded and thinly sliced
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
Burger buns and condiments like ketchup and Sriracha sauce.
Half an hour before cooking, take tofu out of packaging and wrap it in several paper towels to absorb some of its liquid.
Cut tofu into large cubes and process it in a food processor until it’s all minced up. Then add the rest of the burger patty ingredients and pulse a few times. (Note: Feel free to up the amounts of garlic, ginger etc. — I usually dump in a ton but toned it down for this recipe for a more subtle taste.)
Form into patties and set aside.
Mix together scallion salad ingredients and set aside. (Note, if you make this a day or two before, the flavors will intensify.)
Heat a saute pan to medium-high heat and coat pan with sesame-oil/vegetable oil mixture. When it’s so hot it’s crackling, start frying patties. At this point, lower heat to medium. Fry until browned on both sides and cooked through (about three to four minutes per side).
Toast burger buns while frying, top them with cooked patties and scallion salad and serve.