July 22, 2021. Dear Kids– As you kids know, some of my favorite people are from Rochester, NY, so it was only a matter of time before I paid homage to that city’s beloved Garbage Plate with my, more eco and body friendly, Recyclable Plate. A mess of a plate of food that mimics the Garbage Plate, but with healthier ingredients and techniques. Just for fun, I even made it vegan- it’s practically a health spa on a plate and tasty too!
The Garbage Plate, voted New York’s fattiest food by health.com (not that there’s anything wrong with that), is a plate typically strewn with burger patties, “hots” and/or other greasy proteins, potatoes, macaroni salad and beans that are all covered in a meaty, Rochester Hot Sauce. The dish originated at (with an origin story as far back at 1918) and has been copyrighted by (in 1992) Nick Tahou Hots in Rochester, NY. Some say this plate came to prominence and to be named after it served to placate some “enthusiastic” college kids who sought comfort at the end of a long night out (circa 1980 and much like the fabled origins of another NY classic, Buffalo Wings, a few decades earlier). The plate lives on today in many places and under many names, but it’s still called a Garbage Plate at Nick Tahou Hots, where it comes with a choice of 10 proteins- cheeseburger, hamburger, Italian sausage, grilled cheese, Red Hots or White Hots (two types of local hot dogs), fried ham, fish fry, chicken tenders or veggie burger and with the following sides – macaroni salad, home fries, french fries, baked beans, mustard, onions and Nick’s version of Rochester Hot Sauce, which isn’t at all spicy BTW.
The Recyclable Plate still delivers the bold and satisfying flavors of the Garbage Plate, but with a fraction of the fat and chock-full of healthy whole grains and fresh vegetables. The beef burgers are replaced with portobello burgers and the red and white hots are replaced with orange hots made from carrots. As for the sides, the macaroni salad and baked bean become a whole grain, farro bean and vegetable salad with a lemony vinaigrette; the white potatoes give way to more nutritious sweet potatoes; and a tomato based mushroom and walnut sauce steps in for the ground beef sauce.
You could also deconstruct this plate for your next cookout- adding buns for chili mushroom burgers and orange hots and cutting the sweet potatoes into wedges for “fries” to serve along side the Farro Salad.
Prep Time: Sauce: 25 minutes Farro Salad: 15 minutes Taters, Etc: 20 minutes
Cook Time: Sauce: 30 minutes Farro Salad: 30 minutes Taters, Etc: 30 minutes
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
Rachacha Hot Sauce
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 small onion, minced
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
- 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms (and portobello stems from below), minced
- 1/2 cup walnuts, roasted minced, optional, but offers a nice texture
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cup crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon, or to taste, maple syrup or even ketchup
- 2 teaspoons, or to taste, of your favorite hot sauce, if you really want to make this a “hot” sauce
- 1 cup farro
- 1-2 tablespoon vegetable broth base or seasoning, optional
- 15 ounce can pinto, kidney, white and/or other beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 celery stalks, minced
- 1 carrots, minced
- 1/2 red bell pepper, minced and optional
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves (small bunch)
- Juice from 1-2 lemons
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Roasted Sweet Potato Home Fries
- 1-2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1.5 pounds (2-3) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2” cubes
- kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Portobello Burgers and Orange Hots
- 4 portobello mushrooms, wiped/washed off with caps separated and stems minced and added to Rachacha Hot Sauce mushroom mince- you can scrape the gills under the mushroom caps off, but I don’t
- 2 large carrots, well scrubbed, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise (peeling optional)
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- kosher salt,to taste (carrots only) and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 1/2 red onion, mince
- Yellow or your favorite mustard and/or other sauce, like siracusa, ketchup, chili crisp, sambal oelek, etc.
- 4 slices of Whole Wheat Bread with Plant Butter, optional
COOK AND PLAY
Listen to “Androgyny” by US rock band, Garbage, and be inspired to free not only your mind, but also your palate, as you get your plate together.
1. Rachacha Hot Sauce. Get a large pan going over medium heat, add oil and, when it’s hot, dump in onion. Once the onions start to turn golden brown, about 8 minutes, stir in chili powder, cumin and cinnamon and let that toast for a few minutes. Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms lose most of their water and become nicely golden brown and lucious, about 12 minutes. Stir in walnuts and then tomato paste and toast tomato paste for a few minutes before adding crushed tomatoes. Simmer until sauce thickens to your liking, about 10-15 minutes and stir in honey to balance to your taste.
2. Farro Salad. Rinse farro, pour into a medium pot and cover by a few inches with water- stir in some vegetable base or seasoning if you like- and bring to and keep at a simmer. Taste a few grains of farro after 20 minutes to see if its consistency is to your liking- it likely won’t be, so simmer until it is- should take about 30 minutes to get it tender, but chewy- 5-10 minutes more if you want it soft- I prefer chewy. Drain farro, place in medium bowl and mix in beans, celery, carrot, bell pepper, scallions, lemon juice, oil, parsley, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust with lemon, oil, salt and/or pepper.
3. Roasted Home Fries. Set up middle and lower oven rack and heat oven to 450 degrees. Toss potatoes in oil in a single layer on a large baking sheet and toss to season with salt and pepper, leaving room, if you have it, for the mushrooms and carrots.
4. Portobello Burgers and Orange Hots. Cut a shallow, cross hatch pattern in the top of the mushroom cap, without cutting all the way through the cap. Place on the tray with the sweet potatoes, if there is room, or on a separate baking sheet if there isn’t. Drizzle soy sauce over both sides of mushroom caps. Add carrots to baking sheet and toss with oil, salt and pepper. Roast potatoes, carrots and mushrooms, flipping mushrooms after about 5 minutes and potatoes and carrots after about 15 minutes, until everything browns and becomes tender to your liking- about 5 minutes each side for mushroom (remove from oven and reserve once cooked) and 15 minutes each side for potatoes and carrots.
5. Put It On The Plate, Pop! Now for the fun part- for each plate, place portobello cap and half a carrot in the middle of the plate and arrange a portion of potatoes on one side and a portion of the farro salad on the other. Spoon some Rachacha Hot Sauce over the mushroom and carrot and top it all with onions and mustard or whatever other “sauce” you like. Serve slices of whole grain bread and butter on the side if you have it.
Why Not Fake Meat? You could certainly use veggie burgers/mince, veggie hot dogs, veggie sausages, veggie “chicken” or some other veggie “meat” for the plate in place of the mushrooms and carrots and, while they’re probably better for the environment, they’re not often that much more nutritious than their meaty counterparts, so why not keep it clean, simple and nutritious with additive and fat free mushrooms and carrots.
Rachacha Sauce. This sauce takes some time, so if you want to speed it up, make this a three or four ingredient sauce by sauteing the minced onions and mushrooms in canola oil until it’s all nice and golden brown. Then stir in the optional walnuts if you like, with a couple squirts of good quality ketchup or BBQ Sauce- no one needs to know. I used the food processor to prep the onion, mushrooms and walnuts, but don’t really think it was worth the time to drag it out and clean it up- I also prefer the texture of vegetables and nuts minced with a knife in this case.
Farro. Let just get this out of the way right now- I’m a huge fan of farro. I like the way it stands up for itself as a hearty side dish or in dressed salads with its earthy presence and its chewy, in a good way, bite. Apparently, “farro” is a generic term and there are a variety of grains out there that may be labeled farro, with the flavor and cooking time varying depending on the actual grain in the package- I read most of the time it will likely be emmer, but may also be spelt or einkorn. The amount of bran removed from the grain will also affect the cooking time- pearled farro, the quickest cooking farro, which has all its bran removed, is very common in the US. You can save some cooking time by soaking your farro overnight, if you plan that much ahead- I don’t. With all these variables going on in the Farro Game, you should read the label of whatever farro you come across to make sure the flavor and cooking time suits your taste. Even, with all that being said, as I read the label of the Bob’s Red Mill Farro I used, it tells me it is a “hearty grain with a chewy texture and a rich nutty flavor” and I see the ingredient of the bag listed simply as “Organic Pearled Farro” (no mention of emmer, spelt or einkorn) with a 30 minute cooking time- sounded good to me.
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