Cricket, Habanero, Lime, & Peach Burgers

Save the world! Eat more bugs!

They taste a little bit like toasted almonds.

They taste a little bit like toasted almonds.

First off, let me say that I (obviously) like meat. Some my favorite meals (orange-glazed roasted duck, Thanksgiving turkey, go-to fried chicken to seal the deal come date night) have involved animals I slaughtered and then cooked myself.

But meat can’t be an every day, and arguably not even every week, type of thing. It just takes too many resources, and we’ve got a big planet growing seemingly smaller with a whole mess of people to support and a climate in crisis. The numbers on meat don’t make sense. Part of it has to do with how we farm most of the meat raised in the U.S., part of it has to do with how much meat the average American consumes per day, and part of it has to do with the energy that’s lost between trophic levels.

Bugs, on the other hand, make a lot of sense. Crickets use little water, love being kept confined in dark, close quarters, and when you put them in the freezer they just fall asleep and don’t wake up. You don’t need to inoculate crickets with antibiotics and hormones that pollute the environment, and they have an awesome amount of iron. An ounce of crickets has more than twice as much protein as an ounce of beef.

Tasty, tasty environmentally responsible protein. Score!

Tasty, tasty environmentally responsible protein. Score!

So while it’s unlikely I’ll give up blood cupcakes and chicken enchiladas, I’m a big fan of crickets.

With all that being said, let’s get going with some bug burgers!

Meet today's moral support staff. Sweetie Big-Head is mine, and Sir Pillow-Sitter is my friend's.

Meet today’s moral support staff. Sweetie Big-Head is mine, and Sir Pillow-Sitter is my friend’s.

Here’s what you’ll need:

-one can of garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
-one cup crickets (I choose not to rinse mine, since it washes off a little of the flavor)
-two tablespoons toasted sesame oil (plus a little extra for frying)
-one teaspoon paprika
-half a teaspoon salt
-half a carrot, grated very fine
-half a cup of diced onion
-half of a peach, diced
-juice of two limes
-quater cup chopped cilantro
-half of a, to one full, habanero pepper (I was feeling frisky, not risky, so I went with 3/4 of a habanero)
-one third of a cup four
-one tablespoon corn starch

What's not to love? Just don't nom all the ingredients right out the gates before you mix 'em together.

What’s not to love? Just don’t nom the ingredients right out the gates before you mix ’em together.

First, mash the garbanzo beans with a fork. Add in the sesame oil, salt, and paprika.

One of these days I might just quit my day job and eat garbanzo beans with sesame oil all day instead.

One of these days I might just quit my day job and eat garbanzo beans with sesame oil all day instead.

Combine carrot, onion, peach, lime juice, cilantro, and habanero. Give it a good stir and a couple solid taste tests. This isn’t cookie batter, it’s cookie batter’s smokin’ hot, spankin’ good savory cousin, the one you kept hoping would notice you when you were a teenager, but probably never did. Go ahead and dig deep. When you’re done indulging yourself, add the flour and corn starch and mix it up really well, since this is your last chance.

Finally, add those bugs, the true star of the show (don’t tell Peach). Try not to mangle the crickets too much when you mix them in; a few gentle folds will be enough. Also, curb your desire to take another bite of the mixture until the burgers are fully cooked: raw bugs are raw meat, and should be treated as such.

Take it easy, Tiger. Just put down the spoon and no one needs to get hurt.

Take it easy, Tiger. Just put down the spoon and no one needs to get hurt.

Form the mixture into patties, pop some buns under the broiler if that’s your style, and fry the burgers on medium-low heat in sesame oil.

Yeah, baby!

Watch out for scorching.

As your kitchen slowly begins to smell more and more like heaven, thank yourself for taking a small, itty bitty step toward saving the world. Don’t let ’em stick and be careful on the flip. Don’t turn them prematurely: they will fall apart! Drink some water to keep your hands busy if you have to. Cook throughly.

These patties should brown up nicely.

These patties should brown up nicely.

I threw a cricket pattie on a toasted bun slathered with vegan mayo and ketchup, and stacked with lettuce and sliced tomato, and it made my day.

The finished product.

The finished product.

But feel free to do whatever you want with these things–you’ve got total creative freedom. Micro greens and a tortilla? Hell yeah. Cheese and bread? Go for it. Mashed in a bowl with popcorn and chips? Whatever, bro, I won’t slow your roll. Slices of peaches wrapped in iceberg lettuce? Summertime sweetness.

I'm not trying to sway your opinion or curb your creative kitchen freedom, but how could anyone say no to one of these puppies with a bun, ketchup, mayonnaise , tomatoes, and lettuce?

I’m not trying to sway your opinion or curb your creative kitchen freedom, but how could anyone say no to one of these puppies with a bun, ketchup, mayonnaise , tomatoes, and lettuce?

No matter what, you’ll be like a Depeche Mode song.

Y’all know what I’m talking ’bout.

Crickets: they're what's for lunch.

Crickets: they’re what’s for lunch.

Happy eating, everyone!!

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Black Bean Blood Burgers

I’m going to fess up right now: this recipe is a total everything-but-the-kitchen-sink meets I-have-no-vegetables-in-my-fridge recipe. We’ve all been there.

The trick is working with what you’ve got, and these burgers, on a scale of one to scrounge hound, beat out peanut butter Ramen noodles and Tapatio-butter rice (if you’ve been to college, you know exactly where the bar’s set). We’re taking beat out as in kick to the curb, hands down, any day.

Now that we’ve swallowed our daily dose of honesty, let’s get crackin’.

You’ll need:

-one can of black beans
-quarter cup of blood (I used turkey blood)
-one tablespoon of barbecue sauce*
-one tablespoon mustard**
-pinch or two of salt
-three cloves of garlic (diced)
-quarter of an onion (if you’re lucky enough to have it, but remember, my kitchen is currently sans-veggie)
-half of a carrot (again, only the gifted ones who shop responsibly and often will be able to add carrot—don’t fret if you’re not among them, because you’re in good company)
-quarter cup of bread crumbs (we’ll revisit this later)

*Ketchup can be used instead of BBQ sauce.
**If you don’t have mustard, no one will drag you kicking and screaming out of the kitchen.

Note the color differentiation: it's due to coagulation and oxidation in the refrigerator, nothing to worry about.

Note the color differentiation: it’s due to coagulation and oxidation in the refrigerator, nothing to worry about.

First, drain and wash the beans. Then add the blood, garlic, condiments, salt, bread crumbs, and vegetables (if you’re up on things). Add hot sauce if you’re feeling fierce.

So much good stuff in one bowl!

So much good stuff in one bowl!

Combine everything using a mashed potato masher. Forks take too long, and hands are pretty primal.

At this point I remembered that I forgot to add the breadcrumbs, then realized I have no bread crumbs, so I improvised with a piece of toast, plus a tablespoon of flour to help bind the burgers. Don’t be like me though; get those breadcrumbs in early.

I guess someone's gotta be late to the party.

I guess someone’s gotta be late to the party.

Shape the mash into burger patties, and drop them into a hot pan with olive oil so they get a little seared, then crank the heat down. Cook ’em all the way through: no one who’ll like the amount of garlic in these burgers likes raw blood. Just sayin’.

Don't let them sizzle too long or they'll scorch.

Don’t let them sizzle too long or they’ll scorch.

In a perfect world, I’d serve these burgers on buns with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, ketchup, and mustard. And a young version of Goldie Hawn would be dancing through the dining room, with Jimi Hendrix rippin’ on his guitar while my evil fifth-grade math teacher scrubbed the kitchen floor. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so the burgers I made were squirted with ketchup and mustard, slapped between two pieces of hot buttered bread, and Mr. Lynch was let off the hook (for now). But all in all, just-about-almost-perfect was darn spankin’ good in it’s own right.

Team delicious: ten points. Team just-get-take-out-since-there's-nothing-but-blood-and-bread-and-canned-goods-in-this-kitchen: zip, zilch, nada.

Team delicious: ten points. Team just-get-take-out-since-there’s-nothing-but-blood-and-bread-and-canned-goods-in-this-kitchen: zip, zilch, nada.

Burger on my friends, burger on.

Deep Fried Banana Slugs

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll eat some…. SLUGS!

photo 1-9

One beefy banana slug, found in the San Geronimo hills in Marin County, California.

I was joking around with some friends last night in downtown Fairfax, and one of them began mimicking the creature I’m turning into. He crouched, pretended to stir a giant cauldron, and turned his manly baritone into crow’s cackle.

“Meehehehe,” he chortled. “Witches brew! Chicken blood, rooster eye, slug, and… Dr. Bronners!”

Yep, that’s my kitchen in a nutshell.

Banana slugs are edible, super fun to scout for, and they offer free protein in the environment. There are three species of slug that fall under the “banana slug” umbrella: Ariolimax californicus, Ariolimax columbines, and Ariolimax dolichophallus.

Tashi sniffing an Ariolimax columbus slug. You can tell by the black spots.

Tashi sniffing an Ariolimax columbus slug. You can tell which species it is by the black spots.

Before I get into how I deep fried slugs, I want to do a disclaimer. Eating slugs can be VERY, VERY DANGEROUS. In Australia, a man almost died after eating two slugs raw since a parasitic worm living inside the gastropods shimmied into his brain. Some slugs can cause your mouth to go numb, or worse. And some slugs, banana slugs included, will eat all sorts of non-edible-for-mammals make-you-horribly-sick nasties like toxic mushrooms and horse poop. Also, I’m no expert. Despite all the slug anatomy I tried to teach myself, once I dissected the creature I realized that I didn’t know which organs did what, and I didn’t want to risk eating any of them (I think eating a slug’s gentiles, for which they’re so famous–dilichophallus literally meaning, “long penis,” after all–wouldn’t be harmful).

Banana slug's underbelly.

Banana slug’s underbelly.

First, I wanted to flush the slug’s system to get rid of all that toxic mushroom, horse poop forest detritus. I fed my slug leafy greens, apple, and watermelon, and kept her in the kitchen terrarium for ten days.

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

I cleaned out the cage every third day, removing any slug defecation and slime before it could accumulate in the habitat. And yeah, I used Dr. Bronners to disinfect everything each time.

Note the mug and upturned watermelon rind so the slug has places to "hide."

Note the mug and upturned watermelon rind so the slug has places to “hide.”

After ten days with a temporary mollusk roommate, I brought a cup and a half of water mixed with a cup and a half of apple cider vinegar to a rolling boil, apologized to the slug, and dropped it in. I think the slug died pretty quickly–there wasn’t much wriggling or motion once it hit the boiling water. I let the slug boil for about fifteen or twenty seconds, then turned off the heat and allowed everything to sit for about ten minutes. Some slime began to bubble to the top in white gobs.

Banana slug in vinegar and water.

Banana slug in vinegar and water.

Next was the de-sliming process. Slugs are pretty freakin’ slimy. I brought a clean pot of water to boil, then let the slug hang out in there for about five minutes. Then I drained the slug, changed the water, and while I was waiting for the new water to boil, I wiped slime off of the slug.

Still a little slimy... back into the pot!

Still a little slimy… back into the pot!

Two more changes of water later, boiling the slug for about five minutes each time to be sure I killed any potential parasites.

Almost de-slimed.

Take that, inedible nasties!

Ready for dissection

Ready for dissection

Once the slug cooled down enough to handle I made a slit along the top, from one end to the other. Right underneath the skin I found a harder, dark muscle, called the mantle, which protects the internal organs.

Slug after the first incision. Note the dark muscular structure to the left of the body; that's the mantle, and yes you can eat it.

Slug after the first incision. Note the dark muscular structure to the left of the body; that’s the mantle, and yes you can eat it.

I cut the organs from where they attached to the mantle, and used my fingers to scoop all the partially digested food scraps that lined the slug’s foot. I consulted Google about the organs, cut up the skin and the mantle, and threw the rest into the garden.

Pieces of the slug (skin and mantle) that I saved for consumption.

Pieces of the slug (skin and mantle) that I saved for consumption.

Never having deep fried a slug before, I treated it more or less like chicken. I wetted it with buttermilk first, then coated it in flour and spices. The flour was leftover from breading rooster thighs the week before; my ratio is normally about two teaspoons of salt and paprika, plus a teaspoon of garlic and cayenne to every cup of flour, but for a slug no one needs nearly that much flour, and I’m sure any dried spices would fry up just the same.

Battered banana slug in hot oil.

Battered banana slug in hot oil.

I brought a small pan of oil to sear-your-flesh hot, then dropped in the battered slugs. About a minute later, they were ready to come out. When they start to brown, they’re done.

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

I had the slugs with ketchup and they were oh-so-good. I was very surprised. The texture was like a cross between mushrooms and calamari. It was hard to pick out a specific “slug” flavor; they tasted deep-fried, oily, and subtle. Perhaps the flavor was overpowered by the spices, perhaps slug isn’t a pungent meat.

I definitely plan on finding more slugs in the future and making this dish again. They were great, cheap, and although it was a little labor intensive to keep them in the kitchen for a week and remove the slime, I think that’s part of the fun.

The slug just hanging out.

The slug just hangin’ out.

Blood and Chocolate Cupcakes

Sometime in the next week I’m going to try to get something on here about backyard butchering, vermiculture, or my wonderful washboard, but for now recipes with blood seem like the thing to do. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen recently. Oh, and before the recipe– while we’re on the topic of my kitchen– I want to tangentially mention that the slug I found on a hike the other day is doing well. I just cleaned her temporary terrarium, made a new hiding structure out of a watermelon rind, and when I left she was munching lettuce. [A necessary tangent to this tangent: DO NOT EAT SLUGS RAW. Ever. Do not eat slugs without flushing their system. Do not eat slugs if you don’t know what you’re doing. More on safely cooking and eating slugs to come.]

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

Now, back to cupcakes. Serious business. These cupcakes are rich and chocolaty, fluffy, spicy, and altogether delicious. Once again, I used rooster blood that was allowed to coagulate, frozen, then blended to break up the clots.

Mmmmmm, chocolate!

Mmmmmm, chocolate!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup blood
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
pinch or two of salt
1/3 a cup of creamed coconut*
1/2 cup DAGOBA Organic Xocolatl Drinking Chocolate**
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp paprika

 

*I used Aunt Patty’s Creamed Coconut, which is basically blended coconut. You can use coconut oil, but I think the flavor and texture of creamed coconut produces a better cupcake.

**I like using this hot chocolate mix because it has cinnamon, chili, and dark chocolate chips in it. You can use whatever chocolate powder you’d like, drink mix or otherwise, but if you’d like to substitute DAGOBA for something else, but keep the kick, add 1/4 tsp chili powder and one extra tsp of cinnamon. Feel free to be liberal with any chocolate chips you might want to incorporate.

Aaron graciously showcasing DAGOBA's Organic Xocolatl Drinking Chocolate

Aaron graciously showcasing DAGOBA’s Organic Xocolatl Drinking Chocolate

Aunt Patty's Creamed Coconut

Aunt Patty’s Creamed Coconut

 

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Over low heat, melt your creamed coconut, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn. Next, combine all of the ingredients BESIDES the flour.

Now isn't that pretty?

Now isn’t that pretty?

Once everything is incorporated, add the flour slowly.

Even after mixing in the flour, your batter shouldn't be too thick.

Even after mixing in the flour, your batter shouldn’t be too thick.

Pour mixture into a cupcake pan. You can either grease your pan, or use cupcake liners. Personally, I used olive oil for grease since I didn’t have any liners. Bake for about twelve to fifteen minutes, let cool, and frost.

Me holding the cupcakes.

Me showcasing uncooked cupcakes.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the frosted cupcakes (as soon each cupcake was frosted, they somehow seemed to disappear). I made a chocolate frosting and garnished the cupcakes with raspberries.

Yum! How could you not like cupcakes?

Yum! How could you not like cupcakes?

 

Ginger and Cayenne Blood Loaf

Little known fact: blood is an amazing egg substitute.

Your cookies will be chewy, sauces thick, and bread crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. Promise.

For this loaf I used rooster blood that coagulated then was stored in the freezer for a few weeks. To defrost, I let the blood sit in the refrigerator overnight, then I put it in a blender to break up the clots. If you’re going to use fresh blood, you’ll need to add an anti-coagulant right after collecting it. A dash of apple cider vinegar does the job.

Ginger and cayenne blood loaf fresh from the oven!

Ginger and cayenne blood loaf fresh from the oven.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/3 cup blood
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped crystalized ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 fresh cayenne pepper*
1 cup flour

*You can substitute dried cayenne if you’d like, although I prefer to use fresh peppers so every now and then you get a little extra spice in your bite. Use cayenne to taste.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the hot water, sugar, and yeast. Stir and let them sit for about ten minutes. The mixture should froth up and bubble.

It's alive!

It’s alive!

Once the yeast mixture has begun to froth and bubble, combine it with the blood in a large bowl. Add salt, olive oil, and flour. Mix, then fold in cayenne and ginger.

Combine yeast mixture, blood, salt, and oil together before adding the flour.

The yeast mixture, blood, salt, and oil combined and awaiting flour, cayenne, and ginger.

The dough should be sticky, but still form a ball in the bowl. If it’s too wet, add more flour a tablespoon at a time. Cover and let sit for ten minutes to rise.

Oil a bread pan, place the dough ball inside, and bake for about thirty-five minutes. When you stick a toothpick into the dough, it should come out clean.

Enjoy!

Fluffy and delicious!

Fluffy and delicious!

Why DIY Slaughter?

About six months ago, when I was visiting my parents for dinner, I told them I was interested in slaughtering a chicken.

“I just don’t understand why you want to do this,” Mom said. “It seems immoral.” She said she didn’t want to imagine me killing anything.

And frankly, I didn’t want to imagine it either. For almost six years, I was vegetarian. When I was growing up we had chickens as pets; my neighbors and I would paint Lola’s and Nona’s toenails then walk them to the nearby park in handmade flannel harnesses. The idea of killing a chicken for meat was a very uncomfortable notion, and in some respects it still is.

But I steadied myself, sat straight, and said “Someone has to do it.” Which is true, even if we don’t want to believe it.

“But you don’t have to.”

I could tell Mom was getting disturbed; she said I would be making a chicken suffer.

And because I’m always mature and level-headed, I raised my voice and jabbed a finger at the partial roast chicken carcass that was resting on the table between us. “This chicken suffered!” I shouted.

How it is immoral to kill a chicken, but not immoral to eat it?

The Chicken Project, the original name I gave my quest to process a chicken myself, was born in the interest of aligning disconnects. There’s a disconnect between the production of meat and the consumption of it, and I believe this is where the moral dilemma comes in.

Tashi in the garden.

Tashi in the garden.

It’s very easy to buy meat from the store—you can get it cleaned, de-boned, de-skinned, and even shaped more like a hockey puck than a cow. You’re buying part of a dead animal, but you don’t need to confront it as such. I wonder, if packages contained pictures of chickens blinded by ammonia burns from the fecal concentration of their hen houses, or pigs being kicked and tortured, or cows with open ulcers, would it be so easy to buy pre-packaged, plastic-wrapped meat?

This disconnect between production and consumption occurs across the board in American society. What if Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses had snapshots of child slave laborers on them? Or cans of pork chili had before and after pictures of Brazilian rain forests that were cut down in order to grow the soybeans used to feed the pigs? Or what about wide-angle shots of the 20,000 gallons of water that get polluted to make one ton of bleached paper towels on each roll (the United States produces about 3,000 tons of paper towel waste daily)?

Brazil, Australia, Canada, and Egypt all have graphic art on cigarette packages: rotting teeth, diseased lungs, cancerous lesions. The idea of sticking photographs that show the indirect and often unseen consequences of products we use daily in the U.S. is basically the same thing, in my opinion.

It’s just so easy to believe, when you buy a clean slab of meat from the store, that it didn’t suffer. That the process, by being industrialized, regulated, and sanctioned is somehow cleaner, safer, and more humane. Which, evidence suggests, is just not true. I decided that I, at home and in my backyard, using birds that had been raised ethically and often not for meat, could do a better job.

So, I began processing my own meat and boycotting meat from animals that I don’t kill. If I don’t have a say in how animals are raised and slaughtered, then I have no control over or knowledge about the process. So far, it’s been chickens and ducks, although there’s a slug in my kitchen, housed in a temporary terrarium, as I type this (more on deep fried slug to come). I use a washboard for all my laundry, attempt to grow a meager amount of food in my garden, and try not to use more than I need. My goal with The Chicken Project abstain from industries I don’t believe in, find ways to live more responsibly and authentically, and to do my best to spread awareness about the ways in which humans can protect ourselves and the world in which we live.

chicken soup for people, organ soup for the dog

Chicken soup for people, organ soup for Tashi.