Unique, Enjoyable and Delicious Eating

French Onion Toast

When French soup called to Jill Donenfled as a dinner option, her first bite was enough to inspire this dish included in her book, “Better on Toast: Happiness on a Slice of Bread” (William Morrow).

Jill seems to always turn to the one dish that satisfies—toast. That single slice of perfect bread stacked high with fresh, flavorful toppings also happens to be one of today’s hottest culinary trends. All 70 irresistible, easy-to-follow recipes in her book are accompanied by beautiful color photos.  You’ll find delicious toast adorned with every possible topping configuration from hot to cold and savory to sweet.  Great for any occasion, using any type of bread, the emphasis here is on flavor, using wholesome, quality ingredients.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 or 3 large white onions, quartered and sliced (about 6 cups)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup half & half

3 large eggs

1/2 cup beef broth

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Black Bean Burgers

This recipe from Ree Drummond’s “The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime” (William Morrow) is great for people who like meatless burgers or for those looking to add more healthful black beans to their meals. A New York Times bestselling author, award-winning blogger and TV Food Network personality, Drummond shares simple, scrumptious recipes here, dishes that take minimum time and fuss to prepare for maximum enjoyment. If you’re busy juggling school, work and other pastimes—or if your children like to cook—check out “The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime” for 16-minute meals, freezer-friendly foods and color photos that show all the directions. Serves 4.

2 (14.5-ounce each) cans seasoned black beans, drained

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

1/4 cup grated white onion

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon chili powder, or more to taste

kosher salt

freshly ground pepper

several dashes hot sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil, for frying

2 tablespoons butter, for frying plus more for grilling the buns

8 slices Swiss (or other cheese)

4 Kaiser rolls or good hamburger buns

mayonnaise, lettuce, thinly sliced red onion, sliced tomatoes for serving

Place the beans in a medium bowl and mash them with a fork until mostly broken up, with a few large pieces still visible. Pour in the breadcrumbs, grated onion, egg, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste. Stir to mix well. Add hot sauce and stir it in.  Let mixture sit for 5 minutes.

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet over medium-low heat.  Form the mixture into four equal-size patties that are a little larger in circumference than the buns, since the patties do not shrink when cooked. Cook for 5 minutes on the first side, or until nicely browned, then flip to the other side.

Place two slices of cheese on each patty and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the burgers are thoroughly heated through.  Place a lid on the skillet if the cheese needs help melting.

Meanwhile, heat a separate skillet or griddle over medium heat and butter the surface. Split the buns and grill them until golden brown on the surface.  To serve, spread a mixture of mayonnaise and hot sauce on both sides of the buns, topping with burgers, lettuce, onion, and tomato. Serve.

Honeydew, Cucumber, and Avocado Soup

Every January, most of us make a resolution to watch what we eat, vow to eat more healthfully, and then, usually, promptly forget our vows and go back to old habits. Sara Dickerman’s wonderful book, “Bon Appetit: The Food Lover’s Cleanse: 140 Delicious, Nourishing Recipes That Will Tempt You Back Into Healthful Eating” (William Morrow) really lets you enjoy food and learn to shift your eating habits in a healthier direction without sacrificing the pleasures and flavors of good food. It celebrates food as the key to good health, and explores inherently healthful ingredients that are truly delicious.  The emphasis is recipes high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, no refined flours, and very limited dairy and saturated fats.  The recipes are based on seasonal ingredients (the book is divided into seasons), has lovely photographs, lots of tips, and a terrific section on pantry methods. Serves 4.

4 cups cubed honeydew or other white/green sweet melon

1 ripe avocado, pitted peeled, and cut into medium chunks

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into medium chunks

1 tablespoon minced jalapeno chile (without seeds and pith), plus a pinch more for garnish

1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons rice vinegar, plus more to taste

1 tablespoon chopped pistachios

flaky sea salt to taste, optional

In a blender, puree the melon, avocado, cucumber, jalapeno, salt, and vinegar.

If needed, add 4 cups of water to get the blender going.  Puree until very smooth.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with a bit more salt and/or rice vinegar to balance the sweetness of the melon.

Chill and serve with a few chopped pistachios, a bit of minced jalapeno, and flaky sea salt if desired.

Editor’s note: For more edible delights by Sheilah Kaufman, go to www.cookingwithsheilah.com.