The Business of Success [Lemon-Scallion White Bean Patties]

How is success calculated? 

Is fame the ultimate goal? Is it financial reward that must be received before you can say you’re successful at your craft of choice? Or is it simply being happy with ones work that denotes success?

These are the questions I’ve been asking myself recently. My time has been spent brooding endlessly over which path I will travel in these next few years, and what I hope will be at the end of the journey on both sides. Currently, I’m standing still at an unfamiliar, mid-twenties crossroad and haven’t ever felt more befuddled by my future. On the one hand, I have a full-time career, albeit one I’m not entirely (at all) passionate about, that pays the bills and keeps me busy. On the other, I have a hobby - this. Right here. Which I adore. I yearn for the recognizable sound of fingers delicately tapping keys, moving forks from one side of the plate to another all for the sake of a photo… and when I’ve had a few days away from the kitchen, from the camera, from the food… I feel a vacant  space in the pit of my tummy where my ‘love’ lives. I think about it all day, every day and I would love nothing more than to jump head first into a career in writing, or simply in food. But therein lies the problem.

Amanda Hesser wrote an article yesterday about the business of Food Writing and her advice for future Food Writers. It was a discouraging article that needed to be written. As I read each word thoughtfully, I could literally see the shoulders of hundreds of thousands of aspiring food writers, like myself, slump forward in a dispirited sigh. Though the article was not without reward. I do urge you to read it, but the jist of Amanda’s advice was this;

  • Don’t rely on your writing as your bread and butter. It is near impossible to pay your bills through writing alone - look for jobs within a desired area of the food industry and keep writing on the side. 
  • Work your ASS off. Literally. 
  • Get as much experience in as many areas of food as you possibly can - know your industry.
  • Work for a company that’s making a difference and become an expert in an area of our food system. 
  • Pitch to magazines, go after a book contract

Once I had given myself a few hours to feel discouraged and brokenhearted about my future in food writing, I realized that the advice was more helpful than hurtful.  And while I’m still assured it will take much determination and loads of long hours and hard work to clear the mid-twenties fog and find a befitting path, I do know that I am walking down the road I need to be on. I’m nothing if not determined and you mark my words, I will get there - be it now or in 10 more years. And if you’re an aspiring food writer reading this - I have faith that you, too, can work your little fingers to the bone and come out on top. This was the shake-the-dust-off-your-bones pep talk we all desperately needed. No more sugar coated encouragement.

With all of that said, let the love come in! We’re here for food and it would be rude for me to deny you that much.

Lemon-Scallion White Bean Patties with Asparagus Pesto & Simple Salsa
makes 6 large patties

The pesto here is lovely, but it does tend to be slightly outdone by the bolder flavours of the dish. I happened to have asparagus that needed to be used up ASAP and so I did. I would recommend making a simple cilantro or basil pesto if you want something that will stand up to the rest of the flavours. 

2 cans white kidney or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced
zest from 1 lemon
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup chopped scallions
3/4 cup bread crumbs (I used whole wheat)
2 eggs
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
few grinds of black pepper
vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, mash the beans using a potato mashed or a fork (smooshing them against the side of the bowl works best for me). Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well until combined. 

Form the bean mixture into patties about the size of a hamburger bun. Heat a non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron pan over medium heat. Drizzle a little vegetable oil in the pan and wait until its hot and rippled. Fry the patties, 2 or 4 at a time for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until nice and deep golden brown. Remove to a paper towel lined pan. 

Asparagus Pesto

Small bundle asparagus (about the width of a toilet paper roll), ends trimmed, sliced into 1” pieces
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp toasted walnut pieces
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
1/4 tsp salt

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute until bright green. Remove and plunge into a bowl of ice water for a few minutes to stop the cooking process. 

Add the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until smooth. 

Simple Cherry Tomato Salsa

It’s best to make this before you get everything else ready so it has some time to chill out and absorb all those spicy, delicious flavours. 

1 pint fresh cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tbsp minced scallions or chives
1/2 jalapeno (less if you’re sensitive to heat), seeds removed, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
generous squeeze of lime juice
few pinches salt

Mix everything together and let it sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before eating. 

To Serve:

Dollop each patty with 1 tbsp of the pesto and a spoonful or two of the salsa. Finish with some grated Parmesan, fresh ground pepper and a squeeze of lime or lemon juice. 

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