Saturday, May 28, 2011

Honey Mustard Turkey Burgers

One of the great ironies in my life is that as a lover of food and cooking, I am also the proud parent of one of the pickiest eaters on the planet. Seriously folks, I am talking about a kid who will eat seven things and most of them are breakfast foods. As a result I am constantly trying to find new ways to reinvent those few food groups that he will eat into something that the rest of the family will not look at and say "Baked chicken again...." Unbeknownst to me, apparently all you have to do to get your child to eat a new food is have your mother tell him to. Such was the case last summer when we were visiting my mother in the south. It was hot and as a result I was not in the mood for anything heavy. I had seen this recipe in an Eating Well magazine and thought I would give it a try. Though initially rejected, once Nana informed my oldest pea pod that turkey was just like chicken, it had honey in it - eat it up, my oldest paused, shrugged and ate the whole thing while I held my breath and tried not to make a big deal about it. So that is how the honey mustard turkey burger came to be added to our regular rotation.

I have made some tweaks to the recipe and changed up the accessories a bit to suit our tastes but you can get the basic idea and take it from there.

Couple of notes:

We cook these on our old school George Forman grill. I know, I know, but I have to say it makes a really good burger. It cooks both sides uniformly and quickly, doesn't require any extra oil or fat and the excess fat in the meat drain out. It is a bugger to clean but that is because ours is older than dirt. I understand that the new ones have removable plates... but I digress. Anyway, though the GF is our weapon of choice you could just as easily cook them on the grill or in a cast iron pan on the stove. 

We like to serve ours on English Muffins with swiss cheese, whatever fresh greens and sliced tomatoes from the farmers market, and baked sweet potato fries.

You will not have a lot of the honey mustard mixture left over once you have added the suggested amount to the turkey,  but we have found that it is plenty to lightly dress your burger and that they are already pretty flavorfull and juicy so you don't need a lot. If you want more topping I would suggest doubling the recipe. 

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do. I am still looking for suggestions for recipe to research/try so if you are looking for something specific let me know and I will go on the hunt!

Honey Mustard Turkey Burger
1/4 cup coarse-grained mustard (I use Grey Poupon)2 tablespoons honey1 pound ground turkey breast1/4 teaspoon salt1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Prepare a grill, fry pan or whatever surface you are cooking on. If neccesary brush with a little canola oil to keep burgers from sticking.

Whisk mustard and honey in a small bowl until smooth.

Combine turkey, 3 tablespoons of the mustard mixture, salt and pepper in a bowl; mix well. 

Form into four large or six small burgers. 

Grill until no pink remains in center, 5 to 7 minutes per side. 

Brush the burgers with the remaining mustard mixture. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Latin Pork Stew and Chocolate Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think one of the secrets to a great get-together is a menu that you can have 90-100% complete before your guests walk in the door so that you spend your time enjoying your company and not stressing out over whether something is burning, undercooked etc.

This weekend we had friends over for a game night and I planned a menu that included a pork stew, field green salad with lettuces I had gotten at the farmer's market in the morning, fresh bread from the local bakery and dark chocolate chip chocolate cookies. Our friends are wine lovers so they brought the wine. The stew is a one-pot wonder recipe I found in one of those "Best Of Good Housekeeping" cookbooks that I purchased a couple of years ago in a used bookstore - I love finds like this one - it is a gem. The stew was done and warm on the stove, the last batches of cookies in the oven or cooling, the bread warmed and the salad ready to be tossed and dressed when our friends walked through the door.

Couple of notes: As always, using fresh ingredients will really make this recipe pop. The Other Half is not a huge cilantro fan so I sometimes swap out half of the cilantro for flat leaf parsley and it still has a really nice taste. Take your time browning the pork in smaller batches - I usually put two spoonfulls into the pot at a time - you want that really nice crust that only space in the pot will give you. It makes a pretty generous amount of stew so for those of you not feeding an army I recommend making the full recipe and then planning on putting some in containers in the freezer - it freezes beautifully and might only need a little chicken stock added when reheating to keep it from getting dry. This is another Other Half favorite. It worked particularly well in this instance because one of our guests was lactose intolerant so I could not use any dairy.

I have modified the cookie recipe to be lactose free from an Ina Garten, Barefoot in the Kitchen recipe from the "Barefoot Contessa Parties!" cookbook. The original recipe is for a Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookie - I just swapped out all dairy and replaced the white chocolate with dark chocolate (recipe to follow). Warning - these things are addictive!

Latin American Pork Stew

2 tsp olive oil
2 lbs. pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
(1) 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes (I like to use Muir Glen's no salt added fire roasted diced tomatoes) or just shy of 2 cups of seeded, diced fresh tomatoes when they are in season
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin (if you can find roasted cumin the flavor is amazing)
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander (if you can find roasted coriander the flavor is amazing)
1/4 tsp ground red cayenne pepper
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1.5 lbs), peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
(2) 15 oz. cans black beans rinsed and drained (I like to use Eden Organics because of the packaging - the cans don't leech anything into the beans)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large Dutch Oven (I use my cast iron oven), heat oil over medium high heat. Once hot add pork in batches and cook until lightly brown, about 5 minutes per batch. (Usually takes me 5-6 batches to get it all browned). Transfer pork to a bowl.

Reduce heat to medium. Add onions and cook in pork drippings until tender, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook 1 more minute longer.

Add tomatoes with their juices, cilantro, cumin, coriander, salt, ground red pepper and 2 cups of water. Heat to boiling. Stir in pork, cover and bake in oven for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and stir in sweet potatoes. Cover, return to oven and bake for 40 minutes or until potatoes are just tender.

Remove from oven and stir in black beans. Cover, return to oven and bake for 15 more minutes until beans are heated through.

Chocolate Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 lb. unsalted butter at room temperature (in this instance I used Earth Balance Vegan Spread as a substitute)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2/3 cup dutch process cocoa (Hershey's makes a nice one)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 bag dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and two sugars until lightly fluffy in the bowl and beat with an electric beater. Add the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time and mix well. Add the cocoa and mix again. Sift together the flour, baking  soda and salt together in a separate bowl then slowly add to the chocolate mixture with the mixer on a low speed until just combined. Do not over mix. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Drop the dough on to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (not wax paper) or Silpat cooking mats (one of the best gifts I ever received) using a rounded tablespoon. Dampen your clean finger and press the dough slightly flatter. Bake for up to 13-15 minutes (the cookies should be slightly underdone). Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tasty tidbits about olive oils

A friend recently asked me what kind of olive oil I use. The simple answer is that I have two that I use – one that I use for almost all moderate heat cooking and a more expensive “premium blend” that I use for making dressing or for making dipping sauces. I use extra virgin olive oil about 90% of the time when I am cooking. The exceptions are when I am cooking on high heat or when I want the flavor that butter adds to the meal - even then I often use half olive oil and half butter to cut down the fat content.

Most often I purchase Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It seems to be readily available at a grocery stores just about anywhere we move to, and it has a nice balanced flavor that doesn’t take over the meal. For my money the Spanish olive oils are the best choice for a premium oil to use in dressings etc. I usual can find Columela, a slightly fruity oil that is not too peppery or heavy. As a side note if you have a Whole Foods near you their private label brand 365 is one olive oil I would use in place of both a premium and every day brand. Also worth noting is that my food goddess, Ina Garten really likes California Olive Oils. And if you are anywhere that you can get fresh olive oil jump on the chance though be warned – once you have tasted the real deal you may never want to go back to the more generic mass market versions.

There are a couple of things that you can do to protect and promote the flavor of your olive oil. Possibly the most important is not to purchase it in the mongo containers unless you are a super heavy user – like you are running a small bistro or catering business out of your house. An article that I recently read suggested that an olive oil should be used within one year of pressing, and that includes the time it takes to transport the oil to the store, that it sits on the shelf and then comes to your home. Over time the acidity of the oil will increase so though that mega jug at Sam’s may seem like a great bargain, as it sits there on the floor of your pantry, the flavor will change and eventually become more acidic and unpalatable. Exposure to light increases acidity as well. When purchasing olive oil don’t take the front bottle on the shelf – dig toward the back – those bottles have been exposed to less of the harsh store lights that can compromise the flavor.

For the life of me I am not sure why most oils are still sold in clear bottles. I guess it is an opportunity for you to buy a pretty dark glass or ceramic decorative bottle that you can fill with a small amount of oil, leave on your counter and then store the rest of your oil in the back of your cabinet away from the light as much as possible. The same goes for heat. Heat negatively impacts olive oil so try not to store you oil next to your stove or oven. Ideally oil should be stored in a slightly cool room – a.k.a wine cellar — but since most of us mere mortals don’t have a wine cave in our house (not yet anyway) the next best thing is to keep it at room temperature away from a heat source and in the dark as much as possible.

Lastly olive oil, much like wine, comes in a plethora of flavors from fruity to peppery, to a bold olive taste. Experiment with different types in small amounts to find the one that tastes the best to you. Fun Friday night idea – invite some friends over for a wine and olive oil tasting. Buy a baguette, slice it up, and pour small amounts of different olive oils into small dishes for folks to dunk into. Once you are done with the olive oil tasting you can vote then continue with other tapas – olives, an antipasto plate, nuts, figs and honey, some soft cheese – and have a lovely happy hour figuring out what olive oil is right for you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuna Nicoise with Warm Potato Salad

Since so many of you asked for recipes that include the bounty of the garden and a fish recipe, this is my proposal for today. This is The Other Half's all time favorite recipe, even nudging out the roast chicken that he will tell people is the reason he decided to date me in the first place - but that is another story and recipe for another day. This recipe comes from Ina Garten's "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" - in my opinion a work of culinary genius in it's simplicity of style and big impact of flavor.

Couple of notes: 
Get a nice piece of tuna - it can be pricey I know, but it is worth it. And I will jump up on my environmental stump for a minute and say that if you can get wild caught friendly-to dolphin tuna your karma will be much better and, I like to believe, you will have a better tasting meal just for your good deed. But I digress... 

This meal is definitely better in the summertime when you can get fresh herbs, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes and arugula. And though it might seem like a lot of prep work it just requires a little time management to have an amazing meal. The vegetables can be swapped out for what is fresh at your farmer's market - just try to have a variety of texture, color and taste of your plate. I have used asparagus in place of the green beans when it was in season and also added grilled zucchini or squash a couple of times.

I make one batch of vinaigrette and use 3/4 in the potato salad and the rest to dress the meal but that is up to your discretion - we tend to like things lighter in the sauce department. If you think you might want to have more vinaigrette, just double the recipe. Add the olive oil very slowly to the other ingredients, whisking as you pour to make sure everything binds. You will know it is time to add more olive oil when you vinaigrette is milky looking.

Final note - this really is best eaten freshly made so if you think you might be pressed for time, try it on the weekend when you can hopefully carve a little time out with a glass of wine and some music going, to enjoy this process. The outcome is well worth the effort.

Grilled Tuna Nicoise
1 (1-inch-thick) fresh tuna steaks per person
Good olive oil 

Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 lb string beans, stems removed and blanched, per person (to blanch drop beans in a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes then take out and drop immediately in a bowl of ice and water to stop the cooking process)
French Potato Salad, recipe below
1 small ripe tomato per person, cut into wedges
1 hard-boiled egg per person, peeled and cut into slices
pitted olives

Blanche beans and prep your other vegetables. To grill the tuna, get a charcoal or stove-top cast iron grill very hot (I use my trusty cast iron pan). Brush the fish with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, both sides. Grill each side for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes for rare adding a 25 seconds for each level of wellness desired. (Be careful not to overcook the tuna or it will get tough.) Arrange the tuna, green beans, potato salad, tomatoes, eggs, olives, arugula on a plate.

3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar (I buy mine at Trader Joe's)
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

10 tablespoons good olive oil 

Combine the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk  in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Drizzle some over the fish and vegetables and serve the rest in a pitcher on the side.

French Potato Salad
1 pound small white boiling potatoes
1 pound small red boiling potatoes
2 tablespoons good dry white wine (cook with what you are willing to drink)
2 tablespoons chicken stock
1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves

Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the  potatoes are larger, but try and keep the piecs a similar size) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow to sit for 1-2 minutes for the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.

Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Add vinaigrette to the potatoes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

LIttle Hiatus and a new look for summer

Sorry for the break in blogging. Something pretty exciting happened and I have been taking a little time to investigate. In a complete "Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon" kind of way a friend sent a friend a link to my blog and I received and email asking me if I would be interested in an opportunity to read and test cookbooks supplied to me, then write a review. No pay but since it involved all the things I love to do - read, cook and eat - I really couldn't see any downside. And I get to keep the cookbooks! (I hope I can claim all of them as professional gear on the next move or we could be in trouble!) So I gave it a try and just sent it my test submission today. If they like it I will get to do more and be able to post the review on my blog as well as on the other site. All and all pretty exciting stuff. Who knows? Maybe this is the next chapter for me - time will tell. In the meantime I have a stack of recipes I want to share so I am back in the saddle and will start posting again directly. Julie recently asked for some fish recipes so I will start there. If there is a food group you would like me to blog about let me know and I will see what I have for recipes to share.