Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hamburgers 101

Fran (the gardner) and I discovered the burger joint 5 Guys last summer and fell in love with it. The burgers were pretty good, but the fries were heavenly. They were too good. Out of this world good. So we had to stop going. It's been about 6 months since I've had a hamburger and I needed a fix. Yesterday I discovered a site on the internet that's all about burgers and decided to follow Brian's tips on making the Basic Burger. Since we're cooking our burgers medium to well done these days, a few extra ingredients seem to be necessary to keep the meat moist, juicy and flavorful. Here's Brian's recipe.

The Basic Burger

1 pound ground beef
1/2 onion grated
4 pinches of ground coriander
4 pinches ground paprika
fresh ground black pepper (I used 1/4 tsp)
salt (I used 1/2 tsp)
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (I used one slice of Italian bread ground in my spice mill)
1 egg slightly beaten
1 quarter beef bouillion cube dissolved in 2-3 T water (I don't keep this in my pantry, so I used 1/2 tsp of the seasoning packet from Near East Rice Pilaf mix)

And I finally got to use these little measuring spoons that I received as a give-away from a now defunct cooking club.

Mix all ingredients together and form into 4 pattys. Since I didn't have any hamburger buns I decided to grill a pita bread and serve myself an open-faced burger salad sandwich. I heated the grill pan to high and waited for some grill marks to appear before I turned the bread over.

Then I lowered the heat to medium (Brian's instructions), sprayed the pan with cooking spray and added my burger. I cooked it 4 minutes on each side.

To my pita bread I added some Bibb lettuce, mayo, ketchup and mustard and waited for the burger to be done.

And then a few pickles made their way to the party and dinner was served.

I must say, this was delicious. And filling. And I didn't miss the fries. Hah! Who am I kidding? Fries would have been great, but I was not going to attempt to make perfect fries when I'd already made the perfect burger.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Grilled Elvis

Doesn't this this look toasty and delicious? It seems that everyone that's sampled this banana/peanut butter concoction aka Elvis Bread has decided it tastes best when warm. So I went with the flow and put this rock star slice of bread on my stove-top grill and within 3 minutes I had a Love Me Tender moment. Absolutely delish. I put a few dabs of butter on the slightly charred top and it was great. But I have some other ideas I want to explore and I think you'll want to try them too.

Grill a 1/2 inch slice of Elvis Bread and top with caramel sauce. Then add some whipped cream and sliced bananas as a garnish.

Or what about Grilled Elvis ala mode? Vanilla ice cream and raspberry sauce.

I'm right now thinking about a most decadent bread pudding that would really shine at a brunch table. I'm a sucker for bread pudding, so that may be the route I'll take next. Maybe add some cream cheese, extra peanut butter and bananas, and a bit of chocolate. Yeah. I'm going to work on that. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Zenfully Good

In my last post I talked about making Asian inspired meatballs with leftover rice pilaf as a filler. I used the "Original" Near East Pilaf mix and with the help of a few pantry items, came up with these aromatic little dumplings that became the star of another new recipe- Lemongrass Noodle Soup.

To make the meatballs:
This recipe makes about 16-18 meatballs-too many for the 4 servings of soup,
but delicious later, warmed as an appetizer or light lunch
1 tsp garlic grated
2 tsp fresh ginger grated
1 large egg slightly beaten
1 T Hoisin sauce
1 cup cooked rice pilaf
1 tsp Sambal Olek
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 pound ground chicken
IN LARGE BOWL combine all ingredients except the chicken and mix well. Add chicken and gently combine with your fingertips. The mixture will be slightly wet, so refrigerate for about an hour and let it firm up a bit. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form chicken mixture into 1-1/2 inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

To make the soup:
2 cans (14.5 oz each) low sodium, fat free chicken broth
3/4 can water
1 T Lemongrass Herb Blend
Zest of 1 lime
1 T fresh ginger grated
1 can (8.5 oz) corn
3 T fish sauce
2 T Splenda no calorie sweetner
2 Serrano chiles unseeded, thinly sliced in rings
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Juice of 1 lime
4 oz uncooked spaghetti
3 oz snow peas
2 scallions diced in rounds (for garnish)
IN MEDIUM SAUCEPAN combine chicken broth, water, lemongrass blend, grated ginger and lime zest. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer, cover and cook 10-15 minutes. Strain the aromatics out of the liquid and return the broth to the soup pot. Over medium heat add the next 7 ingredients (corn through lime juice). Bring soup to a boil, cover and lower heat to a gentle simmer. Simmer 20 minutes.
IN SEPERATE LARGE pot, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Two minutes before the spaghetti is due to be done, add the snow peas. Drain pasta and peas. Now it's time to assemble the soup.
INTO EACH OF 4 bowls place 2 or 3 meatballs, a helping of noodles and snow peas. Ladle broth (with chiles and corn) over the meatballs and pasta and garnish with chopped scallions (I, once again too anxious to eat, forgot the scallions when I served my guests).
This dish has a delicate balance of spices between the meatballs and the soup. And even though there are 2 unseeded chiles in the broth, the flavor is pleasantly mellow. It satisfies any noodle or protein craving you may have, and leaves you with a feeling of contentment. This is what I call Zen Soup.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rice Pilaf Meatballs

A few weeks ago I was under the weather and my doctor put me on the B.R.A.T. diet.

B= Bananas
R= Rice
A= Applesauce
T= Toast

Boring I know, but I happen to like everything on the menu. The Elvis Bread took care of the excess bananas. But I still found myself with a cupboard full of Near East Pilaf.

I usually make my own pilaf but Near East does a pretty good job in a box- 20 minutes, with no chopping of vegetables or measuring anything but water. So today I decided to make a pot of Wedding Soup and incorporate some of the pilaf into the meatball mixture and avoid any hard work. The result- delish. The pilaf has an abundance of herbs and spices and they work well in this recipe. All I did was add an extra pinch of salt and pepper and a quick grate of a garlic clove into the melange. Here's the mix:

Rice Pilaf Meatballs

1 pound ground chicken
3/4 cup cooked rice pilaf cooled
1 egg slightly beaten
1 clove garlic grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Romano cheese grated

Combine cooked rice with garlic, salt, pepper, egg and cheese:

Add ground meat/chicken and combine gently with your fingers. Now you're ready to make the meatballs.

If you want to jazz the meatballs up, add some chopped parsley to the mixture. Or even some crushed red pepper flakes which will give some heat. I would love to have shown you the meatballs ready for their swim in the soup, but my hands were so messy I couldn't get a grip on my camera. But you know what meatballs look like, and I bet yours will be as good if not better than mine. The pilaf meatballs were great in the soup and I guarantee they'll work in other dishes.

Try them in tomato sauce over a bed of linguini. Here's what you do: After you roll out the meatballs, put the little darlings on a greased cookie sheet and bake 25 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees . Add them to your tomato sauce, simmer a bit and enjoy the tasty, tender delight you've just created.

I'm so excited about using this tender, flavored rice in my meatballs I'm going to try this again with an Asian flair. I'm thinking ginger, garlic, and Sambal as additions. If it works, you'll hear more about pilaf meatballs again real soon.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Music to My Tastebuds

My friends were All Shook Up when I announced I was working on a recipe for a Peanut Butter Banana Bread. I told them, "Don't Be Cruel, I Can't Help Falling in Love with all sorts of combinations, especially when it comes to baking. You guys all have Suspicious Minds."

Yes, I am an Elvis fan and this is my tribute to two of his favorite foods. Those who enjoy bananas and peanut butter together will adore this quick bread. Those who don't, well you're just Hound Dogs. Here's the recipe for PB & B Quick Bread, which is really simple and simply delicious.

Peanut Butter and Banana Bread
makes one 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf
Vegetable spray for prepping loaf pan
1 T AP flour for dusting loaf pan
1 cup AP flour
3/4 cup old fashioned oats ground in food processor or coffee grinder
3/4 cup sugar (I used Splenda no calorie)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts chopped
3 ripe large bananas mashed well
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs (room temp if possible) lightly beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare loaf pan with cooking spray and flour. Set aside.
In medium size bowl combine mashed bananas and peanut butter. I use a potato masher for the bananas and a whisk to combine the rest of the wet ingredients. Now add eggs, canola oil and vanilla and set aside while you assemble the dry ingredients.

In large bowl combine flour, ground oats, Splenda, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chopped nuts. Whisk to incorporate all ingredients.

Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. As I did with the Nutella loaf, I recommend you leave the mixer in the cupboard and use your own rhythm. The secret to a moist, tender banana bread is to not overmix the batter, and that's the result you'll achieve by doing it by hand. It's not hard. It barely affected my newly developed carpal tunnel issues, and my little arthritic fingers were just fine. Bake 55 minutes. Place on wire rack to cool and after about 15 minutes gently remove the bread from the pan, cool about another half hour on the rack and let the Fools Rush In for a slice or two of PB &B Bread, aka The Elvis Loaf.

As with all quick breads, this recipe is great by itself, but even better with a schmere of unsalted butter or cream cheese. One of the gals at work likes to toast this and let the butter melt right in. A little decadent. A little like Elvis.