Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Turkey Mushroom Burgers

Turkey burgers are a tricky thing. Turkey is so lean that by the time the turkey is cooked through, your burger is as dry as sawdust. Poultry products need to be cooked to 170°F  and that's high enough to start forcing the moisture out of the proteins. Adding fat is one way to keep the burgers from drying out. Bread products can help as well, but too much and your burger gets gummy and the meaty flavor is lost. I like to add mushrooms because they have a texture that resembles meat and add their own meaty flavor. The downside is that they don't hold together as well as meat or bread. Grilling them is not easy. I panfried them because these burgers are rather delicate. Sorry, grilling fans.

Turkey Mushroom Burgers
(serves 4-6)

4 Tablespoons oil
1 onion, peeled
8 oz. mushrooms, wiped clean (see Note)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 slices whole wheat bread, crusts removed
1 pound ground turkey
1 large egg
3 Tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 ½ Tablespoons coarse deli or Dijon mustard
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a large cast-iron or non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Coarsely chop the onion, then mince finely in a food processor. Add to the skillet and cook gently while you prep the mushrooms. Coarsely chop the mushrooms and then mince using a food processor. With the food processor running, throw in the garlic cloves to mince. Dump into the skillet with the onions and cook for 10 minutes.

While the mushrooms are cooking, coarsely chop the bread and pulverize to fine crumbs in a food processor. When the mushrooms are done, remove from the heat and mix in the bread crumbs. Allow to cool. Place the mushroom mixture, turkey, egg, dill, mustard, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Mix until uniform.

Wipe out the skillet. Heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Divide the turkey mixture into 4 to 6 portions and form into burgers. Cook burgers until browned on both sides and no longer pink in the center, if in doubt use a thermometer to assure the center reached 170°F.

Serve on a bun as a burger but it's also good served as a mini-meatloaf. Leftovers are delicious cold.

Note: You can use any kind of mushroom but porcini, portobellos, cremini, or white mushrooms will add a nice meaty flavor.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Visiting the Adirondacks: Mountains, Lakes, and Smoked Pork!

I visited the Adirondacks, in northern New York State, recently. It's a beautiful place, full of lakes, rushing rivers, and tree-covered mountains. The Adirondacks were the "wilderness" place to be among the moneyed set long before places like Yosemite or Yellowstone. If you love the outdoors, you should definitely visit. You can canoe and hike and fish, or just relax by a lake.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Strawberries and Rum: What could be wrong with that?

I have gotten rid of most of my Gourmets but there are still a few old ones hanging around
It's strawberry season. And it's rum season because...it's hot!!! I found this recipe in an old Gourmet. Gourmet, my introduction to armchair traveling. As a child, how many hours did I spend gazing at pictures of exotic locales that I thought I would never visit? I've visited quite a few of them, I'm happy to say. And, I expect that had something to do with all those Gourmet's sitting on my mom's coffee table.

This recipe takes some planning. You have to freeze the strawberries ahead. Instead of ice in your daiquiri, we're using the strawberries. This is a concentrated, not at all watered down adult beverage. Will sneak up on you. As my daughter said, "I could get very wasted on these." Yep, you won't notice the booze until it's too late. :-)

Frozen Strawberry Daiquiris
(makes 4)

1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
½ cup light rum
3 Tablespoons triple sec
⅓ cup cold water

In a ziploc freezer bag, combine the strawberries, sugar, and lime juice. Seal the bag, forcing out all the air, and smoosh it all around to dissolve the sugar. Freeze solid. I suggest overnight. Break up the frozen strawberries and put it all in a blender. Add the remaining ingredients, and blend until smooth. Divide among 4 glasses and serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Salmon Cakes

I made this recipe from The Splendid Table but once I'd mixed it up, I knew it would not work. It would have been a delicious salmon hash. I could tell that it would not hold together. Which means it fails as a "cake." The solution to this problem: mayonnaise. Great binder. I've cut the recipe in half, made a few minor changes.

Salmon Cakes
(serves 4-6 as an entree)

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
½ small red onion, finely chopped (or use a couple of shallots)
½ medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped

14 oz. cooked salmon, either canned and drained or leftover from dinner
2 Tablespoons minced fresh basil
2 Tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon capers, chopped
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¾ teaspoon Old Bay (or similar crab boil) seasoning
½ Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 whole egg
½ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup mayonnaise
olive oil for frying

Heat up a large skillet over medium heat. Add vegetable oil. Saute´ onion, red pepper, and celery until softened, about 5 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, place the salmon in a large bowl and break it up into chunks. Don't make the chunks too small. You want to know there is salmon in these cakes. Dump the cooked veggies in with the salmon. Add the minced herbs, capers, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay seasoning, mustard, egg, and panko. Mix it to combine. Add mayonnaise and mix until evenly distributed. It should have enough mayo to hold together. Try to make a patty; add a bit more mayo if it won't hold together. You'll have no end of grief trying to flip them if they won't hold together.

Wipe out the skillet you cooked the vegetables in. Reheat over medium-high heat. Add about 2 Tablespoons olive oil. Form salmon into 6 patties and shallow fry until nicely browned on both sides. You may have to add additional oil after you flip them. How much oil you use will depend on the type of pan you use. I use a cast iron griddle which is well-seasoned, but you still need a fair bit of oil if you want a crispy crust (which is essential for deliciousness).

Makes a good salmon cake sandwich, or served on top of a big green salad.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sherried Porcini Marinade

This is delicious. Really delicious. I've used it on boneless pork chops and thin steaks. So savory. The original recipe, from one of my favorite cookbooks for grilling, uses dried shiitake mushrooms. I have lots of dried porcinis (photo above shows a good haul before drying) so I used them instead. Unlike many marinades, it's a quick one. You only need an hour or so. Packs a ton of umami into a small span of time.

Sherried Shiitake (or Porcini) Marinade
(makes enough for 1 1/2 - 2 pounds of meat)

½ cup dry sherry
½ oz. dried shiitakes or porcini mushrooms
1 small shallot, peeled and cut into quarters
1 large clove to garlic, peeled
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

In a small saucepan, heat the sherry until simmering. Put the mushrooms in a small bowl and pout the sherry over the mushrooms. Smush down so most of the mushrooms are covered with sherry. Let soak for 20 minutes. Remove the mushrooms, reserving the sherry. Strain the sherry through cheesecloth to get rid of any sand. Add the mushrooms and strained sherry to the bowl of a food processor. Turn on the processor. Drop in the shallot pieces and garlic. Process until everything is chopped finely. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the soy, vinegar, tarragon, and black pepper. Process again until mixed. Place the meat in a shallow glass dish. Pour over the marinade, turning the meat to coat. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Before grilling, season meat well with salt. Grill on a very hot grill.

From Marinades: The Secret of Great Grilling by Melanie Barnard, HarperPerennial, 1997.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Turkey Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce

I'm running a bit late on my "celebration" of holidays. Here it is Memorial Day, and I'm just getting around to posting my Cinco de Mayo recipe. Sometimes life intervenes.

The recipe I've adapted here used ground pork. I didn't have any. But, I did have ground turkey. Guess what? Turkey is totally Mexican. In fact, the turkey was the biggest domesticated animal (well, besides the dog) until the Europeans dropped pigs, horses, cattle, and sheep on North America. You can use whatever ground meat you have.

I don't fry my meatballs. You can if you like. Baking them in a hot oven makes a lot less mess and requires no supervision so I prefer it to frying on the cooktop.

Turkey Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce
(serves 4-6)

1 pound ground turkey (not extra-lean)
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup ground almonds
½ cup fresh bread crumbs
1 egg
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 Tablespoon dry sherry
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

non-stick cooking spray

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
½ green pepper, diced
½ red pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
⅓ cup beef stock
¼ cup dry sherry
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine all the meatball ingredients in a bowl. Spray a rimmed cookie sheet with cooking spray. Form mix into 1 ½" meatballs and place on the cookie sheet. Spray the meatballs with cooking spray (you can skip this step if using a fattier meat than turkey). Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Sauté the onion, peppers, and jalapeno for 5 minutes until the onion is golden. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Mix in the sugar, tomatoes, cayenne, sweet paprika, black pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer. Mix in the beef stock and sherry. Bring to a boil. Add the meatballs. When the sauce returns to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, uncovered, until sauce is thick. Add salt if necessary; you may not need any if your beef stock is salty. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve over rice or pasta. Also good served as an appetizer sprinkled with a bit of mozzarella cheese.

Recipe adapted from The Book of Mexican Foods by Christine Barrett, HP Books, 1991.

Photo credit: By കാക്കര (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dal: Red Lentils with Bengali Spices

My breakfast: dal and fresh whole wheat tortilla chips
I am a huge fan of Indian food. All regions, vegetarian, not vegetarian. Doesn't matter. The spices in Indian food are sensually lush and totally addicting. The downsides of cooking Indian food are a) you need a lot of uncommon (to Americans) ingredients, and b) it's time-consuming. But, when I do it from scratch (rather than run down the street for Indian take-out), it's so so satisfying.

Dal means beans and vegetarian cooking in India is about richly spiced beans. Most people are familiar with lentil dal because it is served alongside the rice at many Indian restaurants. This recipe uses red lentils though you can substitute yellow split peas. Red lentils are smaller and more delicate than typical brown lentils. They do not cook up red - they cook up golden. They are bland on their own, soaking up Indian spices. They also cook down smooth so the dal is like a thick porridge. Serve as a thick soup, a side dish, or over rice as a main dish. It will thicken in the fridge but the flavors only get better.

Bengal Red Lentils with Spices
(serves 4-6)

1 ½ cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 hot green chile, such as a small Thai chile or serrano, stemmed
½ teaspoons ground turmeric
4 ½ cups water
1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 small onion, minced
¾ cup diced peeled tomatoes (canned is fine)
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Spiced Oil
1 ½ Tablespoons vegetable oil
½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
½ teaspoon whole fennel seeds
½ teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon black onion (kalonji or kalaunji) seeds
½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (or same amount ground)
2 bay leaves
1 Chinese dried hot red chile pepper, stemmed

To cook lentils, place all dal ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent clumping and sticking to the bottom of the pot. Once it reaches a boil, turn down to medium-low and partially cover. Cook for 25 minutes.

While lentils are cooking, heat up the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often. When the onions start to brown, turn down heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until onions are toasty brown. Add tomatoes and ginger. Cook for a few minutes. Remove from heat. When the dal timer goes off, add this to the dal and mix in. Set the timer for another 10 minutes.

Heat oil in a small skillet. Add all the remaining ingredients and fry the spices until they are fragrant and the chile and bay leaves start to brown. Remove chile and bay leaves. Add seeds and oil to the dal when timer goes off. Check seasoning; add more salt if necessary. Serve hot.

Recipe can be doubled. Leftovers freeze well.

Recipe adapted from Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking by Julie Sahni, William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1985.

Photo of Red Lentils: By Sudeshna Banerjee (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons