Monday, May 30, 2011

Turkey Burgers (That actually taste good)

I'm a huge fan of burgers, but I haven't eaten beef or pork for about 8 years now. Of all the foods I've given up, a good juicy hamburger might be the one I miss the most. Baby back ribs are right at the top, too. I haven't found any sort of substitute for ribs. If any of my readers know of one, please let me know. 

There are some decent burger substitutes out there; boca burgers are pretty tasty, healthy and convenient, but they really don't measure up to a real hamburger. After some searching, I found an amazing recipe for flavorful, juicy turkey burgers at The author of the recipe does a great job explaining the keys to a good turkey burger. One is to make sure that you use 93% percent fat free ground rather than the 99% fat free ground turkey. With the 99% fat free there is just too little moisture to have a really good burger. 

Another key is make sure that your burger is very well-seasoned. Ground beef has a lot more flavor on its own than ground turkey and doesn't need to be dressed up as much. Additionally, ground turkey needs to be cooked longer than ground beef to ensure that it's safe. Offthebroiler's recipe has a great blend of seasonings for the burger which really kick it up a notch: diced onions, minced garlic, fresh lemon zest, French mustard, parsley, salt and hot sauce. On previous occasions I'd skipped the fresh lemon zest. I added it this time, and it added even more flavor to an already great burger. I added a few new seasonings of my own: crushed red pepper flakes, basil and ground pepper.

Now, obviously the best turkey burger is the Ron Swanson burger, as described on the amazing NBC show Parks and Recreation. Ron's version is a fried turkey leg inside of a five pound grilled hamburger. I can't decide whether this is the best or worst idea for a food product I've ever heard. It sounds like it might kill me, but it might be totally worth it. After it was described on the show a few weeks ago people actually started posting complete recipes for this monstrosity of a meal. You can check on of them out at this link:
(An epic burger and an epic mustache.)

And now for my burger....

Start by seasoning the ground turkey with diced red onions, minced garlic and fresh lemon zest.
Next, add Dijon mustard, a dash of hot sauce, some soy sauce, salt, pepper, basil and parsley.
Craft the meat into 5 or 6 ounce patties.
Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add some cooking spray. Add the burgers to the pan and cook about 6 minutes per side, or thoroughly cooked through.
Remove from the grill and serve on a toasted bun with you favorite fixins. I served mine with some corn on the cob and Old Bay waffle fries on the side.

The results:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sea scallops in saffron cream sauce

Seared scallops are one of my absolute favorite foods, but they can be very difficult to get right. Their basic preparation is very simple - just sear them in a pan with some olive oil or butter. The challenge is cooking them for the perfect amount of time. There's a very delicate balance between scallops that are too raw and scallops that are overcooked and rubbery. Most recipes will tell you to cook them for 1 1/2 to 4 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the scallops. Generally, you just want to cook them until they've got a nice golden brown crust on each side. The recipe I'm using comes from the cooking blog bell'alimento. This recipe takes a basic pan-seared scallops and adds a saffron cream sauce. The sauce turned out thinner than I would have liked, but it still added a nice buttery flavor to scallops. I probably should have let the white wine reduce a bit longer.

On the side I made balsamic roasted brussel sprouts with grape tomatoes and slivered almonds. This recipe is inspired by numerous others, but isn't based on any one in particular. The balsamic vinegar worked great with the sprouts.

Scallops in saffron cream sauce
6 tablespoons unsalted butter – divided
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
12 large sea scallops – patted dry (About 1 pound)
1 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
pinch of saffron threads

1. Into a nonstick pan, melt 2 tablespoons butter and olive oil.
2. Add sea scallops. Season tops with salt and sear well on both sides. Careful to turn only once {you don’t want scallops to tear} Remove scallops from pan and keep warm. (I added a bit of fresh ground pepper.)
3. Add wine to hot pan and deglaze pan. Reduce temperature to medium – low and allow wine to reduce by half.
4. Add cream, remaining butter and allow to combine. Once butter has combined, add saffron threads. Stir well to combine.
5. Return scallops to pan. Turn to coat. Serve immediately.

Balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts with grape tomatoes and slivered almonds
1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 pint grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Trim the ends and any yellow leaves off of the Brussels sprouts. Cut them in half.
3. Toss the prepared Brussels sprouts in a bowl with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, grape tomatoes, salt and pepper.
4. Put the Brussels sprouts mixture in a roasting plan. Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes, tossing occasionally.
5. Toast the almonds in a dry pan for about 3 minutes until lightly browned. Add to the Brussels sprouts with about 5 minutes left in the roasting.

The results:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Penne alla vodka

This is another recipe that comes from the Pioneer Woman, which is one of the absolute best food blogs around. I'm a huge fan of her work. There are so many good recipes on her site. I chose penne alla vodka, because its one of my favorite Italian dishes, but I've never made it myself. The vodka really adds a unique flavor to traditional tomato sauce. You can use whatever brand of vodka you want, but as usual, the better the ingredients the better the final product. I was really happy with how this dish turned out. To add some protein to the dish I sauteed some chicken with garlic, basil, parsley, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper.

Below are the original ingredients and directions with my notes in italics.

1 pound pasta (I prefer penne, but you can use whatever you want.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole medium onion, chopped finely
2 cloves (to 3 cloves) garlic, chopped
¾ cups (to 1 cup) vodka
1 can (about 14 Oz.) tomato puree
1 cup heavy cream
1 pinch red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoons (to 1/2 teaspoon) salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, being careful not to overcook. (The recipe lists this item first, but I would save this until you're simmering the sauce so you have nice hot pasta.)
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and butter. When butter is melted, add in chopped onion and garlic. Stir and allow to cook for two minutes.
3. Pour in vodka. Stir and cook for three minutes.
4. Add in tomato puree and stir.
5. Reduce heat to low and stir in cream. Allow to simmer, being careful not to overheat. (My one issue with this recipe was that this step was a bit unclear. I took the directions to mean that I should simmer it for a couple of minutes. The first time I tried it was like drinking a shot of vodka with some tomato and onion mixed in. I let it simmer for about 30 minutes total and it turned out delicious.)
6. Stir in red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
7. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water in case sauce is too thick. Add cooked pasta to the sauce, tossing to combine. Splash in a little water if it needs it. Stir in Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Golden gate grilled cheese

Lately I've been thinking about ideas for dressing up simple dishes. This recipe is for grilled cheese sandwich with turkey, avocado, cilantro and a parmesan, red pepper crust. The recipe comes from Sunset magazine, by way of I was very happy with how this recipe turned out. The parmesan and red pepper flake crust on the outside adds a crispy and delicious layer to the sandwich. Muenster cheese is a big upgrade over the standard American or cheddar cheese. This recipe was really quick and simple, but it turned out amazing.

I was planning on making a dressed up version of tomato soup to go with it, but settled for Campbell's due to time constraints. That may be an idea for an upcoming entry.

2 tablespoons softened butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk
1 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese
4 freshly cut slices from a sourdough loaf
6 ounces thinly sliced turkey
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
2 slices muenster cheese

1. In a small bowl, combine butter, garlic, and chile flakes.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk egg and milk. Spread parmesan on a plate.
3. In a large frying pan, melt half the seasoned butter over medium heat. Dip 1 bread slice in egg mixture, coating one side only. Dip coated side into parmesan. Place to one side in frying pan, cheese side down. Repeat with 1 of remaining bread slices.
4. Arrange turkey, avocado, cilantro, and muenster on slices, dividing evenly.
5. Dip remaining bread into egg and then into parmesan. Arrange on sandwiches, cheese side up, and cook over medium heat until undersides are golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Lift sandwiches and add remaining butter to pan; flip and cook until second side is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes more.