Thursday, April 28, 2011

(Best Ever) Lamb Burger with Pickled Red Onions, Marinated Lacinato Kale, and Tzatziki Sauce. Plus: Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Lemon Sauce

I originally bought ground lamb for Easter dinner, thinking a whole leg of lamb just might be over the top for two people. But I wanted to grill the lamb, and it was raining, so I held off for a sunny day. And then I held off again, because it kept raining. And then I thought, didn't I leave Seattle? And then it was still raining and I decided to just broil the burgers. While I am sure grilling them would also have been delicious, broiling led to evenly cooked, tender, perfect burgers. And they became even better with all the condiments I made for them.

(The only thing that could have been better was the bun--I have yet to find a store bought hamburger bun that tastes like anything. Should have made my own.)

And, because I object to the general American consensus that a leaf of lettuce and a slice of tomato on a burger constitute a full serving of vegetables, I served this burger with roasted cauliflower with tahini lemon sauce and parsley.

Because the toasted cumin seeds in olive oil go in the sauce and the lamb, it makes sense to start with the sauce, then form the burgers, make the pickled onions, and marinate the kale.

Tzatziki Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 an English cucumber
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
about 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves and dill--determine the quantity of each based on your tastes
2 tablespoons lemon juice

In a small pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Toss in the cumin seeds, and toast for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Slice the cucumber thinly, and toss with the salt in a strainer over the sink. This draws some of the liquid from the cucumber. After 15 minutes, press some liquid out of the cucumber, and toss it in a food processor with the garlic. Pulse until the cucumber is pureed. Add the yogurt, cayenne, mint, dill, lemon juice, and about half of the cumin seeds and olive oil. Pulse until the herbs are chopped well and everything is combined. Transfer to a bowl, cover, and let the flavors meld for at least 30 minutes. (This can be made up to a few days ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator.)

Lamb Burgers (makes 2 burgers)
5 cloves garlic, crushed in a garlic press or finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dry bread crumbs
1/2 a beaten egg (helps prevent the burger from falling apart)
2/3 pound ground lamb

In the same small pan as before, reheat the rest of the olive oil and cumin seeds. Add the garlic, and saute until it looses it no longer smells raw, but is not browned. Remove from heat. Toss in the salt, pepper, mint, parsley, and bread crumbs. Let this cool for a minute or two. Using your hands, combine the lamb and the egg with the garlic and herb mixture until everything is evenly mixed. Form into two even patties, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them. (You still don't need to wash the pan--you will be using it in the next step)

Pickled Red Onions
1/2 red onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small thai pepper, finely chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

Thinly slice the onion from the root to the tip, and separate the slices. In the same pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onion, thai pepper, and garlic and saute until the onion has softened. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir around until it boils off. Remove from the heat, add the white wine vinegar, mint, sugar, and salt. Let the onion sit in the vinegar for at least 1/2 an hour and up to 2 hours before straining off the liquid.

Marinated Lacinato Kale
1 long lacinato kale leaf
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Remove the stem from the kale leaf, and tear the leaf into 3 inch segments. In a small bowl, toss the kale with the lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Allow to rest for at least 45 minutes, tossing occasionally, to soften the kale.

Assembling the Burgers
marinated kale leaves
tzatziki sauce
pickled onions
uncooked lamb burgers
1 tomato, thinly sliced
2 hamburger buns

Preheat your broiler with a rack set close to the top. Place the burgers on a rack over a baking sheet. If you like, arrange the condiments on a platter.

When the broiler is hot, broil the burgers for about 4 minutes on each side, or until the feel firm and cooked. Transfer them to a plate, and place the buns on the rack to toast under the broiler. They should be done in one minute--watch them carefully so they don't burn.

Spread some tzatziki on the cut sides of the buns, place the burgers in the bun, and layer with kale, pickled onions, and sliced tomatoes. Enjoy!

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Lemon Sauce
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
1/4 cup tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup water
cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. On a baking sheet, toss together the cauliflower, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 45 minutes, turning occasionally, until the cauliflower has crisp brown tips.

While the cauliflower is baking, use a blender to combine the tahini, lemon juice, water, cayenne, and garlic. Blend until smooth, and transfer to a bowl.

When the cauliflower is done, toss with the parsley and the sauce, and serve.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Apple and Honey Dutch Baby

I love anything that vaguely resembles a popover.* The only time I, or for that matter anyone (as far as I know), cooked with my grandfather Carter Thacher, was to make popovers. For a man whose cooking was normally limited to iceberg wedges and boiled eggs, he surprised us all by his proposition that we make popovers (I was about 10).

But sometimes I like to add a little variety to the weekend brunch routine, and a Dutch Baby still has the appealing puffiness and crisp buttery edges that make me so love popovers. Plus, it has the added benefit of being able to include fruit.

This recipe is nothing trendy, but it is very good. Pair it with some freshly squeezed orange juice and a few slices of bacon, and there's a perfect Sunday brunch.

Apple and Honey Dutch Baby

3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 large apple (I used Jonagold), in 8 to 12 slices
3 tablespoons honey
cinnamon, optional
confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, flour, and salt in a mixing bowl.

In a skillet, heat the butter until it begins to brown. Add the apple slices to the hot butter, and cook for a few minutes on each side, or until they are softening and begin to brown. Drizzle with the honey, and some cinnamon if you like. Pour the batter over the apples, rearrange the apples in a pattern if you want, and transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake for 20 or 25 minutes, until the pancake is puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and dust with powdered sugar. Slice, and serve while still piping hot.

*Gran and Grandpop's Popover Recipe: Whisk together 3 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place a bit of butter in each cup of a 12 cup muffin tin, and put the muffin tin in a 450 degree oven until the butter is melted. Remove from the oven, and divide the batter between the cups. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350, and continue to bake for another 15 minutes. Eat them hot, with extra butter if you feel like being decadent.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mosaic-inspired Korean Pulled Pork in a Roasted Apple

The other day, to celebrate my first job/internship offer, Mitch and I went to a "fusion tapas" restaurant downtown called Mosaic. The food and drinks were great--fresh raspberry mojitos, compressed watermelon, arugula, and goat cheese salad, and fried artichoke hearts. But, as usual, I had to realize that there were more delicious sounding things on the menu than we could eat in one night.

So I got out my little green book and wrote detailed descriptions of the menu items we didn't order but wished we had. And a few days later, I went about trying to make the first one--Pulled Korean BBQ Pork in an Apple.

I started looking up what Korean Pulled Pork might be, and I got some good ideas from other food blogs, but I ended up just going with my instincts about what might taste good. And it did taste quite good--definitely worth making again someday. When I asked Mitch if there was anything I should change, he just said "there could be more of it," at which point I told him there was a lot more in a bowl in the kitchen. It makes a lovely appetizer, and the leftover pulled pork makes delicious sandwiches (I made Banh Mi with it).

Ingredients: pork shoulder, a few large cooking apples, 1 ripe pear, soy sauce, fresh ginger, garlic, sesame, a bunch of scallions, brown sugar, gochujang (optional), chili garlic sauce, sour cream

I ended up using a version of a marinade I use for Korean-inspired grilled short ribs--a delicious combination of a ripe pear, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sesame, scallion, and brown sugar, all blended to a puree. This time I added extra chili garlic sauce and some gochujang--a Korean fermented chili and soy condiment available at Asian grocery stores.

I'm sure pulled pork is best done in the oven, but when it is hot outside and/or I want to leave the house during the day and not worry that it might burn down, I prefer the slow-cooker. I took a pork shoulder, removed the bones and some of the fat, cut it into a few pieces, and tossed it in the slow cooker with the marinade. I then let this cook for about 8 hours on low heat, at which point the pork was very tender. After removing the pork from the cooker and allowing it to cool slightly, I took a couple forks and began the process of "pulling" it. It ends up being a lot easier to just use your hands as soon as the pork is cool enough.

Once it was all pulled apart, I put the pork back in the sauce in the slow cooker, and let it continue to cook. While it is cooking, take a large cooking apple, cut it in half, and remove the core and some of the good part of the apple to turn it into a bowl of sorts. Do this for as many apples as you want to serve--there will be more than enough pork if you use a whole pork shoulder cut.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and place the apple halves cut side up in an oven proof dish large enough to hold them. Using a slotted spoon, fill each apple with pulled pork, trying not to include much of the juices. Bake the filled apples for about 20 minutes, or until the apple is fully cooked.

While the apples are cooking, heat some sliced scallions in a bit of oil in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Cook these for 10 minutes, or until the scallions are very soft. Fold into a bit of sour cream.

Then, to serve, I took the apples out of the oven, transferred them with a large spoon to soup bowls, topped with a bit of sauce from the slow cooker, and then finished them off with a dollop of scallion sour cream. (I meant to garnish them with pistachios, but I had clearly forgotten that I ate the entire bag of pistachios a few days before while watching The West Wing.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Garlic Shrimp, Fennel Salad, Poached Baby Bok Choy, and Plum Sauce

Mostly based on a recipe from Cafe Boulud Cookbook, this main course salad turned out delicious. I used Argentinean Red Shrimp, which were very good, but any large shrimp or prawns will do. Really, you could substitute fresh Dungeness crab or lobster as well and you would still have an amazing dish.

I find that Daniel Boulud regularly over-complicates recipes, and this is no exception. I'm going to share with you a less precise method for this dish--use your judgement on quantities of things like garlic and olive oil. No need to waste time measuring too precisely for a dish like this, in my mind. Try serving it at a luncheon or, in smaller portions, to start an Asian-inspired meal.

Shrimp and Fennel Salad with Plum Sauce

half a fennel bulb
olive oil
bok choy
2 plums
red wine vinegar
sesame oil

Fennel Salad: Using a Benriner or Mandoline, shave half a bulb of fennel. If you don't have a mandoline, you can just cut very thin slices with a sharp knife, but it takes a lot longer. Toss the fennel with some chopped cilantro, the juice of half a lime (or a whole one, if it's not very juicy), some olive oil, and salt and pepper. Set the fennel aside while you prepare the other parts of this salad.

Bok Choy: Wash some baby bok choy, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and drop the bok choy in. Poach for about 4 minutes, or until they are fully cooked. Remove, rinse with cold water, cut into quarters, and set aside.

Plum Sauce: Take two ripe plums, pit them, and then squish them with your fingers into a small saucepan. Add a few thin slices of ginger, some cilantro, a bit of garlic, a tablespoon or red wine vinegar, a couple tablespoons of water, a splash of grenadine (or sugar, if you don't have grenadine), and some salt and pepper. Bring everything to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer to a blender, and blend for 30 seconds or until very smooth. Strain through a (not too fine) strainer, pushing as much through as possible. Set aside.

Shrimp: Peel and devein the shrimp (keep the shells for making broth with if you like--watch for a recipe soon to come that uses shrimp shells!). Heat some olive oil and a bit of sesame oil over medium-high heat, toss in the shrimp and plenty of finely chopped garlic and ginger. Cook until barely done--they will be fully pink and opaque, but not yet curled up in a ball. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.

Assemble the salad: Using the hot pan you cooked the shrimp in, reheat the bok choy. Place the shrimp in the middle of each serving plate, top with some fennel, surround with bok choy, and drizzle with plum sauce. Serve the extra sauce in a bowl at the table.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Using Leftover Paella

The other day I made seafood black paella (from the lovely cookbook A Platter of Figs). It was delicious, but paella is a party dish, and I am cooking for two. So naturally there was a huge bowl of leftovers, and I have been eating them for the lunch the past couple days.

If you have ever used leftover risotto, you probably know how to make risotto cakes. It works pretty well with paella too, as I found out today, but the flavors are different. This recipe could work with any variety of leftover paella. I like mine with grated Manchego and a stewed tomato. But it isn't tomato season yet, so stick to good quality canned tomatoes--they will always be riper than a supermarket winter tomato. Whole San Marzano tomatoes packed in tomato puree are really the best.

This makes a good light lunch, and a great way to use up leftovers. Also, if you just happen to have garlic aioli sitting around, these would be really good with some of that too.

Paella Cakes with San Marzano Tomato
makes 4 cakes

2 eggs
1/4 cup tomato puree (from the jar of whole tomatoes)
freshly ground pepper
2 pinches Kosher salt
1.5 cups leftover paella
4 whole canned San Marzano Tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
freshly grated Manchego cheese

In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, tomato puree, salt and pepper. Add in the paella and stir it all together.

In a small saucepan, heat up the tomatoes (with a pinch of salt) over medium-low heat, turning them over occasionally to heat them evenly. If you want, you could try heating them in the microwave.

In a nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, take one quarter of the paella mixture and plop it like a pancake into the pan. Push the edges together to make sure it stays intact. If your pan is big enough, do the other 3 paella cakes at the same time. When the bottoms are brown (about 3 minutes), use a spatula to flip the cakes to the other side. Cook another 3 minutes.

Serve the paella cakes with one tomato each, and grate Manchego cheese (or other aged sheep cheese) on top. Eat them while they are still warm.

First Post

I just got a camera, so I figured it was time to start documenting my adventures with food. That and I'm looking for a job, so I have some extra time on my hands. But right now my fridge is empty, so this is just a teaser before I get to the market and start cooking.

Here's a springtime menu idea, and maybe I'll write up directions on making these dishes soon:

Elderflower fizz

Chilled pea soup

Gnocchi, braised pork belly, asparagus tips, pureed asparagus, veal broth reduction

Rhubarb Napoleons, orange flower cream