Tuesday, May 12, 2015

California-Style Turkey Burgers

California-Style Turkey Burgers

It's mid-May and officially grilling season.  Yeah!  I make it my personal mission to cook dinner on the grill as much as I can throughout the week.  It turns cooking dinner from a chore into an event - drink in hand, the kids running around outside, hanging out with Joey on the deck… it makes my heart happy.  And then to enjoy a wonderful dinner?  Again, outside; again, drink in hand; again, the kids playing in the yard.  Perfection.

These burgers were a last-minute dinner decision.  I'd originally planned to make a different ground turkey recipe, but it was 70 degrees, sunny, and gorgeous outside.  What would YOU do in a situation like that?  The grill was just begging to be lit up.

So California-Style Turkey Burgers it was!  These are a pretty simple burger, amped up by loads of tasty toppings and an addictive sauce.  The patties are piled high with Monterey Jack cheese, avocado slices, sprouts (or in my case pea shoots, because I'm obsessed), and grilled red onion.  It's a great combination of textures and flavors, and these burgers have quickly skyrocketed to a favorite dinner in my house.

I threw some asparagus on the grill to serve alongside the burgers, but you can bet your britches that in the summer I'll be serving them with watermelon and grilled corn on the cob.

Have you dusted off your grill yet??

California-Style Turkey Burgers
adapted from ATK's Quick and Easy Grilling
makes 4 burgers

  • 2 Tbs ketchup
  • 2 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp pickle juice and/or relish
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey (NOT ground turkey breast)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced into 1/4-inch rings
  • 4 hamburger buns, split and brushed with oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated Monterey Jack cheese (or pepperjack if you want a kick)
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, and sliced
  • 1/4 cup alfalfa sprouts or pea shoots
Prepare grill.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, mayonnaise, smoked paprika, and pickle juice/relish.  Set aside.

Shape the ground turkey into four 3/4-inch thick patties, and season both sides liberally with salt and pepper.  Brush the onion slices with oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill the patties until browned and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes per side.  Sprinkle each burger with the cheese during the last 2 minutes of cooking.  Transfer the burgers to a plate and tent with foil.  Meanwhile, grill the onions 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until softened.  Grill the buns 1 to 2 minutes, or until toasted.

To assemble the burgers, place the patties on the bun bottoms and top with the avocado, sprouts, and onions.  Spread about 1 tablespoon of sauce on the top bun, and serve.


Friday, May 1, 2015

The Ultimate Strawberry Margarita

The Ultimate Strawberry Margarita 

Fruity margaritas can be a hard sell.  Make it too fruity and sweet, and it's off-putting for margarita purists.  Make it not fruity or sweet, and it's off-putting to everyone else.  Strawberries can also be hard to incorporate into drinks because they can be bland and watery if not in their prime season.  So while a strawberry margarita seems like a good idea in theory, they are often either boring and underwhelming, or cloyingly sweet with artificial strawberry flavor.

Of course, leave it to the incomparable Rick Bayless to work out all the kinks.  His strawberry margarita is far and away the best one I've ever had.  Sweet and luscious strawberry flavor, a nice boozy kick from the tequila, and just enough lime juice to balance out the sweetness.

He has a few tricks up his sleeve that help to put this margarita over the top.  The first is using aperol as a supporting player.  The sweetness of the strawberries is nicely tempered by this dry, slightly bitter liqueur.  Strawberry puree gives you the most pure, fresh, and natural strawberry flavor, and finally, the strawberry sugar rim pushes the whole thing to a new level.  You use freeze-dried strawberries mixed with sugar to create the rim, and the result is what MAKES this the ultimate strawberry margarita.  freeze-dried strawberries, not to be confused with regular dried strawberries, are pulverized with the sugar in a food processor to create the powder for the rim.  I am normally a fan of salt with my margaritas, but the sweet and slightly tart strawberry rim makes this just over the top amazing.

Our street is having a Cinco de Mayo block party tomorrow, and I will be bringing a pitcher of these babies.  I hope you all celebrate Cinco de Mayo this weekend with a strawberry margarita!

The Ultimate Strawberry Margarita 

The Ultimate Strawberry Margarita
from Frontera by Rick Bayless
makes 8 cocktails

  • 3 cups hulled and halved fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups tequila blanco
  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup Aperol
  • 1/2 cup orange liqueur
  • 1 lime wedge
  • strawberry sugar (recipe follows)
  • ice cubes
In a food processor, combine the strawberries and sugar and puree until smooth.  Strain the puree through a fine-mesh sieve and refrigerate until ready for use.

In a pitcher, combine 1 1/2 cups of the strawberry puree, tequila, lime juice, aperol, and orange liqueur. Stir well and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

Use a lime to moisten the rims of 8 6-oz cocktail glasses, and dip the rims into the strawberry sugar.  Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice, then pour in a little over 1 cup of the chilled margarita. Shake and strain into 2 of the sugar-crusted glasses.  Repeat with the remaining margaritas.  Garnish with fresh strawberries or limes if desired, and serve.

Strawberry Sugar

  • 1 oz freeze dried strawberries (can be found at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, or other well-stocked grocery stores)
  • 1 oz granulated sugar
Combine the strawberries and sugar in a coffee grinder or small food processor and pulverize until a coarse powder forms.  Set aside until ready to use.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Chicken Burritos Mojados (Mexican Flag Burritos)

Burritos Mojados (Mexican Flag Burritos)

I told you guys I had an insane recipe to share this week, and this is it.  These burritos.  Oh man, they are something special.  They are filled with chicken, beans, rice, cheese, and avocado, then draped in three sauces that are inspired by the colors of the Mexican flag.  The red sauce is homemade red chile enchilada sauce, the green is roasted tomatillo salsa, and the white is Mexican crema.  Together they form perfect Mexican food harmony.  The smoky spiciness of the enchilada sauce complements the bright fresh tanginess from the salsa verde, and the smooth and creamy crema ties everything together.  I'm pretty sure that after every bite, I proclaimed these to be one of the best things I've ever made, and kept telling Joey "it's just like we're at a mexican restaurant!"

Burritos Mojados (Mexican Flag Burritos) 

These do take a bit of prep work, but it's all pretty well streamlined, and none of it's difficult or tedious.  You could even prep these in advance - make the salsa (or buy it, I promise I won't tell), make the sauce, cook and shred the chicken, and cook the rice.  Then just assemble and bake when you're ready.  The assembled burritos can also be prepped a few hours in advance as well.

I hope you're planning an all-out feast for Cinco de Mayo, and I think these burritos should be required.  They are something different than the typical tacos or fajitas, and totally worthy of a big celebration.  Margaritas not optional!

Burritos Mojados (Mexican Flag Burritos) 

Chicken Burritos Mojados (Mexican Flag Burritos)
adapted from ATK's The Best Mexican Recipes
serves 6

  • 2 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup long grain white rice, rinsed
  • 1 (15-oz) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 Tbs chile powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 (8-oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 6 (10-inch) flour tortillas
  • 2 avocados, halved, pitted, and cut into 1/2inch pieces
  • 8 oz monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups tomatillo salsa
  • water, as needed
  • 1/2 cup Mexican crema (or sour cream)
Bring 1 1/4 cups of the broth, rice, beans, 2 teaspoons of chile powder, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until the rice is tender and the broth is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat, and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered.  Stir in the scallions and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until it's just softened, 4-5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, remaining 3 Tbs chile powder, and cumin, and cook until fragrant, about one minute.  Stir in the tomato sauce and remaining 1 cup of broth and bring to a simmer.  Nestle the chicken breasts into the sauce, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until the chicken is cooked through and registers 160 degrees, about 10 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway through.  Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and once it's cool enough to handle, shred or chop into bite-sized pieces.  Taste the red sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine the rice and beans mixture, chicken, 1/4 cup of the red sauce, 2 Tbs of the cilantro, and cheese.  Season with salt and pepper and stir well.  

Wrap the tortillas in a damp kitchen towel and microwave until they are warm, about one minute.  

Working 1-2 tortillas at a time, mound 1 cup of the chicken and rice mixture in the center of each tortilla  Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of avocado.  Fold the sides then the bottom of the tortilla over the filling, pulling back on it to tighten around the filling.  Roll tightly into a burrito.  Place the burrito seam side-down on the prepared baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining tortillas.  Cover rightly with foil, and bake until heated throughout, 20 to 30 minutes.

As the burritos are cooking, whisk a little water into the tomatillo salsa if it's thick.  Microwave until hot, about 1 minute.

To serve, distribute the burritos to individual plates.  Pour the tomatillo sauce over half of each burrito, and pour the red sauce over the other half.  Drizzle with cream, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve.




Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hibiscus Margaritas

Hibiscus Margaritas

As Americans, we are really good at taking other countries' holidays and turning them into an opportunity for binge drinking.  And of these commandeered holidays, Cinco de Mayo is my favorite.  But only until we turn Bastille Day into a chance to drink lots of wine and eat cheese and bread though.  In the meantime, pass the margaritas and queso!

I have some really awesome recipes lined up to share with you this week, including TWO margarita recipes!  I'm starting with the hibiscus margarita, so that you have time to order some dried hibiscus flowers from amazon before the weekend!  They are relatively cheap, and you will pretty much have a lifetime supply, good for more cocktails, tea, glazes, desserts, etc.  So go ahead and order them now -- I'll wait!

These margaritas were kind of an experiment, but it was a wildly successful one.  I've had hibiscus cocktails before, but never margaritas, so I wasn't quite sure how they would turn out.  It was a fun recipe to make because you infuse tequila with the flowers, a technique that was new to me.  I liked this because it gives you a strong hibiscus flavor without watering down the tequila.  No one likes watered down tequila.

The resulting margarita is a gorgeous deep red hue, with a slightly floral, slightly spicy taste, well-tempered by the lime and orange juices.  This margarita had a wonderful complexity, without being too fussy or out there.  If you're looking for a unique margarita for Cinco de Mayo, give this one a try.  And stay tuned this week, I have more fun ideas and recipes coming at you!

Hibiscus Margaritas
adapted from chow.com
makes 6 margaritas

  • 16 oz tequila blanco
  • 2 oz dried hibiscus flowers (about 1 heaping cup)
  • 5 oz orange liqueur
  • 4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice (from about 6-7 limes)
  • 5 oz freshly squeezed orange juice (from 2 oranges)
  • 2 oz simple syrup
  • ice
  • lime wedges, for serving
In a medium saucepan, combine the tequila and hibiscus flowers.  Over medium-low heat, bring to 160 degrees, or until the tequila is just beginning to steam, 5-6 minutes.  Immediately remove from heat, cover, and allow to steep for 15 to 20 minutes.  

Place a fine-mesh strainer over a heat-resistant, quart-sized measuring cup or pitcher, and strain the tequila from the dried hibiscus flowers, pressing on them with a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard the flowers.

Stir the orange liqueur, lime juice, orange juice, and simple syrup into the tequila.  Cover and chill for at least an hour.

Serve over ice, with a lime wedge.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shrimp and Asparagus Stir-Fry in Lemon Sauce

Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry in Lemon Sauce

I've had two obsessions this spring (well, three if you count tequila, but that's a year round thing).  My NEW spring obsessions are shrimp and asparagus.  We've been eating them both at least once a week for the past month, and I recently decided to combine their forces for a really awesome dinner.

I'm not generally a fan of Chinese takeout, but I do like the flavors of Chinese food.  Is that weird to say?  Oftentimes takeout leaves me feeling heavy and tired, and honestly a little sick to my stomach.  But take-out fake-out?  I'm always game.   Having control over the ingredients and sodium level makes all the difference for me.

This particular stir-fry is an ode to spring produce and flavors, and it couldn't be any further from the greasy, heavy Chinese food you're used to.  The asparagus, carrots, lemon, and shrimp pair wonderfully together.  As is the case with most stir fries, this does take a bit of prep work, what with the chopping, mixing, etc.  But it can all be done well in advance, and the dinner itself is cooked really quickly.  However, even if you do it all at once, you're still looking at dinner on the table in about half an hour; which in my book qualifies as a pretty solid weeknight meal.

Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry in Lemon Sauce 

Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry in Lemon Sauce
serves 4
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp dry Sherry or dry white wine
  • 3 scallions, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
  • 5 tsp canola oil, divided
  • 1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed, sliced on the bias into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • Lemon Sauce (recipe follows)
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon
In a large bowl, toss the shrimp with the pepper, soy sauce, and sherry.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes, or up to 1 hour.

As the shrimp marinates, prepare the lemon sauce (recipe below).  This is also a good time to trim and slice the asparagus, and peel and chop the carrots.

In a small bowl, combine the garlic, ginger, and 1 teaspoon of the oil.

Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat.  Add the shrimp, arranging them into a single layer as best you can.  Cook about 1 minute, stirring halfway through.  They should be lightly browned but not fully cooked.  Remove to a medium bowl and set aside.

Return the skillet to high heat, and add the remaining 2 teaspoons of the oil.  Add the asparagus and carrots and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are just barely tender, stirring constantly.

Stir in the garlic-scallion mixture and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Return the shrimp, along with any accumulated juices, to the skillet.  Shake the sauce to recombine, then pour it over the mixture.  Simmer, tossing and stirring constantly, until the shrimp re cooked through and the sauce has thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest.  Serve immediately .

Lemon Sauce
  • 6 Tbs low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
  • 2 Tbs mirin
  • 2 Tbs dry sherry
  • 2 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
Combine all the ingredients into a pint-sized jar, and shake to combine.  Use as directed above.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

BBQ Glazed Pork Tenderloin over Pimento Cheese Grits

BBQ Glazed Pork Tenderloin over Pimento Cheese Grits 

Any southern lady worth her salt has a good recipe for pimento cheese in her back pocket.  Traditionalists hold strong to the idea that pimento cheese should be used only for dipping crackers and spreading on white bread.  I myself am a bit liberal when it comes to my pimento cheese consumption, and firmly believe that the sky's the limit!  I mean, I made pimento cheese macarons last year.   Clearly I'm no traditionalist.  So while pimento cheese grits aren't that out there, they are a fun spin on both grits and pimiento cheese -- two of my favorite southern delicacies.  And to top it with grilled and glazed pork tenderloin?  Pure southern perfection.

I'm imagining serving this at a dinner party.  Start with fried green tomatoes.  Serve grilled or cornmeal-crusted okra on the side.  And finish with an Arnold Palmer Layer Cake or Peach Cobbler.  To drink?  If you can find it, La Peche Mode, a peach saison by Three Taverns Brewery here in Atlanta.  This beer pairs perfectly with the spicy pork and creamy grits.

I realize that some parts of the country are still blanketed in snow, but please.  The minute you can, dust off your grill and make this dinner.  You'll be so happy, and I'll grant you all southerner cards for the day!

BBQ Glazed Pork Tenderloin over Pimento Cheese Grits 

BBQ Glazed Pork Tenderloin over Pimento Cheese Grits

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat
  • 3 Tbs BBQ Spice Rub (recipe below)
  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 1/2 cup BBQ sauce
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 oz diced pimentos, drained (or 1/2 roasted red pepper, diced)
  • 2 Tbs heavy cream or half and half
Prepare the grill to cook over medium-high heat.  Brush the grates with cooking oil.

In a small bowl, combine the BBQ spice rub and the canola oil to form a paste.  Rub over the pork tenderloin.

Place on the grill and cook, turning every 4-5 minutes, until the meat registers 140 degrees in the center.  For the last 5-6 minutes, brush with the bbq sauce.  Remove the tenderloin from the grill, cover with foil, and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.  Brush once more with bbq sauce, and slice.

As the pork is cooking, make the grits.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions.  Cook, stirring often, until they are softened and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes.  Add the garlic, mustard powder, cayenne pepper, 3/4 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Cook for an additional minute, then slowly whisk in the water and milk.  

Bring to a boil and whisk in the grits.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the grits are creamy, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Whisk often to keep lumps from forming and to keep the grits from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in the cheese, pimentos, and cream.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

To serve, spoon the grits onto a plate and arrange a few slices of pork over the top.  


BBQ Spice Rub
America's Test Kitchen, Healthy Family Cookbook

  • 3 Tbs brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbs dry mustard powder
  • 2 Tbs pepper
  • 1 Tbs onion powder
  • 1 Tbs garlic powder
  • 1 Tbs ground cumin
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Combine all the spices in a small bowl and stir to combine well.  This can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for about a month.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Pizza Primavera

Pizza Primavera

Every year, around this time, I wax poetic about my love for spring.  You guys can all have fall, I'll take spring year round if I could.  I went for a run today in 85 degree weather, and it made me SO happy.  Despite the oppressive pollen counts, the kids and I have been spending as much time as possible outside, and again, it makes me SO happy.  And finally, what makes me most happy of all, spring produce!  I love incorporating spring veggies into as many of my meals and dishes as possible.  I'm a big fan of pasta primavera, so naturally, in my pizza-loving world, the next step was pizza primavera.

Y'all, this pizza.  It's really amazing.  It basically combines several of my favorite pizzas into one amazing, veggie-loaded pizza.  We start with a garlicky white sauce, then top it with shaved asparagus, roasted cherry tomatoes, onions, spinach, and mushrooms.  I used a combo of mozzarella and parmesan cheese, but I think fontina and/or goat cheese would be absolutely fabulous here too.  I sprinkled the finished pizza with fresh herbs, and this went down in history as one of my favorite pizzas ever.  Coincidentally, Caroline proclaimed it to BE her favorite pizza ever, and laid claim to the leftovers for her lunch.  This veggie pizza puts all other veggie pizzas to shame.  Served with a strawberry-spinach salad, you have spring dinner perfection.

Spring, we welcome you with open arms!  I hope you guys are as enamored with spring produce as I am, because I have a huge backlog of recipes, just waiting to be shared!

Pizza Primavera 

Pizza Primavera
makes 1 pizza
  • 1 cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 Tbs flour
  • 3/4 cup milk (low fat is fine)
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 lb pizza dough
  • 4-5 thick spears of asparagus, shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced vidalia onion
  • 3-4 baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup freshly shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs fresh minced basil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake 15-20 minutes, tossing halfway through.  Remove from the oven, place a pizza stone in the oven, and increase the temperature to 500 degrees.

Meanwhile, make the white sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour, and cook, whisking constantly, until golden and bubbly, about 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk, and add the garlic cloves.  Cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and bubbles.  Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in 1/3 cup of the parmesan cheese.  Discard the garlic.

To prepare the pizza, sprinkle a large square of parchment paper with cornmeal or semolina flour.  Roll and stretch the dough into a 14-15 inch circle or oval, and brush the perimeter with olive oil.  

Spread a thin layer of the white sauce over the dough, leaving a border all the way around (you will have some sauce leftover -- it's great for dipping the pizza into!).  Scatter the chopped spinach over the sauce, then sprinkle 2/3 cup of the mozzarella over the spinach.  Arrange the shaved asparagus over the cheese, then top with the roasted tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms.  

Finish by sprinkling the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheese over the top.  Carefully transfer the pizza + parchment to the oven and bake 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly.  

Sprinkle with the scallions and basil, slice, and serve.


 
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