Monday, August 22, 2016

Burgers with avocado and tomato salsa

This is an adaptation of a recipe from our Big Green Egg Cookbook (and web site) We made a few adjustments, mostly because we forgot some ingredients.

This was a collaboration meal. Pam made the salsa and James made and grilled the burgers. 

Our first challenge was finding an avocado. We looked for a long time in the produce section of our grocery store before we found the perhaps two dozen that were there. About half of those were hard as rocks, the other half felt like mush. We selected the least squishy among the mushy bin.

Once we had the avocado Pam chopped it, along with a fresh tomato from our local farmer's market, half an onion, and three slices of crisp bacon. To this mix she added a dollop of mayonnaise, juice from half a lemon, a bit of pepper and garlic salt. Pam also added some chopped fresh cilantro even though the recipe didn't call for it because, really, what is salsa without cilantro?! Once everything was thoroughly mixed, she covered it and placed in the refrigerator to chill.

James, meanwhile, fired up the Big Green Egg (from which we got the recipe), inserting the cast-iron grill recommended for such uses. He used ground turkey that was on hand, mixing it with some Trader Joe's garlic seasoning and a little olive oil that happened to be in the mixing bowl. Something to bind the burgers together would have been helpful. Despite getting the grill to reasonably high heat and spraying it with cooking spray, the burgers sagged in the gaps, and had to be extracted, more than flipped, when they were done. Some delicious charred scraps were snapped up by the chef; others fell into the coals.

The overall result, though, was delicious, and we agree with the #BigGreenEgg web site that this is a perfect burger recipe!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Apple of My Egg

Our Egg, actually....

This is the brief story of a nice desert we prepared on the Big Green Egg. We need once again to promise not to make this blog all about the Egg, while posting yet another item about our use of it.

This time, it was for dessert with friends. We decided to try the manufacturer's recipe for smoked apples, which begins with hollowing out each apple and filling it with a sweet mix of raisins, sugar, and spices. We could not figure out how an apple corer would be of any use -- I simply used a paring knife and a small spoon to turn each apple into a bit of a cup.
I decided to forego the recommended half marshmallow capping each of these, and simply put this entire pan in the Egg, once it had reached 325F. The recipe calls for 60-75 minutes at this temperature; I think I went closer to 90, with no ill effect.

The result looks like a mess, but with all that sweetness, nobody even noticed. Especially since I did follow the recommendation to serve these with vanilla ice cream.
All six of us tucked into our apples with abandon -- the mostly gooey sweetness contrasting with the occasional crusty bit that had gone beyond caramelized. Even our daughter who usually eschews raisins enjoyed every bite!
I have no idea how much the success of this dish was owing to the smoke flavor, nor how similar would have been the results from a conventional oven. But we had a nicely cooked dessert in a small kitchen in late summer, with all the heat being outside in the Egg. So we will do it this way again!

Smoking Ratatouille

This post is not exactly a nueva receta, but rather a small adjustment in a vieja receta. (That is, a modified old recipe, not a new one.)
This lid is much more photogenic than the food itself.
A friend who saw this online assumed I was smoking something else.
 Nope -- just the vegetables!
I have written about the importance of ratatouille in my 2011 Ratatatatouille post (as if the word itself were not difficult enough to spell), which links to the only recipe I have used for it -- Weapons-grade Ratatouille

I saw the first eggplant of summer at the farmers market last week, and even though tomatoes are still on the pricey side (the price will plummet at the end of the season), they are fresh, ripe, and local, so we bought a ton of them, and let them get even a bit riper as we waited for a good ratatouille-making day.

Which was yesterday. The recipe calls for hours of stove-top simmering plus a bit of oven roasting. This has always been a bit of a problem for ratatouille, since the best season for getting the vegetables is the worst season for heating up the kitchen.

This year we were lucky: Big Green Egg to the rescue! It allowed me to do the roasting outside, although the roasting pan wreaked a bit of havoc with the temperature control for which the Egg is most famous. I was caught off-guard, because I used the same baking sheet to roast these vegetables that I had used to smoke apples just a few days ago, and I had not had any problems with the apples.

The difference seems to have been with the temperature I was trying to maintain. For the apples, I was able to maintain the egg at 325 for over an hour, even though the pan was blocking most of the internal airflow. For the vegetables, I had gotten the egg to 500, but when I put the vegetables in, the temperature dropped to about 310 and would not go back up. I thought maybe the potatoes I was baking were part of the problem, but apparently they were not, and there actually was no problem. The vegetables seemed to be roasting just fine -- getting crisper than they should have at 310 -- and when I removed the pan, the temperature immediately went to 450. In other words, the temperature in the bottom half of the Egg had been just fine. Once I removed the pan, the Egg was back to normal, and worked very well for the local, coffee-rubbed steak I made for dinner!

As for the ratatouille, we finished simmering it, mixed the vegetables in, and put it in the fridge, so we are having it cold-only; the perfect summer lunch!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lilith's Lily Fair Soup and Lemon Potato Salad with Mint

Last week I posted about our summer solstice meal with a recipe from The Wicca Cookbook. One of the recipes I wanted to try was the Lilith's Lily Fair Soup, but I had to wait because our day lilies were not yet blooming. Today I noticed the familiar orange color in the garden and bought the rest of the ingredients I needed.


Preparation was fairly simple, but had to be started several hours in advance so everything would have time to chill. Essentially I made two fruit smoothies, and then poured them carefully into bowls once they were chilled. The first round was made from the mango, melon (we used cantaloupe instead of honeydew) and the orange juice. Once that was blended I put it in a bowl which I placed in the refrigerator to chill. I rinsed the blender and then mixed the raspberries, liquor, and sugar in it. This mix, too went into the refrigerator. I let it chill about two hours, and then poured the mango/melon mix into the bowls. Next, the raspberry mixed was poured slowly to one side to create an eye-pleasing soup. One day lily was cut up and sprinkled on top of the soup, and then one whole lily was placed on top. This soup was beautiful, and delicious. And, for me, it was also a bit nostalgic. First because day lilies were the first edible flower I ever learned about (many years ago during an elementary school field trip), and also because the neon orange and bright pink color combination of the soup reminded me of a treat I used to get from the Good Humor truck!


To complement this summer soup I also made the lemon/mint potato salad from the New York Times. Again, the dish was simple, but I had to start it several hours in advance. We enjoyed some Tuscan bread, purchased from the Fairhaven (Massachusetts) Farmer's Market, and some Cinco Cães wine from the Westport Rivers Winery.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Simple Summer Fish

As we noted recently, our favorite vegetarian cook book -- Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home -- has a fish section. As with everything in this wonderful book, its fish recipes are simple. We are fortunate to have access to fresh, excellent seafood from Kyler's Catch; we like to prepare it in simple ways to bring out the great flavor.

This recipe begins with a simple marinade. I combined these in a shallow, non-metal dish, and spooned the mixture over the fish:

3 T orange juice
juice of one lemon
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed (I minced)
1 T olive oil
dash of Tabasco

While the fish marinaded briefly, I prepared the salsa:

3 ripe tomatoes, diced
4 scallions,
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced (can use any chile pepper or 1/4 t cayenne)
2 t grated orange peel
1 orange, sectioned, seeded, each section cut in half
2 T lemon juice
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
dash of salt

I broiled the fish (grilling would be good, too) and then topped with the salsa. Delish!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Strawvacodo Salad

It is summer concert season again, when we return to Westport Rivers -- our favorite local vineyard -- for a weekly picnic with live music and excellent wine. (This season is off to a bit of a rough start, thanks to onerous reinterpretation of puritanical liquor laws. But this is still the place to be for the summer.)

Westport Rivers supports area businesses, so that a raw bar, food truck, or both are usually part of the event. Even if we try some of those items, though, this is a picnic so we always bring some or all of the food we are going to want. Pam turned to Intercourses, the cleverly-named romantic cookbook that we have cited many times on this blog, and found another winner.
Not only is this a case of a book cover that is more photogenic than the actual food; it is also a reminder of just how passionate the authors are about this particular ingredient.
Strawberry and avocado salad brings together two ingredients that each warrant a whole chapter in this book -- buy the book to enjoy all of the rhapsodizing about these two fruits. For now, the basics: chill a dressing and chop a bunch of produce.

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar (we used blackberry-ginger balsamic from L.O.V.E., our aptly-named favorite provider of infused oils and vinegars, run by a fellow UMBC alumna)
1-1/2 T sugar
1/4 t hot sauce
1/4 t salt
1/8 t pepper
1/4 t cinnamon

1 head romaine (we used about half a head of green lettuce -- not iceberg -- making the sensual ingredients all the more prominent)
1 orange, sectioned then halved (the recipe calls for half a can of mandarin oranges, but fresh seemed a better choice)
1/2 cup sliced onion (we used a few scallions)
1/4 cup toasted pecans (toasted them myself in a cast-iron skillet)
1/2 avocado (this made no sense to me -- I used a whole one)

Pam made the dressing; I prepared the produce. We tossed it all in a bowl and took it to the vineyard -- perfectly paired with Cinco Cães, the lovely sunset, and the lyrical stylings of Rebecca Correia.

Happy Solstice

We were a day late with our summer solstice celebration meal from The Wicca Cookbook, but since our wonderful daughter had offered to cook for us on the actual solstice I wasn't about to start worrying about specific dates. 

Of the fifteen recipes included in the cookbook under "Summer Solstice" we selected the vegetable frittata because we had all the ingredients (or reasonable facsimiles thereof) on hand, it was simple, and because our vegetarian daughter was dining with us. This frittata has peppers, sliced potatoes, onions (the recipe says scallions, but we used what we had), basil, and goat cheese (the rest of what was left from last week's Pasta with Grapes), and of course eggs and milk. The recipe as written in the book has a few problems: for instance it begins with a description of how to roast a red pepper by holding it over a flame, wrapping it, letting it sweat, and then rubbing off the skin before slicing. The recipe, however, never mentions when, exactly, one is supposed to add the pepper to the dish. Since I was using frozen, pre-sliced bell peppers I wasn't too concerned though. I figured out to sauteé them as I was finishing with the potatoes. I mixed all the ingredients (except the potatoes and peppers) together in a bowl first, then cooked the potato slices in our indispensable cast-iron skillet until they were tender then I added the peppers and cooked a few more minutes. Once the potatoes and peppers were ready I added the egg mixture and cooked until the eggs just started to set, then put the skillet in a preheated 350 oven for 25 minutes. I impressed myself with how perfectly fluffy this came out. We enjoyed our meal outside with some Malbec.