Burgers

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My husband cooks one thing – burgers. And I happily let him because they’re that good. In fact, people come from miles away to eat his burgers.

I didn’t grow up eating burgers and I’ve never cooked them myself. Even though I was born and raised in the U.S., I don’t crave hamburgers and fries like most. But when it comes to my husband’s burgers, I’m first in line.

We planned to have them on Memorial Day recently. Then I got the brilliant idea to document what he does in order to share his recipe. He said he didn’t mind if I followed him around with my camera, but that “there’s really no recipe.” But there is.

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Here’s what he does.

Before the burger-making process begins, he adds hot water to a 32-ounce cup filled with hickory chips.

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The ground beef he uses is grass fed, 80% lean, 20% fat.

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He makes the burgers all 8 ounces each, and 1″ thick.

The patties are formed by gently pressing the meat into shape. He presses a “well” on the tops of the patties.

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A generous amount of Worcestershire sauce and coarsely ground pepper are added. Let them sit at room temperature until it’s time to begin grilling.

Then he starts the fire. He will only use charcoal for grilling, and he’s patient with the fire. Neither of us like “charred” or “flame-kissed” burgers.

Only after all of the charcoal is grey, after about 45 minutes, he spreads out the coals and sprinkles on the soaked hickory.

The patties are placed on the grill carefully and cooked for 7 1/2 minutes on that side.

The lid is propped open so that the fire doesn’t get too hot, yet the hickory smoke stays inside the grill.

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After the burgers are turned over, more Worcestershire sauce and pepper are added.

After another 7 1/2 minutes, the burgers are ready to eat.

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I like mine with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, ketchup and yellow mustard, but they would be fantastic any which way!

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So, I don’t really know what makes these burgers so delicious. I think the hickory smoke is part of it, the Worcestershire sauce and pepper are part of it, using real charcoal, plus cooking only to medium-rare is also part of what makes these so good.

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Roasted Beets

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There have been times that, when commenting on recipe posts in which beets are roasted, that the beets aren’t really roasted. We’ve all done it – we place whole, trimmed beets in a foil package with a little olive oil and salt, steam-cook them till tenderness, remove the peels, and voila! But they’re not really roasted, are they?!!

So I set out to actually roast beets, as one would potatoes or broccoli. I know they will be good, like all roasted goodies. My husband claims that roasted broccoli is better than candy!
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So here’s what I did.

Really Roasted Beets

3 beets
Olive oil
Black pepper
Salt

Preheat oven to 375 degree roast setting, or 400 degrees.

Trim tops and bottoms of beets.

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Peel the beets completely.

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Chop the beets into 12ths. Or just make fairly uniform pieces of the beets, any shape you prefer. Place the beets in a baking dish, and drizzle some olive oil over them. Sprinkle them generously with pepper and salt.

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Place the baking dish in the oven. After about 15 minutes, use a spoon and toss them around to brown the pieces on different sides. Continue roasting for 10 or so minutes. They should be nicely browned, but also piece a chunk to test for tenderness.

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If they’re still firm, turn off the oven and let the baking dish sit in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

I used them in a salad so as to let the roasted beets really “shine.”

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For the vinaigrette, I used some beet juice strained from a can of beets, along with an equal part of leftover Riesling and reduced it. I then added red wine vinegar, olive oil, a little heavy cream, and a pinch of salt.

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If you want recipes for other “reduction” vinaigrettes, check out Beet Vinaigrette, or Beet Apple Vinaigrette.

The roasted beets are exactly what roasted beets should be. Tender beets with a lovely roasted exterior!

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Polynesian Salad

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Ever since I first spotted this recipe on the blog A Beautiful Bite, I’ve been dying to make it. Melanie actually calls her salad “Crunchy Polynesian Salad.” The salad isn’t terribly sophisticated, but it sounded fun and different. I love her unique, crunchy additions – toasted ramen noodles and macadamia nuts!

I made this salad for a July 4th get-together. Because it was for a significant family-friend gathering, I made a very large salad and a voluminous amount of dressing. But I’ve pared it all back to a more normal amount for this post. Or check out Melanie’s original recipe here, which serves eight people.
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Polynesian Salad

8 ounces shredded iceberg lettuce
8 ounces broccoli slaw
8 ounces julienned carrots
8 ounces shredded purple cabbage
1 – 16 ounce can pineapple slices in juice
Coconut oil or Pam
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 small purple onion, diced
Fresh cilantro
Toasted ramen noodles
Macadamia nut pieces, toasted

Place the first four ingredients in a large bowl lined with paper towels to insure that the vegetables are dry. I don’t like excessive moisture in salads because it dilutes the dressing.
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Store the bowl in the refrigerator overnight or at least for a few hours.
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Drain the pineapple slices over a bowl and save the juice for the dressing. Dry the slices on paper towels.


Spray a griddle with coconut oil, and grill the pineapple slices until grill marks are obvious. Continue with all of the pineapple you’re using, then cut each slice into quarters.

If you need to save on time, you can cut up the red bell peppers, but I would place them in a sealable bag or bowl also lined with paper towels. I never cut up onions ahead of time.

Toast the macadamia nuts in a large skillet, and let them cool completely.


There’s some preparation to this salad, but trust me, it’s all worth it!

Polynesian Dressing

1/2 cup pineapple juice
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
4 teaspoons sesame seed oil
1″ piece ginger, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.


Then add an equal amount of olive oil or peanut oil.

On the day you are serving the salad, bring all of the different salad elements to room temperature, including the dressing.

Remove the paper towels, and toss the salad ingredients with the pineapple and red bell pepper.
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Chop the onion and add it to the salad along with the cilantro. Right before serving, add the dressing and toss well.

If you’re serving the salad buffet style, mix in the ramen noodles and nuts at the very last minute so they stay crunchy. This is what I used because I couldn’t find ramen noodles. You might be shocked but I’ve never bought them before.
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This salad is truly a fabulous summer salad, and great for entertaining.
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You can change up the ingredients of the main salad. It can be all cabbage, or more lettuces, whatever you like.
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If you can’t find macadamia nuts, you could use peanuts or almonds, toasted, of course.


It would also be a really good salad with grilled chicken or salmon!!!
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note: I would have used a fresh pineapple if I could have found one. But the pineapple that’s canned with juice and not heavy syrup worked out well.

A Seafood Salad

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There’s one thing that I really dislike after a vacation, and that’s having to go to the grocery store. Of course, no one else goes for me, so inevitably I drag myself out of the house to stock up on fruits, vegetables, and whatever I need for my planned meals.

But it’s especially nice to not have to go, especially the first day back. Especially if there’s some jet lag involved. Usually there’s unpacking, laundry, organizing, re-visiting lists, checking plants, and reuniting with the dogs that take precedence.

We have a pet sitter who will place frozen cuts of meat into the refrigerator on the day I ask her to, which is helpful. But my husband tends to eat heartier and meatier meals than I do. If you’ve ever seen me eat, you might be laughing at this. But seriously, I’d rather have a salad than a steak. Except that there’s no fresh lettuce and other veggies in the fridge after being gone for two weeks.

So enter my solution for having a nice meal on your first day back, without having to go to the store. It’s a salad of warm potatoes and canned seafood. It’s actually good when you have food in the house. The key, of course, is having good quality seafood on hand. The only think you have to plan ahead is to have some potatoes stored in the refrigerator before you leave town.
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So here’s what I did in order to procrastinate going to the grocery store for another day.

Potato and Seafood Salad

2-3 medium red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled
Canned tuna in oil
Canned octopus in oil
Other canned tuna, if necessary
Lettuce leaves, optional
Olive oil
Vinegar of choice
Capers
Salt
Pepper

Begin with the potatoes. Chop them up in equal pieces.
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Place them in boiling water. When they are tender, drain them in a colander.

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Add all of the seafood canned in oil to another colander over a small bowl and let it drain. Save the oil.
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Place the potatoes in a bowl, and add most all of the saved oil from the canned seafood, or to your taste preference. If you feel that the oil is too “fishy,” simply add olive oil to the still-warm potatoes. But this is an important step because the oil keeps the potatoes moist. Add some salt and toss gently.
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On a serving platter, place the lettuce leaves decoratively.
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Add the still warm potatoes.
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Add the seafood to the salad.
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Sprinkle the salad with a little more olive oil, if needed. I do.

Then sprinkle some vinegar over the salad. Today I used sherry vinegar, but any vinegar except balsamic would work well.
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If you prefer, make a vinaigrette using oil, vinegar, and some Dijon mustard first and pour that over the top of the salad.

Then add capers, a little salt, and a generous amount of pepper. Serve immediately.
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You could always include chopped shallots or chives, if they’re available.
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As I mentioned above, other ingredients can be added to this salad, like fresh tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and olives, but on a day when you have a limited supply of food, it’s a delightful and healthy salad to make and enjoy.
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note: If you don’t have potatoes, the same ingredients can be added to cooked pasta. I would suggest warming some minced garlic in a generous amount of olive oil first, then adding the pasta and seafood. If everything is dry, a little chicken broth can be added. Heat everything through over low heat, with a lid on the skillet, to maximize absorption of the liquid. Canned seafood is a staple in my pantry!

Peas à la Française

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The French really know how to do vegetables. So do the Chinese, for that matter, but today I’m making peas inspired by a French recipe I’ve made over the years.

The recipe is essentially braised peas, but lettuce is included. I wish I knew the origin of using lettuce because it does seem a little odd, when lettuce is so ubiquitously used for fresh green salads. But in a braise? It works well too! I also used pearl onions for a prettier presentation. It takes a lot for me to use pearl onions, because I despise peeling them. But this pea dish was for a special occasion.

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Peas à la Française
This recipe serves 4

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
About 10-12 pearl onions, peeled
1 head of butter lettuce, leaves cleaned and separated
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1 – ounce package of frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup chicken broth or some white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chopped fresh parsley
Diced Prosciutto (optional)

Begin by sautéing the pear onions in the butter over medium heat. I let the butter brown first, then turned down the heat slightly. They went from looking like this:
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To looking like this in about 5 minutes times.
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Meanwhile, layer the lettuce leaves on top of each other, then roll them up like a cigar. Then using a knife cut cross-wise to make a chiffonade of the lettuce.

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When the onions are browned like in the photo, add the lettuce and sauté it for just a minute, along with the onions.
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Then add the peas and give everything a good stir. Pour in the chicken broth or whatever liquid you choose to use, add the salt, bring the liquid to a light boil, then cover the pan with a lid.
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Let the peas cook for about 5-6 minutes, then remove the lid and cook off any excess liquid. Add the parsley and stir in.
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If you want the peas more seasoned, a 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme would go lovely, as well as tarragon, if you’re a fan. But I left them alone. Except when I served the hot pea and lettuce braise, I sprinkled the vegetables with some diced Prosciutto. It was a perfect combination!
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As you can see, I made these peas to serve alongside my beef Wellington for a special occasion dinner for two. It was perfect, if I may say so myself!

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