Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tom Turkey Goes to Thailand

Thai Turkey Burgers with Peanut Sauce

The first time I had a barbecue at my own place, I knew that our guests would run the gamut from true carnivores to virtual vegans. Hamburgers and Gardenburgers cover the extreme ends of that spectrum, but in the middle you typically find that most maligned of patties: the turkey burger.

Subject a lean meat like turkey to your average grill and you get a nearly inedible disk of dessicated poultry. The solution for turkey burgers is similar to the one with meatloaf; you need to put other things in it to keep the moisture in and lighten it up. I came up with this Thai-inspired mix of Asian vegetables to add to your ground turkey, which hold up quite well. I no longer have a grill, but these are also excellent when pan-cooked. The peanut sauce also gives it a nice kick. Apparently, someone agreed- at the end of that barbecue, there were plenty of hamburgers left over, but every single turkey burger had been devoured.

Thai Turkey Burgers

1 lb ground turkey
1 8 oz can bamboo shoots, minced
1 8 oz can water chestnuts, minced
3-4 shiitake mushrooms, minced
2 eggs (minus 1 yolk)
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp kecap manis
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Thai seasoning (try Penzey's Satay Seasoning)
1 tsp black sesame seeds (optional)

Whirl the bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and shiitake mushrooms in a food processor (or mince very small), then add to the turkey. Add the eggs, bread crumbs and seasonings. Mix well with your hands until everything is thoroughly incorporated. If the mix seems too wet, add more bread crumbs until it reaches a consistency where you can form it into patties. Throw them on the grill or into a pan and cook just until firm.

Thai Peanut Sauce

2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp sesame paste (optional)
1 tsp Thai seasoning (try Penzey's Bangkok Blend)
Water to achieve proper consistency

Mix all of these ingredients in a small microwave-safe bowl and heat for 20 seconds. Stir ingredients together vigorously. Too thin? Add peanut butter. Too thick? Add a little water at a time to create a thick (but not paste-like) sauce for your burgers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mama Mia!

Unexpectedly Delicious Tomato Sauce

I've been meaning to post a tomato sauce recipe for some time. According to commercials for Ragu, Italian families hand down a time-honored recipe from mother to daughter for generations, the methods and flavors of the past preserved and enriched with loving care. This is soooo not the case with my family. My grandmother made a tangy, relatively thin sauce, while my mother prefers hers to be thick and sweet. Since it's clear I am not going to break my poor mother's heart by experimenting saucewise, I like diced tomatoes in mine.

A while back, there was a commercial on TV where this Italian family was so excited about Kraft Italian dressing, they got up and danced the tarantella around the dining room table. For some reason, that never happened at our house...

While roasting some sausage a few weeks ago, I discovered just how incredible broiled tomatoes can be. These were farm-fresh sweeties from (where else?) the farmer's market. Roasting brought out their sugars and mellowed them wonderfully. I had a few this week that were a bit past their prime as a salad ingredient, so I roasted them up and made a sauce. I put it over store-bought, shelf-stable gnocchi and, God, was it good.

Ingredient of the Day: Vidalia Onions
These onions are grown in Georgia, and are significantly sweeter than your standard white or yellow onion, and have a milder flavor than even most sweet onions. Use a sweet onion here, especially if you like a sweeter sauce.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

2-3 tomatoes, in wedges
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
1 Vidalia onion, diced
1 small can tomato puree
1/3 cup white wine
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp dry parsely
lots of fresh basil, shredded
salt (to taste)
pepper (as desired)
sugar (if your tomatoes suck)

Spread some olive oil in the bottom of a metal roasting pan, arrange the tomato wedges skin side down, and broil for 5 minutes, or just until you see brown at their edges. While that's going on, sautee your garlic and onions in a little olive oil until browned. Once that happens, add the roasted tomatoes, the small can of sauce, and the white wine. Simmer and stir, adding the balsamic vinegar, parsely, salt and pepper as desired. Throw in the basil last, and stir in well. Only add the sugar if the tomatoes and onion aren't sufficiently sweet, unless you plan on using this sauce as a dessert topping.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cool Beets, Tasty Bud

Quail Eggs, Golden Beet Bruschetta and Fried Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

Hey- it's been a while. But I'm back, and the farmer's markets are in full swing, bringing things to my fridge the likes of which I have never seen. Today, I'm posting three appetizers I've discovered in the past few weeks. They involve some interesting specialty ingredients: quail eggs, golden beets and zucchini blossoms. If you are lucky enough to come across these things, here's what you can do with them...

Quail Eggs

"I don't even know what a quail is!"
-The Wedding Crashers

You may get your guests to say "Ooh, how dainty!" by serving these. Honestly, they're just little tiny eggs- nothing special except that they're kind of cute in a bite-sized way. They also make a simple but impressive appetizer, and cook up like any other egg, just faster. Place the itty bitty eggs in a good, solid pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and boil for two minutes. Turn the heat off and leave them there for another 3-4 minutes, then rinse in cold water. Peeling quail eggs is a fairly delicate operation, but the thin shells are more likely to come off in one piece than a chicken eggshell. I served mine with a tiny dish of seasoned salt and some toothpicks.

Golden Beet Bruschetta

A golden beet is just a variety of beet that isn't red inside. This eliminates one of the main hassels of preparing beets- dealing with the juice that stains everything it touches. I roasted my beets for 20 minutes, chopped, marinated and chilled them for a refreshing and colorful treat on crusty bread.

3-4 golden beets, roasted and diced
1 tomato, diced
1 tbsp. scallion, sliced into thin rings
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
salt (to taste)
black pepper
fresh basil, shredded

Prepare beets and marinate in dressing and seasonings, adding tomato and scallion just before serving. Mix well, and heap onto thin slices of crusty bread.

Fried Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Fontina Cheese

Now here's a fancy little dish. Notice how I hardly fry anything, and how I'm making an exception here. Really, there is no other way to appreciate the delicate zucchini blossom.

6 zucchini blossoms
1/4 cup shredded Fontina cheese
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup water
2 cups vegetable oil (for frying)

These orange, trumpet-like flowers should be gently washed and patted dry. Then you can stuff them (not too much) with a little cheese and twist the ends closed. Dip them in a mix of the flour and water, and fry them till golden. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and serve quickly.