Monday, July 26, 2010

Caramelized red pepper and onion over lamb burgers

Some of you might have noticed a little tag on some of my posts called, “Things Ben demands we cook.”  These are things that are particularly a result of Ben’s cravings and is more or less an inside joke between us. (Well, not so inside since the anyone with an internet connection and a decent computer can now read about it!).  He will come home from an evening out with his guy friends and say, “I had the best gyro tonight… we should really do up some tzatziki sauce this week, with some lamb…” Or, he’ll suddenly become very excited about an idea he has to change up one of our old favorites.  Sometimes, they are things he becomes obsessed with until we try a recipe.  I am often not very good at documenting these things, sadly, like a lot of the things we cook, they don’t end up here on this site. 

However, since he is almost as in love with flavors as I am, he is often coming up with some great ideas that stretch and improve upon my own. 

For example, we are both big fans of lamb burgers.  Sometimes we mix in other meats, like ground pork or ground chicken, but most of the time we leave them straight up lamb.  We always season our lamb burgers.  I haven’t ever posted a particular recipe for them, but described them previously here.  That is the general gist, and we absolutely love them. 

“We should do caramelized red pepper and onion to put on top of the lamb burgers, with some crumbled feta,” he said one Saturday morning as we were trying to come up with that week’s meals.  As he spoke, he motioned excitedly with his hands to add emphasis to how the peppers and onion would go ’on top’ of the burger.  

Yum.  This might become another staple.

How to sauté up some caramelized onion and red pepper strips:

What you need:
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and sliced into long thin strips
½ small onion, sliced into long thin strips
Olive oil
Apple cider vinegar

What you do:
Heat enough olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat to just cover the pan.  Wait until the oil is to temperature and toss in the veggies.  Stir frequently until the veggies begin to wilt and blacken in some spots (if it seems to be cooking too fast, turn the heat down a bit).  When the oil is almost all cooked away, splash a bit of the vinegar into the pan and keep stirring.  Once the veggies start to caramelize, move them immediately to a plate and serve.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Grilled Broccoli

During the long, gradual, uphill climb, in 95 degree+ heat last week, I thought to myself, “you asked for this.”  I had been yearning for, dreaming about, a hot summer day.  A day when the wind blew warm in the afternoon and the sweat on my skin from biking home wasn’t that bittersweet beaded sweat, gone almost as quickly as it started, but one that was so undeniably fierce,  it came down in little rivulets off my face and arms. 

This was definitely one of those days.

As I passed the Hostess Wonder Bread Outlet, and the wind became unforgiving, I felt a mix of satisfaction and pain.  And, to take my mind off of my physical anguish, I began creating smoothie flavors and ingredient combinations in my imagination.  Frozen bananas, coconut milk, blueberries, with a dash of cinnamon?  Frozen bananas, cream, coconut milk, strawberries, and a long, slow drizzle of honey?

When I got home, the crockpot was filled with Karina’s Rustic Chicken Mediterranean Soup and the house smelled undeniably awesome (really, if you haven‘t tried this yet, DO IT.  You won‘t be sorry).  I set to work with the blender, some frozen bananas, half & half, coconut milk, and sugar.  I then poured the mixture into the ice cream maker and set it to churn while I sat a the kitchen table to catch up with some of my favorite food bloggers (the ice cream later became a base for the banana & strawberry smoothie). 

Shauna (aka The Gluten Free Girl), queen of inspiration and asker of great questions, was asking readers when cooking from scratch became easier or more fun.  I looked across the kitchen.  Amazing soup simmering in the crock pot and homemade ice cream churning away… no question about it, cooking from scratch became more fun and a heck of a lot easier when I started taking advantage of the local ingredients, in season.  It is amazing how much better the food tastes. 

Then there are all of these great people online sharing their recipes and waxing poetic about favorite vegetables and childhood food memories.  I can’t help but be inspired by how passionately some talk of food and how creatively some pair flavors, in ways you never thought possible.

Especially among the gluten free set, and the gluten free and vegan set, and the entirely grain free set, who don’t let any of their dietary “restrictions” feel like restrictions, but rather make them reasons to live.  In the process, they create some of the most delicious, perfect recipes, and they drop morsels of life lessons in their stories, from which we all benefit.

This great food love of mine has taken me down the road of home gardening, and organic home gardening at that -- bugs and all -- and it has been an adventure to say the least.  There is no better education than experience; I can tell you life has proven this to me over and over again.  We are beginning to really harvest our vegetables - our broccoli turned out beautiful, though we lost quite a bit of it to the bugs. 

This is what we did with some of the good bunches - grilled in foil packets.

Grilled broccoli
This is less a recipe and more a method, so I’ll list what you need and what you need to do.

Here is what you need:
Broccoli, cleaned, sliced into long spears
Fresh or dried thyme
Granulated garlic
Sea salt
Lemon juice
Aluminum foil squares

Here is what you do:
Arrange the broccoli in the center of the foil square like the picture above
Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, thyme, and garlic.  Dot the top with butter.
Fold the sides up to meet in the middle and fold the seam over so that no butter can leak out when it melts.  Now you have a rectangle, with two ends open.  Roll each open end of the foil until you reach the broccoli and make sure everything is good and sealed.

Grill on a hot grill (400-500 degrees) for about 10 minutes, turning once.  Open the packets carefully and empty the contents onto a plate or into a bowl.  Toss with additional butter if desired and sprinkle with lemon juice.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Pea and bacon quinoa salad

My brother used to call them “ball-balls.”  (sorry brother).  I am suspicious, though, that my brother calling these little, green, ball-shaped veggies by this particularly descriptive name had less to do with my brother’s innovative mind and more to do with my parents trying to get us to eat our vegetables. 

“Eat your ball-balls,” my parents would encourage.  And, if we managed to make them disappear off of our plates, “Do you want some more ball-balls?” my parents undoubtedly asked. 

Turn the food into something “fun” and your kids will think it tastes better than it really does?  Does that work? 

The rivers of peas my siblings and I used to construct under the lip of our dinner plates seem to argue that, no, it does not work.  In fact, I think peas might have been the most dreaded vegetable of my childhood.

Funny how our tastes change.  Even if yours hasn’t, I’m willing to bet you’ll love this salad - pair anything with bacon and suddenly even the pickiest of eaters will be asking for seconds…

Pea and bacon quinoa salad
This salad is easy to throw together and tastes great cold or warm.  It will make a great picnic salad this summer - bring it to the park with a blanket and some cold chicken or take along to a summer barbeque with friends.  This is also great to make when you have a few slices of Sunday-morning breakfast bacon leftover.

½ cup quinoa (red or white), rinsed and picked over
1 cup chicken broth
1 ½ cups sweet peas, cooked
3-4 slices cooked, crisp bacon, crumbled or cut into small pieces
2 green onions, sliced
Parmesan cheese, grated

Place the quinoa and chicken broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Stir, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until broth is absorbed and the germ is visible in the quinoa (the curled little sprout of the grain that appears when it is cooked).

Toss in the bacon, onions, and sweet peas.

Top with grated Parmesan cheese and season with freshly grated pepper to taste.