Sunday, April 28, 2013

Turkey Zucchini Burgers with Sour Cream & Sumac Sauce

One wouldn’t think that zucchini and ground turkey would make a tasty burger. However, that would be before you became familiar with the version Foodie made on Wednesday from the Jerusalem Cookbook.

I had never heard of the Jerusalem Cookbook.  This book is a beautifully illustrated journey through the ancient city, rich in history and dappled with culinary diversity.  Early in the book the writers ask the readers to consider the many cultures that inhabit the city…people from Libya, France, Britain, Palestine, Romania, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Israel just to name a few.   The collection of recipes in the book are highly influenced by the city’s eclectic pedigree…recipes inspired by the author’s early food experiences – shaped by many different cultures.  Each recipe help the writers to reminisce about the city they call home even though they haven’t lived there for twenty years! 

As I paged through the book, some of these recipes simply spoke to me.  For instance, Chicken with Caramelized Onion & Cardamom Rice, or Kofta b’siniyah (Palestinian meatballs), Slow Cooked Veal with Prunes and Leaks, Herb Pie and Mutabbaq (a pastry filled with ricotta and pistachios and glazed with a citrus syrup).  As you know, I love anything to do with citrus.

So perhaps you now have a sense for why Foodie wanted to make Turkey and Zucchini Burgers Green Onion & Cumin. These delicious burgers are topped with a tangy Sour Cream and Sumac Sauce.  Sumac, a spice with a tart flavor, is a common ingredient in Middle Eastern cooking.  Foodie wanted to use za’atar -- a combination of sesame seeds, sumac and ground za’atar (a spice with a savory marjoram-oregano flavor) but did not have any in her pantry.  She mentioned this to a co-worker and the little dear brought her some….we were all very happy he did!

Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion & Cumin
From:  Jerusalem Cookbook

1 lb ground turkey
1 large zucchini, grated
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons chopped mint
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
 ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Sunflower oil for searing, about 6 Tablespoons

Sour Cream & Sumac Sauce
½ cup sour cream
2/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 ½ Tablespoons olive
1 Tablespoon sumac (Foodie used za’atar which can be found in a Mediterranean food store)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

First, make the sauce by mixing all ingredients together, stir well and chill until needed.

Preheat the over to 425°.  In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the burgers except the sunflower oil. Mix with your hands and then shape into 18 burgers, each weighing about 1 ½ oz.

Pour enough sunflower oil into a large frying pan to form a layer on the bottom of the pan.  Heat over medium heat until hot, then sear the burgers in batches on all sides.  Don’t crowd the burgers, they won’t brown properly.  Add more oil as needed until all burgers are golden brown.

Transfer the seared burgers to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in the oven for 5-7 minutes.  Serve warm with the sauce spooned over or on the side.   I was so eager to eat these that I forgot to take a photo of a plated burger smothered with the sauce....sorry!

Foodie served the burgers with a flatbread made from pizza dough.  A wonderful dinner.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Stir Fried Portobellos and Tofu with Chili Garlic Sauce

I've been away at a conference which is why I haven’t written in a while. It was an amazing event and my favorite session was one on Leadership taught by two instructors, a professor and a lawyer/teacher, from George Washington University. It was a great week of connecting, networking and most importantly, learning. I’ve been in HR for many, many years and I learn something new with each experience!

I will tell you this for sure, the time away did not fade the memory of the delicious meal that Singer prepared last Wednesday…my mouth is still watering.  She consulted her Cooks Illustrated cook book for a go-to favorite in her household, Stir Fried Portobellos and Tofu with Chili Garlic Sauce.  She told us about this dish one evening during another gathering and we shamelessly begged her to make it.

The recipe includes stir fried tofu.  Growing up in a spaghetti-and-meatballs-meat-and-potatoes-Italian-Irish household, it never occurred to me that I would try, let alone like, tofu, but, I do. 

A lot. 

Tofu is made by pressing soy milk curds into soft white blocks. Tofu has a subtle flavor and easily takes on the flavors of complementary ingredients such as soy sauce, chili paste, pepper flakes or garlic for savory dishes or fruit, nuts, spices or syrups for sweet dishes.  According to my extensive Wikipedia research, tofu is relatively high in protein and studies suggest that soy protein helps to reduce cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.  Also, some think that soy may reduce post menopausal hot flashes in women…perhaps I’ll order a vat.

This is a multi-step recipe, but it's so worth it!

Stir-Fried Portobellos and Tofu with Chile Garlic Sauce
From:  Cooks Illustrated

2 tablespoons of maple syrup, agave or honey
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin

¾ cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon Asian chili-garlic

Vegetables and Tofu
4 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 ½ lbs. Portobello mushrooms caps, gills removed and cut into wedges
1 14 oz. block of extra-firm tofu, cut into triangles
1/3 cup cornstarch
8 oz. green beans, trimmed
½ cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 red bell pepper cut into ¾ inch pieces
1 pound napa cabbage, cut into ¾ inch strips
¼ cup roasted cashews
Vegetable oil for browning

For the glaze:  Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.

For the sauce:  Whisk all ingredients together in a separate bowl

For the vegetables and tofu:  Combine garlic, ginger, pepper flakes and 1 teaspoon oil in a third small bowl and set aside.  Heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in 12-nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until simmering.  Add mushrooms and brown on one side (without stirring), flip and brown on the other side. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate.  

Spread the cornstarch evenly in baking dish and dredge tofu in cornstarch to coat evenly.  Add a little more oil to the pan, add tofu, in a single layer, and cook until golden brown, 4-6 minutes.  Flip to brown on other side. Add glaze mixture and cook, stirring, until glaze is thickened and mushrooms are coated, about 2 minutes.  Transfer tofu to the plate with the mushrooms. Rinse skillet and dry with paper towels.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add green beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 1-2 minutes.  Add broth, cover and cook until beans are just tender, about 3 minutes.  Uncover and cook until liquid evaporates, about 30 seconds.  Transfer beans to the plate with the mushrooms and tofu.

Heat remaining 1 teaspoon of oil over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add bell pepper, cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown and soften, about 3 minutes.  Clear the center of the skillet, add garlic mixture and cook. Mashing mixture into pan, until fragrant, 15-20 seconds, then stir mixture into the cabbage.

Return the tofu and vegetables to the skillet, add sauce and cook, stirring until sauce is thickened and vegetables are coated, about 2 minutes.  Transfer the entire mixture to a serving plate and top with cashews.   Serve with brown rice.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Gemelli with Sausage, Chard and Pine Nuts

It was my turn to cook last Wednesday.

I planned to make a pasta with spring vegetables dish.

Then I saw this gorgeous rainbow chard in the Co-op and said, “Oh, hell, yes!” I’m sorry, but that’s what I said.

I purchased the chard, ditched the spring pasta vegetable thing I’d been mooning about and promptly looked for a recipe so the chard could take center stage. 

Martha came through. Again.  I love Martha.

I knew I wanted pasta because I was craving pasta so I researched googled “chard and pasta” and this little gem appeared 

Gemelli with Sausage, Chard and Pine Nuts.  YUM.  Pine Nuts can be used in both savory and sweet dishes.  I used them to make Torte della Nonna. Chard and beets are kissing cousins…I know this because the current edition of Cooks Illustrated arrived as I was writing this post and this lovely illustration is on the back: 

There are several types of chard in addition to the rainbow variety but what they all have in common is the punch they pack nutritionally.  Feel free to substitute any leafy green for the chard – spinach, kale or leafy beet greens would all work nicely – but do not, do NOT, DO NOT skip the raisins…they add a nice sweetness and interest that harmonize beautifully with the other flavors.

Gemelli with Sausage, Chard and Pine Nuts

1/3 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed.  I used chicken sausage.
1 pound Swiss chard, tough stems removed, leaves cut into thin strips.  I used rainbow chard.
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (my addition)
1 pound gemelli, or other short pasta
¾ cup raisins, plumped in boiling water and drained.  I used currents.
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

In a large skillet, toast pine nuts over medium-high heat, shaking the pan to toast evenly, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from skillet.

In the same skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage, and cook, breaking it up with a fork, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add chard, garlic, pepper and red pepper flakes; cook, tossing, until chard wilts, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover to keep warm.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions, about 12 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Return pasta to pot.

Add sausage mixture to pasta with 1/2 cup reserved cooking water, raisins, toasted pine nuts, and Parmesan; toss to combine. Add more cooking water if pasta seems dry. Serve with more Parmesan.

So. Good.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pistachio Cake with Apricots

Now, I ask you, can you honestly look at this cake and not say "YUM?!" Last week it was my turn to bring dessert.  In the book “A Homemade Life” each chapter is a mini-story and the recipe at the end of each is inspired by the story.  In the chapter, entitled A Big Deal, Ms. Wizenberg tells how she attempted to live life in Seattle without a car.  One particular evening, she and her fiancĂ© were invited to a dinner party and she recounts the story of how this cake survived the experience being carted in a paper bag, through the streets of Seattle, on a bus, next to a drunk, in a rainstorm. 

My version of this cake does not come with quite a traumatic tale, unless you count not being able to find fresh apricots and having to use the canned variety instead.  I did slip it into a paper bag  but my lovely cake and I drove to my destination in the comfort of Violet, my trusty Subaru Outback….love that car.

In my opinion, pistachios are like garlic…they make everything better.  I toss them in salads, use them to bread chicken, gussy up a simple vegetable dish and have even substituted them for pine nuts in a pesto recipe.  These little green beauties are not only responsible for some funny commercials touting their wonderfulness, but they are naturally cholesterol and trans fat fee and are a good source of potassium, protein and fiber.   

I had a blast making this cake…it was a lot of fun seeing all the various and sundry ingredients come together in the absolutely luscious and velvety batter.  The instructions call for pouring the batter into a the pan and dotting the batter with the cut apricots.  The apricots will sink as the cake bakes, but don’t worry they will “reveal themselves like buried treasure” when the cake is sliced, which only adds to the beauty of this delicious confection.

If you try no other recipe I’ve posted, do yourself a favor and MAKE THIS CAKE!  I served each slice with a small scoop of pistachio gelato garnished with a dried apricot.
Pistachio Cake with Apricots
From:  A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg

¾ cup shelled pistachios (if they are salted, omit the salt below)
1 cup of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick of butter at room temperature
1 cup of sugar
3 large eggs
5 ripe apricots.  I used canned apricots.  This would also be good with peaches.
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Butter a 9” round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Butter the paper as well and lightly dust with flour. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pistachios until very fine.  Then add the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt and pulse to incorporate.  Measure the milk and add the vanilla; set aside.  In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale a fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk mixture.  If there are streaks, fold them in.  Add the batter to the prepared pan.  Smear the apricots with honey and arrange the apricots, cut side up, on top of the batter.  Bake the cake for 35 to 40 minutes. 
The apricots will disappear into the batter but will be revealed in each slice of cake.