Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"The Art of the Hamburger" & "Better Homes and Gardens Salad Book" - Tucson Turkey Burgers with Tomato Coleslaw

Date I made these recipes: Monday, May 28, 2007 – Memorial Day

The Art of the Hamburger by Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen
Published by: Chartwell Books, Inc.
ISBN 0-7858-0704-7
© 1996
Recipe: Tucson Turkey Burgers – p. 57

Better Homes and Gardens Salad Book
Published by: Meredith Press
© 1969
Recipe: Tomato Coleslaw – p. 66

Is there a better way to kick off the summer season than to grill a burger? I think not.

As we approached the Memorial Day weekend, I pulled out all my grilling, picnic and summer salad cooks and chose the two recipes listed above. Finding a burger that struck my fancy proved to be too difficult so I threw the task over to my husband (our grillmaster) who selected the Tucson Turkey Burgers.

And then there was the salad selection. I was just hell bent on cooking from one of my salad cookbooks and was pretty bent on coleslaw but the initial recipe I selected just didn’t do it for me as it had celery seed and I didn’t see that going with tomato salsa. So I put the book aside for a while and when it was time to make the grocery list, I flipped open the book to the page with the recipe I was thinking of making, saw the recipe for Tomato Coleslaw and decided that was a much better fit for the turkey burgers.

Both recipes are really easy although my husband cautions that the burgers don’t do well on the grill because the meat is too loose and the burgers wanted to slide through the grill grates. Part of the reason may have been the salsa we selected. We’re very partial to Salsa Lisa – http://www.salsalisa.com/ - a locally-produced fresh salsa available in the refrigeration department of many grocery stores—hopefully, one near you! Even “drained,” the salsa didn’t have that goopy consistency that other commercial brands do so perhaps that’s why the burgers didn’t bind together too well. He managed to get the burgers grilled but the next time around, I think we’ll use a fry pan. (Under no circumstances are we changing out the salsa. That would be a sacrilege!)

Tucson Turkey Burgers (with Salsa) – Serves 4
1 ½ pounds ground turkey
¾ cup good-quality commercial brand of tomato-chili salsa, well drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced
½ cup grated cheddar or Monteray Jack cheese
Lettuce leaves
4 burger buns, split and toasted
Extra tomato-chili salsa, to serve

Tomato Coleslaw – serves 6 to 8
2 cups shredded cabbage
18 cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup diced cucumber
2 teaspoons minced onion
¼ cup mayonnaise/salad dressing
2 tablespoons French salad dressing
1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Dash pepper

Combine the cabbage, tomatoes, cucumber and mixed onion. Chill. Blend together the mayonnaise, French salad dressing, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper and chill. Just before serving, toss mayonnaise mixture lightly with cabbage mixture.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"Picnic & Tailgate Parties" & "The Hungry Man's Outdoor Grill Cookbook" - Mu Shu Burgers and Fiesta Potato Salad

Date I made these recipes: Sunday, May 12, 2007 (Mother’s Day)

Picnics & Tailgate Parties – A Sunset Book by the Editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine
Published by: Lane Publishing Co.
ISBN: 070661802536
© 1982
Recipe: Mu Shu Burgers – p. 66

The Hungry Man’s Outdoor Grill Cookbook by the Staff Home Economists Culinary Arts Institute
Published by: Spencer Press, Inc.
© 1953
Recipe: Fiesta Potato Salad

Well, here in the heartland, we finally got around to getting a new propane tank for our grill and we’re back in business. And that’s a good thing—the temperature started spiking again (today we’re at 90) and yesterday, Mother’s Day, was a perfect day to grill out.

As you might imagine, given that I have over 800 cookbooks, I’d have a few books on grilling and picnics. Finding a recipe, however, wasn’t so easy.

Take The Hungry Man’s Outdoor Grill Cookbook. Clearly, this book is intended for more sophisticated grilling than our little gas grill can undertake. There were recipes for Beef Roast on a Spit, Turkey on a Spit, and my favorite, Duck on a Spit (we are spit-less in this family), as well as Barbecued Bologna Roll, Grilled Lobster and even Griddlecakes. And so I was just a bit challenged.

In the end, I decided to hedge my bets and go with an accompaniment to the Mu Shu Burgers – Fiesta Potato Salad. Sure, it’s a cop out, but it’s not like burgers don’t need potato salad for heaven’s sake!

And so speaking of burgers, these were fantastic. I was rather surprised to see a recipe for Mu Shu Burgers in a cookbook from 1982 but you know, those Sunset people are on top of everything.

Although the recipes don’t really compliment each other, neither did they clash. Both were quite tasty as a Mother’s Day treat even if Mom couldn’t make it. She and my dad had just gotten back from three weeks in Italy (Rough, huh? Actually, the trip was to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary so I suppose...), plus she lives in Michigan so that would have made it hard for us to entertain her. Instead, we “toasted” her with some mighty tasty vittles.

Let the grilling begin!

Mu Shu Bugers – Serves 8
1 pound lean ground pork
1 small onion, chopped
¼ cup fine dry bread crumbs
1 egg
½ cup finely chopped water chestnuts, jicama, or celery (we used celery)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ to ¾ cup hoisin sauce (topping)
¾ to 1 cup green onion, cut into matchstick-size pieces (topping)
About 1 cup bean sprouts (topping)
Fresh coriander (cilantro or Chinese parsley) sprigs (optional) (topping)
8 flour tortillas, 6 to 8 inches in diameter

In a bowl, combine pork, onion, crumbs, egg, water chestnuts (or jicama or celery), garlic, soy sauce and ginger. Shape into 8 logs, each about 3 inches long.

To cook, place the pork logs on a grill 4 to 6 inches above a solid bed of glowing coals. Grill, turning to brown evenly, for 12 to 14 minutes total or until meat in center is no longer pink when slashed. Place foil-wrapped tortillas at edge of grill; turn over often to heat evenly. (Note: the recipe says to lightly moisten both sides of tortillas with water; stack tortillas and wrap in heavy foil but I think we skipped this step since we only grilled a couple of tortillas).

To serve, spread some hoisin sauce on a tortilla. Place a pork log near lower edge and top with some onion, bean sprouts and coriander. Fold edge of tortilla over filling; fold in sides and roll up to enclose meat and vegetables.

Fiesta Potato Salad – serves 4 to 6
3 cups cold, diced, cooked potatoes
1/3 cup finely sliced scallions (include some green tops)
6 slices crisp bacon, crumbled
2 tablespoons well-drained slivered pimiento
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon monosodium glutamate (Note: I didn’t add this, mostly because I don’t stock any!)
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ cup French dressing with tomato ketchup base – or you can use 1 tablespoon vinegar combined with 3 tablespoons bacon drippings

Toss all ingredients lightly together with a fork. Cover and chill in a mixing bowl for an hour or so. Toss lightly with 3 hard-cooked eggs, sliced and ¾ cup mayonnaise or cooked salad dressing. Turn into serving bowl.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

"The Pat Conroy Cookbook - Recipes of My Life" by Pat Conroy - Baked Tomatoes with Rice

Date I made this recipe: May 9, 2007

The Pat Conroy Cookbook – Recipes of My Life by Pat Conroy with Suzanne Williamson Pollak
Published by: Nan A. Talese Doubleday
ISBN: 0-385-51413-1
© 2004

Recipe: Baked Tomatoes with Rice – p. 129

My mother-in-law belongs to a writing club and recently told my husband that she told all her club members about my blog. I’m expecting redlined versions of my previous blog postings any minute now (Kidding. They’re not that type of writing club. I think.).

At any rate, one of the club members is Minnesota poet, Phebe Hanson, author of Why Keep Dancing – 75 Years: 75 Poems. She and my in-laws have been friends for years and she is a frequent visitor to their home.

When this cookbook came out three years ago, Phebe was at “the house” and when I mentioned that I just purchased it, she oh-so-casually commented “I know Pat Conroy” to which I stupidly replied “Really?” (Big vocabulary I have)

“Really. In fact, we had lunch a couple of weeks ago.”

“Really?” (Again with the “really”) “Wow.”

Wow, indeed.

For those of you who don’t know, Pat Conroy wrote the popular book, The Prince of Tides which was made into a movie starring Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand (those finger nails--oy!!). The book is fantastic and was a favorite of my book club, but this was not my first experience with Pat’s writing.

When I was in junior high and high school, way before Barnes and Noble and Borders and even the internet, the only way to get books for extra-curricular reading was either through our limited school library or through school services like the Weekly Reader or Scholastic Books. Our teacher would circulate the order sheets and in a few weeks, voila, we were off on a reading adventure.

Over time, I ordered books like Jane Austen’s Emma, a book so thick that I used it to prop my door open, Anne Tyler’s A Slipping-Down Life and The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy.

The Water Is Wide chronicles Pat’s teaching experience in a one-room schoolhouse on Daufuskie Island, South Carolina. I can’t recall much about the book (it was published in 1972 when I was in the 8th grade) but I do recall that it was made into a movie starring Jon Voight (the movie was renamed “Conrak” because… ???--See Note Below) About the same time, the song, The Water is Wide became a hit on the high-school glee club circuit. Whether that is a coincidence of not, I cannot recall.

But I do recall, some 30-odd years later, the lovely lyrics to the song:

The water is wide. I cannot get o’er
And neither have I
Wings to fly
Give me a boat that can carry two
And both shall row
My love and I

Ah…takes me back to good times in glee-club and Music Makers, an after school chorus that I also joined, with Miss Gordanaire at the helm (we lovingly called her “Miss Gordanschmere”), trying to keep us giggly high school girls on track and focused on what we were singing. I’d say she did a good job if I can recall the words in a heartbeat after all this time…and yet, where I put my coffee cup that I just filled two seconds ago is anybody’s guess.

And so that’s the story of Phebe Hanson and Pat Conroy and The Water Is Wide and Pat’s Cookbook. The recipe is just icing on the cake or the topping on the tomato if you will.

This recipe was really good, really fast and really inexpensive. It summoned up recollections of when tomatoes really were tomatoes, not hot-house specimens like they are now, and when, before the Mississippi River (practically in my back yard) started shrinking, the water really was wide.

Baked Tomatoes with Rice – serves 4
4 medium tomatoes, about ½ pound each
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 cups rice cooked in chicken stock
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Coarse or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly oil a baking dish just large enough to hold the tomatoes snugly.

Cut off the “cap” (a thin slice) from the top of each tomato and spoon out the pulp (being careful not to tear the walls.) (Note: good luck with that). Reserve ¾ cup of the pulp and discard remainder or save for another use. Invert the tomatoes on a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over moderate high heat. Add the shallots and red pepper, cooking quickly until the edges begin to color, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reserved tomato pulp and reduce over medium heat until thickened, 4 to 6 minutes.

Stir in the rice and cook until the tomato is absorbed and the flavors marry, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the parsley, season with salt and pepper, and remove from the heat.

When the mixture has cooled slightly, spoon the rice into the hollowed-out tomatoes and place in prepared baking dish.

Bake until heated through, 12 to 15 minutes. Check frequently, as overcooking will cause the tomatoes to split and fall apart. Serve 1 tomato per person.

NOTE: My friend, Melissa, set me straight on why the movie was named Conrak and it's because that's how the students pronounced Pat Conroy's last name. And Melissa says she has memory problems...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

"The American Diner Cookbook" - Deep South Omelette

Date I made this recipe: April 29, 2007

The American Diner Cookbook by Elizabeth McKeon & Linda Everett
Published by: Cumberland House Publishing – http://www.cumberlandhouse.com/
ISBN: 1-58182-345-2
© 1996, 2003

Recipe: Down South Omelette – p. 24

I pulled this cookbook off the shelf when I was looking for a Route 66 cookbook last week and it was a gas to look through and oh ah over the old photos, old menus and old recipes. Mind you, I have several other diner/Route 66-related cookbooks in my collection (Is the Pope in Rome?) but I’ll make those other recipes some other time.

Co-author Linda Everett is also the author of Retro Diner and More Retro Diner as well as Retro Breakfast, Retro Barbecue—you get the picture. Seems like she’s on quite the roll…down Route 66 perhaps?!

This recipe made for a very yummy Sunday breakfast and I got to use up some potatoes and Cheddar cheese in my larder to boot. My husband thought that three tablespoons of butter was a bit excessive so he used two. He clearly wasn’t channeling Paula Deen (The Food Network’s unofficial Butter Queen) or he would have seen no harm whatsoever in using three. But he offered to help me prepare the omelette so who was I to argue?

This recipe makes one big omelette and we saved part of it for some very delicious leftovers the next day.

The only thing I would change in this recipe is that I would sauté the onion before adding it to the omelette. I’m not a big fan of semi-cooked onions but it’s your call and your omelette so knock yourself out!

Down South Omelette – serves 2
6 eggs
6 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 slices crisp bacon, crumbled
¾ cup peeled and cubed cooked potatoes
¼ cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup grated Cheddar cheese

In a mixing bowl beat together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth but not foamy. In a separate mixing bowl add the bacon to the potatoes and onion.

In a heavy skillet melt the butter. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium.

As the egg mixture sets lift the edges with a spatula and tilt the skillet so the uncooked portion flows to the bottom of the pan. Do not stir. Spoon equal amounts of the bacon-potato filling into the center of each omelette.

When the eggs are set but still moist, add the grated Cheddar cheese. Loosen the edges of the omelette and carefully fold over. Making sure the bottom is loose, slide the omelette onto a serving dish.