Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jalapeno Burgers

Even though she lives in Canada, my sister and I talk every day, thanks to Skype. And much of what we talk about is food. Younger though she may be, she never hesitates to give me her take on anything I do, including my cooking. Today, when I mentioned that I made burgers, she promptly exclaimed, "All I want to taste in a burger is the meat!" This is one of the preferences we have in common: our appreciation for the simplicity that is a good burger. I believe that a beef burger should consist of meat and one or two other flavor enhancers (besides salt and pepper of course.) Other flavors should come from the toppings. The following recipe is made with ninety percent lean beef, a couple jalapenos, and finely grated garlic. For the toppings, I recommend cheddar and grilled onions rings. My sister should approve.

Jalapeno Burgers
Makes 8

2 lb lean ground beef
2-3 jalapenos minced
2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
3 garlic cloves, grated
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

1. Combine all of the ingredients thoroughly. Divide the mixture into 8 portions and form into 1 inch thick patties.
2.Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Grill the patties for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until the juices run clear and cooked to desired doneness. Serve on hamburger buns, top with slices of cheddar cheese and grilled onions rings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Citrus Sangria

Truth be told, I have been making sangria long before the weather became hot enough for this refreshing beverage. Twice already for the week, actually. Ever since meeting a group of friends one late summer evening two years ago at El Meson for a paella dinner, I have been hooked. Our meal was ordered with a pitcher of delicious red wine sangria. It was easily eighty degrees that night but the delightful mix of good company, incredible paella and strong sangria made it one of my most memorable meals, and elevated El Meson to one of my favorite restaurants in the uptown area. The following recipe is one for a white wine sangria with slices of oranges and lemons that is perfect for any evening.

Citrus Sangria
Serves 6 to 8

2 bottles pinot grigio
1/2 cup orange liqueur
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup club soda
1 orange, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Combine the first five ingredients, mixing well to dissolve the sugar. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Right before serving, add the club soda and fresh citrus slices. Stir and serve over ice.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grilled Tamarind Chicken with Pineapple Salsa

These past evenings have been almost perfect! Warm enough temperatures and sunny clear skies. I have been passing the time just sitting on the deck feeling the perfect wind on my face with a glass of wine in my hand. It must be the knowledge that this weather is not here to stay that makes this simple routine all the more enjoyable. If it weren't for the grill, which is just three feet away from where I usually sit, it is quite possible that I would be inclined to do little cooking.

Here is an easy recipe for grilled chicken with a tamarind marinade. Though found only in a few grocery stores in Minnesota (try Cub Foods), tamarind is such a delightful thing that it is worth an extra trip to the store.

Grilled Tamarind Chicken with Pineapple Salsa
Serves 6

6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cup tamarind chutney
2 large garlic cloves, grated
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Pineapple Salsa (see recipe below)

1. In a shallow bowl, combine the tamarind chutney, grated garlic, and cilantro. Reserve half cup for basting.

2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and add the tamarind marinade. Set in the refrigerator until ready to grill.

3. Set the grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grill grate. Grill the chicken for 6 to 8 minutes on both sides or until done. Baste occasionally during cooking with the reserved tamarind marinade. Serve with fresh pineapple salsa.

Pineapple Salsa
12 cups diced fresh pineapple
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 small jalepenos, seeded and finely diced
To prepare the salsa, combine the pineapple with the rest of the ingredients. Serve over the chicken.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Herb Gardening Tips from Bonnie Dehn

Minnesota's Herb Lady Bonnie Dehn

It took me some time but my herb garden has finally been planted. I had been hesitant to get it started this spring simply due to our erratic weather and, shamefully, gardening has never been my forte. No, those genes went to my sister. So I needed help. Luckily, Minnesota’s own Herb Lady Bonnie Dehn of Dehn’s Gardens lent her expertise. The following are a few tips offered by Bonnie for a successful garden this season.

First things first.

According to Bonnie, the first thing you need to do is to grow herbs you think you will use. Next, determine a location for your garden. Close proximity to your kitchen is a good idea. If open yard space is not convenient then consider container gardening (which was my approach.) The advantage of growing herbs in containers or pots is that they can be placed anywhere. This is a good thing for herbs that do not require much sun (such as chervil, sweet marjoram, and lemon and lime basil.) Container gardening requires a little more attention than plants grown in conventional garden space, however. For one, all containers should have an unplugged drainage hole at the bottom. Secondly, since plants grown in pots dry out faster than in open soil, watering frequently is is a must.

Easiest to grow.

All herbs may be difficult to some and very easy to others. Start with the herbs you love to cook with. Basil, large leaf parsley, Italian parsley along with rosemary, mint -mint grows everywhere - and chives. This group of herbs are relatively easy to grow; lots of sun, water as needed and be sure to use them.

Some require more attention.

Cilantro, dill and marjoram are more difficult to grow. Dill and cilantro are short term growing herbs - about six weeks for best flavor. As dill and cilantro mature they become more pungent;cilantro especially will take on a strong flavor. Many do not care for this "stronger" flavor and therefore these should be planted every month, in order to keep the consistency of their flavors.

Growing herbs together.

Most herbs can be grown together in one pot. However, combining the herbs does bring in insects on occasion, in particular aphids.

Will bugs bug my garden?

“You better believe it!” says Bonnie. However, some herbs actually repel bothersome insects, even our stubborn Minnesota mosquitos! Try planting something lemon-scented such as lemon thyme, lemon basil or lemon scented geraniums, which are natural bug repellants. Remember that it is good to have some bugs around; lady bugs and praying mantis tend to eat the troublesome ones.

Have fun with your garden this spring. But if you do not have the time for gardening or the desire to get dirt under your nails but still want fresh herbs, stop by the Farmers’ Market on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis and pick up one of Dehn's Garden's prepared mixed-herb pots. There is a variety of combinations to chose from. Which ever way you chose to obtain your herbs this season, be sure to enjoy them! Here are some of Bonnie's recipe for inspiration.