Monday, May 30, 2011

Last Minute Burger Month Addition -- Bee's Attempt at Gourmet Burgers

Happy Memorial Day!

Who didn't realize it was National Beef Month?

Who thought all the food blogs posting creative looking burger creations was simply a large coincidence?

Who, much like with the Cinco de Mayo incident, decided to get in on the action last-minute and throw together a burger with only two days to spare?

::raises hand, sheepishly::

Okay, actually, it had less to do with me trying to follow the cool kids and more to do with the fact that I'd recently tried what I'm going to call the Best Burger of my Life and decided that since I can't and probably shouldn't throw down $13 a burger twice a week at the amazing new Brick Wall Burger near my work, I would have to recreate something similar to curb my Burger Piemonte cravings in between visits.

Seriously, this was a divine burger. Let me show you:

Best Burger of. My. Life.
The Burger Piemonte is made from freshly ground beef (on-site), grilled portobello mushrooms, truffle oil, caramelized onions, and parmesan cheese on a freshly made bun (from a local bakery). On the side I got the spicy slaw and their deliciously crisp twice-cooked french fries. This is a place I will be returning to again and again.

Anyway, a friend's Memorial Day cook-out was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at re-creating this burger, with a few embellishments.

Boyfriend's burger is famous among our group of friends, so I've included that as well (sans pictures sadly) since he's convinced that my readers think he only makes me kielbasa and tacos when I let him cook. His burger is a masterpiece in itself, and he is my dutiful aide in all things involving the grill--I had him do the actual grilling for mine too since I'm still a little scared of that device.

He also graduated this weekend, with high honors! :)
I could not find truffle oil, so I used the closest thing I could find at the local supermarket: balsamic vinegar reduction with white truffle flavor. The result was definitely not Brick Wall standards, but delicious in its own right.

Bee's Burger Attempt
This burger is large and in charge, baby.
(An interpretation of Brick Wall Burger's Burger Piemonte)
makes 4 1/4 lb burgers or 8 sliders

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 4 thick slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 thick slices apple-smoked bacon
  • 2 portobello mushroom caps, slices to a little less than 1/2" thick
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar dressing
  • Drizzle of white balsamic vinegar reduction with truffle oil flavor (or real truffle oil of course, if you're so lucky)
  • sesame seed buns (I wanted brioche, but the supermarket had none)
  • salt and pepper

-Form the ground beef into 4 equal patties and season each side with salt and pepper. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar reduction and rub lightly into meat on both sides. Let marinate while you complete the next steps.

-Mix the sliced mushroom caps with the balsamic vinegar dressing, set aside.

-Cut bacon to fit burgers, most likely this will be in half. Cook to desired texture over medium high heat (I like mine a little chewy). Move to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside. Cook mushrooms in same skillet until tender.

-Grill burgers to desired done-ness--I like medium with a good amount of pink--and top with cheddar cheese. If desired, slather inside of sesame buns with butter and grill for a few minutes. Move cooked burgers to buns and top with bacon and mushrooms. EAT.

Sides are store-bought sadly, but tasty!

Boyfriend's Famous Burgers
Makes 4 1/4 lb burgers or 8 sliders

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 4 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 jalapenos
  • salt and pepper
  • sesame seed buns

-Form beef into patties and season with salt and pepper. Splash each side with Worcestershire sauce. Allow to marinate for at least ten minutes.

-Remove stems from jalapenos and grill until black blisters form. Slice into wheels.

-Cook burgers on grill until desired done-ness. Top with cheddar cheese and jalapenos. Serve on a warm sesame seed bun with spicy mustard and ketchup. DEVOUR.

Didn't grab a picture of his, so here's another of mine!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Memorial Day. What were some of your favorite cook-out dishes?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quick & Easy Thai -- The Side Dishes

I need to confess something:

I'm terrible at side dishes.

Not that I'm terrible at making them, I'm just terrible at REMEMBERING them. I remember a Valentine's Day two years ago--my first with Boyfriend--where I had carefully planned out a fine dinner of Gorgonzola-buttered ribeye with my famous 3-Layer Peanutbutter Love Brownies (post forthcoming!) when I realized, day-of, that I had no side dishes!

One simply cannot live on meat and chocolate alone. It's just not possible.

Thankfully, I ended up pairing the ribeye with ginger-glazed carrots and twice-baked potatoes and we had a wonderfully romantic first Valentine's.

I came upon a similar situation when I decided to tackle  Nancie McDermott's Quick & Easy Thai: I was in the supermarket, book in hand, when I realized that I had no side dish for the Chaing May Curry Noodles. With the spicy flavor of the curry, I knew a sweet component would help cut the heat and refresh the palate. The Pink Grapefruit Salad was a perfect choice. Sweet, with just a bit of spice, complemented the noodles perfectly.

Cooking is a messy endeavor.

And for dessert I made the Nun Bananas, just to have something to end the meal with. I added some chocolate chips as a last-minute addition and I think it really gave it some oomph! I probably ruined the authentic-Thai-ness of the dish by adding the chocolate, but who can resist bananas and chocolate? I certainly cannot.

The Nun Bananas came out as a wonderful dessert soup. I would make this again. And again. And again...

Pink Grapefruit Salad

  • 3 tbs shredded coconut
  • 2 tbs fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • 2 cups grapefruit, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 tbs roasted, salted peanuts
  • 1 tbs coarsely chopped shallots (grocery store was out, I used green onions)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh green chilies (you can sub for jalapenos, which I did)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro or mint (I used cilantro)
  • Optional: bibb lettuce leaves (I did not use)

-Toast the coconut in a dry skillet until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes.

-In a medium bowl, combine lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the grapefruit, coconut, peanuts, shallots, chilies, and cilantro and toss well.

Nun Bananas

  • 3 medium bananas
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

-Peel and halve the bananas. Cut into 2 1/2 cups banana chunks, a little larger than bite-sized.

-Bring the coconut milk, water, sugar, and salt to a boil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat and add chocolate chips, stirring constantly to avoid burning the chocolate. Add bananas and let simmer for 1-2 minutes. Serve warm and garnish with coconut flakes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Quick & Easy Thai -- Chiang Mai Curry Noodles

Here we go, finally, I have the time to make a proper blog post! As I mentioned in my previous post, after my internship with the lovely Lisa Ekus her staff led me to the book room on my last day and let me pick and choose a number of cook books to take home with me. During my summer there, I met a couple of pretty interesting chefs/authors, and conversed with a few others via emails and the like. It was definitely a very cool experience to say the least. The writer of the following recipe was the first one I met!

That summer I'd begun a love affair with Thai food, so naturally Nancie McDermott's Quick & Easy Thai was the first book I plucked from the shelf (immediately followed by her Quick & Easy Chinese). That book, along with the others I received that day, had been hiding in my basement, waiting for me to muster up the courage to open the box up and attempt the recipes. Last summer, I wasn't ready. Sure, I'd perfected Mac and Cheese, I was a master improvisational bartender at friends' parties, and I could whip up a mean Mexican Pizza--but Thai food? It just seemed so far beyond my culinary expertise at the time.

Today? Hell, I can make MACARONS, I can tackle anything, right? It was time to open the box, it was time to try the Thai.

Oh how I wish I'd opened this book sooner. Nancie really wrote true to the title, these recipes are quick AND easy--whats more, they're delicious! The combination of flavors, the textures, everything just shouts gourmet! I felt like I was eating at my favorite Thai restaurant. All this time, a whole year, I could have been making these! I will most definitely be trying another recipe soon, probably something with beef since I now have three flank steaks at the ready in Boyfriend's freezer.

I wish I had a better camera, to do this dish photographic justice!

I set out to make the cover dish, Chaing Mai Curry Noddles, since the picture was the most enticing. Once at the grocery store, book in hand, I got curious. I needed side dishes. Perhaps a dessert. So I made the pink grapefruit salad with toasted coconut and fresh mint as a side, and the nun bananas (with chocolate added) as a dessert. I will blog about those two in the coming days.

And now, without further ado, here is the recipe for the main dish:

Chaing Mai Curry Noodles
From Nancie McDermott's Quick & Easy Thai
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs finely chopped garlic (I used nearly 2 because I am clearly addicted)
  • 2 tbs red curry paste
  • 3/4 lb boneless chicken, cut into chunks (you can also sub for beef if you'd like)
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric or curry (I used curry)
  • 2 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 lb Chinese egg-style noodles (I had no idea what these were and could not for the life of me find them, so I used Nancie's suggestion of angel hair instead)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped shallots (they were out, I skipped this)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced onions

-Cook the noodles--it's suggested to do this second, but since I was using a box of hard angel hair I did this first, letting the water boil while I prepared the ingredients, then letting it cook while I did the rest. If you do finagle some Chinese-style-egg-noodles, they cook quicker apparently, so do this part second.

-Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and toss well before mixing in the curry paste. Cook for one minute. Add the chicken and brown evenly. 

Add coconut milk, chicken broth, curry, soy sauce, sugar, and salt and stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. 

-Stir in lime juice, remove from heat.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Quick & Easy Thai Adventure, Sneak Peek!

So I haven't had time to throw together a proper post, but here's a sneak peek! I was going to make one big epic post, but I might actually break it up into three posts to really highlight each part of this really amazing meal.

This weekend I was inspired to pull out my box o' cookbooks that I got upon completion of my internship with Lisa Ekus last summer. Since I'd recently made a special trip to the Asian food mart across the river, I decided to try my hand at Thai cooking for the very first time. This was actually one of the first cookbooks I chose on my last day when Lisa's colleagues led me to the book room to pick out some to take home. I looove Thai food and trying new and exotic recipes, so this was really an adventure.

Quick & Easy Thai, 70 Everyday Recipes by Nancie McDermott.

Quick & Easy Thai by Nancie McDermott
I didn't realize until I'd already started cooking--I've actually met Nancie! She came up to Lisa's office one day while I was interning--I forget if she was on a book tour or doing media training. I do remember upon meeting her I stuck out my hand and she said "Oh I'm from the South, we HUG!" She was a very bubbly, happy person and after finally reading through this book and testing a few recipes I can safely say: boy, is she talented too!

The title is correct, these recipes are so easy and take less than an hour. I appreciated how she gave suggestions for substitutions. For example, I couldn't find a hot green chile, but the glossary in the back assured me I could sub in jalapenos--which is exactly what I did and it was still amazing.

Tomorrow I'll have a real post, but here are some teaser pictures of what I made (I apologize for photo quality, I still have no real camera)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

College Kid Cuisine -- Shakshuka (?)

Taken with my Macbook camera, apologies.

I never knew what this dish was called. I always just referred to it as "that really good thing my friend Eric used to make with the eggs and stuff." He recently informed me, via Facebook, that it is called "Shakshuka" and a Google search informed me that it is kind of a Jewish cuisine, and there are maaaany different varieties.

Eric and I had these people we called "Friend Goals." When we had a class with someone we thought was particularly awesome (usually whoever we deemed "a good writer" since we were cool like that) we would make it our goal to befriend them. This meal was made for a first hang-out with a completed Friend Goal. I remember being absolutely skeptical, then devoured it and nearly licked my plate clean. It was forevermore a part of my go-to-easy-dishes in college.

 In my eyes it was the absolute perfect college kid dinner, even if you didn't have the ingredients on-hand it wasn't very expensive to pick up some eggs, onions, and tomatoes for the simplest version of the recipe. Sure, turmeric is about $5 itself, but once you have that, the rest of the ingredients are way under $5.

This is a true from-the-pantry dish. It's flavorful, bright, filling, and absolutely satisfying.

Shakshuka reminds me of walking back to my apartment from the T after a combined day of class and waiting tables, possibly trudging through snow and slush as Boston is wont to do, and returning home to make the apartment smell of Middle Eastern spices that would rouse my roommates from their beds. We would chat in the kitchen and I would munch on the shakshuka over rice and we'd tell each other about our days.

I miss my roommates. I miss Boston. I miss college. Making this brings me back.

This was put together the other night when my mom called to tell me and my brother we had nothing planned for dinner, so to have a frozen meal or leftovers or something. I took it as an opportunity to try my culinary improvisational skills out, but we didn't have many options since it was end of the week and we didn't have much left in the way of groceries. That's the beauty of this dish--you can really edit it any way you'd like! I added corn and spinach, a sprinkle of goat cheese, and subbed curry powder, ginger, and cumin for the turmeric since we were out.

Easy Shakshuka
(Mostly adapted from Eric's recipe, but here's a link to a
traditional recipe for comparison)
Uhh that candle is not in the ingredients FYI.
  • 1 small onion, cut into strips (I used half an onion, since I don't like onions very much)
  • 1 clove garlic, diced or grated
  • 1 small tomato, diced (you can sub for a jar of diced if you'd like)
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
  • 1/2 cup frozen spinach, defrosted
  • 1 tsp turmeric (I used a sprinkle of curry powder for color, with a sprinkle of cumin and a 1/4 tsp of fresh grated ginger. Turmeric is a mild spice so I didn't want these stronger spices to be too overpowering, the blend was quite good)
  • Sprinkle of goat cheese (1/4 cup? less? I forget)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp olive oil
-Over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions and turmeric (or spice blend) and cook until just soft. Add the garlic and cook a few more minutes.

-Add the rest of the veggies and cook until soft. Stir until well combined with the spices. Sprinkle goat cheese over the veggies.

-Crack eggs over the top of the pan and remove from heat. Cover and let sit until eggs are at desired consistency (I was going for drippy poached but left it on too long and they cooked through--still yummy though!)

-Serve over rice, or if you'd like to go the traditional route, wikipedia informs me you can eat it over toast.

I served with a half-white-merlot-half-blackberry-seltzer
spritzer cocktail thing. Delish!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

She's a Busy Bee -- The Best Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I'm running out of back-up pictures, and since I won't be able to get a new camera (Nikon D40 or Canon Rebel XS?? thoughts??) until at least JUNE, my posts may be fewer and further between--as I'd rather not have recipes sans pictures. I mean, how would you know I REALLY cooked something, and didn't just SAY I did? Not that I'm prone to lying, but this is the internet you know. Crazy stuff happens here.

This saddens me since I'm starting to see regular readers around here and I'd hate to see them leave. Maybe it's just leftover from my tumblr days where losing a follower was like someone de-friending you on Facebook or WORSE, but I also remember the pre-RSS feed/reader days where I would have to go through my bookmarks and read blogs manually. If a blog had no new posts for more than a week or so, I lost interest quick. I suppose internet blog-culture these days leans more towards reading devices than manually blog hopping though, so there's hope.

Please, don't leave me. Hang in there.

I'm going to still try to steal my mom's lovely new camera for when I cook at home, and try to use a combination of Boyfriend's camera or my laptop camera when I cook at Boyfriend's house, but I'm never 100% comfortable using other people's things, especially around batters and oils and high temperatures where I could ruin them. And, this is when I actually have time, since the play seems like it might be more time-consuming than last year. But who knows at this point.

I love cooking. I will continue to cook. At least once a week, it'll happen.

Anyway. These cupcakes are amazing. I'm not the biggest fan of carrot cake, but I do enjoy it on occasion, especially if I find some sans raisins. The white chocolate cream cheese is a nice little twist on the usual plain cream cheese frosting, helps better curb the gentle spice of the cake. Of course, these are from Ming Makes Cupcakes yet again, and I know I need to find a new cupcake source in the future. I used White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting from instead of the suggested plain though.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
(From Ming Makes Cupcakes)

  • 1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup canola oil

  • 8 oz. can crushed pineapple

  • 2 cups grated carrots

Mix all ingredients together.  Bake at 325 for 35 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
(From AllRecipes)

  • 2 ounces white chocolate
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Mix in white chocolate, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and orange extract. Gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar until the mixture is fluffy. Mix in heavy cream. Spoon into pastry bag and pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Note: I doubled the cupcake recipe, which only makes about a dozen, and I STILL had enough icing leftover to frost 24 cupcakes two days later. So I suggest doubling the cupcakes and halving the frosting and you'll probably be good :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mango Strawberry Lassi

I haven't done a drink recipe in a while, so I figured it was about time. Boyfriend was highly surprised that I was making a beverage sans alcohol. Sadly the mangos used weren't quite ripe enough--you want them to be nice and juicy and mine weren't as drippy as I'd have liked them to be. Boyfriend loved it though, since this gave it a milder sweetness rather than overpowering girly-drink-ish.
I've yet to find an ideal way to chop mango...
It's getting delightfully warmer here in the Northeast, but it's still not quite slushy-drink-time. This drink is a cool, refreshing treat without being too summery. It's also thick and hearty--I drank it for breakfast and it was filling enough for me, as I'm a light breakfaster.

Lassi is traditionally a sweet drink with only three ingredients: mangos, yogurt, and sugar. I had some strawberries I had to use up before they went bad, so I added those. Vanilla Greed yogurt was what I had on hand, so it came out a bit thicker. After blending throughly I thought it was still a bit too thick, so I added some coconut milk. The coconut milk added a nice hint of flavor and thinned it perfectly.

Mango-Strawberry Lassi
  • 2 ripe mangos, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup strawberries, tops cut off
  • 2 tbs honey
  • 2 cups vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • sprinkle of sugar

-Chop your fruits. Move to a bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Mix and set aside for at least ten minutes. The sugar will bring out the flavors in the fruit and help to make them juicy.

-Pulse fruit, honey, and yogurt in a blender until smooth.

-Add coconut milk until desired consistency is reached. Add honey as desired.

-Pour into a lovely glass and serve with a slice of some fruit to make it fancy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Food Trucks, Please Come to Western Mass -- Korean Beef Bulgogi

If you've been reading this for a while, you may remember my little jaunt over to the west coast for my first ever trip to Los Angeles. On my to-do list were way too many things to complete in just five days. Sadly, tracking down the Koji truck was one of the list items that did not get completed. In fact, none of the food I ate came from a truck (though I did have some excellent fast food).

Step one, make the sauces: one for the marinade,
one for the slaw

Aside from the Herrell's Magic Truck, Western Mass is seriously lacking in the vehicle-food department, so it doesn't look like I'll be buying any Korean-Mexican-Fusion food anytime soon. That's why I'm thrilled that Andrea over at Can You Stay For Dinner had such an excellent, EASY recipe in her archives! I've gushed about her blog before, and made at least five of her recipes, but I can't remember if I've actually blogged one.

Chop veggies for slaw
Seriously it's so simple, it tastes fresh and summery and if I close my eyes and think real hard I can almost feel that California sunshine on my face again. I will return to you, someday...

Marinade beef, grill beef to medium rare, slice beef
This recipe is pretty much the same exact thing she came up with, so all credit goes to her. In fact, go to her recipe because I don't feel 100% comfortable posting it verbatim, heh. So go here please and cook these amazing Korean taco things! The only adjustments I made were adding red onions and lime juice to the slaw, and subbing in yellow peppers for some added color--it's a rainbow of a slaw, I wish I had a better camera on hand to do it justice. These are absolutely flavorful with just the right amount of spice--and I love spice.

After chilling slaw, assemble tacos

Enjoy the pics... they were deeelicious.

Also, much thanks to my lovely boyfriend for helping with the grilling :)