Friday, July 26, 2013

Oriental Pork Burger--A Little Rest from Beef Burgers!

I think most everyone loves a burger on the grill. But sometimes, by the middle of summer, we’re tired of the same old beef burger every time. I recently had a friend accompany me to an occasion where her support was most welcome. Afterwards, we came back to the house. I’d made the burgers and slaw earlier in the day and within a very short time the grill was hot and the burgers were on.
            I had picked up cole slaw mix, the kind with carrots already in it, but I wanted more carrots. I was going to grate them myself, but as I passed by the salad bar and saw the nifty long strands of carrot, I picked up a container of that instead. 
            I thought the slaw would be enough for a topping, but after tasting, we thought it still needed a little something, so I whipped up the sesame aioli. It was the perfect finishing touch.
            I served it with store-bought sweet potato chips, which went very well with the flavor of the burgers. If you are a bit more ambitious, roast cubes of sweet potato and toss them with a little more of the sesame aioli and chopped cilantro for sweet potato salad.

Spicy Oriental Pork Burgers
 1 ½ lb. ground pork
2 green onions, with some of the green, very thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. ginger paste from the produce section (or 1 ½ tbsp. grated fresh ginger)
2 tbsp. Thai sweet chili sauce
1 tsp. Oriental sesame oil
1 tbsp. soy sauce
6 Kaiser rolls (or other crusty buns)
Asian Slaw (recipe below)
Sesame Aioli (recipe below)
             In a bowl, combine all ingredients for the pork burgers. Form into six patties about 5” in diameter. Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour so flavors meld, or until ready to cook. 
On a very hot gas or charcoal grill (or stove-top ridged grill pan) cook five to six minutes per side, until no longer pink in the center.  Place on the buns, top with the slaw and drizzle with the aioli.  Serves six.
Asian Slaw
1 bag cole slaw mix
1cup shredded carrot
1 minced green onion
3 tbsp. cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
            In a bowl, combine the slaw mix, carrot, green onion and cilantro. In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and vinegar. Pour over the slaw and toss together.  Let set at room temperature for up to an hour, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
 Sesame Aioli
 ¾  cup mayonnaise
1 tsp oriental sesame oil
1 clove garlic, very finely minced
            Mix together, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
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Friday, July 19, 2013

Luscious Latino Shrimp Salad

               I had invited friends for a Sunday supper, and wanted a first course that wouldn’t take a lot of time to prepare that day. I also wanted something with a bit of a Latino flair to complement the main course I was serving.  Looking through my recipe files, I came across a shrimp cocktail recipe that was perfect.  It calls for tiny salad shrimp, but I like to use larger shrimp and put it atop a bed of greens. 
               I usually dice avocados for garnish, but I’d made guacamole in anticipation of a Friday evening concert at the Levitt Shell. When it stormed about the time we were to leave, we changed our minds. So I used the guacamole that was still in the fridge to top the salad. It was so much better than just the plain avocado that I will make it that way from now on.
                You can use your favorite gucamole recipe. While not quite the same as home-made, the Wholly Guacamole brand, in the refrigerated section of your supermarket, is also pretty tasty.
               The recipe calls for Maggi seasoning, a liquid seasoning. You might be able to find it in either the Hispanic or oriental sections of your market. If not, use ½ teaspoon each soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
               By increasing the amount of shrimp to about 2 ½ lb., this would make a fine main course for lunch or dinner on a hot summer day.
 Latino Shrimp Salad
1 lemon, rinsed and sliced
2 tbsp. Penzeys salsa seasoning (or one pkg. taco seasoning)
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 ½ lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup chili sauce (see note)
Juice and finely grated zest of one orange
Juice and finely grated zest of 2 limes
I tsp. Maggi seasoning
2 tsp. chipotle Tabasco sauce (or to taste)
1 cup prepared guacamole
4 to 5 oz. arugula
Cilantro, for garnish
1 lime, cut into six wedges, for garnish

In a non-reactive Dutch oven, place the lemon, salsa or taco seasoning, wine and bay leaf.  Add 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about five minutes. Add shrimp. Add water if needed to completely cover shrimp. Bring to a slow boil, cover, and remove from the heat. Wait 8 minutes, then drain.  Place with the lemon slices in a flat glass or plastic container and chill. 
                In a bowl, whisk together the chili sauce, orange and lime juice and zest, Maggi seasoning and Tabasco.  Cover and chill completely. About half an hour before serving, pour over the shrimp, tossing to coat.
                Divide the arugula among six salad plates. Top with the shrimp, then the guacamole.  Drizzle with the sauce remaining in the container, sprinkle with cilantro and serve. Serves six.
Note: This calls for the mild chili sauce that’s right beside the catsup on market shelves.
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Thursday, July 04, 2013

The Mafia is Not a Myth!

Many people, especially down in the South, believe that the Mafia is an invention of the movie industry.  Films such as The Godfather, or Goodfellas, are not far from the truth here in the United States.

This is even more true in Italy.  Although most of the Mafia families are in the south, their hold spreads all over Italy.  According to the United Nations, Italy’s major Mafia organizations are tied to 116 billion euros, or about $150 billion, in revenue each year,

In the New York Times Travel Section this week, there's an article about a bakery owner,Vincenzo Conticello, who refused to pay his "protection" money.  He went through trials and tribulations but ultimately triumphed.

The owner has now expanded to several locations where tourists can be sure they aren't supporting organized crime in Italy.  You can read all about it here.

Monday, July 01, 2013

A Chilled Soup: Just the Thing for Summer

Last weekend, I hosted a dinner party that we had donated to our church school auction. It was an “Evening in Paris” menu, for the 12 who signed up for it. We started the evening with assorted canapés. To accompany them, we served Lillet Blanc, a French apéritif, with a slice of orange and a splash of soda. This gave folks a chance to mingle and chat before being seated.
The first seated course was a chilled soup. Many years ago, when I first started going to France, chilled soups weren´t all that common in France except perhaps along the Mediterranean, or near Spain, where gazpacho might have made it onto the menu.  But now, with all the young ambitious new chefs making the Parisian scene, it´s not at all unusual to see one on a summer menu.
The obvious advantage to a chilled soup is that it can be made ahead.  In fact it must be made ahead to allow it to chill and for the flavors to develop.  Another advantage to this one is that there’s very little preparation involved, since we’re using canned pears. If you prefer to use fresh pears, make sure they’re ripe, and poach five or six in water with a little sugar. A little splash of white wine wouldn’t hurt in the poaching liquid, either.
I like to garnish this with snipped chives and a few crumbles of blue cheese. While Roquefort would be a nice match to the flavors in the soup, it’s become enormously expensive. You can quite nicely substitute another crumbly blue cheese, such as gorgonzola or Maytag blue.
For the wine pairing, we served an Alsatian white blend, Hugel Gentil. It was the perfect match.
 Chilled Pear Cardamom Soup
 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 small shallots, peeled and minced (3 to 4 tbsp.)
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 can (29 oz.) pears, drained
Juice and finely grated zest of one large lemon
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups half-and-half cream
Salt and ground white pepper, to taste
3 oz. blue cheese crumbles, for garnish
Chives, for garnish      
                In a skillet, cook the shallots in the oil until soft.  Add the cardamom and cook, stirring, about two more minutes.  Put the pears in a food processor and add the shallot mixture. Pulse a couple of times, then add the lemon juice and zest and the chicken stock.  Process until very smooth. Pour into a bowl and whisk in the half-and-half.  Add salt and ground white pepper to taste. Chill for at least three hours, or until very cold. Taste again before serving. You might need a little more salt. Serve in soup cups or flat soup bowls, topped with the blue cheese and chives. Serves 6.
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