Thursday, August 30, 2012

Caprese Burgers

Happy (early) Labor Day! This weekend happens to be one of my favorite weekends of the year and not just because of the extra day off from work. Labor Day ushers in the end of summer and start of fall. Our days are still warm but when the sun disappears from the horizon the temperature drops and out come the sweatshirts. Even with the cooling temperatures the garden is still flourishing. The recipes you will see here in the next couple of weeks will be aimed at using up my summer vegetable bounty.

One of my favorite ways to use late summer produce is the caprese salad or insalata caprese if you are feeling fancy. The classic caprese is a simple summer salad made with fresh tomatoes, creamy mozzarella and pungent basil. This recipe combines those same flavors into a delicious burger that is perfect for late summer cookouts.

Caprese Burgers
recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

2 ½ pounds ground sirloin beef
¼ cup grated Parmesan
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella,  sliced into ¼ inch-thick slices, patted dry with paper towels

Pesto Mayonnaise:
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup Basil Pesto

Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
8 hamburger buns, halved
4 medium tomatoes, sliced into ¼ inch-thick rounds

For the burgers: Preheat grill over medium-high heat. Combine the beef, 1 cup basil pesto, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Form the mixture into eight 4-inch-diameter patties, each about ¾ inch thick. Grill for 5 minutes. Turn the burgers over and place a slice of mozzarella on top. Cook for about 5 minutes longer until the burgers are cooked through and the cheese is slightly melted. Allow the burgers to rest for 5 minutes.

For the pesto mayonnaise: In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and basil pesto until smooth.

To assemble the burgers: Drizzle the cut side of the hamburger buns with olive oil and grill until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Place the burgers on top and add 1 or 2 tomato slices. Add the top halves of the bread and serve. I like to top the burgers with fresh basil leaves and pass the pesto mayonnaise on the side.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pizza Puffs

These pizza puffs make an excellent one-bite appetizer that only takes minutes to prepare. The original recipe uses pepperoni but my family prefers ham on their pizza. You can get creative and mix in your favorite pizza toppings. Try these with ham, diced green pepper, and pineapple for a Hawaiian flavored twist!

I like to make a double batch of pizza puffs and freeze them for a quick snack. Freeze the baked puffs in a single layer on a baking sheet then transfer to a freezer bag to store. To reheat, bake the frozen puffs on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes until warmed through.

Pizza Puffs

¾ cup flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¾ cup whole milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
4 ounces cooked ham, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup)
½ cup Fifteen Minute Tomato Sauce or store-bought pizza sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 24-cup mini-muffin pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, Italian seasoning and garlic powder; whisk in the milk and egg. Stir in the mozzarella and ham. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, microwave the tomato sauce until warmed through, then stir in 1 tablespoon basil. Sprinkle the puffs with the remaining 1 tablespoon basil.

Serve the puffs with the tomato sauce for dipping.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Amazing Corn Chowder

From cold preparations in the summer to warm preparations in the winter, I am a big fan of the power of soup. I can always throw together a quick soup dinner on using random bits of leftover veggies, meat, rice, pasta, you name it. The possibilities are endless! Soup is also a great way to transition from the summer to fall. The weather in my area has started the slight shift that ushers in the fall. Our days are still warm but the nights have started to cool down enough to require a sweater or light jacket. A warm bowl of soup made with fresh summer corn is the perfect way to greet the changing season. Don't forget to  freeze some of your fresh corn so you can enjoy the sweet taste of summer in the coming months.

Amazing Corn Chowder
recipe slightly adapted from Stiring the Pot originally from Ms. enPlace adapted from Authentic Mexican by Rick Bayless

3 large ears of fresh sweet corn or 2 1/2-3 cups freezer corn, defrosted
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
½ medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups milk, plus more if needed
1 cup heavy cream
½ tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon hot sauce, or to taste

To garnish:
crumbled feta cheese
minced cilantro

If using fresh corn, husk and remove silk. Cut the kernels from the cob with a sharp knife. Scrape the remaining bits of corn from the con with the end of a spoon. You should have 2 1/2-3 cups of corn. Transfer to a blender or food processor. If using defrosted frozen corn, just place in a blender or food processor.

Heat half of the butter in a small skillet. Add the onion and cook until soft, 6-7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 more minute. Add this mixture to the blender, along with the cornstarch and ¼ cup water. Process until smooth. If using a blender, you'll have to pulse the machine and stir several times--but do not add more liquid. Once the blades break up the corn, there will be enough moisture.

Melt the remaining butter in a medium-large saucepan on medium heat. Add the corn puree and stir constantly for several minutes until thick.

Whisk in the milk, partially cover, and simmer about 15 minutes. Over medium-low, stirring often. Strain through a sieve. Rinse out the pan, and add the soup back in. Stir in the cream, salt, and hot sauce. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Ladle into bowls and garnish with crumbled feta cheese and minced cliantro.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Grilled Flank Steak with Soy Sauce and Garlic

Soy sauce is one of those condiments that always seems to be floating around in my refrigerator. I typically use it with Asian cuisine but I have also used it to add depth of flavor to soup. It never crossed my mind to use soy sauce as a base for a marinade until I came across this recipe on Epicurious. Genius! Flank steak is a great cut of meat but it can be tough if not prepared correctly. This method of marinating and quick grilling will produce a perfectly seasoned and juicy steak every time. I served this steak alongside Baked Tomatoes with Quinoa and Corn and leftover Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

Grilled Flank Steak with Soy Sauce and Garlic
recipe courtesy of Epicurious

¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ to 2 pounds flank steak

To make the marinade, whisk together all ingredients except the flank steak.

Pour the marinade over the flank steak. Make sure steak is well covered in the marinade, and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours, turning the bag every couple of hours for even marinating.

Preheat your grill or grill pan to medium high heat. Remove the steak from the marinade, and shake off excess. Discard the garlic. Use a paper towel to blot the flank steak dry. This will allow the meat to brown and caramelize on the grill.

Grill the steak for 4 to 5 minutes on each side (about 9 to 10 minutes total) for medium rare. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing across the grain at an angle.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Baked Tomatoes with Quinoa and Corn

If you are a regular blog reader than you may have noticed that my posts have been sporadic over the last several months. I have many excuses reasons but let's just say that life (only good things) got in the way. I hope to return to a regular posting schedule now that I have more free time. 

I made these stuffed tomatoes to accompany Grilled Flank Steak with Soy Sauce and Garlic. Leftovers either warm or cold make a perfect lunch the next day.

Baked Tomatoes with Quinoa and Corn
recipe adapted from Pink Parsley

4 ears corn
1 cup chopped red onion
6 large ripe tomatoes
1 cup uncooked quinoa
¼ cup water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
½ teaspoon chile powder
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces Colby Jack cheese, shredded (about 1 ½ cups)

Preheat the broiler to high.

Place the corn and onions on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil, tossing once or twice, about 10 minutes, or until charred and blackened in spots. Remove from the oven and place into a medium bowl.

Preheat the oven 350°F.

Cut the tops off the tomatoes. Carefully scoop out the tomato pulp, leaving the shells intact. Drain the pulp through a sieve set over a bowl, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Reserve 1 ¼ cups of the tomato juices, and discard the pulp and seeds. Sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with ½ teaspoon of salt (total, not each). Invert the tomatoes onto a lint-free kitchen towel and stand 30 minutes. Blot the insides of the tomatoes dry with a paper towel or kitchen towel.

As the tomatoes drain, cook the quinoa. Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse well under cold water, stirring as you rinse. Drain well. Combine the quinoa, reserved tomato liquid, ¼ cup water, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook 15 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff the quinoa with a fork.

Add the quinoa to the bowl with the corn and onions, and stir in the cilantro, scallions, olive oil, lime juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, cumin, cayenne, chile powder, pepper, and ½ cup cheese. Spoon about ¾ cup of the quinoa filling into each of the tomatoes. Divide the remaining cheese evenly over the tops and bake about 15 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. 

Remove from the oven and serve.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Italian Zucchini Pie

It's that time of year when gardens and farmers markets are exploding with an abundance of zucchini. This recipe is a wonderful way to use the excess. I used a mixture of zucchini and yellow summer squash for color. Feel free to use your favorite pie crust recipe in place of the crescent rolls.

Italian Zucchini Pie
recipe adapted from Pillsbury

2 tablespoons butter
4 cups of thinly sliced zucchini, about 1/8-inch thick
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
½ tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 can (8 oz) refrigerated crescent rolls
2 teaspoons yellow mustard

Preheat oven to 375°F.

In 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, onions, and garlic; cook 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir in parsley, basil, oregano, salt and pepper.

In large bowl, mix eggs, heavy cream, and cheese. Add cooked vegetable mixture; stir gently to mix.

Spray a pie pan with cooking spray and unroll each crescent roll as if it were a pie slice, gently pressing the pieces together to make a crust. Firmly press perforations to seal. Spread crust with mustard. Pour egg mixture evenly into crust-lined pie plate.

Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. If necessary, cover edge of crust with strips of foil during last 10 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.