Archive for May, 2011

Minty Watermelon Salad

It’s Senior year of high school. You are the most important person in the world, which without a doubt, revolves around you. You only think this because you are too apathetic to pay attention in the science class you have attempted feebly to attend. You want nothing more than to escape the purgatory of high school because clearly, you are mature enough to handle anything life may throw at you. You are a victim of the terrible affliction known as Senioritis. No one can stop you. No one. Or so I thought.

Freshman year was a major reality check. I realized that I’m not perfect, I can’t handle everything, and I should really read the washing instructions before I buy a garment of clothing. After all, my budget doesn’t quite account for consistent dry cleaning runs.

Last year, I was a senior in high school, and boy was it glorious. I couldn’t be stopped. I showed every symptom of Senioritis. I road tripped, slept in lieu of first period, SparkNote’d like it was my job…you know, the normal stuff. I was perfect. And so were my friends. But my ladies and I took things to the extreme. Seniors think they’re all grown up, and we didn’t let one grown up thing get past us (except for paying bills, having kids, working, and all the other not fun stuff). What did we do? Dinner parties. We’d all gather at one house – usually mine – and each of us would bring our own homemade dish.

One summer evening, long after graduation, as our departure from each other was becoming increasingly imminent, it was time for our last potluck. I made the famous Turkey Burgers (see below), Syd brought the brownies…the usual shtick. But this time Nora came over with something different. Usually taking on the salad or the fruit, she didn’t diverge too dramatically from the norm. What she brought over though, was entirely unique and something I had never heard of before. It was the perfect addition to our summertime meal and refreshed each of us through our first, second, third, and fourth servings until we were all fighting for the last chunk of juicy watermelon. Nora’s watermelon salad was, without a doubt, the winner of the night.

Overwhelmingly excited about all things summer, I’ve desperately been trying to turn the clock forward to June 21st, the official start of the season. Even though I can’t make the sun hotter and I can’t make my gals come home sooner, I can pretend that everything is right in the world (which I’ve come to notice, does not in fact, revolve around me). What better way to do this than with food? I never acquired Nora’s recipe so I had to improvise a bit, but the result was fabulous, and I think you’ll agree.

This recipe allows watermelon to nix its role as a summertime dessert and re-establish itself as a palate cleansing side dish. The steps are fairly straightforward as it’s the combination of ingredients that matters most. Without further ado, here’s how its done.

Ingredients
·      ½ Watermelon
·      Fresh Mint
·      ½ – ¾ Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
·      1 Lime

Grab a big ol’ knife and chop your half watermelon into a bunch of 1 inch by 1 inch cubes. It’s absolutely vital that your pieces be flawlessly proportioned or else the flavor will lose its punch and the fruit will turn brown and explode in mere moments. Oh wait, that’s the residual “I’m perfect” symptom of Senioritis kicking in. I kid. Estimate – as I learned this year in Statistics.

Rinse your fresh mint leaves…

And chop them up finely. Next, add the mint and watermelon to a bowl.

Feta cheese and I are generally not on good terms. Yeah, I’m that elementary school bully who takes out my frustration on the little guy because I can. After some intensive anger management classes, I’ve learned how to handle the problem. I order it out of my meals and make it known that it is unwelcome in the refrigerator. I’ve made major progress, and am slowly starting to integrate it into my diet, starting here.

Add the cheese to the bowl. For some, I understand, Feta is a delicacy. If this describes you, pile it on! I, on the other hand, prefer to be a minimalist, sticking with the ½ cup proportion.

Cut a lime in half and squeeze it into the bowl.

Last but not least, use your hands or salad mixers to toss everything together until it’s well mixed and there isn’t too much lime juice puddling at the bowl’s bottom.

Dig in!

Rosemary Garlic Turkey Burgers

Getting used to being back in Los Angeles has been quite an adjustment. The sun, for one, has become a foreigner to me. After traipsing through the snow under a dismally gray sky for months on end, the shock factor of the bright light that now stings my corneas has led to quite a bit of squinting. One of these days, I’ll learn to wear sunglasses and sunscreen, but it’ll probably take a gnarly sunburn for that lesson to sink in.

Living in my own room again has also taken some getting used to. I’ve grown acclimated to sharing a space smaller than my pinky toe with two other girls. At first, I hated it, but after we filled the walls with post-its and spilled a jar of honey on the carpet, we settled into our nest and were proud to call it home. Living in a triple was a bit of a shock to me at first. As an only child, I’ve never had to share a room (or much of anything) with anyone. Soon though, I learned that my third of the space needed to stay presentable to stay in the good graces of  my fellow chicks. Cleaning the room became a daily routine, and one that I participated in without a second thought. Back in L.A. I’m lucky enough to have only one roommate, my charming and unbearably cute Labradoodle, Desi. With all of this open space and no one to clean it up for (assuming the pup doesn’t mind) I kind of let things get out of hand. My desk chair became uninhabitable and, while my floor wasn’t honey-stained, it also wasn’t visible. I’d let clothing, towels, and papers pile up all over my basement bedroom. Finally, I convinced myself to spend some quality time in my room where I managed to tidy up a little bit, stuffing only a few handfuls of things under the bed.

Dorm life has its pros and cons. One subject that fits into both of those categories, as I’m sure my fellow colligate classmates will agree, is the food. Let’s start with the cons. I’ll try not to be too negative…after all, that’s what my other blog is for! The Dining Hall’s food is often flavorless and repetitive. On multiple occasions I’ve found hair and plastic in my meal. Though the staff tries to create interesting meals (Frosted Flake Fried Chicken, for example), their attempts usually result in a stomachache and a half. Regardless, I am well fed. The Dining Hall is located in my building and is open just about whenever I’m ready to eat. There’s usually something I can stomach, even if that means settling for a grilled cheese sandwich and carrot sticks. We’ve got a number of other cafes and convenient stores that are more than well-stocked enough to satisfy my late night hunger pangs. Waffle Fries, anyone? What I love most, if it isn’t already clear, is that food is ready for me to eat whenever I want it. Sure, I’ve cooked up a number of my own meals over the course of the year, but its always an afterthought and completely optional. At home, I’m not so lucky. When I’m not out to dinner, most of my meals are made by yours truly. I’m lucky enough to have a dad who loves the kitchen just as much as I do, which makes life a lot easier, but the adjustment factor is still harsh.

Whenever I’m feeling homesick or just in need of a little pick-me-up, I hop on over to The Paramount Café, one of my school’s fine dining establishments. After a quick chat with the woman behind the counter, I’ve ordered a turkey burger with cheddar cheese and avocado, with sweet potato fries on the side. I watch her reach into the freezer, pull out a freezer-burned slab of ground turkey, and toss it on the greasy grill. Next she grabs some frozen sweet potato slivers, which she drops into the bubbling vat of oil. After flipping the turkey once or twice, she accesses another freezer, from which she pulls a frozen avocado half. Struggling to cut the firm fruit, she chops it up and throws it on the grill as well…to thaw. Finally, she throws it all together and puts it into a brown box, which I take over to the tables after paying with my Board Bucks. Sinking my teeth into this juicy treat, I’m as satisfied as a beaver chomping on a piece of quality wood. I know the burger isn’t the most flavorful, the avocado is still a little frozen on the inside, and the porous sweet potato fries are oozing with vegetable oil, but it’s enough to tide me over until I arrive back in California.

Well, here I am. I’ve said a temporary c’est la vie to The Paramount’s turkey burgers and a warm and welcoming hello to my homemade rendition. The sweet potato fries (my favorite food – next to arugula – for the record) usually come from Trader Joes, but I’ll explore a homemade batch another day. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted.

My turkey burgers are packed full of wonderful things and dripping with delicious flavor. The avocados are sweet and smooth, unlike the mealy, stringy ones I experienced back East. The cheddar cheese is creamy and the buns, well, that’s one that The Paramount has sort of mastered.

The key to a great turkey burger lies in what you stuff inside the meat itself. I like to keep the toppings to a minimum, since the flavor is much more potent when its woven into the meat. After these birdies are cooked, you’ll want to gobble gobble ‘em up right away!

Here’s what you’ll need:
·      Fresh Rosemary
·      Fresh Garlic
·      Olive Oil
·      Ketchup
·      Parmesan Cheese
·      Ground White Turkey Meat (the leaner the better)
·      Cheddar Cheese
·      Shallots or Onions
·      1 Avocado
·      Buns

To start off, chop up your fresh rosemary. If you think you can get away with skipping out on this ingredient, think again. The rosemary is what makes this meal refreshing and not too heavy.

Next, slice up a few cloves of fresh garlic. After heating up a small pan, add some olive oil and your herbs. Sauté them until the garlic is browned and has absorbed most of the oil.

Now comes the fun part. And by fun, I obviously mean messy. In a bowl, use your hands to kneed the ground turkey in order to loosen it up a bit. Then, scrape the garlic rosemary sauté into the bowl along with some parmesan cheese.

While you might be tempted to hold off on this next step in preference of preserving the sanctity of the condiment, I beg of you to hear me out on this one. Squirt a small amount of ketchup into the mix. And if you’re feeling adventurous, add some soy sauce in there as well.

Now, stick your hands in there and get dirty! Kneed the concoction together until it is well mixed. I know it will smell delicious, and I know I said that salmonella is a myth in my last post, but please guys, don’t, lick your fingers. Once you’ve got an ingredient infused hunk of ground meat in your hands, separate it into two patties. Make sure that they are thinner and wider than you want them to be when they’re done because these bad boys are going to shrink right up. To avoid too much shrinkage though, create a small indentation in the middle of the raw patties. Push down with your thumb a few times and you should be set.

Next, either throw them on the barbeque or in a pan. If you’re using a stovetop, a grill pan works best, so that whatever fat there is won’t get stuck inside the burger. Feel free to grill up some shallots or onions along side the meat to put on top later. While your turkey burgers are cooking, use a fork to mash up the avocado until almost all the chunks are gone. Doing this really increases its surface area and allows you to get a big mouthful of (non-frozen) avocado in every bite!

When the burgers are almost done – you can make a small incision in the top to check the pinkness – put the sliced cheddar cheese and shallots on top and let them finish up.

Spread the avocado puree generously atop the lightly toasted buns, add the burger, cut in half, and…

…enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Most little girls ask Santa for a pony or Barbie’s latest dream house. Regardless of the fact that it was ingrained into my tiny head from a young age that Santa wasn’t in fact, real (if he was he would give presents to all the little Jewish girls and boys too), ponies and dream houses were the least of my concerns. What I really wanted was…a Kitchen Aid Mixer. You know, the thing engaged couples register for at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. But my lack of a fiancé didn’t stop me…besides, boys have cooties, right? I begged and pleaded for a Kitchen Aid for years. With its shiny silver bowl, smooth red surface, and interchangeable mixers, I had my eyes on the prize. Each year, I was denied the appliance of my dreams, even until it was time for me to leave the nest and head to college. Weeks after the big move, I received a phone call from my father, informing me of the latest addition to our kitchen. That’s right, he had replaced me with the thing I wanted most. A Kitchen Aid. For months, I brooded over my long distance relationship with Big Red and waited anxiously for our introduction. Months later, with a Freshman year report card in one hand and a plane ticket in the other, I headed home to sunny Los Angeles. Sure enough, she was waiting for me, shiny as ever and ready to be christened.

My culinary interest was piqued by my Grandmother, who, years ago, presented a fun-sized me with “The Magic Spoon Cookbook.” This collection of recipes came with a “magic spoon,” filled with glitter and sequins (clearly the source of its supernatural abilities). Each recipe involved the use of this enchanted utensil. But after one fateful cycle in the dishwasher, it was never seen again. A temper tantrum or two later, I realized that the show could go on without my trusty tool. For years, I swore by the cookbook as I traipsed around the kitchen in my chef hat and apron. My favorite recipe? Banana Dana Bread. It was simple, fun, and the only way I could get my Dad to let me eat bananas (apparently I was allergic). After diligent practice, years of hands-on research, and a few floury messes, I bring you an all new, reinvented, Banana Dana Bread!

Finally, I’ve managed to combine my childhood dream with one of my favorite memories. And guess what? I was right; food does taste better when it’s made with a Kitchen Aid! Seriously, I should be their spokesperson. Nonetheless, this summer I’ll be making up for all those lost afternoons without my electrical pal. But lets not get ahead of ourselves. Focus. Banana Bread. My prime discoveries over the years: cinnamon and chocolate chips. The cinnamon gives the loaf an unexpected kick and the chocolate – well – that one speaks for itself. This recipe yields a moist, fluffy loaf full of flavor and pizzazz. And the best part is, its breakfast and dessert!

Here’s what you’ll need:
·      1 ¼ cup sugar
·      1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
·      2 eggs
·      ½ milk
·      3 mashed bananas
·      1 teaspoon vanilla
·      2 ¼ cups flour
·      1 teaspoon salt
·      1 teaspoon baking soda
·      A few shakes of cinnamon
·      Plenty of chocolate chips

Now, I’m the resident baker here, so there were slim pickings for this inaugural baking endeavor. I had to alter my recipe a bit to make ends meet, which is reflected in the above proportions. Turns out, less flour and sugar is a good thing! At any rate, I’ll be making a trip to the grocery store to restock, since I’ve managed to deplete all of this kitchen’s recourses.

Start out by preheating the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Find a pan around 8X6 inches (I used an 8 ½ X 6 ½ ) and butter it up. I usually wait on this step until I’m ready to pour in the batter, but I’ll follow the recipe formula just to keep cool with the baking police.

In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar – or use a Kitchen Aid if you’re lucky enough. Then add the eggs, mixing them in, one at a time.

Next, peel your ripe bananas and put them in a bowl.

Using a fork, mash them up as much as possible. Depending on how patient you were in letting your bananas ripen, you might need to put a little muscle into this one.

Scrape the mashed bananas into the mixing bowl along with the milk and vanilla. Stir them all together, but be careful not to over-mix. This will just give you rubbery bread that’ll only satisfy the appetite of your garbage disposal.

In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Add flour mixture to banana mixture in small batches, mixing on medium speed.

And finally, we add the best part: CHOCOLATE! “Plenty of chocolate chips” may be a little too vague, so to clarify, I recommend piling a half-cup high with these tasty morsels. And maybe throw another handful in there too if you’re a Sweet Tooth like myself.

Last but certainly not least comes the cinnamon. I never use measuring spoons for this spice because, well, I usually like to use more than recipes allot. Give the container a few shakes and mix it in until it’s all blended.

Pour the batter into the pan and place it in the preheated oven for around 50 minutes. All ovens vary, so make sure to stick a toothpick in it after about 40 minutes.

While you’re waiting, don’t hesitate to lick the bowl clean! (I’m convinced salmonella is a myth).

When the toothpick comes out clean, take out the bread and let it cool until you just can’t resist anymore!

Happy Munching!

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