Fresh Herb Burgers

Herb Burger

So I was wondering what to blog about this week, when I realized that I haven’t done a week on the almighty burger! This is definitely an error on my part. So seeing as we have a long weekend coming up, and people will definitely have their barbeques out, I thought, why not hit you up with a few yummy meat treats? One thing that I love to use when making burgers is a hamburger patty press. Yes, I know you can make a burger without a gadget. However, and hear me out on this one, the press is just awesome! We have an old, plain one that you can get at your local hardware/home supply store, but they make a million different kinds these days (as witnessed by late night TV infomercials). What I personally like about the press is that it allows a couple of things to happen:

  1. Uniform circumference on my burgers. You’re not going to get one that over takes the bun, while another looks like a slider.
  2. Uniform thickness. You won’t have one thin leathery burger, and one super thick meatloaf one.
  3. It allows the burgers to set up and chill. Once you’ve formed the patties, sometimes they just need to relax and bit and mellow out. Stick them in the fridge, and let the flavours get to know one another while you get the grill heated up and the toppings ready.
  4. Easy grilling! It makes it really easy to pop the patties out of the tube (the maker we have is tube shaped) and plop them on the grill. I’m not trying to delicately peel a patty off a plate, have it break, or lose its shape, or any other culinary disaster. It goes from maker to grill, in one step. It’s a thing of beauty.

So that’s my personal take on the hamburger patty maker, without an official sponsor! Hint, hint! You should see me when I’m actually being paid to endorse something! Starfrit? T-fal? Ron Popeil, I’m talking to you!


Fresh Herb Burgers

Ingredients:
2 ½ pounds ground beef (mix of lean and medium)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
¾ -1 cup matzo meal
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, minced*
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced*
3-4 sprigs fresh oregano, minced*
3-4 sprigs fresh basil, minced*
3-4 sprigs fresh parsley, minced*
Salt
Pepper

* Click here to learn how to clean these fresh herbs.

Directions:
Lightly oil your grill and set the heat on the BBQ to medium. In a large mixing bowl lightly whisk the eggs with the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Crumble in the ground meat, mixing it with your fingers to combine it with the eggs and herbs. Add the matzo meal as needed to bind the meat mixture. Try not to overwork the meat, you want it to just come together, but not be overmixed.

Using your hamburger press or your hands, shape the mixture into about 8 patties, about ¾ of an inch thick. Using your thumb, make a shallow depression in the centre of each burger to prevent puffing up during cooking.

Place the burgers on the grill, close the lid, and cook the burgers until they are no longer pink inside, turning once, about 6 – 8 minutes per side. An instant read thermometer should read 160°F.

Don’t abuse your burgers by pressing with a spatula, pricking with a fork or turning frequently as precious juices will be lost! Tuck into a warm crusty bun and add your favourite toppings!

Quick & Easy Beer Bread

Beer Bread

So as a double whammy, for a splurge after Pesach, how about a quick and easy Beer Bread? It’s got both wheat flour and beer! How can you go wrong? Check out the recipe below and you will want to bake some for dinner tonight! As always, feel free to play with the savoury aspect of the recipe. Don’t have onion power or Italian seasoning? Don’t like them? Switch to garlic powder, rosemary or sage. Use whatever seasoning your family prefers, including not adding any at all.

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups self-rising flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon onion powder
¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 (12 fluid ounce) can beer
¼ cup margarine, melted

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375°F and lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch baking pan.

In a bowl, mix the self-rising flour, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, onion powder, and Italian seasoning. Pour in the beer, and mix just until moistened. You will get more of a sticky batter rather than a dough ball. Transfer the batter to your prepared baking pan, and pour the melted margarine over top.

Bake the bread for 45 to 55 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Slice and enjoy!

Rice Stuffed Bell Peppers with Feta Cheese

Stuffed PeppersThis is a great dish for a weeknight, and will make those in your household that don’t eat meat very happy! Here’s a tip, when selecting bell peppers, choose those with 4 bumps or “legs” on the bottom to cook and select those with 3 or less bumps or “legs” to eat raw. This recipe will serve 6.

Ingredients:

1 cup wild rice blend
6 large bell peppers, tops trimmed off about ½ inch, cored and seeded
1 (341 ml) can of corn niblets
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped*
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped*
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 Kalamata olives, minced (optional)
1 ½ cups of your favourite tomato sauce
2 green onions, sliced*
Salt and Pepper to taste
Garnish with 2 sliced green onions, and remaining warmed tomato sauce, if desired.

* Click here to learn how to properly clean these herbs.

Directions:

Cook the rice according to package directions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and par-boil prepared green bell peppers for 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pepper. They should be softened but not cooked through. Drain and place in shallow baking dish coated with non-stick spray.

Stir feta cheese, corn, herbs, garlic, olives, green onions and salt and pepper to taste into cooked rice. Divide the mixture among the bell peppers and top with 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. (May take longer according to the size of peppers. Insert a knife into the middle of the rice mixture and leave for a few seconds. Remove the knife and touch to see if it is hot. The knife should be hot to touch if the peppers are completely heated through.)

Garnish with additional sliced green onions and remaining warmed tomato sauce.

Easy Marinades

Marinades 101These marinades use ingredients that you likely have on hand. Remember that they typical ratio for marinades is one part oil to three or four parts acid, with extra ingredients added to taste. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk, then transfer the marinade to a large freezer bag and add your favourite protein. Seal the bag, turning it so the protein is exposed to the marinade, and refrigerate for 3 hours to overnight, for meats or tofu, or about 1 hour to 4 hours for fish.

Honey Barbecue Marinade
Olive oil + Dry Red Wine + Honey + Crushed Garlic + Pepper

Fresh Mediterranean Herb Marinade
Olive Oil + Balsamic Vinegar + Finely Chopped Rosemary* and Basil* + Salt + Pepper

Asian Fusion Buttermilk Marinade
Sesame Oil + Buttermilk** + Ground Ginger + Cilantro* + Soy Sauce + Pepper

* Click here to learn how to clean these herbs.
** Click here on tips for making non-dairy buttermilk.

Italian Olive Oil Balsamic Bread Dip

Italian Bread DipIngredients:

6 large cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped*
2 pinches salt and black pepper

Directions:

Place the garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, red pepper flakes, rosemary, and salt and pepper into a shallow bowl in that order. To serve, spoon small amount onto bread.

* Click here to learn how to properly clean fresh rosemary.

French Country Chicken with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

French Country Chicken with Mushroom SauceThese boneless, skinless chicken breasts are sautéed and topped with a creamy non-dairy mushroom sauce, and fit great into a low-sodium diet with less than 100mg of sodium per serving. To round out the meal, serve over whole-wheat spaghetti or fettuccini with a steamed broccoli-carrot blend on the side. This recipe serves 6.

Ingredients:

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each about 4 ounces
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 shallots, thinly sliced
⅓ pound mushrooms*, thinly sliced
1 ½ tablespoons flour
⅓ cup white wine
¾ cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 ½ tablespoons fresh rosemary* (or 1 ¼ teaspoons dried rosemary)
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons chopped parsley*

Directions:

Place the chicken breasts between wax paper and pound with a mallet to flatten. Cut each piece in half lengthwise. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

In a small frying pan, heat 1 ½ tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and wine until all the lumps are gone. Add the flour mixture to the shallots and mushrooms. Stir in the chicken stock and cook over medium-high heat. Stir until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the rosemary.

In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle the chicken with the ground pepper, and add it to the pan. Sauté the chicken until it is no longer pink or until a thermometer inserted into the chicken reads 170 F, about 5 minutes.

To serve, transfer 2 chicken breast halves onto each plate. Spoon mushroom sauce over the chicken and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

* To learn how to properly clean fresh rosemary, parsley and mushrooms, click here.

Freekeh Chicken with Root Vegetables and Prunes

Freekeh ChickenHere’s an easy one-pot meal with freekeh, chicken, parsnips, carrots, prunes, rosemary, thyme, tons of garlic, and broth. Don’t worry about the amount of garlic cloves that this recipe calls for though. Because the cloves are left whole, you get a more mild garlic taste, plus the whole cloves become sweet when braised. The prunes made a rich marriage between sweet and savoury, plus the tender chicken and chewy grain give you all the great texture!

Ingredients:

1 ½ cup freekeh*
3 ¾ cups broth, vegetarian or chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 ½ medium onions, diced
6-8 carrots medium, chopped
4-6 parsnips depending on size, sliced
9 cloves garlic, whole
1 ½ cup pitted prunes*
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme to taste*
sea salt, fresh cracked pepper to taste
1 tablespoon (or so) olive oil

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 345 degrees F. In a Dutch oven, or any oven proof pot with lid, pour the freekeh and broth in. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven (careful, it will be hot!) and add all of the remaining ingredients in the pot making sure that some of the prunes and onions get into the liquid below the chicken. Drizzle a little olive oil on all ingredients. Place lid on and put in the oven on the middle rack.

Drop the heat down to 200 degrees F and cook for 1 hour. Check on it, give it a stir, and cook until the chicken is fully opaque, and vegetables are tender. This is usually only about another 15-20 minutes. Note: Cooking times vary. For added browning, remove the lid for a few minutes during the final cooking stage. If you notice the freekeh becoming too dry, you can add more broth or oil at your discretion.

* To learn how to properly clean and check grains, prunes, rosemary and thyme, click here.

Osso Bucco

Osso Bucco 1 Ingredients:

6 veal/beef shank cross cuts, about 1 ½ inch thick
salt and pepper
flour for dredging, as needed
olive oil, as needed
3 cups onion, diced
1 ½ cups carrots, diced small
1 ½ cups celery, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (156ml) can tomato paste
2 ¼ cups dry wine
1 ½ litres chicken or beef stock
sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary*
cornstarch (optional)

Directions:

Trim the veal/beef shanks, and season them with salt and pepper, then dredge through the flour, shaking off any excess flour. Heat oil in a large pot and sear the meat to a deep brown colour, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Due to the amount of meat you are browning, you may have to do this in batches. Remove the meat and keep separate.

Put the onions in the pot and stir, until golden brown. You can add a little more oil if needed to keep the onions from burning, but you do not want a lot of oil in the pot. Add carrots, celery and garlic, and sauté stirring frequently, cooking for 5-6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until it turns a deeper colour and gives off a sweeter aroma, about 1 minute.

Deglaze the pan with wine, and reduce liquid by half. At this point, most likely your pot will not be large enough to fit all of the meat and vegetable mixture/sauce, so I often transfer everything to a large casserole dish or aluminum pan. Pouring about half of the vegetable mixture down first, then the meat in a single layer, then topping with the rest of the vegetable mixture. At this point you want to add enough stock to cover the meat by ⅔. Add the sprigs of herbs and cover the dish and put in a 350 degree oven, letting it braise for 2 – 2 ½ hours, until tender.

Classically, at this point, you would remove the herbs and the meat from the pan, and then strain the sauce, only leaving the liquid behind to be thickened with some cornstarch and served with the meat. In my household, vegetables are NEVER put aside! We do not strain the liquid, but serve it as an accompaniment to the meat, often on top of wide egg noodles. Should you wish the actual liquid of the sauce to be thicker, you can separate some and thicken it with cornstarch to serve as an almost gravy. Any way you serve it, you must enjoy!

* to learn how to clean rosemary and thyme properly, click here.