Tag Archives: Recipe testing

Curried Lamb Burgers and Grilled Veggie-Mozzarella Sandwiches

As much as I love a great hamburger, as seen a few posts down, over the past few years, I’ve really started to get into Lamb Burgers. I’ll opt to get that if I see it on a menu when I’m out to eat so I can see how they are prepared. Restaurants also seem to be realizing that patrons are willing to try something a bit out of their comfort zone and offer more lamb on the menu, which I’m really glad to see.
A couple of years ago, Bon Appetit published a recipe that has now become part of my summer rotation. This Curried Lamb Burgers with Grilled Vegetables and Mint Raita is a handful of a title for a dish that is actually super simple to make and has great flavors. The lamb is moist and meaty with a bit of a kick from the curry (without it being too spicy or overwhelming). The yogurt sauce or raita cools it all down with a mint-citrus freshness, and the grilled vegetables take full advantage of the fresh, local produce now available.
This is definitely one of my summertime standby recipes. I love just loading up on eggplant, zucchini, and peppers and grilling up a whole batch to serve alongside these burgers. The burgers themselves freeze very well, so it is easy to have them on hand for a weeknight supper. This weekend, I seemed to have overbought in the vegetable department. I ended up cooking the whole batch and put them into the refrigerator hoping for some culinary inspiration.
Fortunately, I didn’t really have that long to wait. One of my other late-summer favorite meals is a mixed, grilled vegetable sandwich with cheese on toasted bread slathered with homemade pesto. Usually I use a goat’s cheese, but today I had a hankering for mozzarella. So, I headed to Milano Marketplace, the Italian deli down the street, bought some handmade cheese, and went back home to build my perfect sandwich.
I started with a round bread roll, sliced it open, and drizzled extra-virgin olive oil on each of the facing sides. Then, I placed it on a hot grill pan to toast. After about a minute, I took the bottom half of the roll and spread some of the pesto I made earlier onto it along with a few slices of the cheese. I layered the grilled zucchini, squash, eggplant, peppers, and some more mozzarella on top of that.
Then, I put the more-grilled top half of the bread over the filling. The whole sandwich was returned to the grill pan for another minute to warm it all through. Biting into the crisp exterior with the gooey cheese, soft vegetables and savory pesto, this is the perfect summertime meal in a sandwich.

Buon appetito!

Grilled Corn and Shrimp Salad

As corn is starting to come into season around here, it made me dig through my files for another one of my standby meals for summer. A few years ago, a friend of mine sent me a recipe for Grilled Corn and Shrimp Salad (link to recipe here). It comes from the late Gourmet* magazine.
Look at the bright colors of the shrimp, corn, onions, jalapeno, and cilantro. The dressing gives it a light citrus punch that complements the smoky, grilled flavor of the shrimp and the corn. Like usual, I made some changes to the recipe. I used lime juice instead of lemon juice and changed up the watercress (which I generally have a hard time finding) for some great, peppery Italian arugula from the Greenmarket along with some fresh salad leaves. I also added chunks of very ripe avocado to provide a contrast in textures.

This salad has been in my keeper file for a while. I hope that you decide to add it to yours as well. It is easy to make and would be a great picnic dish or easy weeknight supper to prepare when you can get some in-season fresh corn.
Buon appetito!
Kitchen Witch Tip:
Epicurious.com is a good resource for trying to track down some of the recipes that appeared in Gourmet magazine. Their website also still seems to be active, too, at www.gourmet.com.

Homemade Granola

Having grown up in the 70s, it is probably a little bit surprising that I haven’t really had much granola in my life, although I recall there being various macrame things and stuff made out of gimp floating around my parents’ house. I only really started eating it a few years ago to incorporate more grains and yogurt in my diet, as I usually have those together for breakfast or an afternoon snack. This wasn’t something that my folks kept around the house much, and I don’t ever recall my mom actually making it from scratch, although she did go through a whole wheat bread baking phase.
So, it was interesting to read Molly Wizenberg’s story in the June issue of Bon Apppetit. She writes about falling in love with a particular version of granola after going to a fitness spa with her mother and her attempts at trying to make the recipe. Through that she created her perfect Everyday Granola. Earlier this week, I ran out of the store-bought kind that I usually keep in stock. This provided the perfect excuse to try out a new project, in keeping with my mission to try to make more things myself instead of buying them ready-made.
Even before the mixture hit the oven, you could smell the blend of the honey, spices, and oats coming together. It started out looking like a pale imitation of what I normally eat. Then, as the minutes on the oven timer ticked by, the aroma of comforting toastiness started to waft through my apartment. Following the directions, I dutifully stirred the mixture every ten minutes, to encourage even browning.
before cooking
Adding dried cherries after cooking
At first glance, I wasn’t sure if I should have left the tray in the oven for another ten minutes or so. Instead, I decided to adhere to the instructions. After allowing the mixture to cool for about five minutes and stirring the granola around to incorporate the dried fruit, I saw that the end result was clusters of caramel-colored grains and lightly-browned almonds. I popped a test sample into my mouth, and then another, and another. I could see this being an addictive habit to adopt.
Buon appetito!
Kitchen Witch Tip:
When measuring out the honey and oil, use a liquid measuring cup. Pour the oil in first (two tablespoons is less than 1/4 cup), then pour in the 1/3 cup honey. This way, the oil coats the measuring cup, and the honey will slide right out of the cup and into the pan – less muss, less fuss and no sticky mess to clean up!

Gordon Ramsay’s Roast Chicken in Morel Sauce

Remember a few weeks back when I got cold feet about making a recipe that I’d seen Gordon Ramsay do on The F Word? Well, I decided that as the days of asparagus and morels are quick and fleeting, I would need to overcome my phobia of two-page, small-type sets of instructions with multiple groups of components to prepare. I’m not sure how you are, but there are times when I look at a recipe and my eyes start to roll in the back of my head by about the 13th ingredient I see listed. At that point, I just give up and find something else to do, like going across the street and grabbing a slice of pizza.
The finished sauce – creamy and not too rich, because of the stock
I was encouraged to push ahead and make the Roast Chicken in Morel Sauce by my youngest sister, who reminded me that she had made it several months back for a dinner for my father and some of our family friends. When she was up here visiting earlier this year, she’d picked up a package of dried morels that we had found in our jaunt around the city. I hadn’t realized that she had used them to make this. She assured me that the dish was doable, despite the lengthy set of instructions.
The other important part to know in fixing this dish is that it took me an hour to cook everything, and I ended up using multiple pans to put together the separate components. How do I know exactly how long it took? Well, I had an episode of “Behind the Music” to keep me company while I worked on dinner. I’m not opposed to recipes that eat up an entire hour to prepare or that involve multiple steps, but, as I said to my sister, I really felt like I needed my own sous-chef and team to assist with making everything, much like on the show.
The vegetables plated up
Despite that, in the end it looked and tasted very good. I would save this dish for a dinner party or one of those days when you have the time, nothing else is pressing, and you would like to make something very special for your evening meal. The creamy, earthy mushrooms and grilled asparagus play off of the hearty roasted chicken. The potatoes help soak up some of the sauce while the crisp, salty bacon adds some more dynamism to the dish. Unlike the instructions in the video, I kept the dried mushrooms and sauteed shallots in the sauce. I did not make the fresh morel part, as they are prohibitively expensive, even when in season.
The finished dish – a feast for the eyes and the stomach!
Buon appetito!

mmmm….Chocolate Cookies with Chocolate Chunks

On Friday, one of the guys in the office where I’m currently doing a consulting gig mentioned that I should be making cookies for them again. He said that, by having brought in Chocolate Chip Cookies about three weeks ago, I’d set the bar high and needed to have a follow-up cookie contribution for the team to sample. I’m not sure if this will land me a permanent position at the company, but it is nice to work with folks who appreciate my baking experiments.
This weekend, I decided to test drive a recipe I’d made to bring to the beach the weekend after my job officially ended. These had been well-received by the folks who’d eaten them when I had brought them to a friend’s place. I’m not sure why, but the perfect chocolate-chocolate-chip cookie seems even more difficult to pin down than a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe. It likely has something to do with the balance of cookie chocolate flavor to chip chocolate flavor. This version has both semi-sweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips which might be what works so well.
I discovered this recipe when I was watching The Barefoot Contessa during the daytime one of the days I was on gardening leave. On her show that day, she had the owner of Tate’s Bakeshop in New York. The story of how Kathleen King got started is rather neat, as she started baking cookies for her family’s farmstand. Her treats are also sold in local area stores here in the city and available for purchase on her website. When I saw her demonstrate these on the show, I decided to take the plunge and try to make them myself.
The batter is super rich and fudgy looking, which is a sign that these are going to be really good. I decided not to add almonds to the cookies, preferring to stick to straight chocolate-ness. Once in the oven, they started out as thick blobs, but then spread out when baked. The trick is, as the recipe indicates, to leave them on the cookie sheets for a few minutes, allowing the residual heat to finish up the cooking process, then to move them to the rack to cool completely before eating them.

Having had a few samples, I don’t think that the group will be disappointed when these appear in the office pantry tomorrow morning.
Buon appetito!

Chocolate Chip Cookies – Again

Before I moved out of my previous apartment, I tried out the David Leite recipe from The New York Times for chocolate chip cookies. It produced good results (seen here), and one of my friends absolutely raved about the tang of the salt on top of the cookie. Apparently, and I’m not sure how this happened, but he says I owe him a batch of these because he was laid off from his job. I don’t know that I had heard about that rule.
So, whatever. No one has been making me cookies since I lost my job. I find I have to make them for myself if I want them. No wonder, then, that when a Serious Eats contributor posted her love for a version that David Lebovitz had created, it caught my eye.
I’m still mostly partial to the old Toll House standby, and I have to say that the younger of my two brothers makes a mean version of that cookie. He’s created a recipe whereby he fiddles around with the amount of flour that he uses to get just the right crispy-chewy ratio going. I have to say, as much as I’m good and baking other things, I think he gets the chocolate chip cookie crown hands down.
Still, I’m not opposed to trying at least to see if I can find a better way to make these. Here is the photo from the results. I found that these took at least five minutes longer to make than the instructions said. I’m also very partial to the toffee-like crispy brown edges so the extra time was definitely needed to produce that texture.
I did use pecans in this, which I might eliminate were I to make it again. The other thing that I might do is increase the amount of salt in them. As a substitute, I sprinkled a little sea salt on top of them before they baked. I found them originally to be kind of meh and bland – absolutely nothing to crave about them – so that extra touch helped in my opinion. Now, I just need to find someone (or someones) to eat all of these!
Buon appetito!
Kitchen Witch Tip
Remember the tip I posted about using the bread knife for cutting up nuts? Well, the same thing goes for chopping up blocks of chocolate as well. I prefer to buy chocolate bars for these cookie recipes to get some variety in the chunks. A bread knife is very useful in breaking up the bars into small chip-sized pieces.