Cooking and Gadgets

bestburgerSummer isn’t summer without grilling all of our favorite things; kabobs, thick rib eyes, pizza, fish, corn, all kinds of veggies and of course – burgers.  Burgers are always just okay when made at home.  Yet, after eating at Umami burger, I had to up my game. I loved my burger at Umami burger.  The burger fit perfectly on the bun, the tomatoes were juicy and the other stuff was just right. 

I had to recreate their great taste at home.  After, finally figuring out the right combination of meat and seasonings my kids and their friends agree that my burgers now taste like a restaurant-style burger.  Finally, got the taste that I have been searching for.  Nothing added to the meat, nothing fancy like cheese or butter shoved inside the meat, just meat, a little salt, pepper, + garlic powder.  That’s it.

Eli likes grilled onions, lettuce and ketchup.  Isaac likes lettuce, ketchup + pickles (after all, a burger isn’t a burger without the pickles), and Levi likes cheese and ketchup.  In my opinion, the grilled onions make this burger taste not like your ordinary burger. Don’t leave these out…they truly change the taste of the burger (also delicious on a hot dog!). Use a potato bun and it makes all the difference in the world.  I am even entertaining the idea of making my own buns!  We will see if I am up for the challenge.

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chickenbeerWhat? Where?

My personal trainer, Antony, likes two things in life: Picking up girls and cooking.

Re: picking up girls… his technique of choice is to borrow a baby from one of the female trainers and take it to the park. “Babies are chick magnets,” he declares. I suggested using puppies. He said with a sigh, “People are quite willing to give you their babies for the day, but they will not part with their puppies!”

Re: cooking … Antony is, guess what, Italian and Mama’s youngest, so he gets the good stuff. But, being a bachelor he personally confines most of his own cooking to what’s easy – and BEER BUTT CHICKEN is easy. Apparently it is also rather wonderful, and I am going to try it!

Since I got his recipe while doing 3 miles on a stationary bike I went to the net to see what’s what, and clearly the world loves BEER BUTT CHICKEN and not just because people feel like naughty 12 yr olds when they say it, nor because it sounds like an answer to a Newlywed Game question, but because it is friggin’ brilliant!

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LentilillustrationI'm sure somebody has done this already, but there should be a book solely filled with lentil recipes. A lentil bible.  And every kitchen should have one. The lentil is an edible pulse and part of the human diet since Neolithic times.

I inherited a bias towards lentils. Growing up in a conservative (Tory) household, the unspoken idea was that people who ate lentils didn't shave their armpits, wore hemp and hung out in muddy trenches at Greenham Common. I was so, so wrong. (I am also now a bleeding heart liberal who favors Birkenstocks, mu-mus, progressive education and sheep's milk yogurt).

I would argue for the elegance of the lentil - a simple, beautiful, shiny little bead packed full of nutrition and deliciousness. They are cheap, adaptable, adept at picking up flavors. Lentils are gloriously comforting and most cheering. For so long lentils have been the back-up singers. I'd like to make a case for them as the star of the show.

Amanda Hesser's single girl's salmon with lentils from the lovely "Cooking for Mr. Latte" is one of my favorites, a recipe I go back to again and again, with or without the salmon. My friend Marta's lentil soup gets a ringing endorsement - warm, homely, soothing perfection.

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ImageAlthough accustomed to a table full of eaters, eating alone at home is no problem for me. Cooking for one, however, is. My usual repertoire for solitary meals includes either heating up leftovers or making sunny-side up eggs and toast. The meals with leftovers vary, of course, but the eggs and toast is a bit of a never-boring treasure. Now there are people I know who cook fairly extensively for themselves, but I am not one of them.

My own mother was known to sit down to a fully set table and enjoy a first course of homemade soup followed by a meat, potato and vegetable main course, all topped off with a cup of brewed coffee and possibly a cookie or piece of cake, once again homemade. Not me. That much effort without the pleasure of watching someone else relish what I made, or at the least, having them eat it with no complaints is just not worth the trouble.

On one recent solo evening though, the meal I made both cracked me up and delighted me. On a lark, I spent a couple of hours baking Ina Garten’s Honey White Bread. (Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten, Honey White Bread, p. 57). As the contessa claimed, it was an easy recipe to follow, and the bread was delicious.

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From the N.Y. Times

bestburgers.jpgThere is undeniable pleasure in a plain beef burger — juicy, tender, and well browned over a backyard grill — but there’s even more in a jazzed-up one. If you begin with pork, lamb or beef that you buy yourself and grind at home, and continue by adding seasonings aggressively, you’re on your way to a summer full of great “burgers” which are, in essence, sausages in burger form.

In fact, I wondered while making (and eating) my first pork burger of the grilling season: Why would anyone make a plain burger? Why would you begin with supermarket ground beef — whose quality is highly questionable and whose flavor is usually disappointing, if not depressing — and then cook it without much seasoning beyond a few crystals of salt? Ketchup, after all, does not fix everything. Even adding mustard, pickles and so on, right down to mayonnaise, doesn’t give you good-tasting meat.

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