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Archive for June, 2010

I usually spend a lot of time planning and preparing for family holidays and special occasions. This Father’s Day, however, I decided to go simple. What better than burgers? I make fun of my dad constantly for single-handedly keeping McDonald’s in business. He loves the coffee drinks, and the hamburgers, and the cashiers know him by name. I would understand his fast food fascination if he experienced few home-cooked meals at the kitchen table. But, his wife (and professional chef daughter!) keep his stomach full (if not fat, those who know him understand!). So, I really see him as my biggest challenge. I may never convert my family to live a fully organic lifestyle, but can’t I at least reduce the number of fast food napkins in the glove compartment?

I love great burgers, but so few I eat actually fall under that category. I don’t like burgers super-huge and beefy, I enjoy not feeling sick after eating one! So, the first step in my burger-making day included a trip to New Seasons. I picked up ground beef, ground pork, organic buns (made with beer!), tomatoes, pickles (finally, a source for the elusive organic pickle!) and locally grown red leaf lettuce.  Including ground pork in the burgers always gives them a flavor I prefer. More levels of interest for my tongue, and not as heavy. The combination, plus the high quality of the meat, made my brother ask for the ingredients in the recipe. After I recited the list he said “Really, no Worcestershire or anything?” I guess it sounded too simple! Two of my brothers even asked for seconds. Not that strange, considering their bottomless pit stomachs, but still flattering!

Beef and Pork Burgers

Yields 8 four-ounce burgers, but feel free to go smaller or bigger! (I prefer smaller myself)

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground pork

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/2 tbsp garlic powder

1/2 tbsp onion powder

1/2 tbsp kosher salt

1 green onion, thinly sliced

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix evenly and well, but be careful to not over mix. The more you mix, the tougher the meat becomes. Form into 8 patties and refrigerate. Preheat the grill (or a sauté pan, if you lack an outdoor grill, or just prefer a house perfumed with tasty burger aromas!) over medium-high heat. Add the burgers to the grill, and do not touch. Burgers only need one flip! The more you mess with them, the more juice they lose and then they dry out. They are also more likely to fall apart. Let the burgers cook, untouched, until they look about half done. They should lift easily off the grill with a spatula at this point. If they have to be forced, they are not ready yet. Flip the burgers and continue cooking until they are done. Because pork is included in this recipe, the burgers should be served well done. Add cheese (if desired) just before they finish cooking, and serve on a bun with your favorite condiments.

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See that large metal grain bin? My dad made that! Yes, I am a proud daughter who enjoys bragging about how her daddy made the thing with Bob’s face on it  outside of Bob’s Red Mill. My dad designs and repairs feed mill equipment for a living, which I never understood the appeal of (smelly, hot, physical, not my kind of job . . . but wait, that describes my job perfectly! I guess I am a daddy’s girl!). I did help him out when I was younger, for less than a week. I could not take more than that! My “helping”  included  screwing large nuts and bolts into large, metal grain bins, in the pouring rain, and complaining about it constantly. I remember shivering in clothes completely soaked through, and screwing small pieces of metal into larger pieces of metal with numb fingers. But, I also remember the rides to and from Bob’s, talking and laughing with my dad, telling stories and planning where to stop and eat. I remember my brother helping my dad operate the crane, and standing in awe as they lifted giant sheets of metal into the sky. I remember touring the mill with Bob, meeting the other employees, and eating a brown bag lunch in the cafeteria with the piano in the corner. I remember feeding the ducks in the pond, smelling the musty air in my dad’s service truck, shopping in Bob’s little store, and  buying some oatmeal or rice flour for my mom. Great memories about a place that I now frequent as a customer. I feel like I contributed in some very small way, to building a part of my favorite store/restaurant.

We visited Bob’s on Saturday for breakfast, the best breakfast anywhere, ever. Tender biscuits, perfectly cooked over-easy eggs, and the best part, the hash browns. Crispy on the outside, perfectly seasoned and not greasy at all. You can really taste the freshness of everything, and how much love goes into every menu item. I ordered my new Saturday favorite, the hash brown casserole with biscuits. Way too much food for one meal, but to go boxes exist for a reason, right? My boyfriend prefers the classic hash browns, eggs and toast, a little boring for me, but no menu item at Bob’s disappoints. We left with to go boxes stuffed with breakfast for the next day, ready to enjoy the sunshine.

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Pork tacos for my employees today. I insist on serving them pork even when I know plenty of leftovers always end up going to the mission on our donation days. I love pork so much, I can’t help but try to bring others to my side with a spicy, shredded pork taco, or a tender sandwich oozing barbecue sauce. Funny how many of them don’t eat “swine” (as my banquet manager says!). Religious, cultural or vegetarian reasons prevent so many people from partaking of my favorite meat. I try to share my love of pork with as many people as possible, but so many resist. I really don’t eat much meat, and except for a really great burger, I can usually do without cows. However, I can’t imagine life without a juicy, brined and seared pork tenderloin, still slightly pink on the inside. Whether sweet and salty, with a tart-sweet fruit sauce, salsa or chutney, or thinly sliced with homemade cilantro-lime aioli on a whole wheat roll, it always leaves my taste buds dancing. Most recently, my favorite cut of meat shared a plate with a fresh mango salsa and wonderfully quick couscous. A popular combination that I never tire of, though the type of fruit I use varies with the season. If you can find a local or organic pork tenderloin, grab it while you can, and enjoy one of my all-time favorite dishes.

Another version of pork tenderloin with mango salsa I did a couple of years ago. I told you I love this combination!

Maple Syrup Brine for Pork

1/4 cup real maple syrup

4 cups very cold water

1/4 cup kosher salt

Combine all ingredients, stirring well until salt is dissolved.

Seared Maple Pork Tenderloin

Yields about 4 servings

1 pkg pork tenderloin (about 2 lbs)

1 recipe Maple Syrup Brine

olive oil

sea salt and black pepper to taste

Place the pork in a large container and cover with the brine. Marinate in the refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours, but no more than 12 hours. More than this will cause a chewy texture and an ultra-salty piece of pork.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove the pork from the brine and dry it off gently with paper towels. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Heat a large, oven-proof  sauté pan over medium high heat. Add a small amount of olive oil to the pan. Make sure the pan is very hot, it should be almost smoking, but not quite. Add the pork gently, with tongs, being careful not to splash any oil. Leave it along for a couple of minutes, until you can start to see the pork browning. You want a nice, golden brown color. Flip the pork carefully, and cook the other sides until it is evenly browned. Place the pan in the preheated oven, and cook for 10 to 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 145 degrees. I prefer my pork still slightly pink in the middle, but not bloody. Let the pork rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute. Serve immediately.

I like to turn any leftovers into sandwiches, with homemade aioli or barbecue sauce and any veggies I have lying around. Just thinly slice the meat and serve any way you wish. Also great in tacos!

Mango Salsa

1 mango, peeled and small diced

2 tsp cilantro, minced

2 Tbsp red onion, minced

1/2 ea jalapeño, minced

1/2 tsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve immediately.

Also great with pineapple instead of mango, or add some red bell pepper or cucumber, or anything else that sounds good to you! Have fun and experiment.

And an appetizer version I made at work with cranberry chutney.

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A month straight of Oregon rain really starts to get depressing after a while. I actually love the rain (as long as I’m not stuck walking in it!), a good thing considering where I live. I can’t stand hot weather, and the more rain I see, the longer I get to avoid hot, sweaty, sleepless nights. But, after a dreary May filled with windstorms and flooding, the sun finally burned through the clouds and even I rejoiced.  I ignored the pile of soaked socks in the laundry basket and skipped past the sink of dirty dishes. I could not stay inside on such a lovely day. No, today needed celebration, sun and food. Time for a picnic. The refrigerator still bulged with leftovers from the Mexican fiesta we threw for my boyfriend’s family, so I decided on a menu not involving the traditional sandwiches and salads. I grabbed as many ingredients from the refrigerator as I could, and chopped them up into a couple different salsas. A bag of organic corn chips, a couple of bottles of water, and a picnic table next to the river completed the meal. We feasted on avocado pico de gallo, mango-radish salsa, tomato-cucumber salad, and slices of juicy mango. Yes, my boyfriend asked for meat as I pulled the food from the cooler, but as he polished off the last salsa-topped chip, he admitted he did not even have room for a chicken wing. The sun continued to shine as we walked along the river and as I took some time to photograph the nature around me. A wonderful day, a wonderful meal, and a small dent in the products in the refrigerator. A very productive and mood-lifting day!

Avocado Pico de Gallo

Yields about 3 cups

1 avocado, peeled and small diced

4 roma tomatoes, cored and small diced

1/4 cup minced red onion

1/2 jalapeño, seeded, stemmed and minced

2 Tbsp minced cilantro

1 tsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve immediately.

Mango-Radish Salsa

1 mango, peeled, and small diced

4 large radishes, stemmed and small diced

2 Tbsp minced red onion

2 tsp minced cilantro

1/2 jalapeño, minced

1/2 tsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lime

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients and serve immediately.

I added 1 diced roma tomato to this when I made it, but I prefer it without. I just needed to use up some tomatoes fast!

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