Where’s the beef?

Ok folks, this entry is a bit of a departure, actually it’s a total departure from my usual writing.  For those of you who have been enjoying my blog and my recipes, you may have noticed that I’ve slowed down dramatically this year.  If it’s any consolation, I have strong feelings of guilt and disappointment that this has happened 🙂

So I felt I owed you all an explanation.  In January of this year, my husband/soulmate/love of my life was diagnosed with brain cancer.  They operated on him about two weeks later and were able to remove about half of the tumor (they do the operation with him awake – yikes!).  Since then he’s been taking chemo every month for the last 6 months, 6 more to go.  Unfortunately brain cancer isn’t really curable (yet), fortunately he has the best kind of tumor, slow growing, good genetic markers, lots of research being done etc…

MRI axial

We are so grateful that we live near Boston and have the good folks at Dana Farber taking care of him.  We’re hopeful that these same people will find a cure, or at least better treatments in time to keep him going.  Paul is doing well and except for some reduced function in his left arm and some exhaustion from the chemo, he’s managing to keep his spirits up and is working and doing everything he used to do.  We expect he’ll be pretty stable for the next 5-10 years, after that, well, we try not to focus too much on after that.

So that’s my way of saying I’ve been distracted this year, and had some of the creative energy drained out of me.  But I haven’t given up.  I love to cook and Paul loves to eat, so this cookbook is going to happen (even if it takes a while longer), and the blog will continue.  I have already made a delicious Jamaican burger and the Japan burger was one of my favorites.  Now I just have to find some quality time to write them down for you.  And I will.

So please stick with me, keep trying all the burgers – I know there’s still a bunch you haven’t tried yet – and stay tuned.
Warm wishes to you all,
Linda

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Italian burger recipe

BH&T Italy Burger RecipeProsciutto Wrapped Burger with Asiago Cheese, Tomatoes and Olives
Italy is another one of those countries which could easily lead us astray.  I can’t tell you how many people have suggested a burger with mozzarella and Parmesan and red sauce – basically the moral equivalent of burger Parmesan.  Sounds dreadful to me, and boring, and not really like a good idea at all.  I took a different approach to Italy than I have used in the past.  For Italy, I used memory, the memory of a wonderful vacation.  Eleven years ago (pre-children), my husband Paul and I spent 12 glorious days in Italy and fell in love, with the country, the wine and the food.  We divided our time evenly between Rome, Sienna and Florence.  But before I get ahead of myself, let’s back up to the basics.

Paul in Florence

Paul in Florence

Italy is a country in Southern Europe which borders France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia.  It’s a peninsula with a gorgeous coast that I fully intend to visit on some future vacation.  Most of you have heard of Italy and know at least as much about the country as I do (based on the demographics of my visitors), so I’m going to skip to the food.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

When it comes to the food of Italy, I’m willing to bet that a large percentage of you have eaten Italian food.  So much of what we enjoy as Italian food here in the US is really more “inspired by” than authentic.  The meaty red sauce that I grew up with is a cross between marinara and Bolognese.  Pizza in Italy (especially in Naples where pizza was invented) is generally made with fresh tomatoes, fresh herbs and fresh mozzarella.  The sauce and topping heavy pizzas we love here are very different from the flatbread delights of Naples.  So ignore what you think you know (unless of course you really do know, then hopefully I won’t screw it up), and come along on a journey with me to Tuscany.

yours truly in Volterra

yours truly in Volterra

With over 60 million people living in an area slightly larger than Arizona, there’s a huge variety of regional cuisines.  But since I want to live in the land of memory, I’m going to focus on Tuscan flavors and food.  Tuscany is a land for meat lovers.  Steak and wild boar were on every menu and the olive oil was the most fragrant and flavorful I’ve ever experienced.  Fresh tomatoes, wonderful cheese (yes, they do make more than parmesan and mozzarella), cured meats and unsalted bread – these are the flavors you’ll find throughout Tuscany.  And yes, I said unsalted bread.

According to a lovely women who was pouring delectable olive oil for tasting, the bread is made salt-free because the government used to tax salt and the Tuscan people decided they didn’t want to pay the tax, so they stopped using it in bread.  And, they never picked it back up again – which is strange because bread really needs salt.  Luckily you can dip this tasteless bread in lightly salted olive oil and everything is good again.

But I digress.  The flavors of my vacation worked their way perfectly into a burger.  I started with some Italian bread (salted, because that’s what they sell around here) and grilled it in the best olive oil I could find.  I spread some ground up olives (because sliced olives are too messy), a tomato with a little bit of olive oil and oregano – nothing too exciting yet.  Then there was the truly inspirational step – I took a thin piece of prosciutto di Parma and wrapped it around the burger patty – crazy as it sounds, it worked gloriously.  Meaty salty goodness, delicious.  The prosciutto gets nice and crispy and the flavor of the ham permeates the burger, it’s magical.

I tried 4 different cheeses, all imported from Italy.  Spent a small fortune, but I consider cheese an investment J  Even though it doesn’t melt easily, Paul and I both agreed that the asiago was the best for this burger.  It has a nice sharpness like a really good Parmesan or a dry aged cheddar without a stinkiness that might overpower the meat.  Whole foods had a buffalo milk cheese that was also really good, but I’m not really sure how typical buffalo milk cheese is in Italy, so we went with the asiago instead.  If you want a fun cheese tasting just go to your local specialty market and buy everything they have from Italy, you’ll be amazed at the variety or flavors and textures.

The final touch on this burger is to take some high quality Italian salami (I used sopressata), slice into small pieces and fry them up for a crispy topping.  Consider it an homage to the charcuterie of Italy 🙂

This burger is a celebration of meat; the prosciutto keeps the meat nice and moist and the acid in the tomato and the brine of the olives balance it out.  I recommend grilling the bread pretty heavily because the juiciness of the burger soaked our first attempts and disintegrated the bread.  It was a lovely reminder of a fantastic vacation and Paul has declared it “last meal worthy”, and this is a man who eats a lot of burgers!

If you like this burger you’ll probably enjoy the Andorran burger, it’s also meaty yet balanced.

Italy Burger
1 pound ground beef 80% lean
4 cloves of garlic minced
2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar (preferably from Modena)
4 slices of prosciutto di Parma
Olive oil
2 ounces of asiago cheese sliced thin
2 ounces sopressata (or other high quality Italian salami)
24 kalamata olives
Baby romaine lettuce
4 slices of tomato
Dried oregano
Kosher salt

Mix together the garlic, balsamic vinegar and beef then form four patties out of the mixture.  Wrap each patty in a slice of prosciutto.

BH&T Italy burger patty uncooked

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet.  Place each patty in the olive oil and fry the burgers for about four minutes per side.

BH&T Italy Burger Cooking

Place the cheese on the burgers and cover the pan, turn the heat down to medium low and cook until cheese is melted.  Remove the cooked burgers from the pan, turn the heat up and cook the sopressata until crispy (they cook fast).

To serve put one slice of grilled bread on each plate, spread some olive paste on each, then add a layer of lettuce leaves and a tomato.  Sprinkle a little bit of oregano on each tomato slice and drizzle with olive oil.

BH&T Italy Tomatoes

Add the cooked patties and topped with the sopressata and final bread slices.

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©Copyright 2013 Linda Monach

 

 

 

 

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Israeli burger recipe

BH&T Israel Burger Recipe

Harissa flavored burger with hummus and Israeli salad
As we make our culinary tour around the world, creating burgers for each country as we go, the most difficult stops (at least for me) are those countries that have had a variety of people traveling in and out. Luckily for us they are also some of the most rewarding. Israel is a Middle Eastern country which shares land borders with Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt and enjoys a long coast along the Mediterranean Sea.

Courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Courtesy of CIA World Factbook

 

The land used to be part of the British Empire then after World War II the UN created a Jewish state and Britain gave up rule of the land that now makes up Israel. We could spend a lot of time talking about the history of the land before British rule and after the State of Israel was established, but it would just get folks riled up, so let’s skip right to the food.

Without going into the long history, let’s just say that a lot of people have live in and traveled through Israel and they have all brought wonderful flavors and foods with them. The food of Israel is the food of the Middle East. There is hummus, falafel, baba ganoush, gyros, tabouleh, all the good stuff. The challenge with Israel wasn’t finding something good; it was deciding which good thing to use to make the perfect burger. I have several friends who grew up in Israel, but they weren’t much help – asking an Israeli about food is like asking a Frenchman about wine, you get a lot of great conversation, but not a lot of straight answers.

We all agreed that we should follow the Jewish dietary laws of kashrus or “keep it Kosher”. I do not have a kosher kitchen, so I can’t be truly kosher, but beyond that I’ve followed the rules. No mixing of meat and dairy so no cheese on our burger ☹. No shellfish, so no lobster sauce. And of course the obvious, no pork, so no bacon burger. The most difficult of these laws (for me anyway) was the loss of cheese…I really like cheese. But we’ve had plenty of cheese less burgers, so I got over it pretty quickly.

The meat could have been anything from lamb to chicken, but my Israeli friends all voted for beef, so who am I to argue? Now the question of how to flavor the meat was the hard part – again because of the embarrassment of riches. Too many choices, so little time. I considered herbs, I considered berbere, I read dozens of recipes and finally I decided on harissa. Harissa is a spice paste from Tunisia; it’s made of various chilies and can vary in heat depending on the chilies you use. I’m fortunate enough that my local Whole Foods carries two brands of harissa, so I bought both and chose the less spicy option for the burger. It added a lovely smokiness to the meat and complimented the lightness of the other ingredients perfectly.

BH&T Israel Harissa

I felt obligated to use pita bread because it is such a common staple of the Israeli diet, but I still think it’s an inferior substrate for a burger. Pita just tends to fall apart too easily for my tastes, but other than that it’s ok. I cut off the sides because I find them to dry and bready, this of course eliminates the “pocket” effect completely, but it works find if you just think of it as a really thin bread.

Of course I had to make my own hummus. I like a particularly garlicky hummus with a strong taste of lemon, but if you want to change the recipe to your tastes, that’s fine. Or, if you want to buy your favorite hummus, I don’t judge – I’ve been know to pick up a pint of Tribe of Two Sheiks myself from time to time.

So far we’ve brought flavors from all around the region to this burger, and, like all of the people coming in and going out of this land, we have a symphony of Middle Eastern flavors, but still nothing quintessentially Israeli, so of course, I had to add Israeli salad to the burger. If you travel to Israel you will undoubtedly encounter a simple and refreshing side dish of tomatoes and cucumber tossed in olive oil and lemon juice. There may be some green or red peppers in the salad too and these days some people are adding herbs, but the basic is tomato and cucumber, olive oil and lemon.

The Israeli salad has the perfect blend of flavors for a burger, but it is extremely messy, it made me wish I hadn’t cut the edges off the pita ☺. All in all, this burger was a marvelously light creation. Somehow the brightness of the hummus, the zestiness of the salad, and yes, the lightness of the pita all worked to transform this beef burger into something lighter and fresher than we expected. It paired perfectly with a California Pinot Noir, but would be equally good with a Sauvignon Blanc.

Except for some exacting knife cuts in the salad, this is a super easy burger to make. I hope you try it and enjoy. I think you’ll love it and, if you do, please try some of the other wonderful burgers from the Middle East like Bahrain, Egypt and Iraq.

Israel Burger
1 pound ground beef (20% fat)
1½ Tablespoons harissa
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large pita rounds cut in half
Hummus (recipe below)
Israeli Salad (recipe below)

In a medium bowl, combine the beef and the harissa, mix through evenly. Form into four patties. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Cook the patties to desired temperature (this burger is best at medium or medium rare). To serve spread some hummus (be generous) on the inside of each pita. Place a burger patty on top of the hummus then add a generous scoop of Israeli Salad.

Hummus
1 15 ounce can chickpeas drained (reserve liquid)
3 large cloves of garlic chopped
¼ cup+ olive oil
3 Tablespoons tahini
Juice of 2 lemons
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup liquid from chickpeas

Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Add olive oil and or chickpea liquid as needed to get a consistency you like. Taste and add lemon or salt as needed.

Israeli Salad
1 English cucumber
3 small tomatoes
½ red pepper
Olive oil
Fresh lemon juice

Dice the vegetables into small pieces of equal size (try for ¼ inch, but don’t kill yourself over it). You want approximately equal parts of tomato and cucumber. Toss the vegetables in olive oil and lemon juice (equal parts). Use just enough to coat the veggies, but not so much that you end up with soup. Keep the salad at room temperature until your ready to use it. Toss the vegetables and use a slotted spoon to serve.

BH&T Israeli Salad

©Copyright 2013 Linda Monach

http://burgershereandthere.com/?p=1269

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Irish burger recipe

BH&T Ireland Burger RecipePork Belly Cheese Burger with Champ and Irish Soda Bread
We just spent a week in Paris (and when I say we, I mean my husband and I, sans children), and it was heavenly. If you want to know more about that trip, check out the Burgers Here and There Facebook page. So we arrive home on Thursday and Friday I decide to make my Ireland burger. After spending a week eating really good French food, I admit that tackling the flavors of Ireland was a little tough to get excited about, but I find that pork belly is the great equalizer and can help me get excited about most anything.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

So let’s talk about Ireland. Ireland is a Western European country and, according to CIA World Factbook occupies five sixths of the island of Ireland (the rest is Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom). Ireland withdrew completely from the British Commonwealth in 1949 and has been independent since then.

Courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Courtesy of CIA World Factbook

As I started writing this blog entry, I found one of the most interesting aspects of Irish history (at least for my purposes) was the potato famine. I started writing about the history of the potato and the famine and was having a great time when I realized that I had two pages of text and hadn’t remotely gotten to the story of my burger – re-write time! Given the elegant phrasing and seamless narrative that I’m so well know for, it may surprise you to know that I almost never re-write or even re-read (ok, none of you are surprised). I try to “keep it real” and just write what I think. But I’m pretty sure that few of you want to read a treatise on the history of the potato in Ireland. So I’ll sum up.

Courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Potatoes were brought to Europe by the Spanish explorers who discovered them in the Andes Mountains in South America. Potatoes grow really well in Ireland and by 1844ish, the potato made up an estimated 80% of the caloric intake of the average Irishman. Potatoes are good food, Irish population swelled to 8 million. Then a nasty fungus made its way over from Mexico in 1845, no one knows how exactly, and decimated the almost every potato crop for the next four years, with continued effects for around 10 years. Roughly 1 million Irish died and another 1.5-2 million emigrated (mainly to the US). The British government didn’t help matters with their “relief” efforts (a whole other topic), and basically this episode in Irish history has a lot to do with the general feelings of mistrust and antipathy that the Irish have had for the British since then. Massive oversimplifications here – but you get the gist.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Potatoes are still important in Irish cuisine, so of course we included some potatoes in the dish. While there are a myriad ways to prepare potatoes in Irish cooking, mashed is one of the classics and still a favorite today. The most common recipes are colcannon (which is mashed potatoes with kale or some other green in them) or champ (which is mashed with spring onions). Since Irish mashed potatoes are generally made with just milk and butter, I elected to go with the champ version as onions would add a little more flavor and give the dish some zing. Beside which, it’s spring here, so I can get spring onions now.

But I didn’t want the potato to be the main starch – primarily because ever since I saw Monte make Irish soda bread on MasterChef, I have wanted to try it out myself – it looked so easy! And easy it is! Irish soda bread is so simple to make, I almost didn’t hate baking ☺ The resulting bread is denser than yeast bread, but delicious and, did I mention easy? I made a basic bread with no frills, you can also adapt this recipe and add fruit and sugar and make a sweet version. If you add raisins you’ve just made spotted dick, enough said….

So soda bread, champ, that should be enough starch for even me, now let’s move on to the meat. Ask any American for an Irish dish and most will answer corned beef and cabbage. The reality is that that’s the American version; the Irish version is boiled pork and cabbage. In fact pork is the most common meat consumed in Ireland. The Irish love pork, so I figured it was time to go “hog wild” and buy me some pork belly! This burger is simple, so it really needs good meat – I ground my own, but you can also ask the butcher to grind it for you. I went with a combo of pork cutlet, slab bacon and pork belly and the result was a richly piggy flavor.

I topped the whole thing with some yummy Irish cheddar, which tasted a lot like yummy Wisconsin cheddar, so just buy good cheddar and you’ll be fine. Which reminds me, I did take this opportunity to try Irish butter. I’ve seen Irish butter in the stores for ages, but never picked it up. Irish butter tastes pretty much like butter, really creamy rich butter – I like it. If you can’t find it, just buy good butter, but if you can find it, give Irish butter a try.

If you like the richness of this burger, you should try Czech Republic Burger, it’s another homey and tasty bit of meaty goodness.

Ireland Burger
¾ pound pork cutlet
¼ pound pork belly
¼ pound slab bacon
Olive oil
4 ounces Irish cheddar
Irish Soda Bread (recipe below)
4 Tablespoons course English mustard
Champ (recipe below)
4 teaspoons Irish butter

Chop the meat into cubes and place the meat in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Grind the meat on the fine setting of your meat grinder. Form into four patties. Put a little olive oil a cast iron pan and fry the patties until the pork is cooked through. Top with slices of cheddar about 2 minutes before the pork is done and cover so that the cheese melts. To serve, slice the bread in half through the width of the loaf then into quarters. Grill the bread lightly in the hot pan.  On each quarter spread 1 Tablespoon of mustard then add a big dollop of champ, a pat of butter and the cooked burger patties.

BH&T Ireland Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread
2 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
8 ounces buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425˚F. Sift the dry ingredients then add the buttermilk. Note: you can use dried buttermilk hydrated with water. Combine into a sticky dough then knead lightly. Lightly grease and flour a cake pan. Form the dough into a slightly flat round loaf. Put the loaf into the greased pan and cover with another cake pan. Bake for 25 minutes then remove top pan and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the loaf and place on wire rack to cool.

Champ
1 pound russet potatoes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 spring onion chopped (white and light green parts only)
½ cup milk
1 Tablespoon Irish butter

Peel and chop potatoes. Boil the potatoes with 1 teaspoon of salt until fork tender. While the potatoes are cooking put the milk and the onions into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 3 minutes. Remove the milk from the heat. Drain the potatoes and mash with the butter and the milk and onion mixture, salt to taste.

BH&T Ireland Champ

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©Copyright 2013 Linda Monach

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Iraqi burger recipe

BH&T Iraq Burger RecipeBaharat Seasoned Lamb Burger with Rice Kibbe and Yogurt Mint Sauce
When I started on my goal of creating a burger recipe based on the cuisine of each country in the world, I assumed that each country would have a unique cuisine.  Of course now that I’m 79 recipes/countries into this I realize that there are no “unique” cuisines.  The fact is that people have traveled, ever since there were people, they’ve traveled, and they bring their favorite foods with them.  So as I started researching Iraqi food, I was shocked to read on several sites that “Iraq is one of the few countries that doesn’t have a unique cuisine”.  I think I’m going to have to chalk this comment up to ignorance at best or prejudice at worst.  The reality is that Iraq is an old country and people have been traveling in and out and around the area for a really long time, and as we discussed, they’ve taken their food with them.

By jamesdale10, via Wikimedia Commons

By jamesdale10, via Wikimedia Commons

The Republic of Iraq is located in the heart of the Middle East bordered by Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey with a small coastline on the Persian Gulf.  It was once part of the Ottoman Empire and before that was part of Mesopotamia.  Now Iraq is now home to almost 32 million people.  And yes, the cuisine is pretty classically Middle Eastern but anyone who says that dismissively clearly doesn’t understand the thousands of years of history and culture and folks traveling that have brought us to the modern Middle East.  This is one of the oldest civilizations in the world; which gives us more to talk about than we have time on this particular journey.

By James (Jim) Gordon, via Wikimedia Commons

By James (Jim) Gordon, via Wikimedia Commons

Through these thousands of years and billions of travelers food and flavors have developed that somehow reach into your heart and soul and bring you home in a visceral way.  Middle Eastern food has a richness and complexity that seems exotic to those of us raised in the New World and weaned on fast food and processed foods.  Iraqis love spices and their food balances flavors that Westerners consider dessert tastes with classically savory spices.  Cumin mixes with cinnamon, nutmeg compliments saffron and suddenly your kitchen is filed with a glorious fragrance that lingers and brings your family and friends to the table ready to feast.

Which is a somewhat clumsy lead in to my next point about hospitality.  Iraqi culture, in keeping with Muslim culture more generally, has a strong emphasis on hospitality.  There’s a tradition that any guest/stranger/traveler is welcome to stay for 3 days in your house and it is rude for you to ask him his intentions or how long he plans to stay until the third day.  I’ve read stories of men who travel for business and stop at strangers houses along the way – the strangers become friends and start anticipating the visits, the travelers’ favorite foods are served when he arrives unexpectedly.  Now I come from a part of the US that is particularly know for it’s hospitality, but I wouldn’t recommend just showing up at a stranger’s door in the American Midwest and expecting to get your favorite dish cooked.

That being said, welcome to my “home” – let’s see what I’ve cooked for you!  In a similar fashion to Iran, we’re going to start with the ever-important rice.  I am increasingly impressed with the variety and creativity of cooking methods and recipes for rice around the world.  In an effort to try another new rice dish, I found inspiration in kibbe.  Iraqi kibbe recipes are varied, but one of the popular ways to make kibbe is cook the rice until it’s soft, add some dried fruit and some beef and grind it all together then wrap it around some spiced ground lamb and deep fry.  To me this sounds like the perfect inspiration for a burger.  So I made saffron rice, mixed in some meat, raisins (I only ad black raisins, golden would be more authentic) and some onion and made a super tasty kibbe cake for the starch.

Next came the meat, and here lamb was the obvious choice – especially since goat is so hard to find in Brookline J Add some baharat (another spice mixture with millions of versions throughout the Middle East) and we’ve got a fragrant and delicious patty.  Just to add a little coolness I made a yogurt sauce with a big helping of fresh mint, some lemon juice and dates for a little bit of sweetness.  By the way, Iraq produces about 80% of the world’s dates.

The final burger is rich and layered, fragrant and tasty, and it is easily one of my favorites.  The fried rice cake is a little heavy, but is balanced well with the yogurt sauce; make sure you portion the sauce generously.

If you enjoy these flavors, you’ll also love the Egypt burger.  Both of these burgers embrace the flavors of the Middle East as I hope you will too (as you can tell, I’m a huge fan)!

Iraqi Burger
1 pound ground lamb
Baharat Spice Mixture (recipe below) reserve ½ teaspoon for rice cake
4 Kibbe Rice Cakes (recipe below)
Yogurt Sauce (recipe below)

Combine the lamb and baharat and form into 4 patties.  Cook to desired temperature.

Baharat Spice Mixture
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine spices in a dry pan over low heat until fragrant.  Reserve ½ teaspoon of spice mixture for rice cake and use the rest for the meat.

Kibbe Rice Cake
1 cup basmati rice
¼ cup hot water
Pinch saffron
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ lb ground beef
¼ cup raisin (preferably golden)
½ teaspoon baharat spice mixture
Peanut oil

Cook rice per package directions.  While rice is cooking add the saffron to the hot water and let it sit until rice is done.  Put cooked rice, saffron and water, beef, raisins and spices into a food processor and pulse until well mixed.

BH&T Iraq Kibbe Cake Prep

Form 4 balls out of the mixture and flatten into discs.  Heat about an inch of peanut oil in a pan.  Fry the discs in the oil then drain on paper towels.

BH&T Iraq Kibbe Rice Cake

Yogurt Sauce
1 cup 2% Greek yogurt
½ cup chopped fresh mint
4 dates chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt to taste

Mix all ingredients, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

BH&T Iraq Yogurt Sauce

 

©Copyright 2013 Linda Monach

http://burgershereandthere.com/?p=1237

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Iranian burger recipe

BH&T Iran Burger RecipePersian Spiced Lamb Burgers with Saffron Rice and Fresh Herbs

Apparently, were I Iranian, I would be doomed to be a spinster.  Ok, probably not really in modern times, but there is a saying that a woman’s marriagability (I don’t think that’s really a word) is related to her ability to make rice.  And when I say “make rice” I don’t mean plain old-fashioned steam it and serve, I mean Persian rice.  I tried…epic fail!  But I’ll get to the details in a minute, first let’s talk a little bit about Iran and then we can move on to the cooking and especially the rice.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is located in the Middle East and creates a sort of giant land bridge that separates the Caspian Sea and the Persian Golf – I imagine that no geologist would actually call it a bridge, but that’s kind of what it looks like to me.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

It shares borders with Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkmenistan.  At it’s height, the Persian Empire encompassed all of Iran and most of the surrounding land – today “Persian” and “Iranian” are used pretty much interchangeably in terms of cultural context, especially as we start talking about food.

1.By سبأ (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

1. By سبأ (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

And, although there is a great deal would could talk about beyond the food, Persian cuisine is rich in history and cultural influences and I have so much I want to tell you about the food, that I’m skipping right too it.  Life is too short to spend too much time on politics, I’d rather go for the substance, or the sustenance, I’d rather have dinner 🙂

Persian cuisine and food culture is really cool and exotic and fascinating.  Food plays an important part in the culture of Iran, it’s a food centric country.  Hospitality is extremely important and food is a big part of that.  You will always be offered food when visiting a traditional Iranian household.  I read in one book that you should decline the food with thanks, it will be offered again, you should decline again, etc… until the ritual is done three times then the host will just serve anyway.  As a guest you should thank and compliment profusely (I think that’s a good rule of thumb generally myself).  The best foods are always served to guests (another good general rule), and guests should eat heartily but not be piggy and eat their hosts out of house and home (yet another good rule – liking the manners here).

By Hamed Saber, via Wikimedia Commons

By Hamed Saber, via Wikimedia Commons

Persian cuisine is a symphony of many spices (not hot chilies though), and a balance of sweet and sour.  Fruits are commonly used in savory dishes and Persian cooks pride themselves on complex combinations of tastes that balance perfectly.  Because Iran is so centrally located and Persia extended so far, many flavor traditions have passed back and forth, making Persian food also a balance of cultural influences.  You see hints of India in the use of coriander, cardamom and cinnamon, you see hints of Greece in the stuffed grape leaves and use of yogurt.  The tradition of marinated meat cooked on a skewer (kebab or shwarma) is a Persian method of cooking that is now common across the region and into the Mediterranean.

Iran produces lots of different fruits and vegetables – pomegranates, persimmons, melons, peaches, plums, dates, grapes, eggplant, squash, and cucumbers to name a few.  They also grow almonds and pistachios and walnuts (English walnuts come from Iran) and produce one of the finest quality saffrons around (so I’ve read, I have not had the pleasure of side by side taste testing).  Iran also produces caviar, sturgeon caviar, again said to be one of the finest in the world.  All in all an embarrassment of riches from which to create a great burger – the hardest part was narrowing down the choices 🙂

By سید محمد موسوی اعظم, via Wikimedia Commons

By سید محمد موسوی اعظم, via Wikimedia Commons

So let’s get back to the rice.  Ugh.  Rice is an everyday staple of Persian cooking.  But it isn’t as simple as that, they make rice differently than anyone I’ve encountered so far (or maybe I just didn’t read deeply enough before this).  You don’t have to become an expert on Persian cuisine to realize that this rice is special and that Iranians are particular, everything I read about the food mentioned this.  First, the rice is long grain – similar to basmati (in fact they import basmati from India to supplement local production).  There are two basic ways to cook the rice.  First is “chelo” (this is what I tried and failed to produce).  In chelo, you parboil the rice then drain it and mound it into a pot with oil and a little bit of water.  You steam it and somehow, magically you get a cooked rice with a crispy browned bottom.  The bottom called “tah dig” is what everyone loves and is served separately.  It is a practiced art to create tah dig and I frankly lost patience after three failed attempts.  The best I got was a golden bottom that was unappetizingly crunchy (for my tastes), so I abandoned hope and just made rice.

Total Failure - WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

Total Failure – WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

You can also make kateh – which is rice more similar to the way we produce it here.  Boil rice with butter or oil, salt and water, then simmer until the water is absorbed.  The trick here though is that you also cook it for a while and get that crust that Persians love so much – you turn the pan over and cut the rice like a cake.  No joy for me on this method either – I am truly hopeless.

Once you get good at making chelo and kateh, then you graduate to layered rice dishes – these are served for holidays and special occasions and are a real showpiece for the Persian cook.  Needless to say, I didn’t even attempt them.  When you have 193 recipes to create, you can’t spend months on one country, you’ll go crazy.

Another staple of the Persian table is “sabzi khordan” (spelling varies from one source to another), which is basically a bowl of herbs and veggies that is served with just about everything.  The herb mixture varies and each cook/family has their own traditions, but I stuck with the herbs I saw most often referenced – mint, chives, tarragon, basil, watercress.  You also see cilantro used a lot but since I’m not that big of a fan, I chose to leave it out, feel free to add some if you like that soapy flavor 🙂

Persians, like most foodie cultures it seems, have their own traditional spice mix.  Theirs is called “advieh” and the recipes are myriad.  The use of dried lime is pretty universal and gives a distinctive flavor to Persian food.  You’ll see in Western style recipes that people substitute lime juice for dried lime – don’t do that, just go online and order some dried limes and you’ll understand why.  Yes, they are tart, but there’s a concentrated lime peel flavor that mixes with the tart in a unique and interesting flavor – it’s tart without being bitter and intense without being overwhelming, with a little bit of fruit and earthiness that you just can’t get with any substitution.

The Persian table generally has radishes, something made from eggplant, stews, meats, yogurt, nuts, fruits…a little bit of everything.  Again, my challenge was focus…where to start?  I usually start with the meat, I find that gives me a frame on which to build the flavors of the dish.  In this case I had to go with lamb.  Not only is it a popular meat in Iran, but it also perfectly compliments the sweet and sour  and the spice flavors that we’ve been talking about.  Throw some advieh in to season the lamb and we’re set in the meat department.

I gave up on making tah dig and instead made a simple saffron steamed rice.  I know it’s a cop out, but it was the best I could do and finish this project before I’m too senile to remember which country I’m on.

For toppings I really wanted to make a fruit/veg compote that would pay homage the stewing tradition and bring in some of the sweet and sour flavors in.  So I put together a combination with eggplants and several native fruits along with pomegranate molasses to bring in the sour edge.  Thinly sliced radish gave a nice crunch to the dish along with toasted walnuts (I’m amazed at how yummy nuts can be on a burger!).  A yogurt sauce and some feta gave the dish added creaminess and a little salt kick.  And lastly, to add color and brightness to the dish, some lovely fresh herbs ala sabzi khordan finished it off beautifully.  It’s a lot of moving parts on this burger, but don’t get nervous.  Nothing here is hard to make and almost all of it can be made ahead.  If you slice the radishes ahead of time, just leave them soaking in ice water, it will keep them crisp and fresh.  The only thing you don’t want to do too far ahead of time is the herb mix, basil will brown if it sits too long and the others will wilt, so chop these up last minute.

The final burger is unusual, the flavors are such a mixture of sweet, sour, creamy – it’s actually hard to describe.  I know I get paid big bucks to describe food…oh, wait, I don’t get paid anything!  Phew, now I don’t feel bad that I don’t have the words for this.  You’ll just have to give it a whirl and let me know how you would describe it J

This is a hearty but not heavy burger that we served with a nice pinot noir (which is totally wrong based on the no alcohol rule of Iran, but I’m a rebel).  If you want a more traditional drink, I’m told tea is the most popular beverage in Iran.  Although one more note on that topic; pre-Muslim rule, Iran produced a fair amount of wine.  They still grow grapes and use the grapes in cooking instead today – a bit of a waste of perfectly good grapes in my book, but to each his own.

If you like this burger you should try the Bahrain burger.  It’s a lighter and slightly simpler burger, but has many of the same flavors of the region.

Iran Burger
1 pound ground lamb
1 ½ teaspoon advieh (recipe below)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
2 cups cooked rice (saffron in the cooking water is optional)
4-6 radishes sliced very thin
Crumbled feta cheese
Sweet and Sour Compote (recipe below)
Yoghurt Sauce (recipe below)
Fresh Herbs (recipe below)
4 Tablespoons toasted chopped walnuts

Mix the advieh, salt and lamb together and form into 4 patties.  Heat the oil in a medium skillet, cook patties to desired temperature.

To serve scoop out ½ cup of rice on each plate.  Add a layer of sliced radishes and generous helping of feta cheese, then the cooked patties.  Put a big scoop of compote on top of the burger then add yoghurt sauce, fresh herbs and a Tablespoon of walnuts.

Advieh
1 teaspoon green cardamom seeds (crush about a Tablespoon of pods to get 1 teaspoon of seeds)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
5 whole cloves
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon orange zest
1 dried lime crushed

Place all ingredients in a dry pan and warm over low heat until fragrant.  Put the spices in a spice blender and pulse until everything is ground up.

Sweet and Sour Compote
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
1 cup cubed eggplant
1 cup chopped Turkish apricots
1 ½ teaspoons advieh
juice of 1 tangerine
2 Tablespoons black raisins
¼ cup pomegranate juice
2 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses

In medium saucepan, heat oil and brown eggplant for three minutes over medium heat.  Add the rest of the ingredients and cook over low heat until syrupy.  Cool slightly and pulse in a food processor until you get a basically even texture.  Use slightly warm or room temperature.

BH&T Iran Sweet and Sour Compote

Yoghurt Sauce
1 cup Greek yoghurt (2% fat)
1 teaspoons minced shallots
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint
salt to taste

Add all ingredients in a glass bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.

BH&T Iran Yoghurt Sauce

Fresh Herbs
¼ cup fresh mint chopped
¼ cup fresh chives chopped
¼ cup fresh tarragon chopped
½ cup fresh watercress chopped
2 Tablespoons fresh basil chopped

Combine all ingredients and serve.

 

©Copyright 2013 Linda Monach

 

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Posted in lamb burgers, middle eastern recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Indonesian burger recipe

Rendang Spiced Burger with Indonesian Fried Rice
I have to admit that I do have some favorites among the cuisines of the world.  I didn’t know it before I started researching this burger, but Indonesian cuisine is definitely a favorite.  Indonesia is the largest archipelagic state in the world, it is made up of 17,500 islands 6,000 of which are inhabited.  It’s located in Southeast Asia and Oceana and borders Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and East Timor and is the 4th most populous nation in the world.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

And let me tell you, Indonesia is gorgeous.  Drop dead gorgeous – mountains, beaches, ancient ruins, all sorts of amazing things to see.  A trip here is definitely on my bucket list, but given that it’s half way around the world, it seems unlikely that I’ll get there soon.  In the meantime, I can enjoy the food and dream 🙂

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

By Thorsten Peters (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

2By Indradi Soemardjan http://www.indrani.net (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

My husband insists that I mention the ring of fire.  I’m pretty sure that’s because he has an uncommonly deep voice and can actually sing along with Johnny Cash, but he claims that has nothing to do with it.  The Pacific Ring of Fire stretches from New Zealand all along the coast of Asia, up around Alaska, back down along the coast of North America and all the way down to Chile.  It contains about 75% of the world’s volcanoes and within this ring 90% of the world’s earthquakes occur.  Indonesia has some of the most active volcanoes; in fact the last estimates were that Indonesia has almost 130 active volcanoes – YIKES!  Earthquakes in this area have resulted in horrific natural disasters – the 2004 tsunami was the deadliest and killed over 230,000 people.  So that’s the ring of fire, now let’s sing a verse of the Johnny Cash song and switch gears to more cheerful stuff.

 

Indonesia has been described as 100 or 200 countries in 1.  There are more than 250 ethnic groups living there.  Because of its location lots of people from all over travel through Indonesia and the melting pot of cultural influences has resulted in a complex and wonderful cuisine with hints of India, China, Japan and even the Netherlands.  Since 86% of the population is Islamic, very little pork is consumed.  Beef is popular (except with the Hindu portion of the population) as is chicken and fish.  Nasi goreng (fried rice) is the national dish of Indonesia and it is consumed daily by many Indonesians.  A key ingredient in Indonesian fried rice is kecap manis – which is a sweet soy sauce.  It reminds me a little of Japanese teriyaki sauce – it makes a really nice rich base for the rice, sweet but not cloying.

Another ingredient that’s used quite a bit is shrimp paste.  Now shrimp paste is one of those ingredients that taste disgusting on its own (like fish sauce), but adds an amazing richness to a sauce.  So buy some, add it to a dish but don’t taste it on its own, and don’t smell it, just trust me and be bold, be brave.

Overall Indonesian food is a balance of complex spices and bold flavors – it isn’t spicy/hot, but it is filled with spice.  I wanted to make a sauce that brought these flavors to life (like a BBQ sauce, but totally not like BBQ flavor).  Since rendang is one of the most common dishes enjoyed in Indonesia, I used rendang to inspire the sauce.  Rendang is a slow cooked beef dish with a variety of spices and coconut milk.  In an online CNN poll (http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/eat/readers-choice-worlds-50-most-delicious-foods-012321) rendang was voted as the #1 Most Delicious Food in the world.  So of course it made a delicious sauce that works great with beef.  This sauce is rich, slightly sweet and complex.  It perfectly complimented the fried rice.  I went with a beef burger with a little bit of spices added in and the combo is now one of my favorites.  The flavors are layered and complex with a little bit of spiciness but not overwhelmingly hot.  The sweet dessert spices give a really exotic overtone to the whole dish.  It’s definitely a hearty dish, a little on the heavy side, but in a lovely way.

There are a ton of ingredients in this dish, and some may require advance planning to find (you can get all of them online or at a local Asian market) but overall it isn’t difficult to make, just gather everything, give yourself time to let the flavors develop and then enjoy.

If you like this burger and want another exotic adventure, try my Bhutan burger – it’s a big notch up on heat and another burger that defies comparison!

Indonesian burger
1 pound 80% ground beef
2 teaspoons sambel olek (chili paste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Fried Rice (recipe below)
Rendang Sauce (recipe below)
Chopped bok choy leaves
Fried shallots (you can get these at any Asian grocer or online – or make them yourself)

Combine the first five ingredients and form four patties.  Fry the patties to desired temperature in a cast iron skillet.  To serve scoop up some fried rice, add the cooked patties then top with the rendang sauce some chopped bok choy and a sprinkle of fried shallots.

Fried Rice
2 baby bok choy
4 Tablespoons peanut oil
2 Shallots sliced thin
2 cloves of garlic sliced thin
2 red Fresno peppers seeded and sliced thin
4 cups of cooked white rice
2 teaspoons sambel olek
4 teaspoons kecap manis

Slice the bok choy into thin strips and keep the leaves and the stems separate.  Save the leaves for a topping and use only the stems in the rice.  In a medium sauté pan, heat 2 Tablespoons of the oil over med/high until shimmering.  Add the shallots the bok choy stems, garlic and chilies.  Cook stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes.  Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil and the rice and turn heat to medium low.  Add sambel olek and kecap manis and cook for 5-10 minutes stirring and breaking up the rice.  Serve warm.

Rendang Sauce
1 stick cinnamon
6 whole cloves
1 stalk lemon grass (yellow part only)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
¼ teaspoons anise seeds
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1 shallot diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 red Fresno chilies
1 Tablespoon shrimp paste
2 Tablespoons tamarind concentrate
1 Tablespoon kecap manis
½ cup coconut milk
½ cup water
1 Tablespoon rice flour

In a small dry skillet, heat the cinnamon, cloves and lemon grass over medium heat until fragrant.  Remove from heat and place in a piece of cheesecloth then tie it off.  Add the coriander, anise, fennel and ginger to the pan and heat until fragrant.  Grind these spices in a spice grinder.  In a small sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onions, garlic and chilies.  Cook for 2 minutes.  Add in the cheesecloth, stir in the shrimp paste, the ground up spices and the rest of the ingredients except the rice flour.  Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.  Whisk in the rice flour until you get a nice thick paste/like consistency.  Serve hot or room temperature.

©Copyright 2013 Linda Monach

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Posted in asian recipes, beef burgers, oceana recipes, south asian recipes | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Indian burger recipe

Vegetarian Vindaloo Burger with Raita and Cardamom Scented Rice
India is a tough country to describe in just a couple of paragraphs.  It’s ancient with a civilization that dates back to around the 3rd century BC.  It’s big, at over 3MM kilometers, it is the 7th largest country in the world.  And, of course, with 1.2 BILLION people, it is the second most populous country in the world.  So, a brief history of India would take a lot more than a couple of paragraphs, let’s see if we can focus on a few key points and leave the exploration of centuries of history to someone else…deal?

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

 

India is located in Southern Asia bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.  It shares a land border we Pakistan, China, Bhutan, Nepal, Burma and Bangladesh.  Sri Lanka and Maldives are not far away across the seas. So, while it’s only about a third the size of the US, India has mountains, deserts, sandy beaches and just about everything in between.  As a result of all of this the food in India is highly varied both regionally and ethnically.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Over 80% of the population is Hindu, so pretty much no one eats beef in India.  It’s also important to note that while only 13% of the population is Muslim, that’s still a lot of Muslims so we don’t see much pork consumed here either.  Although it has a reputation of vegetarianism, only about 30% of the population is technically vegetarian.  However, because of widespread poverty and limited access to proteins, most Indians get most of their calories from non-meat sources (although I’m including dairy – dairy is pretty widely consumed).

I do love a challenge and I find vegetarian burgers challenging (usually to eat, but that’s a different story), so I couldn’t resist taking on vegetarian for India.  I think the trick to making a satisfying veggie burger is to embrace it for what it is and not try to make it seem like meat, so that’s what I’ve done here.  There are lots of tasty vegetables and some garbanzo beans and flour help hold them all together.  The flavor is exactly what I had hoped, layered, complex and exotic.

Of course you can’t just get that from vegetables, it’s really the spice that is so critical here.  Indian food is all about the spice and there are a number of classic spice blends that are used in traditional Indian cooking.  For this burger I decided I wanted to bring a little more heat than I did with the Bangladeshi burger, so I went with a vindaloo spice blend.  Vindaloo is again one of those blends for which there are probably millions of recipes.  For mine I used dried dundicut peppers – mainly because I couldn’t resist buying them during one of my Penzey’s buying sprees (no I am not compensated for endorsing Penzey’s), and because they are both hot and grown in the region (in Pakistan).  You can use any dried hot pepper you like, spicier peppers would be authentic, but use what you like, that’s far more important than authenticity.

You can also purchase pre-made vindaloo spice blend.  I’m not a fan of the pre-made blends because I like to control the flavor of my dish.  Spice is such an important part of Indian food, I just can’t bring myself to shortcut it.  But again, I don’t judge…well at least I won’t judge you for using the pre-mixed stuff – not everyone is a control freak like I am, and not everyone is the spice whore that I am.  So if you find yourself needing to buy a whole bunch of new spices and cursing me, just get the blend instead and pour yourself a glass of wine and relax.

To balance the heat of the vindaloo, I made a raita.  Raita is a yoghurt sauce that you can get at most Indian restaurants; it is a terrific side dish and one of the best ways to tame food that is too spicy.  I never order Indian without it, so please, give it a try.  Lastly, I put this burger on cardamom scented rice – it makes for a simple looking but amazingly complex dish, I’m already wishing I could have another.  If you like Indian food, I think you’ll love this burger.  If you aren’t a fan of Indian, this might be too aromatic and spicy for your tastes – try the Bangladesh burger first, if you like that burger you may be surprised how much you’ll like this one.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays to all!

Indian Burger
1 small eggplant diced (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1½ Tablespoon peanut oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped cauliflower
2 Tablespoons Vindaloo Paste (recipe below)
1 cup garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed)
2 Tablespoons flour
Cardamom Scented Rice (recipe below)
1 tomato sliced
Raita (recipe below)
Cilantro chopped (optional)

Place the chopped eggplant in a large glass bowl and sprinkle with salt – toss to coat, then let the eggplant sit for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, in a medium sauté pan, heat the peanut oil over medium high heat.  Add the onions and sauté for about 3 minutes or until they are beginning to turn translucent.  Add the cauliflower and the vindaloo paste.  Stir and cover – cook over medium/low heat for 5 minutes.

Drain and blot dry the eggplant.  Add it to the pan.  Cover and cook for another 15 minutes.  Add the chick peas and cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and let the mixture cool a bit.  Pulse in a food processor until chunky.  Add the flour and pulse until mixed through.

Separate the mixture into four portions and form four patties.  In a large skillet, heat 1-2 Tablespoons of peanut oil until shimmering.  Add the patties and cook until you get a nice brown crust, turn the patties and cook the other side to match.

To serve start with a scoop of rice on each plate, add tomatoes, cooked patties, a generous scoop of raita and top with cilantro.

Vindaloo Paste
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
4 dried dundicut peppers (or other dried hot pepper)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 clove of garlic grated
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt

In a dry pan, toast the first 5 ingredients until fragrant.  Grind them into a fine powder in a spice grinder.  Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until you get a paste.  You can store this in the freezer for a couple of months and it will keep its flavor.

Cardamom Scented Rice
1 cup long grain rice
2 cups water
12 whole green cardamom pods lightly bruised

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook 20 minutes or until rice is cooked through.  Remove the cardamom pods before you serve if you don’t want your guests to get a big bight of cardamom.

Raita
½ cup shredded cucumber
1 cup 2% Greek yoghurt
½ cup shredded carrot
½ teaspoon Garam Masala (follow this link for recipe)
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Squeeze the cucumber to remove excess water.  Combine all ingredients and adjust spice to taste.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes then adjust spice again and serve cold.

 

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©Copyright 2012 Linda Monach

Posted in south asian recipes, vegetarian burgers | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Icelandic burger recipe

Lamb Cheeseburger with Icelandic Yogurt and Grilled Onions
Where did the year go?  I can’t believe October is over!  This has been a slow year for this blog, too many distractions (aka, children).  I’ve also been spending the last month perfecting (I hope) my dish for Master Chef auditions.  The casting call in Boston was yesterday (Nov 3rd) and it was a lot of fun and totally stressful, but that’s all I’m allowed to say (they don’t like us to tell the secrets of the casting process).  I met some awesome people including a really nice woman from Ivory Coast – I’m hoping she’ll look up my blog and let me know if I got her homeland right.  But now, on to the business of the day, let’s talk about Iceland.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Iceland is an island country located in the North Atlantic (or as Wikipedia says “at the confluence of the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans” – who talks like that?).  The capital is Reykjavik and total population is around 320,000.  Strangely, Iceland keeps popping up in our family.  It started years ago when my cousin was stationed at Reykjavik while he was in the US Navy.  He loved Iceland and the Icelandic people – didn’t love the wind storms that would blow you physically from building to building, but otherwise no complaints.  Then fast forward to 2007-2008.  My husband started a new job and one of his colleagues was from Iceland.  This friend had the unfortunate experience of having to send his parents some cash to get them out of Italy (they were on vacation) when the Icelandic Króna (currency) suddenly became worth nothing.  But now we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Despite its Northern location, Iceland is warmer than you’d expect because it’s warmed by the Golf Stream.  It was settled by Norwegians, then ruled by Denmark for a while and became independent in 1918.  For a long time Iceland was relatively poor and undeveloped.  With independence, growth in the fishing industry and most recently investment in biotech and software development, Iceland pulled out of its humble beginnings so that by 2007 it ranked as the most developed country in the world by the UN Human Development Index.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Unfortunately deregulation and some extremely poor decision making by Icelandic banks led to a huge financial crisis in 2008.  Basically the world stopped recognizing the króna for a couple weeks and there was real fear that the entire country would go bankrupt.  The government took over the major banks and has slowly built back confidence in the currency and the economic viability of Iceland.  Today Iceland ranks 14th in the Human Development Index.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

So, all of that is kind of interesting, but, because I’m a geek and married to an even bigger geek, the thing that I find most interesting about Iceland is the genealogy.  Well, not so much the genealogy as the genealogical database.  Stay with me now, this is really cool – the database went online a few years ago and covers every living Icelander with monthly updates for births and deaths.  Just about everyone in the database can trace back to the 9th century.  The last 10 generations are really robust in terms of data.  In and of itself, that’s cool, but what’s really cool is the scientific implications of so complete a database (especially with a relatively homogeneous population).  Scientist use this database, combined with medical databases, to track inheritability of disease, and, whenever they start a new study, they know the full family background of all of the subjects – super cool.

Okay, I’m done now…time for the food.  What do Icelanders eat?  Meat and fish, and then some meat and some fish, and on festive occasions…puffins.  Due to climate and growing season restrictions, the Icelandic diet is more focused around proteins with lamb and fish being some of the most popular.  They do actually eat puffins as well, but since we’re unlikely to find puffin meat at our local grocer, I’m going to ignore that.  Dairy products also play an important role in Icelandic cuisine.  They even have their own form of yogurt called skyr.  It’s like the sharpest yogurt you’ve ever tasted, but the sharpness is tempered when you pair it with a meaty burger and some creamy cheese.

Based on this, I kept the Iceland burger pretty simple.  I used lamb as the meat and melted some creamy Havarti on top.  Add some pickled cabbage, skyr and grilled onions and you have a hearty meaty burger that could warm you on a cold windy night in Iceland.  The salty sharpness of the skyr does balance the creamy cheese and rich lamb.  The flavor that comes across most is, surprisingly, the lamb.  It really is a celebration of lamb.  The crunch of the cabbage is nice, but it would be fine to leave it off if you don’t have any around.  We both preferred the sandwich open faced so that the bread wasn’t too strong a flavor, but again you can play and see how you like it.

If you’ve fallen in love with this burger (and I’m sure you will), give the Finland burger a try – it’s a little more complicated (just more ingredients), but it also has a rich hearty flavor that I think you’ll love.

Icelandic Burger
1 pound ground lamb
1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil
4 slices of havarti cheese
4 slices pumpernickel or dark rye bread
½ cup skyr or Greek yogurt
Pickled Cabbage (recipe below)
Grilled Onions (recipe below)

Add the salt to the lamb and mix thoroughly.  Form 4 patties.  Fry the lamb patties in olive oil until they reach your preferred temperature.  Add the cheese slices to the patties about two minutes before burgers are done, cover and melt cheese.  Remove from heat.  Place the four slices of bread into the hot pan and grill the bread lightly (about 2-3 minutes).  To serve, spread 2 Tablespoons of skyr on each slice of bread.  Add ¼ cup of drained Pickled Cabbage.  Place patties on top next then top with Grilled Onions.

Pickled Cabbage
1 cup chopped green cabbage (whichever kind you like)
Cider Vinegar (enough to cover the cabbage)

Place the cabbage in a glass bowl and pour enough vinegar in to cover the cabbage.  Refrigerate mixture for at least 4 hours before serving.  Drain off vinegar before using.

Grilled Onions
1 large onion
1 Tablespoon butter

Cut the onion in half then slice thinly.  In a medium sauté pan, heat the butter until frothy then add the onions and cook over med-low heat for 15 minutes or until onions are golden and soft.

 

©Copyright 2012 Linda Monach

http://burgershereandthere.com/?p=1016

 

 

Posted in european recipes, lamb burgers | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Hungarian burger recipe

Meaty Beef and Pork Burger with Paprika/Pork Ragu and Aged Gouda
There are two major problems with writing a blog post about Hungary – first is avoiding obvious Hungary/hungry puns (my husband has suggested several-you should be thanking me now for not taking his advice), the second is choosing the most interesting tidbits from the culture and history of this amazing country.  Hungary is a landlocked country located in Central Europe and bordered by Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria.  In fact several of their neighbors are larger than they were before World War I because when the war ended Hungary lost a ton of its territory.  This loss was reaffirmed at the end of WWII (they were on the losing side of that conflict too).  After that, the Hungarians were gobbled up into the Soviet Union became part of the Soviet Bloc.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Ok, let’s pause here, yes, I skipped a ton of stuff – founding of the kingdom, invasion by Ottomans, Hapsburg rule, etc…  but really, life is short and it’s not like it’s hard to read up on this stuff on your own – even Wikipedia has some pretty good information, so feel free to look it up and read more.  But, before we go into the communist phase I would like to point out that the cultural and ethnic heritage is really cool.    The language itself goes into the super cool/strange category (much like Finnish).   Hungarian is part of the Ugor branch of the Finno-Ugric language family.  The Finno-Ugric languages are basically Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian and a bunch of really obscure languages that are only spoken by very small groups of people.  Check out some Hungarian language videos – it is a really unusual mixture of sounds – I hear some Asian, and Slavic overtones, but I have an absolute tin ear, so don’t go by me.  In addition to a cool language, Hungarians (also called Magyars) have felt a little pushed around by various international forces over the years and because of that they’ve really grabbed hold of their cultural identity and have protected it and kept it alive even while officially part of the USSR Soviet Bloc.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

Which brings us back to where we left off.  While Hungary was part of the communist bloc, USSR they were considered the most liberal of the Eastern Bloc member states and eventually opened their borders to Austria and help to speed up the collapse of the Eastern Bloc.  Today Hungary is a popular tourist destination and (before the global financial crisis) had a relatively strong economy.  They are part of the EU and have suffered along with most of Eastern Europe, and in fact, Europe overall, well let’s be honest we’ve all had some tough times lately.

courtesy of CIA World Factbook

At any rate, I think it’s time to move on to the food.  All of the vegetarians should probably just stop reading now because Hungarians like meat.  They like meat with their meat – pork, beef, goat – sausages and salami, lots of meat.  And, when it doubt, they cook their dishes in lard, cause nothing makes a dish tastes so good as lard!  I saw several comments saying that if you heat up some lard and cook onions and paprika, you have the foundation for all Hungarian dishes (and your kitchen will smell wonderful).  One note for those of you who get nervous about spice, don’t worry, despite what you may read on Wikipedia, Hungarians use sweet paprika in most of their cooking.  Hot paprika is sometimes made into a paste and served as a condiment tableside, but the dishes themselves are not hot.

sweet paprika, a Hungarian staple!

do not use hot paprika if you want an authentic flavor

So yes, I fried up some bacon and used the fat to cook some onions and paprika as the base for my sauce, then I slow cooked some pork butt and created a burger topping for the ages.  The final sauce (thickened with sour cream as is traditional) reminded me of the wild boar ragu that we got in Italy over parpardelle (which is what I did with the left-overs, served it over pasta and savored the rich meaty flavor).  For the patties I combined beef and pork and ground the meat fresh – you could use pre-ground meat if you want, I just wanted that extra fresh meatiness.  I also found a raw milk Gouda that was a little sharp and perfectly complimented the meat and spice.  We tried 4 different Goudas and there is really a lot of variation in flavor – the aged Goudas are terrific, I highly recommend trying a few if you have a good cheese shop nearby.  We decided not to use the smoked Gouda because the meatiness of the dish doesn’t need the extra richness of the smoke, it’s too much.

cheese, glorious cheese!

The final burger is incredibly rich and hearty (this is not an “eat on the beach in a bikini” type of burger).  We loved it; the sharpness of the cheese comes through with a hint of bacon and a touch of herby freshness.  It held up beautifully to a hearty zin and we were left Hungary for more (ok, maybe one small pun).

Hungarian Burger
1 pound pork cutlets
½ pound sirloin tips
1 Tablespoon fresh marjoram
1 clove garlic roughly chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces aged Gouda sliced thin
Paprika/Pork Ragu (recipe below)
4 slices of sour dough bread
Cooked bacon (from Paprika/Pork Ragu preparation)

Cut the meat into 1 inch cubes and place in a glass bowl.  Add the marjoram and garlic and mix together.  Put the meat cubes in the freezer for 30 minutes then grind the meat.   Form four patties.  Salt the patties.  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or grill pan.  Cook until patties reach an internal temperature of 165˚F.  Add the Gouda slices about two minutes before burgers are done and cover until cheese is melted.

To serve, toast or grill the bread.  Add a generous scoop of the ragu then the cooked patties, top with the cooked bacon and enjoy!

Paprika/Pork Ragu
8 ounces thick cut bacon sliced into ¼ inch strips
1 medium yellow onion sliced (about 1¼ cup)
2 Tablespoons sweet paprika
1 pound pork butt cut into 3 chunks
2 cups chicken stock
Water
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 Tablespoons flour

Place Dutch oven or heavy saucepan over medium high heat.  Cook bacon stirring occasionally until bacon is crisp (about 10 minutes).

you want a nice thick cut bacon

mmmmm, bacon!

Remove bacon and place on paper towel to drain.  Add onions and paprika to the hot bacon grease and turn heat down to medium low.  Cook for 3 minutes stirring regularly.  Add pork, chicken stock, salt and as much water as you need to just cover the pork.

Raise heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour turning pork over once.  Remove cover and cook for another hour. Or until pork is fork tender.

Remove meat from pan and use two forks to shred the pork removing any excess fat.

pulled pork rocks!

Return meat to pan.  Add sour cream and stir until combined.  Add the flour and whisk until flour is integrated and sauce begins to thicken.  Adjust salt to taste.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

you’ll have leftovers of this ragu – just heat it up and serve over a wide pasta – yummy!

 

©Copyright 2012 Linda Monach

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