Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Good Eats

I'm always re-inventing the wheel with cooking. I'll throw stuff in a pot in a haphazard kind of fashion and if it turns out great I'll think, "I'll really need to write down what I did here" and invariably, I don't. Instead, I find myself standing in front of a fridge every night trying to send some connective thought between the two brain cells I have left to figure out what the heck I'm going to pull together in the next 25 minutes before the kids start to completely malfunction from hunger and end-of-day general fried-ness. In fact, they are usually already in this state by the time I start cooking.
Today, Calliope was sick (or teething?) and would not let me put her down for anything.

I was contemplating cheese and crackers for dinner when I remembered that I had some ground turkey in the freezer and some lacinato kale that needed using and some leftover carrots that I had picked from our garden the day before when I had a sudden hankering for carrot cake. Then I looked out the window and saw our tomato plants dotted with bright yellow, red, and orange lovelies. So I tucked Cally girl in the Beco, grabbed Taran and a basket, and we picked all the almost-too-ripe tomatoes we could find and headed in to whip something up.

While Cally girl rested her head on B dog, I threw together some A-mazing turkey-vegetable-feta burgers. The carrot and feta helped keep the burgers incredibly moist and we all inhaled them. As I was chopping and mixing, I kept staring longingly out the window at our garden, realizing I had forgotten to grab a handful of parsley on our last venture out. I weighed the quality of the finished product against a series of possible scenarios that would make obtaining said parsley feel like mission impossible. If I went back in the hot sun again, I couldn't guarantee that Cally wouldn't just melt, both emotionally or physically and Taran wouldn't get sidetracked by something and run around the yard with delight while I pleaded with him. "Taran I need you to come in now, I need to cook dinner now, Cally's totally done, Please baby please" Luckily, Joe came home just as I was finishing up the prep and so parsley was procured and the burgers were rendered delicious.

Alongside them I made a tomato and sweet corn salad with a red onion-chianti vinaigrette. We have some gorgeous varieties of tomato this year, my favorite being a large slicing tomato called Ananas Noir that looks mostly green on the outside when ripe but reveals mottled gold and rose hues when sliced. It is sweet, juicy, tender and almost tropical in it's flavor. We also have small, kalamata olive-shaped yellow-orange tomatoes with red striations known as Blush tomatoes, Tess's land race currant tomatoes, Costoluto Genovese and some strange hybrid tomato that is a volunteer from last year's varieties. I tossed them with kernels of sweet corn and chopped basil and sluiced on the dressing and it was heaven. Tomatoes and corn are two things I wouldn't even contemplate eating most of the year. But in that little slice of time come mid-August to early September when they have reached their pinnacle of ripeness, there is almost nothing more mouth-pleasing. And together? Kinda close to perfection. This is coming from a woman who will tell you 51 weeks out of the year that she kind of hates corn. Especially in soup. It's kind of like little floating yellow teeth. Yuck. Oh why did I say that?! Now you'll never want to eat this salad and it's something wonderful, not to be missed.

I got the idea from a luncheon I went to last week at the Seasoned Farmhouse to hear one of my favorite [food] bloggers Molly Wizenberg read from her new book Delancey and to share some of it's recipes. I showed up in converse and a t-shirt with un-brushed hair (I had intended to brush it before I left the house but Taran was clinging to my left leg and sobbing hysterically that he was going to miss me and I never got a chance), thinking we were actually going to cook with Molly Wizenberg only to find a lot of ladies in linen drinking gin lemonades in gold-rimmed martini glasses while professionally trained chefs zipped around in bright white chef coats. I suddenly felt nauseous, nervous, and downright shaky and had to down my gin lemonade before I could feel sub-human again. But, as always, I digress. The point being we had this salad (or something very much like it. I haven't looked at her recipe yet so I'm not exactly sure) with tomatoes from the The Seasoned Farmhouse's garden and it was perhaps my favorite part of the whole meal. Or maybe it was the warm, dates sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with maldon sea salt. Or was it the gin lemonade? Anyway, here is my version of the salad and a recipe for the burgers.

I felt somewhat obligated to include photos, but I have to admit, with a crying baby strapped to my hips and a four year old screaming out Frozen's Let It Go on repeat in the background, photos were the last thing on my mind. I took these shots just now, 8 pm, and the sun has already just about set (thank goodness for low-light camera lenses). These are as good as it gets. I refuse to use a flash. Not only that, but it would take a food photographer far better than I too make a turkey burger look like anything else than a brown hockey puck. Which reminds me. Turkey burgers often look overdone on the outside (is it a caramelization thing?) but can still be wonderfully tender inside. I heated the grill on high and did a quick sear on the outside, but then made sure to turn the heat down to medium-low to give the burgers a chance to come to a safe temp on the inside without also tasting like a hockey puck.

To-die-for Turkey burgers: (is that immodest of me?)
1 lb ground turkey (I way prefer thigh meat. more flavorful, juicy, and according to the NY Times, higher in vitamins and minerals)
1 cup chopped lacinato kale (or whatever kale you have on hand)
1/2 cup finely shredded carrots
1/2 small onion
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 cup crumbled feta
2 eggs
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (I like Ian's GF panko crumbs)
sea salt and pepper to taste

Use a food processor to finely chop the kale, parsley and onion and then mix it all together.

Chianti-red onion vinaigrette:
1/2 small red onion minced (use the other 1/2 for the burger)
chianti vinegar (any red wine vinegar is fine)
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
I'd love to give you measurements here, but that is just not the way I cook. I kind of could make them up for the burger but I just can't fake it here because I honestly have no idea. I just went by taste. You'll often read that the perfect ratio is 3:1 (oil to vinegar). It's not uncommon that I do something more like 2:1 when I make my standby dressing of lemon and olive oil with dijon and a drop of honey.  Start with 2:1 and taste it. Add more olive oil as needed. I think for Molly's recipe, she said that she let the red onion pickle in the vinegar for 6 hours before finishing her dressing. Who has that kind of time (i.e. forethought.)? Mine sat for about an hour and was still pretty terrific.

Tomato corn salad:
Use a mix of your favorites. Don't worry if some are big slices and some are little round ones. They'll all be delicious in your stomache. If you can't saw some raw fresh corn off the cob, frozen corn is still really sweet and wonderful and you won't be disappointed. But don't bother buying fresh corn in June and hoping it will taste as good. It won't! Don't forget the fresh basil. It's so key.

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