Posts Tagged With: brussels sprouts

supper tonight – 5.7.12 – pimiento cheese & Smokra burgers with grilled Brussels sprouts

Our local Earth Fare emails us awesome coupons every couple of weeks, often for free stuff that we would buy anyway–organic fresh fruits and veggies, pastured meats, and yummy cheeses. In the last few months, Earth Fare has generously given us free pears, apples, carrots, brie, Irish cheddar, eggs, boneless chicken breasts, and ground beef–and this is just the short list!

One of those free pounds of ground beef turned into four delicious quarter-pound burgers Monday evening. We topped our burgers with pimiento cheese and picked okra (actually Rick’s Picks Smokra from our neighborhood wine/gourmet shop, Shiraz). Fresh onion rolls from Daily Grocery made for excellent buns. And although some of the components of this sandwich bore similarities to Micah’s unfortunate Paula Deen-inspired experiment, I’m happy to report that this batch of burgers was much, much better. 🙂

The easiest way to show you a little bit of everything?
Snapping a photo after I’ve taken a few (delicious) bites!

Since Micah was grilling stuff anyway, and since we had a half-pound of giant late-season Brussels sprouts in the fridge just begging to be eaten, and since Alton Brown just happens to have a recipe perfect for just this occasion, we decided to toss the sprouts on the grill with the burgers.

wow. that’s all I really need to say about these.

Want to replicate the amazingness of this fabulous veggie side dish? Here’s how!

What’s in it:

  • 1/2 pound of fresh Brussels sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Step-by-step:

  • Wash the Brussels sprouts and put them in a microwave-safe bowl with just a little bit of water. Microwave on high-heat for 3 minutes. (This helps make sure the Brussels sprouts get done on the grill before they get burnt. :))
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, garlic, mustard, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.
  • Toss the partially-cooked Brussels sprouts in the mustard mixture. If the sprouts are small, thread them onto some skewers. (Ours were gigantic, so we didn’t bother with skewers–we just placed them straight on the grill.)
  • Grill for about 5 minutes on each side.
  • Cut the grilled Brussels sprouts in half and toss back in the bowl of glaze to soak up the rest of those yummy seasonings.
  • Enjoy.

Our burgers Monday night were really good, but this Brussels sprouts side dish stole the show! And the salty, smoky, spicy glaze would be delicious on pretty much anything. Thank you, Alton Brown!

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Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

date night dinner – 3.30.12 – steak ‘n’ taters

The weather here in Georgia has been unseasonably warm lately.

It’s been dang hot! Like, mid-80s in early March hot. Shorts and flip-flops hot. Summer hot. (Except that now, summer will probably be keep-your-babies-and-elderly-indoors-for-the-love-of-God hot.)

Hot weather makes me want to do several things:

  • Shave my legs (which Micah can tell you I’m not so diligent about in the winter)
  • Sip mojitos (but, of course, we have no rum or mint or limes in the house…)
  • Eat dinner outside (because the AC is on in here, and that makes me cold!)

Hot weather also makes Micah want to do several things:

  • Turn on the AC and complain about how hot it is
  • Drink beer (though he’s pretty good at that one year-round)
  • GRILL

Yep. I married a sweet, sensitive musician type, but he’s definitely a manly man at heart. When we started discussing what protein from the freezer we might want to defrost for date night, his first statement+question was: “I wanna grill something. Steak or pork chops?”

I let him pick, and he chose the steaks. Two big, beautiful 1-pound T-bone steaks from our pals at Moonshine Meats. They’d been in the freezer for a little while because we generally don’t eat steak very often, so when several packs of them come in our CSA box, it usually takes us a few months to get through them all.

These steaks were real purty. Nice T-bone shape, intense blood-red color, thick strip of white fat around the edges (which I don’t eat, but it does seem to make the surrounding meat nice and juicy, so I don’t usually trim it until after it’s cooked).

Then there was the smell. I haven’t gone around sniffing raw beef all my life, and honestly, I never noticed my ground chuck or rib-eye ever having much of a odor (which I guess I’ve always taken as a good sign). But somehow, all the beef and pork that we get from Moonshine Meats has this intoxicatingly gorgeous aroma. It smells…well, meaty. A touch grassy, too, like you can smell the farm where that cow or pig lazily grazed before becoming your dinner. And when you eat this stuff, that meaty, grassy, farmy scent becomes a meaty, grassy, farmy taste, too. It’s a magical experience.

I didn’t mean for this blog post to be an unpaid advertisement for Moonshine Meats, but it’s hard not to gush.

Anyway, that mouth-watering steak scent burst from the vacuum-sealed package as soon as Micah slit it open last night.

And then…

We checked the hourly forecast, and it called for rain.

Not grilling weather.

Poor Micah.

Undaunted, he decided to bring the party inside and pan-sear those shapely T-bones in a big cast-iron skillet.

(If you ever do this, by the way, please flip on the vent hood above your stove, turn on your ceiling fans, and open all your windows and exterior doors before those steaks hit the smoking-hot pan. Because those suckers are going to smoke. A lot. And while this magical Maillard reaction creates a satisfyingly crunchy, caramelized char on the outside of your steak, it also makes your house as hazy as the inside of a hookah den.)

Meanwhile, I whipped up a couple of sides: mashed potatoes (because steak ‘n’ taters is one of those classic combinations that’s hard to beat, and I had some milk and a bit of Gruyere that needed using), plus some balsamic-glazed carrots and Brussels sprouts (because even in a meat-and-potatoes meal, I like to enjoy some veggies, too).

A stick-to-your-ribs steak-'n'-taters feast.

You’ll see that, with the exception of salt and pepper, our recipes all call for five or fewer ingredients. No fancy cooking techniques, either. And no disasters! In fact, except for the lung-smothering smoke that filled our kitchen, this was one of the most stress-free date-night dinners we’ve cooked in a while.

What’s in it:

  • Steaks (adapted from Bobby Flay):
    • Two T-bone steaks
    • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
    • Salt and pepper
  • Taters:
    • 2 pounds potatoes
    • 2 cups milk
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • Shredded Gruyere (we only had 1 ounce, but would’ve added more if we’d had it)
    • Salt and pepper
  • Veggies (adapted from Epicurious.com):
    • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts
    • 1/2 pound carrots
    • 1/4 small red onion
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    • Salt and pepper

Step-by-step:

  • Start with the steaks: Remove your steaks from their packaging and let them warm up to room temperature while you are prepping the vegetables. Why? ‘Cause Bobby Flay says so.

* * * * *

  • Turn your attention to the taters: Cut your potatoes into small cubes. They don’t have to be beautiful since you’re going to mash them, but small, evenly-sized pieces will cook more quickly and evenly. (Also, I leave the peels on my taters because I like them.)
  • Dump the potatoes into a big-ish saucepan. Pour in the milk. If the liquid level is low, add water until it’s about even with the top layer of potatoes, and then add a good sprinkle of salt.
  • Heat this pan on a back burner on medium heat until it’s almost boiling. (Don’t let it boil unless you want to curdle your milk!) Reduce to a low simmer and let the potatoes cook while you’re working on everything else. (Ours were done in about 20-30 minutes.)

* * * * *

  • Now, start the veggies: Heat two tablespoons of butter in a large skillet on low heat for your veggies.
  • Slice your carrots and cut your Brussels sprouts. For a normal-sized Brussels sprout, this will probably be halved or quartered. Ours were crazy-huge end-of-season behemoths, so we cut them into eighths.
  • Finely chop your onion. Add it to the butter in the skillet and turn the heat up to medium.
  • When the onion is translucent, add the carrots and Brussels sprouts. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until they get some color on them.
  • Add 1/3 cup water to the skillet of veggies, cover, reduce to medium-low, and let cook for about 10 minutes.

* * * * *

  • Steak time! While the veggies cook, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in another large skillet on high heat. Pat the steaks dry and season them with plenty of salt and pepper on both sides.
  • Your skillet will start smoking. When it does, add the steaks and reduce the heat to medium-high. Sear for 3-4 minutes per side if you like your steaks medium rare like we do. (If you like your steak more done than this, move it to a 450ºF oven for a few more minutes afterwards. But I’m telling you, you’re missing out!)
  • Remove the finished steaks to a plate and cover with foil. They’ll rest for about 10 minutes while you finish up the taters and veggies.

* * * * *

  • Veggies: Remove the cover from your skillet of veggies, turn the heat back up to medium, and add the balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been absorbed and the vegetables look glazed and shiny. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Taters: Take the pot off the heat. Mash the taters in the milk with one of these:

'Cause I prefer my taters
smashed 'n' chunky.
(image from overstock.com)

  • Add two tablespoons butter and the shredded cheese to your mashed potatoes and stir until they’re all melted in. Add salt and pepper to your liking.
  • Put it all on a plate and eat! (We enjoyed all of this with a bottle of Chianti. Mmm.)

While my body is still fatigued from our school’s spring book fair, and while my lungs are still recovering from a pollen-filled week and our smoke-filled kitchen, my taste-buds and belly were completely pleased with this delicious meal.

One note about portions: this dinner procedure resulted in 2 giant steaks, 3-4 servings of veggies, and 6 good-sized heaps of mashed potatoes. So you may want to take that into account if you try this out–unless you like random leftover veggies as much as we do. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

date-night dinner – 3.11.12 – a series of unfortunate events

It all started harmlessly enough.

“Let’s defrost that salmon. It’s been in the freezer a while,” suggested Micah. I love seafood, but although wild-caught salmon is one of the healthiest proteins you can eat, it’s not something we can afford to buy all the time. We’d ordered this particular salmon fillet through our amazing online farmer’s market, Athens Locally Grown (though it was actually caught by a dude in Alaska named Doug), and it really was on the verge of earning a loitering citation from the freezer police.

Plus, it was date night. Usually, Friday night is date night, and we cook a fancier-than-on-weeknights meal (or sometimes eat out), splurge on some wine (since I rarely imbibe during the school week), and catch a movie or visit a local late-night spot for music and drinks. That Friday, we’d gone to a local Mexican joint for dinner with Micah’s family, and that Saturday, we’d somehow managed to visit the second location of the very same local Mexican joint for dinner with my family. So Sunday became date night, which worked just fine for me since I’m on spring break this week. And for date night, we needed something delicious.

Back to that beautiful, pink hunk of fish. Originally, we thought we might try a salmon recipe from one of our very favorite cookbooks, Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South:

image from indiebound.com

The author of this fantastic cookbook is one of our neighbors, his kids attend my school, and his restaurants are some of my favorites I’ve ever visited, ever. We knew this recipe for salmon with marinated vegetables would be scrumptious…if we ‘d had the right ingredients. Which we didn’t. Not even any passable substitutes. So, we did what I pretty much always do when following a recipe won’t work. We improvised.

What we DID have in the fridge: parsnips, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, a LOT of carrots, a bag of clementines.

We decided to sear the salmon per Hugh’s instructions and make the lemony salmoriglio sauce from the book (subbing clementine zest for the lemon, ’cause that’s what we had).

But, instead of marinating all those vegetables we didn’t have, we were going to roast and mash the parsnips (which we’d never cooked before), saute the Brussels sprouts and mushrooms in some olive oil, and enjoy all those yummy, earthy flavors with a nice Pinot Noir.

Finally, since date-night dinners often involve dessert, I decided to thin out the overabundant carrot population of our produce bin by grating some of those Vitamin A-bombs into a cake and frosting it with something clementine-y.

Simple enough, right? Meat and two simply-prepared veggies, cake with frosting. Except, somehow, (almost) everything went horribly wrong.

Micah worked on the sauce and chopped parsnips for roasting while I started on carrot cake (which I very loosely based on this recipe). Thinking that it would cook more quickly (and be cuter) as cupcakes, I split my batter into muffin cups and put that pan in the oven so I could start on the frosting.

Cream cheese frosting is the perfect match for carrot cake, but alas, we didn’t have cream cheese (and rarely do). But these folks suggested making a similarly tangy-sweet confection from Greek yogurt, which we always keep around. So I loaded the bowl of my stand mixer with Greek yogurt, powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and some clementine zest. My frosting was coming together nicely and turning a lovely shade of orange, but it was still a little thin, so I added some more powdered sugar. Instead of making my icing thicker, though, this somehow made it thinner, more like a glaze. It was much too flimsy to spread on cupcakes (why hadn’t I just made a cake, anyway?), so I decided to reduce it a little. Gotta think on your feet when you’re improvising, right?

I got my Greek yogurt frosting/glaze thickened to a spreadable consistency around the time that my cupcakes were ready to pull from the oven. They were beautiful and smelled delicious. But (why is there always a but?), as soon as I tried to get one out of the pan, I could tell they weren’t done yet. Back into the pan, back into the oven. The tops of the cupcakes, once pretty little rounded mounds, fell and wrinkled. At least I could cover them with frosting, and at least (I hoped) they would taste good.

Ten minutes later, those cupcakes were still raw in the middle. “I’m giving these stupid things five more minutes, and then I’m calling it,” I grumped at Micah, and he agreed that this was probably a good idea. Five minutes later…well, they weren’t done, and I muttered some words that aren’t so polite.

In a hangry (hungry + angry) rage, I scooped all those ugly, smooshy cupcakes into a pie pan, mashed them together with some of my gooey clementine stuff to hopefully keep the resulting dessert from being too dry, and stuffed that on-the-fly mess of a cake back into the oven for the fourth and final time.

Meanwhile, we checked the parsnips, which theoretically were roasting in the other oven. Except that instead of becoming crispy-edged, soft-centered, caramelized nuggets of sweet-and-starchy goodness like any respectable roasted vegetable, these babies dried out and shriveled up like a chain-smoking grandma. Still hangry, I scraped those dessicated veggie bits into a saucepan on the back burner, dumped in some milk to rehydrate them, and started them a-simmering.

Now that the cake and parsnip disasters were as averted as we could hope for, it was time to turn our attention to our salmon, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms. Micah had gotten everything cut and ready while I was battling the cake, thank goodness.

Micah was in charge of the fish because, well, meat is usually his job. He oiled up our biggest skillet and started heating it to sear the fillets. Those poor slabs of fish were goners as soon as they hit that hot pan. Despite Micah’s best efforts, they stuck. Bad. Turning them a few minutes later proved to be nearly impossible, and the second side stuck, too. This salmon might turn out to be delicious (please, oh, please! let it be delicious!), but it was ugly as sin.

While Micah fought with that sticky fish, I pulled my cake-like-concoction out of the oven, discovered it had miraculously not stuck to my pie pan, but was a bit concerned when it turned out onto the plate in one big, rubbery disc. I crossed my fingers that smearing it with the rest of the clementine frosting might be enough to make it edible, then turned my attention to the vegetables.

The parsnips had undergone an impressive transformation, swelling with milky tenderness, and I tackled them with my hand blender, bent on making this part of dinner not a disaster. One press of the “blend” button sent scalding hot milk and parsnip bits onto my forearm, which immediately reddened (and hurt like hell). More choice words. A big splash of cold milk into the pot. Another push of the button, and this time no mashed veggie shrapnel–just the smooth whir of blender blades as those stubborn parsnips finally accepted their fate. But, since they were now cold, I put them back on the back burner to reheat, and I crossed my tired fingers.

One side dish down, one to go. We heated some olive oil in a skillet and added the Brussels sprouts. They made a delightful sizzle when they hit the hot oil, and we sauteed them with their cut sides down to get those little baby cabbages nice and brown. Mushrooms were added, everything turned a beautiful color, salt and pepper were sprinkled, and this pan of veggies was done. Yep, sprouts-‘n’ shrooms, you guys got one measly little paragraph of this tale because you were kind enough to cooperate.

Time to cross our fingers and plate. Stubborn mashed parsnips, then scarred salmon, then those obliging Brussels sprouts and mushrooms, finally a big drizzle of lemony sauce:

Prettier than we expected, but we still hadn’t tasted it. If this dinner sucked, we had endured two hours of pain and suffering for nothing. It might be enough to make me cry.

Micah lit some candles, poured the wine, and tried for all the world to act like we hadn’t just suffered through kitchen hell. We carefully filled our forks with a little bit of everything and took a bite. Chewing thoughtfully, Micah raised an eyebrow at me. Swallowing just as thoughtfully, he raised his glass. “Good dinner,” he said.

I had to agree. It was good. The salmon was rich and fatty, as it should be. The veggies were earthy and rustic, as planned. The citrusy salmoriglio sauce brightened every bite. The Pinot was not a perfect match, but it definitely worked.

We ate every bite on our plates, drank up every drop from our glasses.

It was time for dessert. I spread the frosting on the cake, then cut it into wedges and prayed for a miracle.

It was okay. The texture of the cake was weird and dense and chewy, and the frosting was perhaps a tad too sweet. Still, the flavors were delicious. Not a total failure, but certainly not a success.

Sometimes, I feel really confident as a cook. A meal will come together exactly as planned, we’ll groan in pleasure with every bite, and we’ll leave the table pleasantly full and still musing on just how damn good that meal just was. Then, there are nights like this one, when I’m not sure if I’m cooking or fighting to the death in the Hunger Games. But ultimately, despite all the drama, this story was less tragedy and more comedy of errors, with everything (sort of) working out.

In the end, nights like this remind me that I’ve still got a lot to learn in the kitchen. That’s probably a good thing. 🙂

Categories: musings, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

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