Sunday, October 23, 2011

"All Red" Rice and Beans

Red Bull, red carpet, red light, redheads: all things we are attracted to because of their vibrant common color, right?  Some believe our eyes are physically drawn to this color.  Just think of all the companies that incorporate red into their marketing schemes.  There’s always a reason…
 During my last grocery shopping trip, I guess was seeing red.  Out of the paper shopping bags, I pulled a can of tomatoes, a red onion, a red pepper, and a can of red beans.  They say you need to strike a color balance on the dinner plate.  I failed that test– you caught me red handed.  So I called malarkey on this rule for the day and created a tasty, but completely red, dish.  It was a hybrid of Spanish rice with beans and goat cheese for a more filling, warm and creamy meal.  I love the familiar flavors of chili powder, cumin, and sautéed garlic and onions, and the red bell pepper adds a varied texture.  And goat cheese…what is it not good in? For those of us looking for a quick, filling, and cheap meal, this fits the bill well.  There is lots of room for experimentation, as well.   Almost nothing is irreplaceable in this recipe, so don’t sweat it if you’re short a couple ingredients or want to substitute in others.  Follow your stomach!   

“All Red” Rice and Beans
1 cup long grain Basmati rice
2 cups tomato juice (like V8)
1 chicken bouillon cube
½ cup diced canned tomatoes, drained
1 cup water (add incrementally as needed while rice cooks)
5 T olive oil, divided (3 T/ 2 T)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ cup red onion, finely diced
½ cup red pepper, chopped
1 (15oz) can red kidney beans
1 t salt
Chili powder
Cayenne Pepper
¼ cup goat cheese, crumbled
Cilantro, garnish

1.       In a large pot, combine rice, tomato juice, bouillon cube, tomatoes, and 3 T olive oil.  Place over high heat until comes to a boil.
2.       Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
3.       Meanwhile, in a small non-stick pan, add 2 T olive oil, and place over medium heat. 
4.       Once oil is hot, add garlic and cook for 1 min.  Add onions and peppers, cook for about 3-5 minutes, or until onions have become translucent and peppers are soft.
5.       Add onion and pepper mixture, beans, and seasoning to rice about 5 minutes before rice is finished cooking. 
6.       Once rice is done, add goat cheese and gently stir to incorporate.  Garnish with cilantro for a pop of color.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Middle Eastern Spiced Burgers

Grilling: a traditional American culinary sport.  But do you cancel the game when it’s raining or too cold? A hamburger was sounding so good!  I doubt that your dollar store umbrella will hold up to the heat of standing over a grill for 30 minutes.  So, you gotta move it inside.  No, not the grill; the cooking.
Hamburgers on the stovetop may not have the same manly appeal or smoky charcoal  taste, but with the programmable heat of a stove top, you truly become “grill master”.   There is no waiting for the grill to heat up, or poking the coals in an attempt to distribute the heat.  The stove top ensures instant, even heat – aka the way to a perfectly cooked burger.   If you still want to cook with the dry heat quality of the grill, I would recommend using a well seasoned cast-iron skillet.  If you have a non-stick skillet though, I have a plan for that too. 
Diverging again from tradition, I chose to season by hamburger with Middle Eastern spices like allspice, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, and fresh parsley from the herb garden.  When I season burgers, I use the smell test – if you can smell the spices, not faintly or overwhelmingly, you are golden.  (It’s kinda like that smell test you use when you wake up and decide that this sock is clean and that one is…ugh, not.) Egg, olive oil, and breadcrumbs were my binders, so the burgers wouldn’t fall apart while cooking.  As for the cooking device, the cast-iron was dirty, so the non-stick frying pan won out.  So instead of technically grilling these burgers, they were semi-deep fried in olive oil.  Great choice.  These burgers had a crispy outer crust, but were still dripping on the inside with juices, and loaded with fragrant spices.  
The last thing I would recommend is smearing your burger with a dollop of plain Greek Yogurt, and pairing with with thin slices of tomato and cucumber.  So, while it’s not your all-American cookout-style burger, it may be your new favorite creative alternative.     

Middle Eastern Spiced Burgers
1 clove garlic, finely diced
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 T lemon juice
1 lb ground beef (80/20 or 85/15, don’t go too lean)
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (can substitute regular pepper too)
1 tsp salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
½ cup bread crumbs
2 T olive oil + about ½ cup, divided

1.       Using your hands, mix together all ingredients, except ¼ cup olive oil, until well combined. **Do not over work meat, as it will make your burger tough. 

2.       Preheat medium sized skillet with ¼ cup olive oil over medium heat. **DO NOT let oil smoke, or get too hot.
3.       Form six 1-inch-thick patties with ground beef mixture. 

4.       After verifying oil is hot (hover hand over oil to feel heat or place piece of bread to see if the oil sizzles and browns the bread), gently place patties in oil 3 at a time. Oil should sizzle once beef is placed in. 
5.       Cook over medium heat for about 4 minutes per side, flipping once.   

6.       Once browned and cooked through, remove from oil and place on paper towels to absorb remaining oil.