Sunday, April 3, 2011

40 To 90 (?!!) Degrees: Fire Up The Grill!!

Oh, this mental Missouri weather.....we've been wrapped in a sheath of cold, wet and gray for so long that I had nearly forgotten what sunshine felt like. The warm rays gradually returned this week, as evidenced by my calorie-challenged kitty Ursula who arose from her long winter's nap to rapturously wallow in the first sunbeams. Girlfriend not only threw her paws to Jesus and bared her big belly to the sun, but then proceeded to fix me with a "What, you're not mixing me a Margarita yet?" look. The week started off with sleet, snow and chilliness and as the temps rose each day; climbed well past normal and settled at a warm 90 degrees. Thanks to the moderating environment, encouraging signs of Spring were abundant from the the progress of the little lettuces we planted to Keith hooking up the backyard fountains.

I am so not complaining about the heat, believe me. Bring on Spring, baby! The Cookbook Challenge celebrates this first real taste of spring AND summer with the first burgers on the grill. Bobby Flay provided the burger recipe and what a mouth-watering recipe it was: grilled turkey burgers with poblano pickle relish and avocado mayo. Every element of these burgers were thoroughly enjoyable. Grilled poblano peppers mixed with Keith's homemade dill pickles for the slightly spicy relish. Creamy avocado mayo. We were completely swooning over these bodacious packed with flavor, I didn't want them to end.

The side dish was aces also and came from a unique cookbook source: The Friends cookbook. Keith was a big fan of the hit NBC TV show Friends and indeed owned their cookbook. I chose the new potato salad recipe from this cookbook. I'm a little oddball when it comes to potato salad....too much mayo or egg and I'm out. The all-powerful potato gets buried by too much condiment cover for my taste sometimes. This particular recipe was a bit of a revelation. The potato salad was light, mayo-free and completely flavorful.

Dessert came from a bargain barbecue cookbook and was good but not great. I still recommend the process, though. Apples baked in foil on the grill filled with a honey-lemon sauce. The apples were delicious but I might factor in some cinnamon or something to balance the lemon. These were seriously lemony and I loves me some lemon but this was challenging. We served the apples with vanilla bean ice cream and that helped balance out the flavors. We used Granny Smith apples which are considered a cooking apple. I had no idea that some apples were considered cooking apples and others not. I'm still gettin' learnt real good!

In case you thought that this exercise was devoid of humor, rest assured that my usual comedy of errors played on as expected. I didn't get enough limes and had to return to the store mid-preparation. No sooner did I re-enter the kitchen from that trip, then Keith said, "Hand me the keys. We don't have hamburger buns." Seriously? Will my addled brain ever climb out of the cobwebs? Hopefully, some good weather will help shake off the psychic dustbunnies.

Speaking of which, we got the apples off the grill as the thunder rolled in and the lightning flashed. The watches and warnings are kicking off, so without further adieu and before any power outages, let's move on to the recipes.

Poblano Pickle Relish

2 poblano chilies, grilled, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
1 large or medium dill pickles, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon frshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours before serving.

Avocado Mayonnaise

1/2 ripe Haas avocado, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

Turkey Burgers

1 1/2 pounds ground turkey, 99% lean
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 slices Monterey Jack cheese, 1/2 ounce each (we used Colby Jack)

1. Heat your grill on high.
2. Shape the ground turkey with your hands into 4 round patties about 1 1/2 inches thick. Brush each burger on both sides with the oil and season with the salt and pepper. Grill until slightly charred on both sides and cooked completely through, about 4 minutes on each side. Place a slice of cheese on each burger, close the lid of the grill, and cook for 1 minute to melt the cheese. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.
3. Top each burger with 1 tablespoon of the mayo and a few tablespoons of the relish.

New Potato Salad

2 pounds new potatoes, washed well
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves

Place unpeeled potatoes in a medium pot. Add water to cover and bring to a boil. Simmer unitl the potatoes are tender when pierced with a long skewer, about 15 minutes. Do not let the potatoes become mushy or soft. Drain the potatoes and set them aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil until the dressing is smooth. Cut the slightly warm potaotes into slices about 1/4-inch thick slices. Toss the potato slices, dressing, and fresh herbs in a large serving bowl. Mix well and adjust seasonings. Refrigerate potato salad for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Baked Apples In Honey And Lemon

4 medium cooking apples
1 tablespoon honey
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon butter, melted

1. Remove the cores from the apples, leaving them whole. Cut four squares of double-thickness aluminum foil to wrap the apples and brush with butter.
2. With a sharp knife, cut lines through the apple at regular intervals.
3. Mix together the honey, zest, juice and butter in a small bowl.
4. Spoon the mixture into the apples and wrap in foil, sealing the edges securely.
Cook on a hot grill for 20 minutes, until the apples are tender.

These recipes represent Cookbook Challenge #37, 38 and 39.


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