The Fourth of July was always filled with fireworks and food in my home. It just wasn’t Independence Day without the standard burgers, hot dogs and my cousin throwing fireworks at me. It was not the most sophisticated event.
But now that I’ve reached adulthood, sometimes I want my food to be a little bit fancier. Not that there’s anything wrong with the standard burger, but it can be dressed up a bit with more than ketchup, mustard and American cheese.
Recently, I’ve discovered that a burger’s best friend is blue cheese. Blue cheese, on its own, can have a very strong flavor—one I don’t necessarily care for. But when mixed with the meaty, full flavor of beef, the blue cheese becomes more subtle.
And you can take it a step further. I mean, we are celebrating America. Let’s go over the top.
So I combined two things: a food idea that came from my friend Anna and the Juicy Lucy. Anna’s creation was a blue cheese/cream cheese mixture she threw on some brats we ate before a Royals game a few months ago.
The second, the Juicy Lucy, hails from Minnesota, where restaurants serve burgers stuffed (rather than topped) with cheese, which becomes molten when grilled. It’s delicious.
So I put the two ideas together. I stuffed a ground beef patty with the blue cheese/cream cheese mixture and grilled it up. I put it on a ciabatta roll with lettuce. You can also put it on a good ol’ hamburger bun, but I find the ciabatta roll gave it a better foundation for stuffing your face.
Alongside the burger, I wanted to dress up the sides. Instead of some boring French fries, I made a French tian. It’s a vegetable bake in a tart dish made with potatoes, summer squash, Roma tomatoes, and zucchini. So not only does it look fancy, it uses veggies that are already in season. You could even find most of these at local farmers markets and co-ops if you didn’t want to hit the grocery store.
For dessert, baked peaches with butter and brown sugar is an easy and satisfying dessert you could actually make on a grill if you felt like it. Put butter and brown sugar on top of ripe peaches and bake for 30 minutes or until caramelized. I suggest serving with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream just as soon as you’re ready to start your family’s fireworks show.
Red, White and Blue Burger
Makes 2 burgers
For the patty:
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
For the blue cheese cream cheese:
2 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
2 tablespoons of soft or spreadable cream cheese
1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
Mix patty ingredients with hands and divide into four balls.
With two balls, form the bottom halves of the patties, making a small indentation or well in the middle of each one.
Mix cream cheese, blue cheese and Worcestershire together. Put one tablespoon of the mixture in the indentation of each of the patties.
With the other two ground-beef balls, form the top halves of the patties and place on the bottom halves. Press edges together, sealing around the filling.
Place on a hot grill. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, flipping once. Serve on buns with the fixings of your choice.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
1-2 Russet potatoes, unpeeled
1 yellow squash
3 large Roma tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Dried thyme, to taste
1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9-inch pie plate or tart dish baking dish (preferably ceramic) with olive oil cooking spray. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Once hot, add the onions and saute until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 60 seconds. Spread the onion mixture on the bottom of the greased baking dish.
Slice the potatoes, zucchini, squash and tomatoes in quarter-inch thick slices. Arrange them in one layer in the dish on top of the onions, alternating and fitting them tightly into a spiral.
Season with salt, black pepper and dried thyme to taste. Drizzle the last tablespoon of olive oil over the top.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Uncover and sprinkle the parmesan cheese and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until browned.
—Adapted from the blog For the Love of Cooking
Brown Sugar Baked Peaches
1 fresh peach
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, divided
2 to 4 teaspoons of brown sugar,
Ground cinnamon, to taste
Halve peaches and remove pits. Place in baking dish, skin side down.
Place 1/2 teaspoon butter in the hollow of each peach half, top each one with 1 or 2 teaspoons brown sugar, and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake at 375 degrees until peaches are tender, about 30 minutes. Serve warm.
—Adapted from the blog The Kitchen is My Playground
BERRIES:DE — food (750 words)
Pair salmon with strawberry salsa
By Susan M. Selasky
Detroit Free Press
Last week, I was awash in one of Michigan’s best home-grown gems: strawberries.
Strawberries, of course, are super eaten out of hand.
But they work just as well in main dishes from chicken to fish. In today’s recipe, I used strawberries in a salsa along with mango, basil and, for crunch, cucumber. You can use peaches or nectarines, too. But I chose mango because it’s in season now and mighty tasty.
It’s best to make the salsa at least an hour in advance. Fresh strawberries are very juicy, and the longer the mixture sits, the juicier it will be.
Salmon and citrus are a good match. So this salsa is paired with broiled orange-glazed salmon. Using the broiler makes this a quick dish. It takes just a few minutes for the broiler to preheat and the salmon cooks in about 8 to 10 minutes, depending on its thickness. Another reason I like to broil salmon is the top gets a nice deep golden color.
You just need to keep an eye on the salmon so it doesn’t overcook. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that most seafood be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Use an instant-read thermometer to check. If you don’t have one, it’s a good idea to invest in one.
Another indication the salmon is done is that it should separate easily with a fork — not flake. To me, if it flakes, it’s way overdone.
To ensure the salmon stays moist, you can brine it. Dissolve 1¼2 cup kosher salt and 1¼2 cup sugar in about 10 to 12 cups water. Add the salmon, refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Remove and rinse the salmon thoroughly and pat dry.
Thanks to an easy glaze, the top of the salmon gets a thin caramelized coating.
For this glaze, I used leftover fruit juice stashed away in the freezer. Whenever I have juice that’s not being put to use, I freeze it in ice cube trays or muffin tins. Having a bag of the frozen juice cubes already portioned out makes it handy for dishes such as this one.
You take out just what you need and the juice cubes defrost quickly at room temperature or in the microwave. If you freeze the juice in a muffin tin, each portion is just about 1¼2 cup. Using an ice cube tray, each cube is a good 2 tablespoons.
Finally, nutrition-wise, strawberries and spinach are a good pair, providing antioxidants.
BROILED SALMON WITH STRAWBERRY-MANGO SALSA AND SPICY SPINACH
Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 15 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1¼2 pound strawberries, washed, diced
1 cup diced cucumber, peeled if desired
1 mango, peeled, diced
3 tablespoons sliced basil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 salmon fillets (about 4 ounces each) with skin on
1¼2 cup favorite citrus juice (such as blood orange juice, orange juice or mango-lemonade)
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon orange marmalade or apricot jam
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 bag (10-12 ounces) baby spinach leaves, rinsed but not dried
1¼2 tablespoon olive oil
1¼4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes to taste, optional
In a medium bowl, combine all the salsa ingredients. Set aside. You can make this several hours in advance.
Rinse and pat dry the salmon. Place salmon on a foil-lined baking broiler pan or baking sheet.
In a small saucepan, combine the juice, the Dijon, jam, brown sugar, kosher salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil and cook about 3 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Set aside half of the mixture in a separate bowl. Brush the other half on the salmon.
Preheat the broiler low with the rack 6 to 8 inches from the heat source.
Broil salmon about 8 minutes depending on thickness. Spoon remaining juice mixture over salmon and continue broiling another 6 or so minutes until salmon is just cooked through.
While salmon cooks, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add spinach with water still on the leaves, cover and cook 5 minutes or until spinach is wilted, stirring occasionally. If desired, drizzle the spinach with olive oil and sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes. Divide spinach among plates.
Slide a spatula between the salmon and the skin and place the salmon piece on the spinach. Top with the salsa and serve.
From and tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
339 calories (38 percent from fat), 15 grams fat (3 grams sat. fat), 27 grams carbohydrates, 26 grams protein, 505 mg sodium, 67 mg cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.
©2013 Detroit Free Press
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PHOTO (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): SALMON-STRAWBERRIES