Monday, June 28, 2010


Some food historians believe that the origin of what we now call hamburger stems from the Mongols, who if we believe what we are told, put low-grade cuts of meat under their saddles to tenderize it, and at the end of their long day ate it raw.

In the thirteenth century the Mongols, called Tartares by the Russians, invaded Moscow and brought their “ground” beef with them. The Russians adapted the dish and called it Steak Tartare, which has become quite the delicacy and can be found on the menu in very fine restaurants. The dish now includes an egg yolk, capers, mustard, grated onion, and seasonings. It has a spectacular presentation, and is usually served and mixed at table by the Maitre d’.

So, how do we get from Russia to Germany? Some food historians claim that in the 1600’s German sailors from the port of Hamburg began stopping in Russian ports where they were introduced to—you got it—Steak Tartare, which they brought back to their native city. The Hamburgians adapted the dish by shredding their poorer cuts of meat, adding some seasoning, cooking it, and changing the name to Hamburg Steak. When folks from Hamburg began immigrating to the United States, guess what they brought with them—you got it—Hamburg Steak. Here in the States, it has been adapted and shortened to just plain Hamburg, which has become synonymous with ground beef.

The Hamburg has been further adapted by yours truly. From frustration born from serving too many bad burgers, I began experimenting and came up with this recipe. It made sense that if binders could be added to ground beef to create meat loaf, why not burgers? Hence, Bobbie Sue’s Burgers. Tasty and moist even if I do so myself, but don’t rely on my word ask Bella—she’ll tell you straight. And, so will anyone else who’s had them.

Notes for this recipes: The bread will flavor the burger, so be sure to use one that will compliment the flavor you wish to achieve or at least be neutral. The home made bread I use would probably translate into 1-1/2 slices of commercial bread. Other herbs can be substituted for the thyme to suit your taste. (In summer I often use Summer Savory or Basil.) Adding additional liquid is not recommended as the burger becomes too wet. If you are grilling, preheat the grill for at least 10 minutes and spray the racks with a little olive oil to prevent sticking before putting on the burgers.

Bobbie Sue's Burgers

1/4 c. (approx.) milk

1 egg

1 thick slice whole grain bread

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 tsp. (heaping) horseradish

1 tsp. (heaping) Dijon or coarse mustard

1 tsp. thyme, crushed or 1 Tbsp fresh time



In a bowl mix together the milk and egg. Tear bread into this mixture and allow to set until bread in completely softened. About 10 minutes. With your hands mix the bread and egg to finish breaking down the bread.

Add the ground beef, horseradish, mustard, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly. With a ½ solid cup measure shape into patties and broil or grill to desired doneness.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

30 Minutes or Less

When warmer weather comes we move from the heavier comfort foods of winter to the lighter grilled foods of summer. Dinner is often grilled beef or poultry with a simple salad of mixed greens from our garden. Once the veggies start coming in these too are grilled and basted with a sauce laced with the fresh herbs DH clips from the garden.
This is one of our favorite grilled chicken dishes. The sauce is simple and takes about 3 minutes to prepare, and the chicken grills up in about 20. The grill preheats while you make the sauce, and the chicken grills while you throw together a salad. A delicious and nutritious dinner in 30 minutes or less.

Most recently this dish was grill and go! For Father's Day DH and I packed an impromptu picnic dinner and headed to the river. Food always tastes better when eaten al fresco!

Notes for this dish: Use tongs to turn the chicken. Forks make holes allowing the juices to escape. No forks! If using fresh rosemary, boost to 1 tsp.
Piquant Grilled Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 Tbsp. white wine
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. celery seed
½ tsp. rosemary, crushed
Light the grill and allow to preheat for at least 10 minutes. In the meantime, wash chicken breasts and set aside.

Measure all remaining ingredients into a small bowl. Stir with a whisk to combine.

Brush the one side of the chicken breasts with the sauce. Place the chicken breasts basted side down on the preheated grill. Brush the other side with the sauce. Close the lid and grill the breasts for 10 minutes. Brush a little more sauce onto the chicken breasts and turn them over with tongs. Brush the upper side with a little more sauce. Close the lid and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. If after 10 minutes the breasts are not cooked, baste with more sauce and turn again cooking only until cooked through. Remove to a platter and serve.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A First Rate Debut

Raisin Bread is right at the top of my quintessential comfort food list. In my younger days, the perfect breakfast or snack--heavily buttered Raisin Bread toast. Just the thought of it makes my mouth water. Both DH and Bella have an affinity for Raisin Bread, as well. Bella like hers with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top of her butter. DH likes his any way he can get it.
For some months I’d been half-heartedly working on a Raisin Bread recipe. I’d make it, take notes, adjust, tweak, and on it went. A few weeks ago while preparing for my upcoming summer vacation, I decided to bring a loaf of Raisin Bread. (The area we vacation in has many attractions, but decent bread isn’t among them.) This was the perfect opportunity for the Raisin Bread to make its debut. After some thought, I decided one loaf would last the week. I was, after all, bringing several other loaves.

Saturday morning breakfast, out comes the Raisin Bread. Within moments of consuming her first piece, Bella was asking for the recipe. Everyone had a slice, and then another. I’m not sure exactly how many pieces of toast everyone had for breakfast, but Monday morning we were negotiating for crusts! That is what I call a first rate debut.

Hints for this recipe:
1. Flour--I use only King Arthur Flours, period. You don't have to, although I encourage you to. When it comes to bread, for the best results do use bread flour, it is specially formulated for bread and will produce a superior loaf.
2. Yeast: Instant yeast is specially formulated for bread machines. It is less heat sensitive and gives an excellent result. My instant yeast of choice: SAF Red Instant Yeast. It can be found in a 16 oz. bag at most Whole Foods stores and at King Arthur (click for link).
3. Manual rising tip: Place a rack over a 9x13 inch pan. Fill the pan with boiling water. Set the bowl or loaf pan containing the dough on the rack, cover with a towel.

Raisin Bread
2 c. white bread flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1-1/4 c. water
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
1 c. raisins

Bread Machine Method:

Measure all ingredients into the work bowl of your bread machine. Place work bowl in the machine and set on regular bread cycle with a light crust.

Watch while bread is mixing, adding enough water, if necessary, to form a smooth and elastic dough. Close lid and allow cycle to complete. When the bread is baked, remove from work bowl to the counter to cool.

Manual Method: Lightly grease a bowl and set aside. In another large mixing bowl combine all ingredients. Mix with a wooden spoon until dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Lightly flour a smooth flat surface (a counter top or cutting board), and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough with your hands until it is a smooth and elastic, re-flouring the surface as necessary to prevent sticking—about 15 minutes. Place the dough in the greased bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with a towel and set in a warm place to rise. When dough has doubled in volume (it should be light and puffy and when poked leave an indentation), about 60 minutes, punch down and remove from bowl onto a lightly floured surface.

Grease a regular loaf (9x5) pan and set aside. Shape dough into a 9 inch log. Place in prepared pan. Cover with a towel and let rise until double in volume, about 60 minutes. Loaf should be nicely domed. Again, when poked is should leave an indentation that is slow to close. Preheat oven to 350. Bake loaf for about 30 minutes or until it is golden brown. To test, thump lightly on the bottom of the pan, it will sound hollow. Cool in pan for ten minutes. Then remove loaf to wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Food Fest Finale

There are some dishes that become favorites in every family. In ours, one of these dishes is Chicken Pineapple. For a while, Bella requested this dish on every special occasion. It is still a favorite family meal.

When my cousin Cole and I were doing menu planning during our recent stay, we needed another dinner dish. This one came to mind. It has fabulous flavor, can be prepped ahead of time, and takes about 20 minutes to finish. It also had some techniques I wanted to teach Cole, building on what we had already been working on, which meant that it fit nicely with the on-going cooking lesson theme of our visit. It also meant we were back to chicken! The ingredients for Chicken Pineapple were added to the grocery list for our Power Shop, and off we went. The dish was a huge hit, and a nice addition to Cole's repertoire. It was also the finale of our weekend food fest!

Several weeks ago, Cole left a message on the answering machine asking about Chicken Pineapple. She had checked the blog, but the recipe wasn’t there. Life had been zooming along and although I’d begun the post, had not been able to finish it. I was delighted Cole was making this dish again, and so soon, too! Now several more weeks have passed and finally!!! Here it is the incredible, edible Chicken Pineapple.

Chicken Pineapple

4 Tbsp. canola oil

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 2” piece of fresh ginger

1 fresh, ripe pineapple

3 large carrots, peeled

2 stalks celery

1 green pepper, seeded

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

¼ c. water

Kosher salt


2 c. white rice

4 c. water

To prepare the pineapple:

Hold the pineapple firmly and twist off the leaves.

Place the pineapple of a cutting board and cut off the ends.

It is time to cut away the skin.

Stand the pineapple on its bottom. Select a long, very sharp knife. Cut the skin away following the contour of the pineapple. For the second cut, use the "eyes" as a guide.

Continue cutting carefully and cleanly, continuing to follow the contours of the pineapple until all the peel has been removed.

Stand the pineapple on it's bottom. Cut it in half right through the core.

Cut each half in half length-wise creating four quarters. Cut the core from each quarter by standing it on end, grasping it firmly with your finger tips and cut downwards just and the edge of the core. Set the cores aside for eating later or nibble on them while you prepare the dish.

Cut each quarter in half length-wise.

Cut each of the eight spears of pineapple into one inch pieces.

Place the pineapple pieces in a bowl and cover them with 2 cups of water. Set aside and let set for at least 20 minutes and several hours in the refrigerator, if possible.

Make the rice: Place rice and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Meanwhile....

To finish the dish, remove pineapple from the refrigerator, drain liquid into 2 cup measure. Set the pineapple and liquid aside. Have 4 small bowls at the ready.

Cut the chicken into bite-sized cubes and place in a small bowl. Peel the ginger and slice and place with the chicken.

Slice the carrots and the celery on the diagonal into pieces about ½ inch thick, and place in another small bowl. Slice green pepper, and place in a small bowl. In the 4th bowl, mix the cornstarch and ¼ c. water, set aside.

Place a wok or large, heavy skillet on the stove. Turn the burner to high and add the oil.

Add the chicken and ginger and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the pineapple. Add enough liquid to make 2 cups and add to the skillet. Bring to a boil. Cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the peppers and stir them in. Give the the cornstarch and water mixture a good stir and add to the wok. Cook for a few minutes until slightly thickened and the peppers are crisp tender.

Serve immediately with the rice.