Seattle Beerfest is this Weekend (July 1-3)

Image by digitalart

If you’re going to be in Seattle this weekend and have a fondness for the hoppy beverage check out my latest article on Examiner.com for all the details on the Seattle Beerfest, July 1-3.

Advertisements

Kick Your Grilling Up a Notch With Cheese Stuffed Burgers

Blue Cheese Stuffed Burgers

Seattle is finally enjoying some sun after days of rain with more on the horizon. When it’s sunny, Seattleites flock to the outdoors and the smell of charcoal wafts through the neighborhoods. When I catch that smell I start thinking of burgers. Cheese stuffed burgers to be exact.

Burgers stuffed with cheese is the savory equivalent of a jelly donut. You get a crisp bun, meat that is positively juicy – no medium-well only at our house – and gooey, hot cheese filling in the middle. Forget the ordinary burgers, once you start stuffing your meat you’ll never go back.  (For the slider version of this savory treat, check out my recipe in the Nudie Foodies: Food Bloggers Peel for Japan cookbook.) 

Cheese Stuffed Burgers

Ingredients: Makes 4

  • 1.25 pounds of ground beef. Minimum fat of 7% but you can go higher if you like.
  • Cheese: grated or broken into pieces. We like Cougar Gold Cheddar, Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar and Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue Cheese.
  • Hamburger buns (buy or make your own, just make sure they are not too squishy);
  • Waxed paper.

Optional:

  • Onions: either raw or grilled, I prefer the carmelized taste of grilled onions;
  • Lettuce;
  • Tomato;
  • Variety of condiments (mustard, mayo, but no ketchup please, it overwhelms the taste).

Step One: Get Your Grill Going (For Charcoal Grills Only)

If you’re a fan of the gas grill, skip on down to Step Two, but if you’re charcoal grill fans like us, you’ll want to get your grill going before you start assembling your stuffed burgers. Unlike traditional burgers, stuffed meat requires indirect or slow heat. We get our charcoal going and let the coals heat for about 20 minutes before putting the burgers on the grill.

Step Two: Forming and Stuffing the Hamburger Patties

Each stuffed burger requires two thin patties. So for four burgers, you need eight patties.  Roll your meat out as thin as a pie crust and then use a glass to make patties of matching size.  

On four of the patties layer your cheese in the middle of each patty. Be generous with that cheesy filling. Once your cheese is in place put another patty on top and crimp the edges of the two patties together to seal the cheese inside the meat. 

Step Three: Start Grilling

Now that your stuffed burgers are assembled, it’s time to get them on the grill. You want to cook on low or indirect heat so the cheese can melt.

Stuffed Burgers on the grill

15-20 minutes is optimal for achieving volcanic, cheesy, fabulousness. During the last few minutes we like to spray our hamburger buns with a decent coating of olive oil and throw them on the grill. Once everything is cooked, take it off the grill and assemble as you see fit. With a blue cheese filled burger I favor onions (raw or grilled) and Maille’s chocolate-mustard – my homage to Paris.

And one last but vital note – there is an art to eating a stuffed burger, go slow and hold the back of the burger down so the cheese doesn’t go exploding out the back when you take that first bite 😉

Hamburgers on Foodista

Easy, Elegant Appetizer: Crispy Pancetta, Gooey Blue Cheese and Sweet Dates

Pancetta Wrapped, Blue Cheese Stuffed, Dates

When trying to pull a cocktail hour off on a weeknight, my goal is simple: provide an array of elegant, substantive, appetizers that I can put together in the hour or so between work and the minute the first guest arrives.  Ambitious? Perhaps, but very doable.  Here’s my secret.

Appetizers

  • Nuts and/or olives:  Interesting is always better. Think salt and pepper pistachios from Whole Foods or lemon stuffed olives.
  • Cheese: The perfect cheese plate contains a hard cheese (a sharp aged cheddar, pecorino or manchego), a soft cheese (chevre or brie), a cheese of interest like Humboldt Fog or Stilton with apricots, and a blue or gorgonzola cheese. Garnish with fresh raspberries, strawberries, grapes, honey and/or fig spread.
  • Baguette from the best bakery available, preferably French.
  • Something Sweet: I prefer cookies, like Chocolate-Cherry cookies, truffles, anything individual sized.

And then there’s the secret weapon:

Pancetta Wrapped, Blue Cheese Stuffed, Dates

  • Pitted Dates: 4-6 per person
  • Blue Cheese Crumbles
  • Pancetta: 4 ounces for 24 dates
  • Toothpicks, one per date

Preheat  oven to 375 degrees.

Cut dates in half and lay them on a cutting board for easy assembly.

Using a spoon, fill one half of each date with blue cheese and place the other half on top to “close” the date.

Tear the pancetta into strips.

Wrap each date with a strip of pancetta and secure with a toothpick. Place on the baking sheet.

When the baking sheet is full or you’ve wrapped as many dates as needed, put the baking sheet with dates into the oven for 20-30 minutes.

After 15 minutes, flip the wrapped dates and turn the cookie sheet around for more even baking.

These can be served warm (not hot) or at room temperature if you want to make them a few hours before serving.

When I serve these there are rarely any left. What’s your secret appetizer weapon?

Fortune Cookie Says . . .

Image: © Amy Halucha | Dreamstime.com

It is better to have beans and bacon in peace than cakes and ale in fear.”

Hmmm . . . I’m not so sure about that, cakes and ale are pretty good and what’s life without a little adrenaline?  What do you think?

Cherry and Chocolate Affair Conceives Captivating Cookie

 

For years I’ve baked by the book, deviating only once or twice. But I decided it’s time to let creativity into my kitchen, damn the mistakes and bowls of dough donated to yard waste. 

I began dreaming of cookies. I wanted something rich and indulgent but with a tangy, sweet edge.

The indulgent part was easy – what’s more luxurious in a cookie than chocolate? With chocolate as a base, I started thinking of fruity pairings. Apricot? No, better with white chocolate. Pineapple? Possible, but still seems to miss the mark. And then it became obvious, cherries. But not any old cherry, Bing cherries.  

I began whipping the components of a recipe around in my mind and then took to the test kitchen and failed. Hmm, sometimes you can’t use salted butter in a pinch. With round one a yard waste donation, it was time for round 2. It yielded success in the form of:

Chocolate-Cherry Cookies

Ingredients

  • 3/4 c. unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 8 oz. dried Bing cherries

Melt chocolate. You can do this using a double boiler or go the easy route and follow the microwave directions on the package. Just microwave in 30 second bouts at a reduced power level (like 5) and vigorously stir between each round as sometimes the chocolate keeps its shape but is actually all melty inside and just needs a good stirring.

Melt butter in microwave until 80% melted (about 50 seconds on Power Level 5).

Combine sugar and butter in a medium bowl. Use electric mixer on low to beat together.

 Add egg, vanilla and chocolate and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl add the flour, salt and baking soda. Sift together (or stir if you don’t have a sifter or don’t want to be bothered).

Add flour mixture gradually into chocolate mixture until well blended. 

Stir in cherries.

Refrigerator at least 1/2 hour.

When you are ready to bake. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll dough into balls and place on cookie sheet (you can roll the balls  in sugar first if you like). Gently press the middle of each ball to flatten it 1/2 way, as if you were making a shallow thumbprint cookie.

Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove to wire rack and let cool.

Makes approximately 2 dozen.

Can’t get enough cherries? Check out Eat the Love’s Bing Cherry Goat Cheese Tart and see what he does with fresh cherries.

Baking Cookies on Foodista

Charcuterie and Cheese

Memorial Day weekend the stars aligned and Jim and I escaped for our overdue weekend alone in Westport.

As we neared the end of our two-hour drive to the Washington coast, hunger set in and Bay City Sausage Market appeared on the side of the road like a forest oasis.

Bay City Sausage Market features fresh home-made sausage and beef jerky. You can also order smoked whole turkeys year-round and if you’re the meat raising or fish catching type have your fish or clams vacuum packed and your meat custom cut, processed, smoked and packaged to your specifications. But we were on a search solely for sustenance.

We were greeted by the smell of pepper jerky just out of the smoker and a case stuffed with smoked sausage variety. We chose three in sliced, ready-to-eat snack packs: the Mulligan, a beef and pork blend billed as “EXTRA HOT,” Hungarian, a mild pork sausage smothered in paprika, and German Garlic, a beef and pork blend with a “super garlicky flavor.”  With sausage in hand, I started dreaming of a charcuterie and cheese plate paired with a bottle of red, devoured in the sun. Better get something for the road . . .

Gnawing on hot peppery beef jerky, we drove on toward Westport, with a quick stop at the Westport Winery for a wine tasting, bottle of syrah and cheese.  Washington State University Creamery Crimson Fire, Wilamette Valley Cheese Co. Farmstead Herb de Provence Havarti, and Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue.

We arrived in Westport and headed straight to the condo’s kitchen to assemble our finds and pour our wine. Then it was out to the back patio to take in the salt air, sun and watch our neighbors below filleting their catch of the day. The cheese and sausage combinations danced and whirled together on our palates. First a fiery blast of jalapeno in the Crimson Fire Cheese, then the mellowing taste of the Hungarian sausage. Next the sharp tang of the Smokey Blue and the heat of the Mulligan. All accompanied by the steadying boldness of the syrah.

No crackers, bread, almonds, or olives needed. This cheese and sausage combination can stand on its own.

What’s your favorite item on a charcuterie plate?  Have any cheeses to recommend?

A Taste of Harrods Royal Wedding Tea

Jim’s daughter Jamie spent last semester in London, just in time for all the Royal Wedding pageantry, commemorative stamps, plates, coins, and other assorted “collectibles.” Knowing my obsession with all things legally ingestible she brought the most iconically British Royal Wedding collectible home for me – tea.

Before opening my gift, I was instructed to smell the wrapped package. The heady scent of rose overwhelmed me and caused me to guess “soap” when prompted. In truth, potpourri flashed through my mind but I’m pretty sure no one’s actually purchased potpourri since the 1980s. Some thin bar like substances in the package – which turned out to be chocolate – also hindered my guess work.

She laughed no and I opened my package to reveal Harrods English Rose Wedding Tea. A mix of black tea riddled with rose petals. Naturally, it needed to be tasted immediately.

When steeped, the tea became a rich caramel color. The rose emitted a luxurious scent that translated to a feeling more than a taste; a pleasant pulse in the middle of the back throat. The tea tasted slightly floral but predominantly soothing like a cashmere throw on a chilly spring night.

It did not need to be gussied up with cream and sugar. Like Kate’s dress, it was simple and elegant. How very British.