Tuesday, July 26, 2011

wild blueberry scones

as i grab my morning coffee, meander around town, and guzzle my best friend, i can't help but overhear conversations about blueberry picking. someone had some luck at their favorite spot up the trail. another hit the jackpot up the caribou trail. wherever you pick, the picking is starting! addie and i harvested a few handfuls right outside our backdoor, with very little effort, and we'll more than likely be making a batch of wild blueberry scones.

anyone who has made scones, or in my case, worked for a meticulous, austrian trained pastry chef, you know that there is an art to making scones. there is a certain amount of technique that needs to happen to make scones wonderful. scones are meant to be shaped, so forget those 'drop' scones that has you just dropping piles of dough on a baking sheet, and don't go near the scone pre-mixes. but don't fear scones, as they are a breeze to make! here's our basic recipe we use at the co-op.

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbl baking powder
6 Tbl sugar
10 Tbl butter
1 cup wild blueberries
2 cups heavy cream

in a large bowl mix together the four, sugar, and baking powder.

next, cut in the butter. this is an important step. you want to work the butter into the dry ingredients, but not too much. when the butter is worked down into pea sized chunks, stop working the butter. to work the butter, i like to use my fingers and mash and sift the butter and dry ingredients through my fingers.

next, add the fruit. wild blueberries are our choice this time.

make a well in the center of your ingredients, and pour in the cream. with a spoon, stir the ingredients together, and when they start to come together, ditch the spoon, and use your hands to gently work the dough into one giant dough ball mass. take this dough ball, and gently knead it about 2 or 3 times. now put the dough down, and don't mess with it anymore!

place the dough on a lightly floured surface, and gently pat it into a disc, about an inch and a half thick.

cut the disc into 8 wedges-like you would cut a pie. sprinkle turbinado sugar on the tops of each scone and place on a baking sheet.

bake in a 425 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes. devour while still warm! save a few for your neighbors! belly up!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

stuffed turkey burgers

i know that the sweltering heat may have folks in a comatose state, on their couches, in front of an a.c. unit, but i know better than to let the heat get the best of me. it won't be long before the cold winds take over and we are under frostbite warnings. instead, i'm learning to embrace the weather- one season at a time. after a days work, we head down to the beach and let the cool waters of lake superior chill us down. the icy waters pair wonderfully with the hot sun.

i was thinking about friends who work in restaurants, and how ridiculously hot it will be in their kitchens. the warm weather, the hot grills and ovens turning their kitchens into sweltering infernos. i remember those days when i was slinging hot saute pans around restaurants in the twin cities. the heat is so intense, it gets into your bones, and it takes hours of soaking under cool water and slurping cold brews before your senses return. i want for all of them to jump into lake superior.

during warmer days, when it is not an option to fire up the oven or stove top, i rely on our trusty grill. it is perched on our deck, where the cool breezes and fogs roll in from the lake, and gently blow across our faces. yesterday i was in the mood for burgers. i love grass-fed beef, but i didn't have any on hand. what i did have was ground turkey. i know, i know....but let me explain. turkey burgers can dry out a bit while you're cooking them, so you need to add a bit of fat the the lean ground meat to keep it moist. i did a little research, and in the test kitchens of cook's illustrated, they added cream soaked bread crumbs and bacon fat for the ultimate results. armed with this knowledge, i added a small amount of bacon fat and butter, along with some fresh chopped herbs and garlic, and the end results were fantastic!! oh, did i mention that i also stuffed the burgers with some eichten's smoked gouda i happened to have in the fridge? topped with avocados, spinach, and horseradish mayo we were happy with the results!

stuffed turkey burgers

1 pound ground turkey (preferably dark meat)
1 Tbl bacon fat
1 Tbl butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
1 spig fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp smoked sea salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

in a bowl, combine the above ingredients. divide the turkey mixture into four equal portions. with each portion, remove about 1/3 of the portion and set aside. with the remaining amount, form into a patty, top with a thick slab of smoked gouda, and using the remaining 1/3 of the turkey burger potion, place it on top of the cheese and smooth it together with the rest of the patty, creating a stuffed burger. make sure all of the cheese is encased in the burger! repeat with the remainder of the burgers.

preheat your grill! when the grill is ready, place the burgers on the grill, and grill for approximately 5-7 minutes on each side. you don't want to over-cook the burgers, so watch them carefully!

we served our burgers on grilled wild rice buns, but foccocia or some really good sourdough bread would be great. just give them a drizzle of olive oil and toast them a bit on the grill. we topped our burgers with avocado, spinach, and a dollop of horseradish mayo. enjoy!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

my travels had me in bayfield wisconsin this week. the weather was good. the island was fun. the strawberry picking was fantastic. well, okay. i know that going out into a hot and buggy field to pick strawberries in a bent-back stagger is not everyone's cup of tea. in fact, we were pretty much the only ones out there with the strawberries that afternoon, but i must confess that i love it. this year's crop was stunted from the wet and cool conditions of spring, but the crops have rebounded and are producing very small gems of strawberries with very sweet and condensed flavor. we picked at a farm called 'rocky acres', and the teal blue tractor from the 1970's? was the eye catching mascot.

when i see rows and rows of red, ripe strawberries, it is very difficult to regain my attention if you were looking to do so. i start swooning over the strawberry-rhubarb-vanilla bean jam i'm going to make as soon as i get home. i think about strawberry shortcakes laced with...maybe fresh basil and blue cornmeal. my mind is flipping through my flavor card catalog, combining the flavors of various things i have tasted. i can't help but think about how great sweet, ripe strawberries will taste with tangy, salty cheeses. you get the idea. so i approach pick yer' own strawberries with gusto, and this field was really there for me.

i did go home and make jam. a vanilla bean laced- fresh picked strawberry jam. i like to have homemade jams on hand for gifts, for thanking the many people who grace our lives. the jam takes a few days to set up, but i usually cannot resist opening up a jar and slathering the sweet berry goodness on buttery toast. here's a very basic recipe for the jam. i used sugar and went very traditional, like grams used to make. there are so many alternative sweeteners out there if you want to play around with the recipe. i used liquid pectin as i always seem to get better results. jam on!!

4 cups crushed strawberries
7 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise
juice of 1 small lemon
1 packet of liquid pectin

*prep your canning jars before you start! this means washing all of the jars and lids with hot soapy water, and then boiling those jars and lids so they are completely sanitary and clean. any impurities left on the jars can result in moldy- funky jar. you don't want that!

combine the strawberries, sugar, vanilla bean, and lemon juice in a large pot. place on high heat, and while stirring frequently, bring to a rolling boil. add the liquid pectin, bring back to a boil, and boil for 1 minute, stirring frequently. remove from heat, and place into prepared jars. wipe the rims of the jars, put the lids on, place in your canner, and process 10 minutes. *i do not have a canner, so i just submerge the jars in a large stock pot of boiling water, and let them hang out in the boiling water for 10 minutes.*

jam on!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ukulele songs, rainbows, and grilled chicken

i was in a euphoric state this weekend as the sun warmed grand marais like never before. the rocks on the beach were warm, and with our sun-kissed skin, we looked alive! then we jumped into lake superior and almost ruined our sun buzz. thankfully though, the sun stuck around, and warmed us back up. it was wonderful. i was thinking that the world was all rainbows and teddy bears. we finished our day listening to eddie vedder and his new 'ukulele songs'cd as we lounged about outside next to a grill. there is something about the combination of ukuleles and sunshine that seem to make grilled chicken taste better. it could have been the marinade as well....

i made a simple marinade with lemon and chilies that was wonderful with the chicken thighs we had, although i think it would go well with all parts of the chicken. maybe even veggies too. here's the recipe for simple lemon marinade;

juice and zest of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping teaspoon of *sambel oelek- use more or less depending on preference
1 sprig of rosemary, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup olive oil

*sambal oelek is a fresh ground chili paste that is available at the co-op and most specialty food stores

whisk together all of the ingredients. i placed 6 chicken thighs in a ziplock bag with the marinade and allowed it about 2 hours to marinate. you could leave it overnight, and the flavors would be even more intensly infused.

grill your marinated chicken for those char-grilled, crispy edges and a wonderfully moist and tender interior. i didn't take long, maybe about 15 minutes for the thighs. just enough time to steam some broccoli or throw together a salad. you'll be serenading your marinaded chicken with eddie and his ukulele in no time!! belly up!