Monday, April 29, 2013

CheeseBurger in Paradise

There it is. The All American Classic that inspired another: Jimmy Buffet's Cheeseburger in Paradise.

The story goes that after savoring one of these tasty sandwiches at the Cabbage Key Inn, on a small island off the west coast of Florida, Jimmy was inspired to sing about it.  At the Inn the only hint that something inspirational happened here is the signature song blaring from the sound system of a departing tour boat. Otherwise, there is no mention of Jimmy -- on the menu, on the souvenir t-shirts, or on the dollar bill papered walls of the restaurant and bar. But, burger lovers on boats of all shapes and sizes slip into the  dock and walk up the hill for a chance to sample  that American creation on which they feed.

Let me tell you they will not be disappointed: The Cabbage Key Cheeseburger is a hand formed pattie of high quality beef served with perfect burger to bun ration. I told the Cap'n and our friends Andy and Christine that I was going to place my order just like Jimmy sings it in concert: Hands raised above his head, clapping along in time to:

I like mine with lettuce and tomato 
Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes 
Big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer 
Well good god almighty which way do I steer

But then we found out that fries are not served ( no fire department on the island, so no deep fryer), the beer was only served in cans and bottles, and I saw nary a bottle of Heinz 57. So I opted for a more subdued "Medium with potato salad, please". Heaven on Earth with an Onion Slice.

Sadly, we can't spend every day eating burgers in Paradise. There are healthier options for those days you just want a burger but need something a bit lighter. Here is one of my favorites, inspired by the flavors of another paradise:

Grilled Mediterranean Turkey Burger

1 lb ground turkey (mixture of light and dark meat)
1 C feta cheese, crumbled*
1/2 C chopped Kalamata olives
1/2  roasted red pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 T chopped fresh oregano, or 1 t dried
1 t chopped fresh rosemary, or 1/2 t dried
salt and pepper to taste

* sometimes you can find crumbled feta with seasonings. If so, you do not need to add the oregano and rosemary.

Rolls or Pita,  sliced tomatoes, sliced red onion

Combine turkey, feta, olives, garlic, herbs & seasonings. Shape into four patties. Let rest for a least 10 minutes.
Grill over a medium flame for about 5 minutes per side.

Serve on warmed rolls, or Pita, with sliced tomatoes and red onion. A leafy green salad is nice on the side.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Carrots, Chickpeas and Fried Almonds -- Oh My!

Did someone say Fried Almonds? I'll admit that was the first ingredient that popped off the screen when I first read the Serious Eats version of this recipe.  Then I looked more closely: chickpeas, carrots, cumin and  I was intrigued. A crunchy, savory, side salad with a promising flavor profile. I had just picked up some fresh carrots and parsley at the St. Petersburg, FL Saturday Farmers market, and I always have a can or two of chickpeas in the pantry, so I was good to go

Carrot and Chickpea Salad with Fried Almonds (adapted from Serious Eats)

serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds ( or whole almonds, chopped)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, from 2 lemons
  • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 cups packed fresh cilantro or parsley leaves and tender stems, divided
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin - divided
  • 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons turmeric - divided
  • 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper - 1/4 t will give you a good kick
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • One (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pound carrots about 5-6 large, peeled and coarsely shredded
  1. In a heavy skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the almonds and 1/4 t each of cumin and tumeric. Cook, stirring, until just beginning to turn golden. Remove from heat, drain on a paper towel
    In a food processor, combine the lemon juice, garlic, 1 and 3/4 cups of the cilantro or parsley , remaining cumin & tumeric, smoked paprika,  cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and half of the almonds. Pulse until chopped. Add the olive oil and process to a chunky paste. Transfer to a large bowl and toss with the carrots and chickpeas. Season to taste with more salt and pepper as desired. Chop the remaining cilantro or parsley and sprinkle over salad, along with the remaining almonds.

    Sweet, savory and crunchy -- perfect!

    But then I got thinking.  Instead of a side salad - why not make it a main course?  So the next day I added some shredded chicken to the leftovers, and served it atop a bed of lettuce. A lovely lunch. Then I wondered:  how would these flavors taste in a warming stew? With Kale added for  vegetarian entree, or with a bit of chicken and kale  for the meat eaters among us.  I set to work -- and here are the results:

    Chicken, Carrots, Chickpea & Kale Stew, with Fried Almonds

    serves 4

    Additional ingredients and other adaptations:
    Handful of kale, or 1/2 bunch, chopped into bite size pieces.
    2 C shredded cooked chicken ( good use for leftover chicken)
    3 C Chicken Broth or Vegetable Broth 
    1 lb Carrots, cut chunky julienne style
    2 T olive oil for almond/seasoning paste

    Fry almonds as directed above.  Remove from pan, but leave oil in pan.

    Saute carrots in retained oil until a bit brown -- they do not have to be soft.
    Add chickpeas and seasoning/almond paste, stir until coated and the steam is aromatic
    Add broth and chicken. Cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes.
    Add Kale and continue cooking for 10-20 minutes.
    Ladle into bowls. garnish with additional cilantro/parsley and almonds.

    Serve with Crusty Bread.