Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Dinner with the Kids, December 28, 2014

Jeannene's dad, Travis, was a lover of all things red meat and a wonderful cook. He always made some kind of fabulous beef dish for Christmas dinner: beef Wellington, filet mignon, prime rib. I always defer to Jeannene on Christmas dinner for the family and she chooses one of her dad's favorites to prepare. I supplement with whatever I feel I can add to what she's making. We very often have baked potatoes on the side, but this year, she switched it up and delighted us all. It's not that I don't love baked potatoes, but it was fun to have something different. For our Christmas Sunday dinner with the kids tonight, once they'd gotten back from visiting Bubbles' family in Cleveland, Jeannene picked up a gorgeous prime rib roast at Nino Salvaggio's grocery in Troy and rubbed it with salt and pepper, allowing it to stand for a couple of hours with its rub before roasting it medium-rare.

On the side, she fried up a variety of handmade pierogies with butter and onions. We got the pierogies at Nino Salvaggio's, as well. We had cheddar, sauerkraut, and mushroom varieties. I liked the kraut the best, while the kids really dug the mushroom version and Jeannene liked the cheddar. For our vegetable, Jeannene steamed some broccoli and served it with hollandaise sauce.

I usually make my Tuscan kale salad for festive occasions in our house, but I was in the mood to try something different. The salad I came up with was a delicious show-stopper. I would cheerfully serve it at a fancy dinner party, but I would also sit on the couch in my pajamas, with a bowl of it for breakfast.

Fennel, Apple, and Orange Salad
2 bulbs fennel, cut into thin demi-lunes (you don't need the stalks)
2 oranges, peeled & diced
2 small Granny Smith apples, diced (peels on)
1 small Pink Lady apple, diced (peel on)
1/3 c. excellent quality extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper
7 Medjool dates, roughly chopped

Toss fennel, oranges, & apples together. Chill. Whisk oil, lemon juice, salt, & pepper together until thickened. Toss with salad. Serve with dates for garnish. I don't advise adding the dates to the salad, but to individual portions, as the dates can get unpleasantly gooey if there are leftovers. Serves 6-8. 

A Cuban-Style Nochebuena Feast

Since both of our boys spent Christmas with their girlfriends' families out of state, we decided to have a traditional Cuban Nochebuena dinner, usually enjoyed on Christmas Eve, for our Christmas Day dinner. Before I started work in the church, I made this dinner on Christmas Eve, but had bumped it to different days, depending on the year. It works beautifully as a Christmas Day dinner.

It being just the two of us, it wouldn't make sense to roast a whole pig like they do in many Miami backyards on Christmas Eve. So, I did a pork roast, black beans & rice, maduros (fried ripe plantains), and avocado & onion salad. We had a local oddity called Bumpy Cake for dessert. It's kind of like a Ho Ho Cake.

This pork roast is fabulous, but if you're vegetarian or vegan, the mojo marinade would be really good for tofu, as well.

Puerco Asado
A 5-lb. boneless pork loin
5 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. oregano
Salt & pepper
1/4 c. lime juice
1/4 c. orange juice
1/4 c. olive oil
1 c. dry red wine
A few bay leaves

The morning you are going to cook this, piece the pork roast all over with a knife. Mash the garlic, oregano, salt, & pepper into a paste. Rub it all over the pork roast. Place in a gallon zipper storage bag or nonreactive dish/pan. Pour the juices, oil, and wine over it. Add the bay leaves. Cover the dish/pan or seal the bag. Let marinate a minimum of 2 hours (all day is better), making sure to turn the roast several times during the marinating time. Preheat oven to 350 degree. Remove roast from marinade and pat dry. Reserve the marinade for later, but discard the bay leaves. Roast the meat to an internal temperature of 150 degrees, about 2 hours, pouring marinade over it halfway through the cooking time and basting frequently for the second half of the cooking time. When finished, allow to stand 10-15 minutes, tented with foil, before slicing. Serves 8. (Leftovers can be employed in Cuban sandwiches, with ham, swiss, & pickles.)

I am too lazy to use dried black beans and always use canned. I sometimes really cheat, when I can find Goya black bean soup, and just heat it up. For special occasions, though, this is the recipe I like:

Cuban Black Beans
1/3 c. olive oil (Spanish, if you have it)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
32 oz. canned black beans, with their liquid
1/2 c. beef broth (vegetarians & vegans can omit or sub veggie broth)
1 tsp. cumin
A few dashes of hot sauce, if desired
2-3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Salt & pepper
Chopped onion for garnish

Heat oil in pan, then add garlic, onion, and pepper until they are softened. Add the rest and cook another 20 minutes or so. Serve with onions for garnish and cooked long-grain white rice. Serves 8.

Maduros (Fried Ripe Plantains)
4 very ripe plantains (skin should be entirely black---this takes time, so unless you can find black plantains at the grocery, you'll want to buy the green ones 2-3 weeks ahead), sliced on the diagonal
Oil for frying

Heat an inch of oil in a large skillet until it sizzles. Place one layer of plantain slices in the oil and fry until browned. Turn over and cook until browned on the other side. Remove from pan to a paper-towel-lined plate. Salt. Keep warm in a 200 degree oven until all plantains are fried and you are ready to eat. Serves 8. Plantains are also delicious baked, so if you don't want to fry them, you can bake them 20-25 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. 

Avocado & Onion Salad
Butter lettuce (or, if your wife prefers romaine, as mine does, do that)
4 avocados, sliced or diced
1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced into demi-lunes
Salt & pepper
1/2 c. (more or less) olive oil (again, Spanish is preferred)
Juice of 1 lemon or 2-3 limes

Arrange the lettuce in salad bowls or on a platter. Place avocado and onion atop the lettuce. Whisk salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar together. Drizzle over the salad. Serves 8. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

My Year in Food/La Luna Cooks Gooseberry Patch: Easy as A, B, Seafood Bisque, December 10, 2014

I'd been kind of dreading making the seafood bisque in the Gooseberry Patch Fall, Family, and Friends cookbook. For one thing, I don't love seafood bisque under the best of circumstances. I like shrimp and some kinds of fish (Red Snapper, Mahi Mahi, Grouper), but mostly am not a fan. Jeannene, on the other hand, loves crab, lobster, and most fish. She loves seafood bisque, too. I was nervous about this recipe, though, on her behalf, because of two things. It contains shrimp, which she has recently taken a dislike to, in most circumstances, because she had undercooked shrimp twice in a week at two different restaurants. Ever since then, she has requested that any shrimp dish I make have chicken, instead, or that she get to eat something else for dinner. Can't say as I blame her. Raw shrimp is not something easily forgotten! Second, the shrimp and crab the recipe called for are canned, which didn't sound like a good idea to me. And it calls for imitation lobster. I am not even sure what that is. I mean, I know what it is, but I wasn't even sure what it really consists of until I asked Jeannene.

She, on the other hand, was really excited about the soup. When I forgot to thaw the bread dough for bread bowls and realized it as she was on her way home, she even stopped and picked up a couple mini-rounds to make into bread bowls. I made the recipe exactly as directed, saying yes to the optional dry white wine and adding a couple healthy splashes of dry sherry, as well. I think seafood bisque requires sherry. I was unimpressed by the finished product, although I thought it might be pretty good, if I liked that sort of thing.

Apparently, that was the case, because Jeannene thought it was fabulous. She, in fact, stated repeatedly that it was fabulous. She couldn't believe I didn't like it, finished mine, went for another helping, and then had the kids come by to pick up the leftovers the next day, praising it to the heavens. Me, I was content eating a couple of clementines for my dinner, after I'd given the soup a fair three bites to see if it would grow on me.

My Year in Food: Burger Night with the Kids, December 9, 2014/La Luna Cooks Gooseberry Patch: Fireside Sipper

Since Pie and Bubbles have moved closer, we normally have them over every Sunday night. Since she recently lost her job, we supplemented that last week with a Burger night on Tuesday, too, and lots of leftovers sent home so they will have plenty to eat. They both really like buffalo and we had some buffalo burgers in the freezer, along with some spinach-feta and some mushroom turkey burgers we picked up from a vendor at Eastern Market in Detroit. So, Jeannene thawed those & pan-fried them. She made fries, mini tater tots, and corn to go with the meal. Very easy, very tasty. I suspect it would be pretty easy to make spinach feta turkey burgers yourownself, by just mixing in some spinach, feta, garlic, salt, & pepper. You could also use some variety of white beans to do the burgers, for a tasty vegetarian alternative.

Bubbles really loves apple juice and apple cider, so I made one of the Gooseberry Patch recipes, called "Fireside Sipper." It called for apple juice, but I like cider a lot better, so I subbed that. It also wants brown sugar and apricot nectar, along with spices. I thought it was entirely too sweet and didn't even finish mine, but Bubbles loved it, so it wasn't a complete failure. If I made it again, I would omit the sugar entirely. Cider doesn't need sugar at all to be good. I did learn a useful trick, though. Whenever I make hot spiced cider, it's good the first day, but if there is any left and I drink it the next day, the spices are overbearing. I never want to bother with fishing them all out when I'm cleaning up. So (and this is probably really elemental, but I never thought of it), the suggestion to bind up the spices in a well-tied piece of cheesecloth delighted me! It worked great!

My Year in Food: Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Fennel & Garlic, December 8, 2014

It certainly doesn't seem like I'm cooking very much this month, between dental issues for my wife and holiday activities! I did cook last Monday, though, and it was one of the best meals I've made in a long time. I did the pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes and green beans on the side. The steamer I've had (and loved) since 1998 appears to be dying on us, so the green beans were a good deal crispier than Jeannene prefers, but otherwise, the meal was outstanding. This was, I believe, the best pork I've ever made. If you are a fan of pork, you should absolutely make this. It's from the Martha Stewart's Everyday Food October 2008 issue, originally, although I have slightly changed some of the quantities & added lemon zest. Honestly, the fennel was so good that I think you should double the amount I used. I was hecka skeptical about the cooking temp & time, but I went with it and it was perfect.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Fennel & Garlic
14 cloves garlic, peeled
2 fennel bulbs, quartered
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
2 (1 lb each) pork tenderloins
1/2 tsp. oregano
A pinch of lemon zest

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Toss the garlic and fennel on a baking sheet with a tbsp. of the olive oil.  Season with salt & pepper. Roast 10 minutes. While that's cooking, rub the pork with the rest of the oil. Season with oregano, lemon zest, salt, & pepper. Push the vegetables to the sides of the baking sheet and place the pork in the middle. Roast 20-25 minutes, until it reaches an internal temp of 145 degrees. Once it's out of the oven, allow to rest at least 5 minutes before sliced to serve. Serves 4. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

My Year in Food: Sunday Dinner Ribs, December 7, 2014

Jeannene had a couple different kinds of ribs in the freezer, which she had purchased at a little butcher shop near her plant and was itching to make. She asked me to make mac & cheese to go along with them and did a dish of baked beans, as well. I teased her about the meal being very southern, with the veggies being non-veggies. It reminded me of the meat & threes I used to frequent when I lived in Nashville. Neither kid liked the mac & cheese, but us old folks loved it. Pie doesn't like mac & cheese in the first place, never has. Neither of my boys liked it when they were little kids. Isn't that unusual? And Bubbles didn't like it because she was expecting the bright orange boxed stuff, which she loves. She was so disappointed, bless her heart.

Jeannene did the ribs with 2 different kinds of bbq sauce---honey chipotle for the beef ribs and plain Memphis-style sauce for the country ribs. When we use bottled sauce, we like Sweet Baby Ray's. She used Bush's baked beans, but she always doctors them with I don't know what all. My mac & cheese is terribly simple and easy as can be. I am picky about mac & cheese and much prefer the stovetop variety to the oven-baked most times, as the oven-baked can be dry. I also like mine more gooey with cheese than saucy. So, if you like yours cheesy, too, this is the recipe for you:

Easy Mac & Cheese
16 oz. macaroni (do not make the mistake of using those cute noodles in holiday shapes---they fall apart---I used some beer stein ones we had in the cupboard so I didn't have to go to the grocery)
4 tbsp. flour
2 c. milk (you can use skim---or you can use cream---whatever)
4 c. shredded extra-sharp cheddar (you can use reduced fat, but make sure it is extra sharp)
1-2 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1-2 tsp. mustard powder

Cook the pasta al dente & drain well. Sprinkle with flour, stirring to coat most of the noodles. Add milk and cook on low, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened. Add cheese a little at a time, stirring between additions to melt the cheese and blend it in. When all the cheese is nicely incorporated, it's ready to serve. Serves 8. 

My Year in Food: Julie & Bob's Christmas Party, December 6, 2014

We were invited to a party at the home of one of Jeannene's co-workers last weekend. We were welcomed into the beautiful home (the kitchen/living room area reminded me of the wonderful yurts I've visited) these two engineers built themselves and treated to a delicious buffet dinner. They have hosted this party for years and I felt honored to be invited. It consisted of friends and family---we were the only people from work---and they all anticipated the buffet with great pleasure.

Julie made most of the dishes herself and it was quite some thing to see all the pans being brought forth and placed over Sterno! It looked like something you would see at a restaurant. There were all kinds of yummy possibilities. Juicy specialty sausages, a huge pan of lasagna, pierogies made from scratch by her mother-in-law, veggies. There was a lovely tiered dish of homemade Christmas cookies for dessert, sitting on a little table with coffee urns and bottles of liqueurs to jazz up the coffee. It's so much fun to be hosted for dinner, because I always end up trying something new, something I wouldn't necessarily think to make or order at a restaurant. It gives me ideas for future entertaining, too!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

My Year in Food + La Luna Cooks Gooseberry Patch: Steak, Potato Skins, Chopped Kale Salad, December 5, 2014

Jeannene's mouth was recovered enough from her dental work by Friday night for her to feel like eating steak, so we had a nice evening in. I'd picked up a New York strip steak for her and a ribeye for me. I rubbed them with a seasoning mixture I keep on hand (about half a cup of salt, mixed with a tbsp. of pepper, a heaping tbsp. of garlic powder, and a pinch or two of cayenne), then melted a little bit of butter in a skillet and panfried the steaks to medium-rare, about 4 minutes on the first side and 3 on the other.

To accompany the steak, I made Stuffed Potato Skins from the Gooseberry Patch Fall, Family, & Friends cookbook I making my way through. To be honest, I've actually been avoiding making these for weeks now. They're the very first appetizer in the book, so this reluctance to try making them means I haven't made much appetizer progress at all in the book! I was afraid they would be too hard or too fiddly or not worth the trouble. I've never made potato skins before, even though I really like good ones. They always seem more like something to order in a restaurant, to me.

Even as I was making these, I was deeply skeptical about how they might turn out. The potatoes, cut into 8ths & sitting on the baking sheet all rubbed with olive oil, just didn't look right to me. I worried the insides would be a pain in the neck to scoop out and I worried the outsides wouldn't be substantial enough to hold the stuffing. I was also aggravated to discover that I was out of scallions, but I subbed some chopped leeks and dried chives, so that was fine. The rest, it turned out, was fine, too, and the potato skins were terrific! They'd be a nice appetizer, too, and the recipe seems easily adaptable to whatever number of people you have.

The Taylor Farms bagged kale salad, on the other hand, wasn't so delicious. I ate my salad out of obligation to have something healthy with my steak & potatoes. It had looked so good in the grocery, with not only kale, but also slices of brussels sprouts, radicchio, and a lemony vinaigrette. I think Jeannene's objection was the tartness of the dressing and the bitterness of the salad, but for me, I suspect it was the sweetness of the dressing. Ah, well, the rest of the meal was great!

My Year in Food: Happy Meal, December 4, 2014

Last Thursday, invited to a cookie exchange & gingerbread house making party, I knew I should eat some supper in the late afternoon. However, I forgot actually to do it! So, I figured I'd just grab something on the way. I very seldom eat fast food these days, although when I was commuting 90 minutes each way for my last job, I ate a lot of it. I have it once every 2 or 3 months now, at most. But sometimes, it's just so convenient. Drive right through, eat in the car on the way somewhere.

I figure if I'm eating crap, I might as well eat a small amount of it. Plus, as some of you may know, I am a giant 7-year-old. So, with McDonald's the handiest place along the way, I grabbed a cheeseburger Happy Meal with a wee, small order of fries and a clementine (which I was delighted to see they're now offering, as I think the apple slices taste like chemicals), a bottle of water to drink. The best part of the meal was the pair of toy binoculars, shaped like penguins, I got with it!

My offerings for the cookie exchange were my chocolate rum balls and Jeannene's family's worm balls (haystacks/chow mein noodle cookies), cookie factory, as well as some rosemary walnuts for everyone to snack on while we constructed our merry little houses! It was fun to get such a nice variety of cookies, from lovely, delicate powdered sugar-dusted delights to decadent caramel chocolate cookies.

My Year in Food: Chicken Casserole, December 3, 2014

I'd intended to make steak last Wednesday, but my sweet wife was suffering with a toothache and requested something soft. I gave her a choice of chili or chicken casserole and she chose the latter. I'm always a fan of a good church lady-type casserole. Unfortunately, this one I found online tasted a little bland to me. It was fine and served its purpose, a nice, soft, comforting dinner for the hurty-mouthed one. I think some worcestershire sauce would really do the trick with this, but I think the biggest difference would be made by subbing a can of cream of chicken soup for the sour cream the original recipe specified. The sour cream made the consistency fluffier, but I think it also blotted out some of the flavor. So, what I offer here is untested, but seems to me like it would be an improvement. If you try it and it's horrible, please do let me know. I had green salad and apple slices with it, a very little kid sort of supper.

Chicken Casserole
Meat of 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded or cubed
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can  cream of chicken soup
1/2 onion, chopped (or, if you have a bunch of already-chopped leeks from another project cut up, try that, as I did)
2 oz. ch. pimientos
1/2 c. frozen peas
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
16 oz. egg noodles, cooked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix ingredients well and place in a greased 13x9 baking pan. Cover and bake 30-45 minutes, until heated through. Serves 6. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

My Year in Food: Union Woodshop, Clarkston, Michigan, December 2, 2014

We finally celebrated our November monthiversary on the second. Jeannene arrived home from work fairly late, but allowed me to drag her out, anyway. Luckily, Union Woodshop was still open when we arrived. I'd been hearing how great the barbecue at this place was for months. Ever since Boot suggested BBQ for his birthday dinner (he ended up going for Italian), I've intended to get here sooner, rather than later. Jeannene is often reluctant to venture very far from home for one of my dining adventures, but she grudgingly agreed to the 20-minute drive.

We walked in and felt instantly comfortable. The dining rooms are cozy and laid-back, with log ends sticking out from the walls, giving the impression of dining within a giant woodpile, and retro-looking blue booths anchoring the front corners of the room. We were seated promptly & cheerily. Looking over the menu, it was hard for me to choose between the brisket or the pulled pork. Since pulled pork is nearly always my favorite, though, I opted for that. Had I chosen, I could have gotten a sidecar of the brisket for $3.95. Luckily, Jeannene couldn't choose between the back ribs or the brisket, so she ordered a sidecar of the brisket that I got to try.

I was amused with the presentation of the meals, a small metal tray with waxed paper on it, atop which were dishes holding my meat & two---I opted for the Vermont Cheddar & Pinconning mac & cheese (made with penne and particularly stellar---I would go just for that) and the green bean casserole (made with fresh green beans instead of canned, which was, oddly, disappointing to me). We each got a wonderful corn muffin and a schmear of butter next to it on the tray, too.

The pulled pork was served without sauce, as is proper in a barbecue joint. I am suspicious of barbecue served already sauced. Truly, even naked, this pork was delicious and very juicy. However, the sauces at Union Woodshop shine, as well. They have a bunch of them available, all designated by region of origin. My assumption was that I would like the Tennessee-style sauce best of all, since I did, after all, learn to love barbecue while living outside of Nashville. The sweetish, tomato-based sauce was quite good, yes, but I found myself head-over-heels for the vinegar-based North Carolina sauce and the Alabama white sauce, a thin sauce featuring mayonnaise, horseradish, and pepper.

I've certainly had the North Carolina sauce before and had found it rather insipid and boring. I suspect it just wasn't made right because this version totally knocked my socks off with it's tangy yumminess. I, frankly, had never heard of an Alabama 'cue sauce, so I was intrigued to try it. I didn't figure I'd like it, as mayonnaise seemed an odd base for a bbq sauce, to me. Further, I'm not usually a big fan of horseradish. But, oh, man, was it terrific!

I also enjoyed the other sauces, except the Hell, Michigan, sauce, which was made with ghost peppers and was, for me, too hot even to have a discernible flavor. The New York sauce was an Asian-style sauce which tasted good, but didn't work, for me, with pulled pork. I think I would really have dug it on ribs or wings. The Texas sauce was similar to the Tennessee sauce, but with more heat.  The South Carolina (which a friend tells me is also popular in parts of NC) was interesting---and delicious---a vinegar and mustard-based sauce. Terrific stuff.

Jeannene's ribs were top-notch, as was her brisket. She ordered baked beans and the daily vegetable, which I wished I'd ordered as soon as I saw it. It was beautifully roasted butternut squash, parsnips, & carrots, and it was fabulous! I didn't try the beans, but they looked good.

I'd not planned to order dessert, but they had ice cream sandwiches, which sounded really great. They usually come in a trio and the flavors vary. I really only thought we needed one (or none) and the waitress allowed me to choose just one, the chocolate cookie and coffee ice cream one. It was so not worth eating. For one thing, it was less an ice cream sandwich than a couple of cookies perched precariously atop and sitting under a round scoop of ice cream. The cookie was incredibly crumbly, so it really ended up being bites of ice cream with cookie dust. The cookie flavor wasn't very intense, but it was a lot stronger than the ice cream, which was really the whole reason I was swayed into ordering dessert in the first place.

I love, love, love coffee ice cream. I want it, however, to really taste like coffee. This had a very faint coffee flavor, kind of akin to when someone orders a little coffee with their cream. Further, the waitress had gushed on and on about how very special their ice cream is, with a nitrogen production method, and on and on about that being why it's the most amazing ice cream. Well, I moved to Michigan from Columbus, Ohio, so I know a little something about really special ice cream from many trips to Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. Jeni's, this was not. Good thing I can find Jeni's in several local groceries or online, because I'm now hankering for her Coffee with Cream & Sugar ice cream. Or maybe I'll try the Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso, which is new since we moved away. Mmm.

As for 'cue, Union Woodshop rivals some of the best bbq I had in Tennessee. We'll go back. Probably soon.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

My Year in Food: Chicken Soup from Leo's Coney Island, December 1, 2014

We celebrate our "monthiversary" on the 30th of every month (except February, when we'll be celebrating our legal wedding anniversary on the 21st), but last month, we decided to put it off, since Jeannene had to work in the evening and we'd be having the kids over for Sunday dinner early. We were all set to celebrate it Monday, but then the hints of a migraine turned into a full-blown headache from hell for Jeannene while she was at work. By the time she got home, she was too sick to go anywhere, much less for a nice dinner. So, while she was on her way home, I popped over to Leo's Coney Island and picked up a couple orders of goulash (AKA Johnny Marzetti or American Chop Suey), which sounded nice & comforting. We had the choice of either soup or salad with it. Jeannene loves soup and their chicken noodle soup is reliably yummy, with noodles that are still a bit firm and big chunks of chicken & carrot.

It's a good thing I got the soup, too, because the Johnny Marzetti was really not good. It doesn't seem like it would be very hard to make good Johnny Marzetti, but this rendition was quite unfortunate. It basically had no flavor at all and the texture was slightly horrifying. It was kind of mushy and floury and just not worth eating. However, the soup was wonderful and it was really all we needed.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Bucatini with Meat & Lentil Sauce

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I almost always use spaghetti sauce from a jar and tinker with it. Every once in awhile, though, I will try some from scratch. This is one of those. The original recipe was Nigella Lawson's, from Nigella Express, and was meant to be eaten on its own, rather than over spaghetti. I have altered it to reflect my iffy stance on lamb and my inability to find sweet onion confit & unwillingness, that cool night in August that I made this, to spend the time needed to make caramelized onions. I served it with bucatini. It's quite different and rather tasty. I want to try it again with the onion confit, as I am certain it's better that way---and I might try lamb, as well. If you want to try both and see which you like best (or simply use her recipe), you can find it here. This is my version:

Meat & Lentil Sauce
2 tbsp. garlic oil
1 c. cubed pancetta
1 lb. ground beef 
14 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1/2 c. water
1/3 c. Marsala
1/3 c. French green lentils (I wouldn't make this recipe with a different variety of lentils)
Shredded cheddar

Heat oil and fry the pancetta until it's crisp. Add the meat and brown. Add everything but cheese. Bring to a bubble, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Serve with cheese on top. Serves 4. 

I made a Caesar-style salad to go with this dinner. You could make this salad an entire meal by adding a protein to it, shrimp, chicken, cannellini beans. If you are vegetarian, simply omit the anchovy paste. 

Caesar Salad
3 tbsp. buttermilk (I used low fat)
2 tbsp. mayonnaise (I used canola)
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
5 tbsp. grated parmesan
1 bag hearts of romaine salad
Caesar croutons

Purée everything but the cheese, lettuce, and croutons together. Add 2 tbsp. of the cheese. Toss with romaine. Divide among 4 plates and sprinkle with remaining cheese and croutons. Serves 4. 

My Year in Food: Cheeseburgers with Sour Cream and Herbs, November 30, 2014

Much of the time, our family Sunday dinners are more elaborate than what we had last night. However, we've been spending a lot of time preparing elaborate feasts in the last week. Furthermore, with all the dining out we've been doing when not preparing elaborate feasts, I was left with a pack of hamburger that needed to be cooked. So, burgers and hot dogs it was last night!

The Pie and Bubbles arrived mid-afternoon and almost immediately began snoring on the couch (while our Blue Smoke Persian snuffled & snored away in the kitchen with me). The wife and I watched "How To Train Your Dragon 2," then began dinner preparation. I'd planned to make the burgers Wednesday night for Boot, but then my sweetie-pie got a hankering for wings, so that plan went out the window. Last night, I got to try a new take on burgers. It was heartily approved by Bubbles and Jeannene---Pie was too interested in the leftover cranberry yam bake to comment on anything else, but he ate his burger very happily. Along with the leftover yam dish, I also warmed some leftover cheesy hash browns in a skillet and set out veggies with dill dip. Jeannene cooked some hot dogs and I made these:

Cheeseburgers with Sour Cream and Herbs
2 lb. burger (I used 90% lean---I know, I know, they should be closer to 80% or, at most, 85%, according to the burger experts. Hey, they were good & healthier! You could also use ground turkey.)
1/4 c. sour cream (I used light)
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. parsley
A healthy pinch of rosemary
A good grinding of pepper
8 slices cheese of choice (American, but I think brie would be wonderful)
8 buns
Condiments and toppings of choice

Mix meat with sour cream & seasonings. Form into 8 patties. Pan fry until browned on both sides and cooked through. Top with cheese & serve on buns, with whatever toppings each diner prefers.