SECRET RECIPE CLUB: MOZZARELLA-STUFFED TURKEY BURGER

October is coming to an end. The last couple of years have been so busy for us! Months go flying by, each one bringing new challenges, but the last Monday of each month is always special: it is reveal day for The Secret Recipe Club, the best group event in the cooking blogosphere.  Food bloggers are paired in secret, stalk each others’ site in search of a recipe, cook it and blog about it at the exact same time.   The group is very popular now, there is a huge waiting list for new members, so if you are interested, send your name in.  Just keep in mind you need to be blogging for a while so that you have enough recipes in your database, and also a recipe index in your site.

This month I got a GREAT site to cook from: Cooking Whims.  Megan is funny, witty, her cooking style similar to ours.  I love this little bit she wrote about herself:

  “I love goat cheese, all things pumpkin, chocolate, and dancing to Sinatra while I experiment in my kitchen”.

Awesome!  Now, back to my assignment. The fact that we were away for 10 days on a trip to California and that our kitchen was still undergoing hellnovation made this month’s participation a bit of a stretch, but by now I am used to cooking stresses of many kinds.  Several recipes called my name during the stalking period.  For instance, her Oatmeal Ricotta Buttermilk Pancakes…  or Fish Tacos with Spicy Tomato-Cucumber Salsa… but I also flirted with her Beet Hummus,  and the Hungarian Paprika Chicken.  So, what did I choose in the end?   A turkey burger.  I could not resist that one, made ultra special by home-made marinara sauce and a stuffing of mozzarella.

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MOZZARELLA-STUFFED TURKEY BURGER
(slightly modified from Cooking Whims)

for the marinara sauce
2 tsp olive oil
1 small shallot, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups plum tomatoes, chopped
6  sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp salt & pepper

for the burgers
1.5 lb ground turkey (50:50 dark and white meat)
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp minced fresh basil
4 thin slices of mozzarella cheese (optional)

For the marinara sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes have broken down. Pulse a few times in a food processor. Set aside on very low heat to keep warm.

For the turkey burgers: Place the turkey, scallions, Worcestershire sauce, lemon zest, oregano, parsley, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Mix with your hands, then shape into 8 thin patties.

Combine 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and basil. Divide evenly on the center of 4 patties. You may not need all the cheese. Cover each patty with the remaining patties and crimp closed.

Grill the burgers turning once, for a total of 8 to 10 minutes on a medium-high grill. When the burgers are almost cooked through, top with a slice of cheese and allow the cheese to melt before serving with a helping of marinara sauce on top.

We enjoyed our burgers “naked”, but for a real burger experience, have some toasted buns ready…  and

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

ingredients

Comments:  Megan’s description of this recipe started with “This burger belongs on a show called burger wars.”.  Then, she says that another version from her blog would fight for the number one spot, the “Hummus Turkey Burger with Cucumber  & Feta Cheese“. Of course I intend to make that one soon.  Stay tuned.

We loved these burgers!  She is absolutely right, the lemon zest is a key component of the recipe, but everything comes together in perfect harmony, including the simple but tasty marinara, that calls for sun-dried and regular tomatoes.

I slightly modified the recipe by mixing dark and light ground turkey, and using about 50% more meat than she did to end up with 4 stuffed patties. Since we were going to enjoy them without buns, I wanted each to be slightly bigger. I also included fresh Italian parsley because I had some in the fridge and it seemed like a good herb to incorporate in the mix.   Once you have the mixture ready, portion 8 equal amounts over parchment paper, flatten them, add the cheese to half of them, cover with the other portion.

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Pinching the sides seems hard to do, but don’t worry, it will work.  I cooked my burgers on the grill, as it would have been impossible to cook them in our improvised kitchen.

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Now, as if I did not have enough grievance in my life, when I was getting ready to take the first photo, I could not find the lemon.  Keep in mind that the fridge was still in the garage, to get to it we needed to jump over a few pieces of wood and squeeze through some furniture.  So, I am going crazy searching for my lemon.  The thoughtful man I married suggested that “maybe you think you got it from the fridge but you didn’t“.  His remark caused me to go into a blazing hot monologue that traumatized for life two of our three dogs.  Chief was spared thanks to being deaf.   A second lemon quickly showed up at the scene, and we put the citric incident to rest.  Later that evening,  Phil calls me in the TV room:  cozy inside a dog bed between the sofa and the wall, a lemon was peacefully resting.

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Never a dull moment, folks.  Never a dull moment…

Megan, I loved getting your blog this month, and hope you had fun with your own assignment too!

For those who want to see what Group D cooked up for the final Monday of October, click on the blue frog at the end of the post. She loves a little click!  😉

ONE YEAR AGO:  Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

TWO YEARS AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

THREE YEARS AGO: Panmarino

FOUR YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken

BEWITCHING KITCHEN ON FIRE

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A beautiful, blue, star-shaped fire!  Consider this just a teaser, a full post on our new kitchen will be published next month… for the time being, just a few shots of our new range, a Blue Star with a very sexy coral front panel… We named it SUPERNOVA

and you can find it here….

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Can you picture me doing a happy dance?

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Coming soon to a food blog near you… full disclosure of the New Bewitching Kitchen!

MISO SOUP, A JAPANESE CLASSIC

Post dedicated to the memory of my Dad, who today would be 93 years young…

When the weather chills down, we always have a bowl of miso soup to start our sushi dinners. I’ve never had a bad miso soup, but some are definitely better than others. Considering the very few ingredients that go into this soup, it’s clear that technique matters. Last Friday we were so tired that the idea of going out to eat seemed like too much effort, so we resorted to take-out sushi from one of our grocery stores, which is actually pretty nice. Since they don’t offer miso soup, I decided to make my own. Read a bunch of articles, and felt ready for the challenge.  It turned out delicious: soothing, with a mild flavor and smooth consistency. That is actually the most important aspect of a miso soup: it should not be grainy.

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MISO SOUP
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

4 cups water
1 tsp instant dashi (see comments)
4 Tbsp white miso
firm tofu, cut in cubes
green onions, light and green parts, thinly sliced

Boil the water in a large saucepan, add the instant dashi and mix until dissolved. Turn the heat off, keep the pan with the lid on to retain heat.

Place the miso in a small bowl, add a small amount of the very hot water/dashi, whisk to completely dissolve the miso, so that no lumps stay.

Add the miso to the original saucepan with the rest of the dashi, mix.  Add the diced tofu, let the pan covered for a couple of minutes as you place green onions inside the serving bowls.

Laddle the miso soup with pieces of tofu in each bowl, and serve immediately.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here

ingredients

Comments: Obviously one cannot make miso soup without miso, but apart from that, lots of variations are out there.  Some recipes use water, some vegetable stock, others call for chicken stock.  However, for the real, authentic Japanese flavor, dashi is the way to go.  I admit to using a shortcut in my version, though.  I used instant dashi instead of making a broth with its two traditional components: seaweed and bonito flakes.  I had both ingredients at home, but when I made this soup they were somewhere in that twilight zone of boxes kept in the garage, as our kitchen is waiting for the green light from the crew working on its hellnovation.  Sanding floors and cabinets generate an amount of fine dust that you simply do not want to have over every little item in your pantry.  So, I took the easy way out and bought a little bottle of instant dashi.   It is actually a very nice ingredient to have laying around, a handy source of the funky-elusive fifth flavor, umami.
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Once you have dashi (or make it from scratch),  all you’ll need is some miso and firm tofu. Green onions are a great addition, but not mandatory.  You can use either type of miso, white or red, they differ in the fermentation time, and resulting flavor. White miso will be milder.  Follow the instructions to a T, because the main thing to avoid is boiling the miso once it’s added to the dashi: that leads to an unpleasant grainy texture.  I also like to cut my tofu in small pieces and add to the pan for a couple of minutes before serving the soup.  That allows the tofu to absorb the flavors of the miso more efficiently.   With those two tips in mind, you will be on your way to a great bowl of soup to warm you up on the chilly evenings ahead.
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daddy1Dad dancing with my niece Fernanda…

(No, he would not touch miso soup even if his life depended on it… ) 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: On my desk

TWO YEARS AGO: A must-make veggie puree

THREE YEARS AGO: Vegetarian Lasagna

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Brazilian Pão de Queijo

CALIFORNIA DREAMING

In this world, we have dog people and cat people.  We have early risers, and those who are not themselves until past noon. We have those who worship the sun and those whose heart sings with the first snowfall.  We have East Coast people, and West Coast people.  Phil and I are early rising dog people who worship the sun, and between East and West California is the jackpot.   😉

GG-bridge-12-2006(image from Wikimedia)

California holds a special place in my heart, because that was my destination the first time I left Brazil, back in 1986.  It was my first contact with a country that decades later, would become my new, permanent home.  For Phil, California is beautiful, diverse, and progressive, a perfect trilogy.  We have wonderful memories of all our times spent in that gorgeous state, and cherish every opportunity to travel back.  A couple of weeks ago we flew to Los Angeles, visited UCLA and the lab of our friend and mentor Ron Kaback, and also got together with my stepson and his fiancée (= the coolest couple of LA ;-)). We kept our rental car busy, first going to  San Diego where Phil had a meeting to attend, then driving all the way to San Francisco.  The trip ended on a high note: we spent a couple of days in wine country paradise, around Mendocino and Navarro.  We stayed with a couple of KSU Biochemistry alumni, who after retirement from business decided to grow Pinot Noir grapes, and are now one of the most successful Pinot growers in the region.  They took us to a couple of wine tastings, to several amazing restaurants (Stone and Embers was perhaps our favorite), and also arranged a surprise visit to Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market. We’ve been to many farmers markets in the past, but it will be very hard to top this one.

compositetomatoTomatoes in all shapes, sizes, and colors!  A feast for the eyes, made me sad that I would not be able to take a bunch with me to play with…

vinegarsTomatoes do not travel well in a suitcase, however, a 25-year-old bottle of white balsamic found a nice spot in mine, wrapped in plastic and surrounded by cozy sweaters… You can bet it will be featured on my next “In My Kitchen” post.

produceProduce of the highest quality peeking at us from every corner…

woodenboardWe were tempted to stick one of those in our suitcase, but their heavy weight would be a problem. So, we left them behind… ;-(


figsIt was also tough to wave goodbye to these gorgeous figs… but we were headed for a nice sushi lunch, and decided it was best to resist grabbing a basket or two.

Spicery

Maybe my favorite spot at the market was Spicery, owned by a delightful woman called Evelyn. Our friends are serious gourmet cooks and familiar with the best sources of spices, including Penzey’s and Spice House. So, when they told me they rather buy their spices from Evelyn, I listened very carefully.  My favorite way to test a spice store is to ask for “pimente d’Espelette“.  Very hard to find. I posed the question, she opened a huge smile and said she has it but did not bring to the stand because not very many people ask for it, and she sells most of that precious item to restaurants.  I will be placing my order soon! And you can too…   Just follow this link and have fun browsing her products.

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Of course, wine tasting was part of our weekend.

Can you imagine tasting wine on this setting? This is the view from Copain Wines that processes the grapes from our friends’ vineyards.

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Look at the smile on Phil’s face!  I can only hope it was just for the bottle of wine. Red finger nails can be dangerous…   😉
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We also visited Twomey, because according to our hosts, they do a wonderful job with Pinot grapes too.  Equally beautiful setting!

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P&S_BigSur_100913A brief stop at Big Sur, magical place to wait for the sunset…

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Until next time, California, we shall miss you!

ONE YEAR AGO: An Orange Frame of Mind

TWO YEARS AGO:  San Francisco Sourdough

THREE YEARS AGO: A Real Oscar Winner  (dog lovers: don’t miss this!)

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pane Siciliano

PCR AND A DANCE IN THE MIND FIELD

PCR stands for “Polymerase Chain Reaction”, but it could just as well be “Polymerase Chain Revolution”.  I know that even those who do not work on DNA or molecular biology are aware that PCR is a tremendously powerful tool that influences many areas of our life.  Forensics is a classic example, when PCR is used not only to help a prosecutor’s case, but what I find even more fascinating, to prevent innocent people from paying for a crime they did not commit. Many people on death row have been released from prison thanks to one of the most elegant and surprisingly simple techniques in molecular biology. Through PCR, a specific segment of DNA is replicated over and over and over inside a tiny plastic tube. The ability to make a lot of DNA starting with a few molecules opened the doors to countless types of studies, from evolution to detection of genetic and infectious diseases. For biochemists, it is actually impossible to do research without PCR.  Taking our lab as an example, we use it almost on a daily basis, either to make precise alterations in bacterial genes, or to delete bacterial genes from the chromosome.  Without this technology, many of our experiments could not be performed, whereas others would take months instead of days, or even hours.

The genius behind the invention of PCR is Dr. Kary Mullis, who won the Chemistry Nobel Prize exactly twenty years ago, in 1993.  His own recollection of his scientific journey can be found in the fascinating (and at times controversial) book “Dancing Naked in the Mind Field”.

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“We were at mile marker 46.58 on Highway 128, and we were at the very edge of the dawn of the age of PCR. I could feel it”. (Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, page 7)

Phil and I happened to travel right through that highway several times last week, and we made sure to take the book with us so we could read it under the spell of that beautiful setting.

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“When you  get the hang of it, science, like everything else people do for a living, is pretty straightforward. You are in the business of solving puzzles. The way to approach a puzzle is to think about it for a while, look at all the facts you can find out about it, and then take a guess.  Propose a solution. The next step is to try your best to disprove your solution. Show that the pieces don’t fit together in the way  that you have proposed. If you can do that, then propose another solution.  And then do the same thing. Reality is a tricky little puzzle”.  (K. Mullis, Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, page 50).

Through my work, I had the chance to meet incredibly impressive people.  One such person was Joe Neilands, Phil’s PhD advisor from Berkeley.  The impact of Neilands on Phil’s scientific career and political views was huge. Even though Joe passed away many years ago, Phil always includes a picture of him in his talks, a well-deserved tribute to the man who discovered siderophores.  Siderophores (as I mentioned in the blog before)  are molecules that allow bacteria and other microorganisms to survive in a world where iron is virtually unavailable.   I knew that Kary Mullis was a PhD student in Neilands’ lab, in fact he was still around for a while when Phil joined the lab. I was thrilled to find out several references to his great mentor in the book.

“The lab in which I learned the most about life was presided over by Joe Neilands. (…) Joe Neilands made me aware of the present-day planet.  I already knew about the universe but had spent little time thinking about today and the people around me”. (Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, page 35).

Tomorrow will be a special day for us.  Kary Mullis will be in town to present a conference at our department, invited by Phil.  He will have lunch with graduate students, talk to faculty, and certainly fascinate us with his recollections of the discovery of PCR.   The talk is open to the public, so if you find yourself “in the neighborhood”, consider dropping by…    😉

NOTE ADDED AFTER PUBLICATION OF THIS POST:  Conference will be streamed live and open to the public, so if you want to listen to him, join us by clicking here (you can also watch it later, it will be saved on the site).

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I am so excited to finally meet him! I know it will be a great event for our department and a unique opportunity for graduate students to interact with someone who is not only brilliant, but is also not afraid to speak his own mind and to swim against the current, no matter how strong a current it is.

“The laws of science are demonstrable. They are not beliefs. When experiments in our century showed that Newton’s gravitational laws were not quite accurate, we changed the laws – despite Newton’s good name and holy grave in Cambridge. Relativity fits the facts better. This  is the way science has been done now for almost four centuries, and because of science – not religion or politics – even people like you and me can have possessions that only a hundred years ago kings would have gone to war to own. Scientific method should not be taken lightly”.  (Dancing Naked in the Mind Field, page 112).

ONE YEAR AGO: October 16: World Bread Day

TWO YEARS AGO: The US Listeria Outbreak 2011

THREE YEARS AGO: 36 Hour Sourdough Baguettes

FOUR YEARS AGO: October 16 is World Bread Day

APRICOT-RASPBERRY SORBET: A FAREWELL TO SUMMER

Every year I must prepare myself mentally for a cruel fate ahead: the end of the summer. Goodbye shorts and t-shirts, goodbye laying in the sun, goodbye golf (well, that could be a good thing for my fellow players). This year summer took too long to arrive and never got hot enough for my taste. I can only hope that winter will be equally wimpy. But, back to what matters, a recipe to put our ice cream maker to good use before storing it away.  Another production of my beloved husband, this sorbet was quite likely my favorite.

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APRICOT-RASPBERRY SORBET
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 lb. fresh apricots
1 lb. fresh raspberries
1 cup water
3/4 cups sugar
1 ripe banana, cut in pieces

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Split the apricots in half, remove the pits, and cut each half into chunks. Combine the apricot and water in a saucepan and cook, covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Heat until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
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Place the cooked apricots to the bowl of a food processor, add the raspberries and the banana, then puree the mixture until completely smooth. Taste and adjust the amount of sugar if necessary.  Cover and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.
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Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker.
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ENJOY!
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to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  I shall hereby nominate my beloved husband the Master Sorbet Maker in our home.  He comes up with one great recipe after another, never afraid to improvise.

You’d think that a kitchen renovation could prevent him from coming up with this type of concoction, but far from that. If you paid attention to my last In My Kitchen post, you may have noticed the ice cream machine sitting at the counter during our chaotic hellnovation.   😉

A final note:  this is a very special blog post for me, as tomorrow we will be flying back home to our new kitchen!  Looking back,  I  can hardly believe I kept the Bewitching Kitchen going through it all…  It was a bit of a challenge, but here I am, almost crossing the finish line.

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Marcela’s Salpicon

TWO YEARS AGO: Pork Kebabs

THREE YEARS AGO: Fondant au Chocolat

FOUR YEARS AGO: Got Spinach? Have a salad!