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More burger talk….

Chef JimEarlier this week I posted my recipe for a Green Chile Burger. And it got me thinking…I could do a whole month of burger recipes. Not that I’m going to, but hey, I can ask you guys to let me know what your favorite burger is.

So let me know…what are your favorite burgers–meat type or other fillings, toppings, bun, etc. I wanna know your favorite burger and why. So let me know in the space below, or on Facebook or Twitter after I post this. Have fun with it, and be honest! Heck, you might remember I posted a peanut butter banana burger recipe a while back too. Nothing is too crazy!

Grub for guys: green chile burger

Last month I posted my green chile burger on Bullz-Eye.com’s Grub for Guys. I have always wanted to experiment with different burger variations, and this Southwest variation on the burger is one that I really had fun with. Mostly though, it came out awesome. Here is the recipe…give it a shot and let me know what you think……

A few years ago, I attended a conference in Albuquerque, and it was the first time I’d ever been to New Mexico or Arizona. But I have always been a fan of Southwest-inspired food. Well, the one thing that was ubiquitous with the Southwest that I noticed was green chile—not the chili you eat in the winter, but the chile pepper. There are, of course, several different types, but typically the one that is symbolic and representative of “green chile” and its affiliated recipes is the poblano pepper. So in the spirit of grilling season, I decided to present a recipe that you guys could surely appreciate—a green chile burger.

Ingredients:
1 pound (or more) of ground beef, preferably 80/20 or ground chuck
Kosher salt
2 large poblano peppers
Olive oil or vegetable oil spray
1 cup shredded cheese blend (I used ½ fontina and ½ extra sharp cheddar)
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup ketchup
1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro
4 large Kaiser rolls or hamburger buns

Directions:
Preheat grill to medium-high. Make the “secret sauce”—combine mayo, ketchup and cilantro, and set aside. Divide beef into four equal portions and shape into patties according to how thick you’d like your burger. Make an indentation in the center with your thumb to avoid the burgers puffing up. Sprinkle with salt. Spray poblano peppers with cooking spray. Cook peppers on grill until slightly charred but not too burnt. Cook the burgers for 3-4 minutes per side or until desired doneness. When burgers are almost done, sprinkle with cheese, and cook for another 30-45 seconds or until cheese melts. Keep burgers under a foil tent while you prepare the peppers. Carefully peel the skin off the peppers, and then slice peppers into large, flat slices, and discard stems and seeds. To assemble, spread sauce on each bun half, place burger on bottom half, and top with roasted peppers. Now eat that thing like you mean it! Serves 4 (or 2 hungry dudes, or 1 extremely hungry and gluttonous dude).

Product review: Brisk iced green tea with mango dragonfruit

Chef JimIn conjunction with the movie The Green Lantern, which hit theaters on June 17, Brisk Iced Tea has developed a new flavor of tea which they are calling a “new flavor-forward product,” and that flavor is Mango Dragonfruit Green Tea.

I don’t exactly drink a lot of iced tea, but new products like this always intrigue me. And this one is extremely refreshing, particularly as I drink some on the seventh straight day of 90+ degree heat in Wisconsin. Admittedly, the flavor is a bit different. Mango is different to begin with, and you throw in the green aspect and you’ve got something quite unique. And the more you drink, the more it grows on you. The bottle also features art from The Green Lantern.

Brisk is also running a promotion at www.anyonecanbechosen.com for the film in conjunction with parent company Frito-Lay in which consumers can enter a game code from specially marked Brisk and also bags of Doritos, Cheetos and Ruffles to win prizes. The promotion continues through July 31.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

A few years ago when we lived in Nashville, we were a bit disappointed with their farmer’s market. It was not as nice or easy to get to as the one I remembered from my days living in Ohio before that. But then my wife and I went to an Earth Day festival three or four years ago and there were booths for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) from local farms. We talked to a few farmers and were extremely intrigued. Of course, we’d heard of CSAs before but the thought of not having a say in what we picked up for each share turned us off–temporarily. That all changed when a farmer that day told us how it’s a matter of eating what is in season and fresh. We were sold. So we did our CSA for two seasons and absolutely loved it.

Then we moved to Madison, Wisconsin in April of 2010. Madison, of course, is home to the greatest farmer’s market known to man, the Dane County Farmer’s Market. I’m not exaggerating here, it’s awesome. It goes all the way around the Capitol on Saturday mornings and has farmers who grow produce as well as meats, and there are cheeses, baked goods and all kinds of other amazing local foods. So last year we just enjoyed what the market had to offer.

But this year, we had the CSA jones again. A friend told us about Driftless Organics, and after visiting their website once and reading about the farm and their CSA…well, let’s just say I wrote the check and mailed it that day.

There is a small bit of difference in the Driftless CSA than the Nashville one–they grow a very diverse and interesting set of crops at this farm, and encourage you to try things you haven’t tried before. We’ve had pea vines, green garlic, baby fennel and kohlrabi. We’ve also had some of the best green beans we’ve ever tasted, and some incredibly sweet beets. We are, of course, looking forward to summer favorites like peppers, tomatoes and sweet corn.

The photo above is of a meal we made a few weeks ago that included some fresh yellow squash from our CSA; and some roasted beets with sauteed beet greens. And once I find the time and creative energy to develop some more interesting recipes using our share, I will post them here. Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet tried a CSA–let me tell you, you’re missing out. There is no better feeling than the feeling of supporting a local farmer, eating what’s fresh (and I do mean fresh), and enjoying produce that is 100% organic.

Low carb breakfast special

I’m trying to lose a bit of weight, so for the moment I’m cutting back on carbs. But as I looked at a South Beach Diet cookbook this morning, I decided that I was just going to whip up my own recipe. So I made an egg sandwich using fried ham as the “bread,” and used mashed avocado and hot sauce as condiments. It was awesome. Here is how I did it and how you can, too….

Fry up two slices of ham until crisp, but not burnt. In another skillet, scramble two eggs and add salt and pepper. Cook until just set. Meanwhile, mash half an avocado with some salt. Lay ham on a plate next to each other, place a slice of swiss (or any cheese you have on hand) on one slice of ham, and spread avocado on the other. Then slide the scrambled eggs onto the slice with the cheese. Shake some hot sauce, on, assemble the sandwich and eat. As my wife said, it might be low-carb but it’s not low-fat. That’s okay though, I was only looking to cut carbs in my breakfast, and I succeeded.

More food pet peeves

Earlier this week, I wrote about my pet peeve for tomatoes and the fact that grocery stores do not carry good ones right smack in the middle of summer, a.k.a. tomato season. But that was just the start of my thoughts on food pet peeves I have. So with that, here are a few more…..

Soft pretzels dipped in butter–I blame Auntie Anne’s for this, but now butter-drenched pretzels are the only ones you can buy in any mall across the country. I might be old-school here (no, I KNOW I’m old-school), but I long for soft pretzels you can buy that are drenched in nothing but salt. Seriously, butter goes on a pretzel like ketchup goes on ice-cream. Okay, that’s extreme, but you get my drift. But the final straw happened to me recently when I was in Target and tried to buy a pretzel without the butter. They looked at me funny, and said they needed to drench it in order for salt to adhere to it. I asked if I could buy the display one, which appeared to be butter-less, and they said that that was a fake pretzel. Go figure.

Hydration systems for produce–Seriously, do you really need to drench the lettuce and herbs until they practically wilt and turn brown? And do they have to spray every 10 seconds so that when I reach for something I get soaked?

Peaches–This is akin to my tomato gripe. Why is it that more than half of grocery store peaches are hard as a rock? I’ll tell you why. Because they pick them way before they should be picked. And they don’t ripen. Those hard ones only become slightly less hard, and they crunch when you bite into them like an apple. That’s just wrong.

High-fructose corn syrup–It’s known to be really bad for us, so why is it the primary ingredient now in things like soft drinks and popsicles? And why is it in supposedly healthy items like whole wheat bread? I bet soon we’ll be brushing our teeth with the stuff.

Raw onions–If you’ve eaten a raw onion, you know that it has an extremely strong and pungeant taste. Cooked onions are delicious and sweet, but raw onions are vile. So why does every restaurant insist on throwing them on my salad? I don’t always remember to ask for them to be omitted and in that case have to remove them myself. Inevitably, even if I use a fork, the onion smell gets on my hands and I can’t wash it off for three days. And if I miss a piece in my salad and eat it by accident, I have to deal with the lingering taste in my mouth the rest of the day. I also have horribly bad breath to deal with. And I feel like I could drink seven gallons of water. Seriously, why?? And how do you people who eat big slabs of raw onion on your burger taste the freaking burger?

Seasoned fries–I may be old-school again here, but I’ve grown tired of excessive seasoning on my French fries. Fries are best when they are cooked in oil and lightly salted–that’s it. But restaurants, and I’m talking in particular about chains, decided at some point that coating my fries with additional spices like pepper, paprika, garlic powder, chili powder or all of the above was a good idea. Let me help you here…it’s never a good idea.

Servers who don’t use a pen–This is more of a restaurant-only pet peeve. Why do servers insist on trying to remember my order as well as everyone at the table’s order without writing it down? I am never impressed if you don’t screw up my order, but I’m always impressed if you have the class (and common sense) to write my order down so that it’s harder to screw up.

Hey, that was fun! Feel free to add yours….

Tomatoes: a pet peeve

Chef JimI’m going to write more about food pet peeves tomorrow, but I thought since it’s the middle of July, that a stand-alone post about tomatoes is in order.

Now, I feel blessed to live in Madison, where we have one of the best farmer’s markets in the nation (and I’m not exaggerating…look up the Dane County Farmer’s Market). Anyway, I also belong to an awesome CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with a local farm, Driftless Organics. But we get our box from the farm every other week and this past weekend was an “off” week. No problem, I can always head to the market on Saturday. But since my wife was out of town and I had our 3-year old in tow, the fact that an art fair moved the market off the “square” to a much more congested area of downtown, I decided to just get what I needed from the grocery store.

Which leads me to my gripe today–tomatoes.

Is it too much to ask that a “vine ripe” tomato in the grocery store, is, you know, vine ripe? Instead they are mealy and disgusting, something I expect in January, not in July. I am guessing that these tomatoes are grown in a hothouse, and/or are plucked before they should be plucked. But come on. Even the “cluster” tomatoes, the ones that are sold with the vines, are crappy from the grocery store.

There is no substitute for a farm-fresh tomato in the summer, or one you grow yourself (we didn’t do that this year but I’m regretting that decision already). But there is also zero excuse for a store–even a chain grocery store–to sell a crappy, mealy tomato in the heat of summer. It’s also a crime for a restaurant to serve mealy tomatoes this time of year, but raise your hand if you’ve had a mealy restaurant tomato recently. I know I see a lot of hands from where I sit because it’s true!

Anyway, I hope our CSA share has some tomatoes, and even if it does, I’m buying more from the market this weekend. It’s time for tomato sandwiches, one of the best parts of summer, and there is no room on my bread for crappy-ass tomatoes!

Mikey’s Tips for Summer Foods

I’m a firm believer in eating lighter and/or eating less during the summer months. Naturally, we are more active during the summer anyway, but it’s harder to be active when you’ve tacked on 10 to 20 or more pounds over the winter months. Eating lighter in the summer makes sense because, well, it’s too freaking hot to be gluttonous. I’m not saying I don’t chow on burgers, fries and shakes occasionally, I just do it less in the hotter weather, or eat less of what’s on my plate. But here are a few more tips for you….

1. Eat cold food. Salads, pasta salads, or sandwiches are not always girly. In fact, I think I need to do a few posts on sandwiches that are dude-friendly. But as I showed before, pasta salad can also be dude-friendly.

2. Eat my freaking gazpacho. Seriously, you have to try this. I think I’m going to whip some up this weekend.

3. Drink fruit smoothies. These are refreshing and and great in the summer with melon and berries in season. And hey, I won’t stop you from adding alcohol if you feel like it.

4. Stay hydrated. This is good for two reasons–you won’t keel over from dehydration, and you’ll eat less.

5. Heck, eat ice-cream for dinner. Unless you’re trying to set an example for your kids, why not? Plus, there are all of those awesome soft serve stands open in the summer.

6. Cut back on carbs. Grill some meat, grill some vegetables, and cut back on the bread and rice and potatoes. You will feel lighter, trust me.

Michael Symon’s B Spot

Chef JimI’m not going to profess being a restaurant critic, nor even a trendy food blogger. What I am is an average Joe with a food blog who knows good food when he eats it. And two Fridays ago when I had lunch with a buddy and business associate in Cleveland, we ate at Michael Symon’s B Spot and as you might expect, the burger I had was phenomenal.

I lived in Cleveland for 11 years, but I never went to Symon’s famed Lola Bistro in the Tremont section of town. Symon, of course, had his career blow up when he became a Food Network Iron Chef, and regular contributor to the network on shows such as “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” And I had the opportunity to chat with him for Bullz-Eye last year.

Anyway my buddy Jason is a vegetarian, but he told me to order the Symon Says burger, which one of his co-workers said was awesome. And it was…..a burger with a thick slab of fried bologna, some cole slaw, American cheese and whip sauce (a nifty blend of…wait for it…mayo and mustard). Everything about this burger was delicious….everything separately and everything together in harmondy. And the fries were thin and crispy with just a touch of salt and rosemary (and my wife will attest that I don’t like rosemary!). Washed down with a pilsner at lunch time, you can’t get any better than an Iron Chef-recipe burger and fries and beer. And next time we get to Cleveland, I plan on trying more of the burgers (they also specialize in bratwurst, bologna sandwiches, bar snacks, big salads and “badass” shakes–hence all the B’s)!

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