Category Archives: Turkey

An Unapologetic Turkey Burger

burger with runny egg 625 sqThe popularity of hamburgers continues to soar and our desire for novel and sometimes bizarre burger concoctions knows no bounds. Have you sunk your teeth into a Luther Burger yet? Hot on the heels of the Ramen Burger comes the Spaghetti Burger. And although you gotta give the guys at Slater’s 50/50 in Huntington Beach California some credit for creativity, I won’t be trying the peanut Butter and Jellousy Burger any time soon.

I have often felt that turkey burgers are the Rodney Dangerfield of the burger world. They just don’t get much love and respect. People look down on the lowly turkey burger. Not exciting, bland, boring and often dry as dust. I aim to change all that.

These are turkey burgers with nothing to apologize for. They are spiced with cumin and just a hint of chipotle chile powder. Lightly oiled and heavily salted just before they hit the grill, they are cooked through with just the perfect amount of char and crunch on the outside. Delicious as this burger is, it’s really all about the toppings here. I thinly sliced several onions and cooked them low and slow in a bit of olive oil, for almost 40 minutes until they were sweet and caramelized. A pinch of sugar helps the process. Patience please. Do not try to rush this process by turning up the heat. You will end up with burned onions.slicing onionsSome thickly sliced heirloom tomatoes, sour kosher dills and buttery avocado, sliced into wedges round out the toppings. I toasted a multi grain bun and spread it liberally with some chipotle mayo.  toppings The cherry on top is a fried egg. It seems that fried eggs are showing up on top of everything these days. There’s a very good reason for the fried egg trend. It just tastes freaking amazing. The crispy edges and the runny yolk of a fried egg are really one of life’s simpler pleasures in our ever increasingly complex world.

The richness of the yolk is the ideal way to counteract the natural leanness of the turkey.burger with egg 2 625 sqFrom that very first bite when you chomp into the burger and the yolk dribbles down your chin and the side of the burger, happiness will ensue. with sweet potato friesThe flavours and textures of this burger are something very special. The contrast of the cool crunchy sour dill with the warm tender egg will get your taste buds very excited for a second bite. Slow down and notice the sweet-acid zip of the tomato and the smooth buttery avocado. Take note the heat of the chipotle mayo, thickly slathered on the bun and the smoky accent of cumin in the burger. It all just works.

Click here to print recipe for An Unapologetic Turkey Burger.

Thanksgivukkah. Some new traditions for a new holiday.

sandwich 3 with textIt’s always a good day when I can learn a new word! Last week I learned the word Portmanteau. A portmanteau or portmanteau word is a combination of two or more words and their definitions, into one new word. For example; Bootylicious, from booty and delicious, chillax, from chill and relax and jeggings, from jeans and leggings. Jeggings by the way are not pants. Your booty must be covered if you insist on wearing them. (Sorry, just a little side rant!)

The newly coined portmanteau word of Thanksgivukkah was celebrated this past Thursday. I just love the fact that the word was actually coined by a Jewish mom, living in Boston. As you may have heard, this past Thursday, the American holiday of Thanksgiving collided with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.  Sort of a secular-religious mashup. The last time this happened was in 1889. It will not occur again until 79811! In case you are wondering why this does not happen every year, it is not because Jews are poor timekeepers. The Huffington Post did a brilliant job of explaining.

“The reason for this year’s rare alignment has to do with quirks of two calendars, the Gregorian and Jewish calendars. Much of the world follows the Gregorian calendar, which has a 365-day year based on the Earth’s orbit around the sun, with leap years every four years. The Gregorian calendar was implemented by Pope Gregory to keep Easter in line with the season it was originally celebrated in.

But the Jewish calendar, which was created more than 2,000 years ago, follows the waxing and waning of the moon. That calendar has 12 months of roughly 30 days each, which works out to a bit more than 354 days in a year. As a result, the Jewish year creeps earlier and earlier relative to the Gregorian calendar. But many Jewish holidays, such as Passover, are tied to seasons such as spring.

To keep holidays in line with their seasons, the Jewish calendar includes an entire extra month in seven of every 19 years. This year is a leap year, so Hanukkah and all of the other Jewish holidays came especially early in 2013. And Thanksgiving, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November, happened to come extra late this year, allowing for the convergence.”

I actually had to read that explanation 3 times before I understood it, but not to worry, this is not the main focus of this post. I wanted to spend a little time writing about the difference between Canadian and American Thanksgiving.

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. Americans celebrate it on the fourth Thursday in November. When I was growing up, our family, and most of the other Jewish families I knew did not even celebrate Thanksgiving. It was just a welcome day off school and work. I’m not sure why we never celebrated it. Perhaps because it was usually so close to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and by the time it rolled around, we were holidayed out.

Canadian Thanksgiving is based on European harvest celebrations. It is our way of saying thanks for the the bounty of the harvest and giving us enough food to last through the cold winter. American Thanksgiving is based on a tradition of remembering and paying tribute to the pilgrims.

While Americans may celebrate louder and larger, Canadians were actually the first to celebrate Thanksgiving. English explorer Martin Frobisher is widely credited with hosting the first Canadian Thanksgiving. In 1578, he and his crew were out at sea searching for the Northwest Passage to the Orient. Although they did not find it on this particular journey, (they arrived instead in Newfoundland) they celebrated their safe arrival to the New World. And no one can celebrate like Newfoundlanders! After all, they invented screech. The first American   Thanksgiving (1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts) was not celebrated until 43 years after the first Canadian celebration.

The foods that Canadians and Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with are basically similar, except that the milk which Canadians mix into their mashed potatoes comes from a bag and is served with an extra pinch of politeness.

I do believe that both Canadians and Americans experience simmering cranberry sauce and emotions over their respective holiday weekends. There is nothing like an extended family gathering to bring out all kinds of feelings and arguments over pie and other such nonsense.

My husband and I had planned to be in Florida for American Thanksgiving this year. Our oldest son and daughter decided to join us for the weekend. About a month before the holiday my daughter sent me this link. We started planning how we would celebrate our first Thanksgivukkah. Since we were not arriving in Florida until 1:00 pm on Thursday afternoon, shopping and cooking an entire dinner from scratch was out of the question. We ordered  Turkey dinner and all the fixings from Whole Foods and decided to supplement with homemade sweet potato latkes.

As I am still in a cast and using crutches, the cooking fell to my husband, daughter and son. My daughter was in awe that applesauce was so simple to make. Basically, apples and a bit of water get cooked in a covered pot until soft and then mashed with a fork. You could get fancy and add cinnamon and other spices but we kept it basic.cutting applesapples uncookedapples cooked 2We started off making straight sweet potato latkes, but because they exude very little starch, they did not hold together very well. We then moved on to a hybrid latke, using a combo of starchy baking potatoes and sweet potatoes. We mixed in some grated onion, a couple of beaten eggs, a bit of flour and some salt and pepper. With all the extra hands on deck, the peeling and grating went quickly and we only had one grated knuckle mishap.peeling potatoesgrating sweet potatoesgrating regular potatoesOnce the potatoes have been grated, it is important to squeeze out all the excess liquid and then let the liquid sit for about 5 minutes. All the potato starch will sink to the bottom of the bowl. Drain off the liquid and scrape that starch into the latke mixture. It will help to hold them together.starchAt last, latke perfection was achieved. Crispy on the outside and creamy and soft within. just rightWe did not set a fancy table and sit down to eat. We just gobbled up the latkes as they came out of the hot oil. One of my family members performed the sacrilgious act of dousing the latke with ketchup!! (Apparently an Ottawa tradition). the crimeOthers kept it old school and slathered them with applesauce the way God intended them to be. take a biteI will admit that by the time the latkes were cooked and eaten, we had little room and interest in eating the turkey, stuffing and gravy. There were lots of leftovers the next day, which I suspect may be the whole point of Thanksgiving anyways. Inspired by Thanksgivukkuh, we made latke sandwiches the next day. Turkey and cranberry sauce sandwiched between two sweet potato latkes. New traditions don’t get much better than this.sandwich 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Sweet Potato Latkes.

Friendship and Barcelona Part 1.

I met one of my very best friends at summer camp when we were 13 years old. We first bonded over giggling about a certain boy we both had a crush on while washing our hair in the rain with Herbal Essence Shampoo. This was way before the days of acid rain, and our camp was in the Haliburton Highlands of Ontario, so the rainwater, while a little cold, was fairly clean. Our friendship, like the shampoo, has endured. Not sure what became of that boy!

In 1991 we both discovered we were pregnant and expecting within several months of each other. She with her fourth child (she already had three boys) and me with my second child (I already had one son). We joked that it would be so cute if we both had girls and they ended up becoming friends. Since I was living in Ottawa at the time and she was in Toronto, it seemed unlikely, but we wished for it anyways.

Fast forward 21 years and yes indeed we both had girls. Her daughter became my god-daughter  and these girls of ours did indeed become friends. To celebrate this milestone birthday of our daughters, we decided to take a trip to mark the occasion. After much lobbying back and forth, Barcelona became the destination of choice. For the record, the moms lobbied hard for a beach holiday where we could just park ourselves under a big palm tree and read and drink Prosecco all day, but the girls lobbied harder for a cultural European city.

I decided to journal our adventure here in my blog, so that one day, when our daughters have daughters, they can look back on this holiday adventure and reminisce! Of course, the journalling will have a culinary bent. This is a food blog after all. Had we been thinking clearly, when planning this trip, perhaps Barcelona was not the best choice from a food perspective. My daughter is a vegetarian and my girlfriend and her daughter keep kosher. Barcelona is a haven for pork lovers!

We arrived around noon, Barcelona time, which was 6:00 a.m. for us. While our comfy beds at The Grand Hotel Central, were calling to us, we thought it would be wiser to try to stay awake and get on Barcelona time as soon as possible. We went for lunch and had our first tapas meal. We were quite jet lagged so I can’t really remember where this was, but there was one little bocadillo (sandwich) that stood out from all the others. It featured breaded and deep-fried goat cheese that was topped with a blueberry compote. Crispy on the outside, creamy, tangy and salty inside, with the sweetness of the blueberry topping, this was a little bite of perfection.                            first tapas lunchWe spent the rest of the afternoon walking around and getting our bearings. It quickly became apparent that only one of us would ever be able to list map reading skills on our resumes. My god-daughter has a keen sense of direction, and she became our North Star. We took a walk down Las Ramblas, a 1.2 kilometer long tree lined pedestrian mall that is in the center of the city. We had heard that the city was rife with pickpockets so we kept our purses close to us, but we had no problems at all. Right in the center of the sidewalk we ran into a cat that charmed us all! El Gato del Raval, is a bronze sculpture by artist  Fernando Botero.El gato del Raval We stumbled upon La Boqueria, the enormous food market, featuring over 200 food stalls, shops and tapas bars. The lattice wrought iron entrance to the market is a beautiful example of Catalonian Art Nouveau. The market has been here since 1857!market 3The sheer volume of stalls and selection at each stall was astounding. It was all quite overwhelming. It took us over 20 minutes to decide which fruit drink to order. I have purchased a  car in less time than that! We blamed our indecision on the jet lag. Pineapple coconut was finally chosen.fruit drinks 2

sharing a drink 2The displays were pure culinary art.chocolate at marketThe candy and dried fruit displays reminded me of the Shuk (Machane Yehuda) in Jerusalem.candyBaby avocados, just slightly larger than strawberries stopped me in my tracks.mini avocadoesThe next day dawned cold and rainy, but we came prepared. Dressed in raincoats, rubber boots and armed with umbrellas, we took an Architectural Walking Tour of the city. The walk, organized by Context Tours focuses on the fantastic architecture of Antoni Gaudí, Barcelona’s most important architect. Gaudi’s work can best be described as a cross between Willy Wonka and Dr. Seuss. He was at the forefront of the Modernista style of architecture so prevalent in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. This style of architecture is perfectly described by author Francois Loyer in his book “Art Nouveau in Catalonia.”

Modernista architecture can be characterized by the use of the curve over the straight line, organic and botanical shapes and motifs, a great richness of ornamentation, bright colours, a disregard of symmetry and a wide use of symbolism….The overall effect is a style of architecture which is very dynamic, very human, very colourful and often absurdly over-the-top when it comes to details and adornment.

Our guide, the charming, enthusiastic and extremely knowledgable Celia (she is an associate professor at the Barcelona School of Architecture) explained that during this time period Barcelona expanded exponentially in size from the medieval Old Town and became a breeding ground for the modernist movement. While this over-the-top, whimsical style may not be everyone’s cup of tea, they certainly make for great photo ops.Casa Batllo

Park_Güell_02

Casa Mila (La Pedrera)After viewing many of his buildings, I was convinced that the term “gaudy” derived from Antoine Gaudi’s over the top style. Apparently not. According to The Online Etymology Dictionary, the word gaudy dates back to the 16th century, well before our Antoine Gaudi was born (1852). It described a joke, plaything or showy ornament.

Gaudi died tragically in 1926. He was run over by a tram. He had spent the last 16 years of his life devoted to the construction of a massive church, The Sagrada Familia Basilica. It remains under construction to this day. There are plans underway to complete the building by 2026, the centenary of his death. Gaudi was fond of saying, “My client his in no hurry.” He was, of course, referring to God! I suspect that not too many clients would be happy with this pace of development.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStay tuned for Part 2 of Friendship in Barcelona, in which we work our way through numerous brands of Spanish Cavas (in alphabetical order) and the girls get pulled over by the police while driving up to Olympic Park.

 

Turkey Tonnato

I named my blog “Salt and Serenity” because I need to have a judicious amount of both on a daily basis. It helps to keep me balanced and sane. Last week I moved up to my cottage for the summer. You would think that by now I would be drenched in serenity. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Instead of looking at this all day long:

I am looking at this:

You see, just before I moved up here I made the switch from PC to Mac. So my days have been filled with trying to learn how to use my Mac. That cool guy on the commercial made it sound like it would be all fun and games. Sure, fun and games until I can’t find all my documents. Then I just want to poke Mr Cool Guy”s eyes out!

Yes, serenity is in short supply here at the cottage this week. The nice woman at the Apple store promised me a short learning curve. Perhaps I’m just a slow learner, but I am having a heck of a time editing my pictures and creating new files. Nothing works the same anymore. Things keep disappearing off my screen and I have no clue how to get them back. I opened my trash bin yesterday, only to discover a file of photos I had been trying to find for over an hour.  I have no idea how they got in there.

So, all this to say that this week, I had neither the time nor the inclination to experiment with anything new in the kitchen. There would be 8 people at the table for dinner on Friday night and I needed a dish I could cook on auto-pilot, as all my brain cells were being consumed by my Mac.

Turkey Tonnato to the rescue! I found this recipe in Gourmet Magazine (a moment of silence please!) 10 years ago this month. It has stood the test of time. I can’t think of too many things that still seem stylish and appropriate 10 years later. Certainly today I would not wear the fashions from the early 2000′s. Trucker hats, sweat suits, low-rise jeans, belly baring tops and daisy duke shorts just don’t make the grade in 2011. But turkey tonnato is still the perfect summer dish. Think of it as the summer food equivalent to white jeans. A timeless classic.

Turkey tonnato is a spin on the classic Italian dish, Vitello Tonnato. It is basically chilled veal in a tuna sauce. The turkey version involves poaching a whole turkey breast in water and vegetables. Then the turkey chills overnight in the broth, where is soaks up all the liquid and remains moist and juicy. Canned tuna, mayo, olive oil, anchovy paste, and lemon juice are blended into a smooth sauce. While the combination may sound a bit strange,” turkey with tuna sauce”, the flavours really work. The turkey is slightly bland and the tuna sauce is tangy.

In the classic Italian version, each slice of cold veal is dipped and coated in the sauce before plating. This idea came about before anyone realized the artery clogging properties of mayo! In this lighter version, the sauce is served on the side and you can decide for yourself just how many arteries you wish to clog.

What I love most about this dish, besides the taste, is that it can be made ahead of time. The day before you plan to serve it, poach the turkey breast and make the sauce. The next day, all you have left to do is slice the turkey and cook the potatoes and beans.

After an overnight cooling in the broth, the turkey is ready to be sliced. Slicing the turkey breast is simple if you remove the breast from the bone first. Then remove the skin and just slice across each breast into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Basil is a tender herb and bruises easily. The best way to cut the basil is to stack the leaves, roll them into a cigar shape and slice across into thin strips. This is known as a basil chiffonade.

Wishing you all a serene week!

To print the recipe for Turkey Tonnato, click here.

The quest for the perfect turkey burger

I have been on a quest to find the ultimate turkey burger for quite some time now. Come to think of it, I have also been on a quest to find the perfect pair of black pants for an even longer while now. If you are a woman, you will know exactly what I mean. The ultimate pair of black pants would skim over your hips without actually clinging and accentuating any lumps, bumps or dimples.  With a pair of heels or killer boots, you would look long and lean and your legs would appear to be a mile long. The pants would be perfect for day and night, and depending on what you pair them with, they would be equally at home at a funeral or a night club. I am not so sure such a pair of black pants exists. I have come close, 9 pairs in my closet at last count, but none of them quite right.

But I do believe that my quest for the ultimate turkey burger is finally over.  For a while there I was adding breadcrumbs and egg to the burgers, to help them bind better, but that just made them tough and dry. Then I tried mixing the turkey with garlic and lots of chopped fresh herbs but that was way too overpowering for delicate turkey meat. I thought I had found the perfect one in June of 2008, when Oprah said, “I believe (it) may be the best turkey burger in the entire world.” She was referring to the turkey burger at Mar-A-Lago, Donald Trump’s private club in Palm Beach. If Oprah said they were the best, I had to try them.

The Mar-a-Lago turkey burger is reminiscent of turkey stuffing, chock full of apples, celery and scallions. Then to help keep the burgers moist Major Grey’s Chutney is added to the mix. This is a mango based chutney with tamarind, raisins, vinegar and lots of spices, including cloves. The first time I tried the burgers I did not care for them but I made them several more times, because Oprah said they were the best, and because I could not put my finger on why I didn’t like them. I finally gave up on them when I realized it was the overpowering flavour of cloves that put me off.

Then, last week, while reading the June issue of Martha Stewart Living, I had an “aha” moment. Don’t build flavour into the turkey burger. Ground turkey has a delicate flavour that you don’t want to fool with too much. Leave the ground turkey alone, save for a little bit of olive oil and salt on top before grilling.  Add flavour through the toppings. This one relies on guacamole for moistness, caramelized onions for sweetness, and pickled jalapenos for heat. I have made them twice now in the past 4 days.

Try to find ground dark turkey meat, instead of  ground turkey breast. It has more fat and will be much moister. I decided to top mine with lettuce and tomatoes, as well, when I encountered these beauties at the grocery store this week.

When I was in line at the check-out, the cashier, a young girl, maybe 17 , picked up the tomatoes, made a face and asked me if I wanted to go back and exchange them for ones without any creases or cracks. It was all I could do hold my tongue and not lecture this poor innocent youngster on organic, heirloom tomatoes. Those cracks and creases mean that these tomatoes actually taste like tomatoes, unlike those smooth red orbs that have all the flavour engineered out of them. I just smiled and said, “No thanks, I like these tomatoes.”

I made a simple guacamole with avocados, cilantro, lime and salt. Try to find Haas avocados, the black pebbly ones. I find the flesh creamier than the smooth green-skinned avocados. Don’t mash the guacamole too fine. Leave it a bit chunky.

Cook the red onions on low heat for about 20 minutes, in order to caramelize them.

Toast the buns for extra flavour and crunch. I found some really great ciabatta buns as well as some multigrain foccacia buns. Add some pickled jalapeno peppers from the jar, and sliced tomatoes and lettuce.

To print the recipe for Turkey Burgers, click here.

P.S. I promise to keep you posted if I ever do find that perfect pair of black pants.