Carrot and Parsnip Butter Mash

This is a modified version of a recipe in Easy Vegetarian, edited by Sharon Ashman, which Kª gave me for my birthday.  It’s total comfort food.  The original recipe calls for mixing spinach with the carrots, a surprising and tasty innovation, but as Kª was bringing a spinach salad on this occasion I replaced the spinach with parsnips.

Making this recipe is super easy but it goes against my principles of vegetable nutrition.  I have always been taught that you gently steam vegetables and you leave their skins on if possible, and that way you get all the good stuff the veggies have to offer.

Boiling the crap out of your vegetables, especially once peeled, means all the goodness goes down the drain when you pour out the water.

In this particular case, however, we will forgo the goodness for the tasty buttery-ness.

Peel up some carrots and some  parsnips, probably on a ratio of 3:1, as parsnips have a stronger flavour and you don’t need as many.  Slice ’em up into little discs and put them in a pot with enough water to cover them.  Boil the crap out of them FOR EVER, or at least until you can mash the carrots against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon (the parsnips will be super soggy by this point already).

Drain all the water out and, with a potato masher, mash up what you’ve got.  Add generous amounts of butter and some salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot, obviously.  I used 7 carrots and 3 parsnips and it served about 8 or 9 people.

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Basic Burgers

Today is the first day after the Pie and I finished our month-long vegetarian experiment.  Accordingly, we’re going to MEAT IT UP and have ourselves some burgers tonight.  So much for easing back into omnivorism.

There are two very important things to remember when making burgers by hand.  The first is to buy no leaner than a medium ground chuck.  You may think you’ve made a healthy choice with a leaner ground but your burger will not stick together and will crumble as it cooks.  The second is to touch the meat as little as possible, which is quite a feat considering you need to hand-form the patties.  But it is doable, and making your own burgers really isn’t that hard.

There is a third thing you should know about burgers: KEEP IT SIMPLE.  Remember that you are frying or grilling up some ground meat, which, as it cooks, will secrete slippery oil and will shrink into individual particles.  This means that cohesiveness is an issue when making burgers, which is why you don’t touch them too much or get too rough with them.  The more stuff you add to the chuck before forming it into the patty, the more you risk a crumbling burger.  If you’re going to add things to the meat, make sure they’re small things so they don’t mess with the burger’s internal structure.

Gonna get gooey.

So you take your meat.  We made some of these patties out of medium ground beef and others from ground chicken.  I like to leave it out of the fridge for a while because you are going to be working it in your hands and manipulating cold ground meat feels like sticking your hands in the northern Pacific in the winter (which I have done and don’t recommend).  The amount of meat you use depends on the number of burgers you want, obviously.  We find a kilo of ground makes about 9 3-inch patties.

Put your meat in a large bowl that you can easily get your hands into.  Remove your rings and roll up your sleeves.  This is going to get gooey.

Finely (and I’m talking FINE) dice a medium onion and chuck that in with the meat.  Add a few teaspoons of minced garlic from a jar, and a few sprinkles of dried oregano and basil (or any herb of your choice) and a pinch or two of sea salt and ground pepper.  If you’re feeling adventurous you can add a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce and/or Tabasco sauce.  Don’t go too crazy with your ingredients, because you need the meat to be able to stick to itself as it cooks.

If you have no confidence in your patty cohesiveness, or if you have ignored me and purchased lean ground beef, you can add an egg or two, but I think that’s cheating.  Eggs are useful in meatloaf, but they don’t really belong in burgers.  ON burgers, but not IN burgers.

Working quickly, mix the meat with your hands until all your ingredients are just combined.

Grab a handful of the mixture and pat it gently into a patty about the size of your palm.  Make a thumbprint indentation in the centre of the patty and set it aside.  The indentation will keep the patty from contracting too much as it cooks.  Repeat until all the meat is gone.

You can freeze your patties for use at a later date.  Simply separate the patties with wax paper and place them in a freezer bag, tightly sealed, with the air removed.

Heat a large skillet with a bit of olive oil (or a grill, or even a broiler) and get those patties on there.  Once the patties are on the hot surface, you leave them the hell alone.  You may flip the burgers, but you can only do it ONCE, usually about five to ten minutes into the cooking, depending on how well done you like your meat.  Safety-wise, your burger should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F.

If you like cheese on your burger, put a few slices on after you have flipped the patty and they will melt into the meat.

Serve on a bun of your choice with the toppings you like.  Very much a crowd-pleaser, and it covers four food groups.

Roasted Garlic

Grab yourself some garlic.

Seriously, is there anything better than roasted garlic?  I’m not sure there is.  I got this idea from Martha Stewart, of course.

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Take some garlic, still in its head (I used five, because that’s what came in the package), and carefully slice off the top quarter of the head.  Make sure the garlic sits flat and arrange the heads, cut-side-up in a baking dish.

Cut off the top quarter or so.

Season the garlic heads with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with some fresh thyme (or frozen, if you have some on hand).

Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme.

Slowly drizzle olive oil over each head, letting the oil soak into and around the cloves.  My heads were small, and I used about a tablespoon of oil for each head.

Drizzle the oil so it soaks in.

Cover the dish tightly with tin foil and roast until the cloves are golden, very soft, and starting to stick out of the head a bit, about an hour.  Let them cool until you can hold them comfortably in your hand.

Starting from the bottom, squeeze each head to push out the cloves and peel the skin from any cloves still enclosed.  At least, that’s what Martha told me to do.  I found it was easier to peel the outside layer of skin away and pop out the roasted clove.

Pop out the roasted cloves.

Transfer the garlic and the cooking oil to a jar or other airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

My very own garlic in a jar!

Salt and Pepper Dish

I like tobasco sauce, but Pie prefers pepper flakes.

We only have one set of salt and pepper grinders in the house, and they’re in use pretty much all the time.  We like to have them on hand when we’re cooking, and as well when we’re eating, so they travel all over the kitchen, to the dining room, and also the living room.

I got tired of making trips between rooms with all the little items under my arms, and I also got tired of cleaning up the little piles of ground salt and pepper left on the counters and table after putting down the grinders for the umpteenth time.

I think I got this idea from Martha Stewart, but regardless of where it came from, it’s a keeper.

Find a small dish you like and keep all your table items on it.  It makes transportation between rooms and counters a one-trip job, and it keeps the powdered spices off your tables and counters.  It’s pretty genius.