Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dad's Birthday Lunch

My Dad is always complaining that I never invite him over for dinner. If he says this to you, he's lying. I have invited him to dinner quite a few times when he's been here and he always turns me down...I think he's afraid of driving in the county at night. Who can blame him, really? Tomato zombies and all...

So it was his birthday this past week, and we invited him over for lunch. I picked up a delicious Black Forest cake from Lakeside Bakery and made burgers and pasta salad.

I made Roger Mooking's Pasta Salad with Green Onion Dressing. I made it the night before to let the dressing mellow out a bit, and to ensure it was cold for lunch today.

Green Onion Dressing


1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch green onion, white bottoms and green tops separated
1 small garlic clove, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sour cream
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon honey (this is not in the original recipe)
1 box bowtie pasta, cooked
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 red onion, cut into 1/4" inch thick rings
1 red pepper, diced
1 yellow pepper, diced
1 orange pepper, diced
chopped parsley
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, toasted

Heat up the grill (I've also done this on the stovetop in a pan). Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the white bottoms of the green onions and the red onion slices. Grill until slightly softened and charred.

Set red onion aside. Roughly chop grilled whites of the green onions and place in blender with green onion tops, garlic, white white vinegar, dijon mustard, honey and olive oil and puree until smooth.

Transfer to a bowl, stir in sour cream, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

I added a touch of honey to this dressing to cut the sharpness of the onions and to make it taste a little richer, but you could totally omit it if you like.

Place cooked pasta in a large bowl, chop up grilled red onion from earlier and add to the pasta, throw in peppers, and slop in the dressing. Add chopped parsley, taste for a final seasoning with salt and pepper, and put in fridge.

Granted, you could serve this lukewarm or room temperature, there's something awesome about a cold pasta salad.

I toasted some coconut on the stovetop and put it on the table in case someone (like my Dad) doesn't like coconut.

This is an "occasional" recipe. I prefer potato salad with things like this (and my potato salad recipe is golden) but, since we had eaten potato salad recently, I wanted to make something different. This isn't the best pasta salad I've ever had/made, but it's pretty tasty.

The Burger

Based on Michael Smith's awesome hamburger recipe.


1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, grated
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soya sauce

I read somewhere that you shouldn't overwork your meat. Since then, I've mixed all my bits and pieces first, and THEN added the meat in to combine. Not sure if it makes sense, but whatever. It's what I do...and this is my blog, so there.

I also tend to grate my onion so that the pieces are small (which is really good if you have pickypants to feed, thankfully I don't...yet). Today I used shallots, because that's what I had and they needed to be used up, so I just chopped them finely.

So throw the onion (or shallots in this case), Worcestershire sauce and soya sauce in a medium bowl. Season with pepper and mix. You won't need salt (unless you like your burgers extra salty) because you are using soya. This is a genius move on the part of Chef Smith. The flavour it lends the meat is very impressive.

Plop in your ground beef, mix, seperate into 4 portions, form into patties no more than an inch thick. In our house, they need to be thinnish. That's how Don prefers them. I also let the meat come to just a smidge colder than room temperature.

I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere too, to not put cold meat on a hot grill (or in a hot pan). My logic (and that's often questionable, admittedly) is that a super cold hunk of meat will contract when placed on a searing hot grill which would make the meat tough in the end. I could be totally off base, and if I am, don't tell me about it. I don't want to hear it.

So where was I?

Heat the grill, and toss the burger patties on. Leave them alone. Seriously. Don't poke at them, don't flip them, and for pete's sake, DON'T SMUSH THEM DOWN WITH THE FLIPPERMAGIG!

Why do we have the urge to press the meat into the grates? All it does is smush the burger flat and dump out a crapload of juicy goodness!

Michael says around 4 minutes each side should do...I'm not sure how long I cook my burgers for. I guess until I think they are done.

While I was cooking the burgers, I toasted the herb focaccia on the grill to dry out the surface a bit. I like that.

This time I dumped some Diana Sauce (Original style) on the top during the last minute or so, and then pulled them off the grill, put them on the platter, and let them rest for a few minutes while I make sure everything else is in order.

I shredded some cheddar to put on the hot, glazy bbq sauce, and dumped a bit more on top.

Why didn't I melt the cheese on the burger while it was cooking, you may ask? I don't like it. It gets oily and weird...and I like the texture of the shredded cheese mixed in with the bbq sauce. Do whatever you want.

I don't like anything else on my burger when I do it like this...I think the bbq sauce and cheese is plenty, but dress it up to your taste.

This is how I make my burgers, generally. They are pretty tasty, and have the texture that Don prefers in a burger - tender and a little crumbly (and if you don't manhandle them on the grill, the crumble factor happens when you take a bite, as opposed to on the grill)...that's why there's no egg involved.

We had our cake, and retired to the living room where Quinn entertained everyone with his spastic form of interpretive dance, and wild boxing style.


Happy Birthday, Dad!

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