In my never-ending quest for meal variation, I decided this week to make good ol’ burgers for dinner alongside a different version of chilled pasta salad. Not only am I (and baby:-) craving red meat, but I was also finally able to lay my hands on some ground beef and jumped at the chance to cook something that would at least give me the illusion of summertime, cheesy grilled burgers, without the grill :/ And how does one accomplish that? I got two words for you: high heat. That’s basically what a grill does, cooking food over conditions of high heat but the flames are direct so when using a (slightly lamer) frying pan, one has to try a little harder to ‘recreate’ grill conditions. Trust me, it’s possible.

Cajun seasoning does wonders for any plain hunk of meat so I highly recommend it for making burgers; the paprika made the patties taste a little sweet while the cayenne gave it spiciness, a very interesting flavor combination if I may add. Frying thick slices of tomatoes adds a bit of excitement to the burger presentation (not to mention taste) but just make sure to brown both sides of the tomato slices and then promptly remove them from the frying pan before they get uselessly mushy, because nobody likes that.

This colorful version of pasta salad is based on a recipe from Cooking Light and involves roasted red peppers, fresh mint, and Brazil nuts. With access to copious amounts of fresh mint, it seemed like a no-brainer to me but if you aren’t a huge fan of mint then I’d recommend some other fresh herbs, or just more basil :] I decided to include the burger and pasta salad recipes separately for the sake of simplicity. As for the star ingredient, I’d have to say it’s the fried tomatoes because they’re just wonderful–easy to make, greater to taste–it seems flavor only increases in vegetables you take the time to roast (or fry!!)

Baby Bowtie Pasta Salad with Fresh Mint, Roasted Red Peppers, and Brazil Nuts

Ingredients

(for the salad)

1 lb. baby bowtie pasta

1 jar roasted red peppers, seeded & chopped

1 bunch green onions, finely chopped

1/2 cup Brazil nuts, chopped

1/4 cup golden raisins, softened

(for the vinaigrette)

1 bunch fresh mint, minced

1 bunch fresh basil, minced

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbs. rice vinegar

3 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. milk

2 Tbs. lime juice

salt & cracked pepper

(1) Cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to package instructions until al dente, drain, and then rinse thoroughly with cold water. (2) Combine all ingredients for the vinaigrette (minced mint through lime juice) in a small bowl, whisking well with a fork; season to taste with salt & pepper. (3) To assemble the salad, mix the cooked pasta in a large bowl with all remaining ingredients, including the vinaigrette. Stir everything together very well, adding more lime juice for moisture if needed. Refrigerate salad until ready to serve.

Serves 4

Cajun-Spiced Burgers with Fried Tomatoes, Red Onion, and Swiss Cheese

Ingredients

1 lb. ground beef

3 eggs, beaten

8 slices of Swiss cheese

4 large burger buns

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, thickly sliced

2 Tbs. soy sauce

salt & cracked pepper

1 packet Cajun spice blend (or make blend: 3 Tbs. ground cumin, 3 Tbs. dried oregano, 2 Tbs. garlic powder, 3 Tbs. sweet paprika, 2 tsp. salt, 1 Tbs. cracked pepper, 2 Tbs. chili powder, 1 Tbs. onion powder, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper)

(1) In a large bowl, mix together the ground beef, Cajun seasoning, and beaten eggs; refrigerate for about 30 minutes. (2) Heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat and fry the tomato slices, browning both sides before putting on a separate plate; keep covered until ready to serve burgers (3) Form the meat mixture into 4 thick burger patties and reheat the pan with another tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add burger patties and cook 8-10 minutes total, flipping when the sides have browned before adding two slices of Swiss cheese on each patty; burgers will be medium to medium-well when done and cheese should be melted. Let sit covered with foil for at least 3 minutes before serving. (4) To assemble burgers, toast the buns beforehand and add a patty to each, topping with warm slices of fried tomatoes, red onion, and ketchup, if desired.

Serves 4

So at last I satisfy my burger cravings and only managed to destroy half the kitchen in the process (okay, so I destroyed all of it }:-) My next endeavor will have to be something just as simple, another old-school meal reminiscent of the American food I’m missing out on over here, something with melted cheese too…

My question(s): what are your favorite burger toppings? And what’s the best cheese to melt on burgers?

I’m thinking anything classically delicious 🙂

11.16.11

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