Tag Archives: bbq

Building a not-so-tiny perfect burger

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I love a good hamburger as much as anyone, but restaurant-sized burgers are usually too big for me. When did the standard burger become 8 oz of beef plus whatever other miscellaneous deliciousness you want to add?  (For me that probably means chili and cheddar or sautéed mushrooms, onions, and Swiss.) I still eat burgers at restaurants, but I very rarely eat them with my hands, because they’re just too big to pick up and take bites of.

At home, however, I can make a smaller burger and still eat it with my hands.  I think 1/3 lb is the perfect size, on a nice, toasted or grilled kaiser roll. Kaiser rolls are light enough to squish down for easier eating. We set out a bunch of different toppings, then customize the burgers accordingly. I try not to go overboard with the toppings, so that my burger stays a manageable size. However, if you have guests over, they can go as overboard as they want!

I topped mine with cheddar, bacon, tomato, lettuce, red onions, bbq sauce, pickled jalapenos, and pickles.

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Grilled vegetable sandwiches with hummus and goat cheese

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I used grilled eggplant and zucchini for these, but any grilled vegetables would work.

Bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, anything that tastes good with a  bit of char would be great.  I grilled mine after brushing them with a combination of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and red pepper flakes. The key to a good vegetable sandwich, in my opinion, is making sure that it’s not dry.  You can accomplish this with a variety of spreads–aioli, cream cheese, hummus, pesto, guacamole, tapenade. . .whatever sounds good to you.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Hummus and Goat Cheese

Grilled eggplant, zucchini, or other grilled vegetables
Hummus (I used a black bean and chipotle harissa version that I bought at Sprouts, it’s amazing)
Goat cheese
Whole wheat pita bread

Cut the pita bread in half, then toast or warm in the oven.

Open the pita bread so that it forms a pocket. Spread hummus over the bottom half, then stuff with the vegetables. Top with goat cheese.

That’s it!  It’s not much of a “recipe,” but the combination was so delicious that I had to share it.

Macaroni and cheese

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I made this as a side to Paco’s barbequed chicken, because I wanted to make something different from my usual barbeque sides (potato salad, cole slaw). It was a nice hot accompaniment, but this could definitely act as a main dish with a side of vegetables or salad.

What I love about macaroni and cheese is there are a million different variations. You can use whatever cheese you’d like (I used what I had on hand). You can add eggs to make a more casserole-like dish. You can add vegetables or meat (broccoli, bacon). You can top it with breadcrumbs, potato chips, cracker crumbs, fried onions, or anything crispy.

Macaroni and Cheese
(Serves 8 as a side)

3 strips of bacon, diced
1 onion, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb macaroni
4 T butter
1/4 c flour
1 1/2 c milk
1/2 c cream or half-and-half
4 c of the cheese(s) of your choice (I used cheddar, mozzarella cheese, pecorino romano, and goat cheese)
kosher salt
pepper
pinch cayenne pepper
2-3 tsp Tabasco
a handful (about 1/3 c) of panko breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 9 x 13-inch pan with cooking spray.

Prepare the macaroni using the directions on the package, boiling until it’s a little bit short of al dente (one minute less than al dente).  Remove from the heat and drain.

In a large skillet, brown the bacon until it is not quite crispy and most of the fat has rendered out. Remove the bacon from the pan.  Add the onions and garlic to the bacon fat and toss in the fat.  Season with pepper, and allow to caramelize. When the onions are golden but not falling apart, remove them from the pan as well.

To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a large skillet.  Add the flour, and stir with a whisk to break up the lumps.  Allow to cook for a minute or two, then add the milk and cream.  Bring to a gentle simmer, and stir continuously, allowing the mixture to cook for 5 minutes.  Once it has thickened, add the cheese a little bit at the time, stirring continuously. Season with salt, pepper, cayenne, and Tabasco.

Add the caramelized onions, bacon, and pasta to the cheese sauce, mixing so that the macaroni is thoroughly coated.  Sprinkle the panko over the top.  Spread the macaroni into the baking pan, and bake for 20 minutes.

German potato salad with hot dogs

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Hot dogs are such a fun, guilty pleasure. You know they’re not good for you, they’re not terribly classy, but they’re so delicious!

I am craving a German potato salad, and we have some hot dogs in the fridge, so I thought why not use hot dogs instead of bacon? There’s a similar smokiness and fattiness, but hot dogs will give the potato salad a heartier feel.  We only buy Hebrew Nationals, but you could use turkey dogs or veggie dogs if that’s your thing.

German Potato Salad with Hot Dogs
(serves 8)

3 lbs. small red potatoes, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
3 hot dogs, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 red onion, diced
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
1/3 c olive oil
1 T dijon mustard
2 tsp sugar
kosher salt
black pepper
1/3 c parsley, roughly chopped
5 scallions, thinly sliced

Fill a large pot with the diced potatoes and enough water to cover them by a couple of inches. Salt the water generously. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil until the potatoes are fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, brown the hot dog pieces over medium heat in a small skillet. (Regular hot dogs are fatty enough that you shouldn’t need oil, but add oil if you are using a turkey dog or low-fat substitute.) Allow some of the fat to render out. When the outsides are crisp, remove from the skillet.

In the rendered hot dog fat, saute red onion and season with salt and pepper.  When the onions are soft, remove from the heat.  In a small bowl, combine the onions (and fat), olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, and sugar. Whisk together with a fork to make a dressing. Season with salt and pepper.

When the potatoes are ready, drain them and place them in a large serving bowl. Add the dressing, hot dog pieces, parsley, and scallions, then toss the combine.  The warmth of the potatoes will cause them to absorb a lot of the dressing, so feel free to add more oil and vinegar if your potato salad seems dry.

Grilled sweet potato salad

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On President’s Day, we decided to have a last-minute barbeque. Paco made ribs, and I made a grilled sweet potato salad and a broccoli salad.

When choosing sweet potatoes for this recipe, choose big fat ones. If you slice the smaller ones, they will fall through the slots in the grill. I followed the original recipe pretty closely, except I skipped par-cooking the sweet potatoes, and I added red pepper flakes for a little heat.

Grilled Sweet Potato Salad
Adapted from Bobby Flay

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch slices
8 scallions
3/4 c olive oil
kosher salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 T dijon mustard
1/2 c cider vinegar
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
2 tsp honey
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Put the sweet potatoes into a large mixing bowl, then toss with 1/4 c of olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes. Grill for a few minutes on each side, until they are fork tender.

Brush or spray the scallions with a little bit of olive oil, then grill until they have grill marks. Remove from the grill and slice.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the 1/2 c of olive oil, the apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, mustard, and honey.

Combine the sweet potatoes, scallions, and dressing in a large bowl and toss to combine. Garnish with parsley and serve while still warm. (You could serve this cold, as well, but make sure to combine the ingredients while they’re still warm so that the potatoes absorb the dressing.)