Monday: Quinoa, Roasted Eggplant and Apple salad with Cumin Vinaigrette
Tuesday: Spaghetti with Chorizo Carbonara / Green Salad
Wednesday: JW Burger with JW potatoes and Cole Slaw
Thursday: Lemony Hummus with Flatbread / Salad
My fault for no picture of the oysters – but it was dark and Billy’s friend, the loquacious Dave Clements was visiting and, hey, here’s a picture Beez took at PNC Park
Friday: Roasted Oysters w/ grilled bread and Wedge Salad
Saturday: Tomato and Lemon Tart
Sunday: Roasted Eggplant Dip with Grilled Bread
The end of summer is always a bittersweet time for us. We love the autumn, but miss the lightning bugs which make late evening and night so magical in high summer. And the heart- lightening shouts of children playing in the dark have been supplanted by the elegiac buzzing of the crickets and cicadas. But what, you will ask does this have to do with food? Well, nothing – just felt like sharing some non-culinary thoughts.
As to food: The weather – always unpredictable in Pittsburgh – has been spectacular. Too good to spend much time preparing food. Salads and dips, breads which take time to rise and bake, but almost no preparation time, and iced drinks, all perfect for sitting on the porch and talking in the dark, are the best things about this time of year. And if you need a sweater for sitting out there, so much the better – that means good weather for sleeping with open windows.
You can add wine and martinis to each of the dinners listed above (and beer when Billy joined us for the Quinoa and eggplant, the spaghetti (Emily joined us), and the burgers). And most dinners were eaten on the porch, with cloth napkins and lit candles – SWMBO insists and, really, it makes the food taste better.
We’re going to share with you two dishes which take little preparation and fit the season perfectly – JW Burgers and Wedge Salad. They actually go together, though we didn’t have them that way. We paired the burgers with JW (Jonathan Waxman) crispy potatoes, which is a great idea but does take a bit more preparation and requires deep frying. At our house SWMBO requires deep frying to be done outdoors, along with smoking cigars, raising chickens and howling at the moon. (We don’t have chickens, but indulge in the other activities as weather and whim allow.)
A note on JW: JW is Jonathan Waxman, mentor of Michael Symon and creator of extraordinarily tasty food cooked and eaten without a hint of concern for dietary restraint. It may not be wise to eat his food every day – though the medical community has not reached a consensus on that – but it is clearly unwise never to have tasted it. So, here’s your chance to get in on the ground floor – cook and eat a JW burger, then sit on the porch in the dark, sipping on something intoxicating and talking with your honey.
Grilled JW Burgers with Onion Relish
(My recipe is based on notes watching Waxman on television – he cooked on a flat-top)
Timing: About 20 minutes, if you caramelize the onions while the coals get hot. A more leisurely approach – creating the onion jam first, then firing up the grill and cooking the burgers – would take about 40 minutes.
Ingredients: For 4 burgers
1.5 lbs. of ground meat (We use ground round, 15% fat – not quite as tasty as 20% fat ground chuck – but close. I’m sure Waxman uses something more exotic, but don’t know what it is.)
2 Red onions
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
4 sturdy hamburger buns – these are large, juicy burgers and will turn regular hamburger buns into the consistency of wet newspaper.
8 thin slices of sharp cheddar
4 slices of ripe tomato (if you can’t get a ripe tomato, skip it and substitute some iceberg lettuce, as we did)
Salt and pepper the ground meat (I like to sprinkle in a good whack of dried thyme as well), mix in the spices, and then form it into 4 patties, about 1/3 lb. each. Flatten them to just under ½” in height.
Thinly slice the onions
Slice the tomatoes and sprinkle some salt on each slice
Start charcoal for the grill (or turn on and heat a gas grill to high in one area and medium in another)
Heat the oil over medium high* and, when hot, add the onions, the thyme and a pinch of salt and a half-pinch of pepper (maybe ½ teaspoon and ¼ teaspoon, respectively). Cook until the onions are tender and golden, while stirring occasionally – about 15 minutes. Then, off the flame, stir in the vinegar and sugar and take out to the grill.
*You have to watch to make sure the onions don’t burn. If you have a fancy stove, your high-btu burner may need to be set at less than medium-high. But you need some good heat to caramelize the onions. This takes minimum attention – but it takes attention.
Put the grates on the grill to heat them up and clean and oil them.
Put the patties directly over the flame and cook for 6-7 minutes, depending on thickness. Turn patties over and top cooked side with a good amount of the onion relish. Cook for 6-7 minutes. Remove to a platter and immediately top with the cheese.
Meanwhile, toast the hamburger buns lightly.
Put a slice of tomato on the bottom bun, then the burger. Then spread mayonnaise on the top bun and serve. Yes, Gomer, you may use ketchup instead. But the mayo imparts an unctuousness that compliments the meat and lets it shine through. The tartness of the ketchup ruins all that but, hey, it’s your burger.
Late summer flowers, Casa Stuarti
EXTRA Wedge Salad
Head of iceberg lettuce
Blue cheese or Feta
Sour Cream or Heavy Cream with lemon juice
4 slices of crispy bacon, crumbled
Diced cherry tomatoes and red onion (optional)
Salt and Pepper
The idea here is simple. Blue cheese is better than feta, but we didn’t have any the other day. And we used heavy cream with a bit of lemon juice because we didn’t have any sour cream.
Basically, make a dressing to your taste with small crumbles of blue cheese, mayo, sour cream, a little salt and pepper. Save some larger bits of cheese to add later.
Cut one or more heads of iceberg lettuce into wedges (one per diner) and drizzle with the dressing, then top with crumbled bacon, more feta or blue cheese, and the tomatoes and onion if using. Get each wedge a good couple of grinds of black pepper, and serve.