The Lost Dinner

•May 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Ben. Locke. Jacob. Kate. Hurley. Jin. Jack. Miles. Sawyer.

Since I couldn’t invite them over to eat at my place, I decided to have a Lost-themed dinner last night to celebrate the season finale of Lost. The show is filmed on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, where the cast has been shown to eat everything from boar to mango. With an island theme in mind, I set up a menu of slow cooked char siu pulled pork, curried coconut basmati rice with mango and macadamia nuts and dark rum soaked pineapple.

The boy took care of the pork for me since he’s home during the day and using the crock pot has become one of the cooking related things he’s pretty okay at. The pork sits in a savory sauce on a low heat for a couple of hours before being shredded and mixed with the well-simmered sauce. Char siu is a Chinese version of barbecue and the sauce itself is comprised of soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ketchup, garlic, ginger and more. It’s a very simple dish to make and the flavor is out of this world. This is the second time we’ve had this char siu pork at home and it’s safe to say it’ll be sticking around. We only slightly deviated from the recipe this time with the addition of more broth and sauce because we had a larger cut of pork. This pork would also lend itself well to sandwiches or steamed pork buns. Below is the recipe as it was published in Cooking Light.

Slow Cooker Char Siu Pork Roast

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 pounds boneless Boston butt pork roast, trimmed
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add pork to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours, turning occasionally.

Place pork and marinade in an electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Remove pork from slow cooker using a slotted spoon; place on a cutting board or work surface. Cover with aluminum foil; keep warm.

Add broth to sauce in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Shred pork with 2 forks and put back in slow cooker to mix with sauce.

Makes 8 servings (serving size:  1/2 cup pork with sauce)

Nutritional Information
Calories: 227 (38% from fat)
Fat: 9.5g (sat 3.1g,mono 3.9g,poly 1.1g)
Protein: 21.6g
Carbohydrate: 12.7g
Fiber: 0.4g
Cholesterol: 73mg
Iron: 1.7mg
Sodium: 561mg
Calcium: 30mg
Holly Rudin-Braschi, Grill Power, Cooking Light, MARCH 2006

Slow Cooked Char Siu Pulled Pork, Curried Coconut Basmati Rice with Mango and Macadamia Nuts and Rum Soaked Grilled Pineapple

Slow Cooked Char Siu Pulled Pork, Curried Coconut Basmati Rice with Mango and Macadamia Nuts and Rum Soaked Grilled Pineapple

I knew I wanted to make basmati rice as soon as we settled on the pork. I just love it! Cooked basmati rice smells like popcorn and has a delicate texture. I wanted to do something different with it so I picked up some coconut curry broth instead of chicken broth, a mango and some chopped macadamia nuts. The boy had taken quite a liking to macadamia nuts last month when we were in Hawaii and I managed to find the ‘popular’ brand at the supermarket here in Philly! Score! I prepared the rice per the recipe I follow (below) with the following exceptions: 

– toasted the rice for 2 minutes with shallots and garlic then added vermouth for 1 minute before adding broth
added the coconut broth instead of chicken broth
– omitted parmesan cheese
– omitted fresh parsley
– added 1 diced mango
– added 1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Now comes the time where I pass along a very helpful PSA: This was, hands down, the best rice/grain side dish I have ever had in my life. It was so delicious. Everything went perfectly. I warmed the diced mango before throwing it in so I wouldn’t cool down the rice. The mango was soft, the rice was creamy and the nuts were just salty and crunchy enough to round out the whole dish. I will make this again and again and again. Below is the basic recipe I follow as it was published in Cooking Light without any of my modifications. One thing to note about this recipe is that it says it makes 2 servings but I think it’s enough rice for 3 people as a side dish.

Rice Pilaf with Shallots and Parmesan

2 teaspoons butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup basmati rice
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of sea salt

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in rice; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth and wine; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in cheese, parsley, pepper, and salt.

Makes 2 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup rice)

Nutritional Information
Calories: 266 (21% from fat)
Fat: 6.3g (sat 3.8g,mono 1.8g,poly 0.4g)
Protein: 8.4g
Carbohydrate: 43.9g
Fiber: 0.6g
Cholesterol: 15mg
Iron: 0.8mg
Sodium: 455mg
Calcium: 100mg
Cooking Light, DECEMBER 2003

Rum Soaked Grilled Pineapple

Rum Soaked Grilled Pineapple

The rum-soaked grilled pineapple was very easy. I just sliced up chunks of pineapple and let them soak in a mixture of dark rum and brown sugar. The sugar caramelizes when grilled and adds a really great flavor to the pineapple. No recipe for this one, it really is as simple as it sounds!

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Kabob-tastic.

•May 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment

After watching Alton Brown talk about skewers and kabobs for 30 minutes on his show, Good Eats, I had it in my mind that I wanted to make kabobs. Why not? They’re simple, quick and always tasty. Learning from past mistakes (and from Alton), I decided that I would separate my meat and vegetables. I also knew I needed to marinate the meat for awhile before throwing them on the grill.

I tossed together a marinade mix of blueberry-infused red wine vinegar (of course), soy sauce, ginger, garlic, pepper, salt and a few other things. I knew at the time that I should have written it down because it ended up being so incredibly fantastic!

Grilled Vegetable Kabobs

Grilled Vegetable Kabobs

The veggie kabobs were even more simple than the meat. I threaded a mix of tomatoes, pearl onions, zucchini, red pepper and baby bella mushrooms. These got brushed with a simple mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, basil and oregano before being grilled. An interesting point that Alton Brown brought up was the onion selection when making kabobs. When I’ve made them in the past, I’ve always threaded on a chunk of onion that normally separated into it’s own pieces when being cooked, flipped around too much and didn’t really cook as evenly as the other vegetables. The answer to this problem was under my nose all along: pearl onions. Those delightful little nuggets are perfect for kabobs!

Grilling my skewered treats was also much easier after picking up some new metal skewers. Leave it to Alton to dedicate at least 5 minutes on the show to the different style of skewers along with the pros and cons of each. I went with the flat style so that my food wouldn’t spin around when I tried to turn it. Everything ended up evenly cooked all the way around.

Marinated Beef Kabobs

Marinated Beef Kabobs

The steak was especially delicious after sitting in that marinade for over 24 hours. The flavors really came through. I’m not sure I could taste the blueberry from the red wine vinegar but I was happy to have it in there all the same. No recipes this time since it was just so simple and easy. I’ll be making more kabobs over the summer, especially since I am now armed with my fantastic new skewers, and I’ll be sure to write everything down.

Italian Cold Cut, Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Panini

•May 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Panini sandwiches for dinner last night were an easy choice for me and the boy because we really wanted to do something that would showcase K’s bread. We went to the grocery store and picked up some goat cheese spread, prosciutto, capocolla and basil.

K's Amazingly Delicious Italian Bread

K's Amazingly Delicious Italian Bread

First of all, the bread is amazing (as previously mentioned) with a really intense Italian taste. Since the boy and I both love the flavors, I knew I wanted to make something with Italian ingredients in mind. And since the boy is starting to take a liking to goat cheese (my fave), I knew I wanted to use that. The rest fell into place naturally. 

I sliced the onion into rings and cut off the cheeks of a red pepper to get started. I brushed all of this with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and grilled them outside until the pepper had picked up some charred spots and the onions were soft and aromatic. Each sandwich was constructed like so: 

Bread slice, buttered on the outside (margarined, really)
Goat cheese spread on the inside of the bread
A few slices of prosciutto
A few slices of capocolla
A layer of basil leaves
Handful of grilled onions and peppers, sliced
Salt, pepper and a tiny spritz of lemon juice
Bread slice, buttered on the outside 

I heated up my trusty George Foreman grill to toast the sandwiches. I discovered that my GF grill is hinged at the back and will lift up and over something as opposed to just operating like a clam shell. I decided this is perfect for paninis! With oven mitts over my hands, I pressed down on the top the entire time because the lid for the GF grill isn’t as heavy as what you would find on a Panini press. The sandwiches turned out perfectly. After they were finished, I carefully added a few more fresh basil leaves that hadn’t undergone the warming process.

Italian Cold Cut, Roasted Pepper, Grilled Onion, Basil and Goat Cheese Panini

Italian Cold Cut, Roasted Pepper, Grilled Onion, Basil and Goat Cheese Panini

I served the sandwiches with some sour cream and onion Baked Lays. It was a simple yet delicious dinner. The taste and aroma of the Italian bread came through perfectly which was really the goal. I didn’t want anything that would compete with it because it truly was the star of the show.

Birth of Another Food Baby

•May 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The boy and I hopped in the car early on Saturday morning to make our way to Charlottesville to visit with some friends, K and L. K and L are great people who live in a very cute house in a gorgeous neighborhood along the mountains in Virginia. The best part of their house, for me, was the kitchen. That is, after all, where all the magic happens (outside of the bedroom). K has been around the proverbial block and has learned a thing or two about being a kitchen magician. Because of this, the boy and I ate very, very well. Perhaps I ate a little too well, as I noticed the growth of a new food baby shortly after I returned home. We had a great time over food, wine and laughs. Sadly, I forgot to put my memory card back into my camera before we left home so I have no pictures to share. 

We sat around on the back porch having some drinks while talking and sharing stories. Besides my trusty water bottle, I was sipping on some Rex Goliath Giant 47 Pound Rooster Pinot Noir. What a tasty, cheap wine! I picked it up because of the picture on the bottle. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for the big cock in the future. It was smooth and light which was just perfect for sitting out on a deck in the sunshine. It tasted young but it was very enjoyable and nicely balanced. This is the part where I would usually qualify these statements with “for a budget wine” but I can say I would happily pay a few more bucks than the $8 I spent on the bottle. I feel like this wine would also lend itself well to summery sangria as well as to any dinner. 

Dinner on Saturday consisted of four dishes following homemade bread and hummus made from scratch. The bread was seriously out of this world. It was an Italian style bread with the consistency of a dense, white homemade loaf. It was infused with a perfect mix of herbs and spices. I’m still hopeful to get the recipe. The best part about the bread was that K packaged up a loaf for me and the boy to take home. YUM! 

K placed some hummus on the table at one point that the boy and I hungrily gobbled up. I’m not even sure if we were hungry but, boy, did we put a dent in that hummus! K made it from scratch with dried beans and it really showed. Even the texture was less mushy than mass-produced hummus. When I got home, I looked up some hummus recipes (light style) and plan to try my hand at making my own from scratch as well. I love to take little whole wheat pita pieces or Wheat Thins with me to work along with a scoop of hummus because it makes such a great afternoon snack. 

Clockwise from the top: Flank Steak, Grilled Asparagus with Manchego, Wild Mushroom Risotto and Pan-Roasted Corn Salad. Photo by K.

Clockwise from the top: Flank Steak, Grilled Asparagus with Manchego, Wild Mushroom Risotto and Pan-Roasted Corn Salad. Photo by K.

Dinner was amazing. The pièce de résistance was most definitely K’s flank steak. He told me some of the ingredients in the marinade and green sauce served with it but it’s not something I could recreate without a recipe even after tasting it on different parts of my tongue to identify different ingredients. I gave up after awhile and just enjoyed how delicious it was. Served with the steak was a shitake mushroom risotto, grilled asparagus with Manchego cheese and L’s famous pan-roasted corn salad. I especially liked the corn salad and the asparagus, being such a vegetable fan. The Manchego was a great addition to grilled asparagus, which held some smoke flavor due to being on the same grill as the flank steak. Manchego is such a distinctive cheese and perfect for cooking. I find it tastes similar to feta without being as salty. Feta is one of the key ingredients in L’s corn salad which consists of corn, tomatoes, feta, thyme, garlic and green onions. I thought the salad was perfect and it’s definitely going to make it into my meal rotation, especially since corn is one of the boy’s top 5 favorite veggies. 

As a token of my appreciation to K and L for their hospitality, I brought along the one bottle of wine I took home from Paris with me. I poured over the wine selection while I was in Paris and brought home only one bottle, hoping it would be great and something I could break out for a nice dinner or special occasion. Thinking of K and L as red wine fans and good friends, I decided this would be the perfect time. The bottle I had selected was from Chateau Preuillac in the Bordeaux region of France. I selected the Cru Bourgeois Medoc from 2002. This turned out to be a very powerful red. It was almost black with a tight tannic structure that attacked my tongue when I took the first sip. It had a very long finish and just wasn’t for me. I prefer a more light-hearted red wine and this was anything but. I was really let down by this as I was hoping it would end up being great since it was the only one I took back from Paris with me. C’est la vie. 

The next day we were treated to brunch before leaving K and L’s place to head back to Philly. K made some pretty delicious omelets with mushrooms, roasted peppers and cheese tucked inside some fresh-tasting eggs. L then gave me a big treat… carrot cake cupcakes!! I wanted to take the whole plate home against my better judgment. The cake itself was dense but moist and was finished with cream cheese frosting! I happily ate one and then immediately went in for a second which I regretfully split with the boy. 

We were so full rolling out of K and L’s that we didn’t eat anything else until 9 PM that night. We spent most of the drive talking about K and L, the food and the fact that we had a whole loaf of that delicious bread in the car with us. I’m sure I must have dreamed about 15-20 different kinds of sandwiches I would make with the bread once we got back home.  We did indeed have sandwiches for dinner but they were picked up at Bassett’s on the way. They make great Thanksgiving sandwiches with fresh carved turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce on marble rye. 1/2 of one of these massive sandwiches with some simply steamed Brussels sprouts was the perfect way to end the weekend.

All in all, it was a fantastic food weekend. K is a really great cook. I wish I had pictures because my words don’t do it justice. Pictures wouldn’t, either, but they would help a little.

The Downfall of Burger Week

•May 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

As with most carefully laid plans, something happens that throws you for a loop just when you think it’s smooth sailing. For me, that loop was laziness and boredom. After work on Friday, I just didn’t feel like making another burger (or anything else for that matter). I also didn’t feel like eating a burger. With this sort of dilemma, I just knew the burgers wouldn’t be my best so I decided the end of Burger Week would have to be put off for another time. Maybe this coming Saturday would be a better day. 

With burgers off the menu and cooking out of the question, I posed the age old question: what should we eat? One of our favorite go-to meals for takeout is tomato pie from Tony A’s here in Philly. Tony A’s is just up the street from us and the tomato pie was ready in 15 minutes. We also ordered a veggie Stromboli to go with our pie simply because neither of us had had a Stromboli before. 

The Stromboli was just okay for me. The boy seemed to like it a lot more than I did. It was packed with veggies which was great but other than that, it was very underwhelming. There was no sauce, even though I had requested sauce, so the overall taste was just a little bland. The tomato pie, however, can’t be beat.

Tomato Pie

Tomato pie seems to be a local specialty in Philadelphia. I believe it also extends to parts of New Jersey but I can say it’s something I had never heard of before moving here. When I had first heard of it, I’d imagined a pie crust filled with tomatoes. I was thrilled to find out that I was wrong! The basic recipe for tomato pie calls for thick, porous, focaccia-like dough covered with tomato sauce and then sprinkled with grated Romano cheese. Many bakeries and pizzerias have their own variation on this formula. It is not usually served straight from the oven, but allowed to cool and then consumed at room temperature or reheated. Like Sicilian pizza, tomato pie is baked in a large aluminum pan and served in square slices. 

Tony A’s offers a number of tomato pies but I prefer the plain pie. The crust is not too thick and not too thin. They serve them warm out of the oven, which I prefer to the room temperature version because I like it when hot food is hot and cold food is cold. I’m not much of an in the middle type of gal. (Sidenote: this is also why I am not big on dipping sauces. Most dipping sauces are kept in the fridge and I don’t like cold things that make hot food cold. If I have hot food and am offered room temperature dipping sauce, I will generally oblige.) 

Below is a recipe for tomato pie that I did not make but comes highly rated online. I plan to make this soon. Perhaps Saturday and Sunday would be a good time to tackle this so I have time to let the dough rise. 

Tomato Pie 

Dough:
1 1/2 cups warm water (110°F to 115°F)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups bread flour (I like King Arthur Bread flour, it has 12.7% protein)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal (for dusting)
Non-stick vegetable oil spray

Sauce:
6 Roma tomatoes
Salt
Pepper
Non-stick olive oil spray
Olive oil
3 cups tomato puree
3 Tbsp tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp basil
1/4 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 Tbsp sugar
Grated Romano cheese

To prepare dough, mix warm water and sugar in a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast over it and stir to dissolve. Let stand until mixture bubbles, about 10 minutes. Add oil, salt, and about 75 percent of the flour. Combine with the yeast mixture. Let sit for 20 minutes. Mix in the rest of the flour. Transfer dough to floured surface and knead until smooth, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl brushed with oil, turning the dough to coat it with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. 

Punch the dough down, and reshape into a ball. Place it back into the bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 4-12 hours. 

To prepare sauce, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking tray with tinfoil and spray with non-stick spray. Slice Roma tomatoes in half. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil and place on baking tray. Roast for 30 minutes. 

Combine other ingredients in a saucepan and let simmer until thickened. Add in roasted tomatoes when done and mix until there are no large chunks. Simmer for 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out the dough. Sprinkle a rimmed baking sheet with cornmeal, and lay dough on top. Spread tomato sauce on top in a thick layer. Bake for 30-35 minutes until crust is golden and center is cooked through. Sprinkle with Romano cheese. 

London Grill

•May 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment

We took the night off from Burger Week last night because I had a conference to attend at work followed by dinner at London Grill. The company was great and I had a lot of laughs and good moments during dinner but I was entirely underwhelmed by the food. Our server, who was a very nice girl before the moon had fully risen in the sky, started us out with a plate of marinated mushrooms.

Marinaded Mushrooms

Marinated Mushrooms

I’m not sure what they were marinated in besides olive oil. They had no flavor, not even salt. I don’t have a picture of the bread that was at the table but that was actually pretty good. From what I tasted, it was an asiago cheese foccacia bread. We were served generic supermarket olive oil to dip the bread in that was handsomely dressed with 1 bay leaf and 3 capers, of all things.

Szechuan Duck Spring Rolls with Asian Slaw, Hoisin Sauce and Peanuts

Szechuan Duck Spring Rolls with Asian Slaw, Hoisin Sauce and Peanuts

Next up came our appetizers. I ordered the Szechuan duck spring rolls that were said to come with Asian slaw, hoisin sauce and peanuts. There were at least 4 peanuts on my plate. It was nice of them to be so generous with the peanuts. Thank god for the hoisin sauce, which I slathered all over the dry duck. My first impression upon tasting the spring rolls was that they had secretly replaced the duck for a char sui pulled pork. I’ve never had duck that was so dry! I understand the amount of pressure and timing that comes with cooking for a large group all at once but there is no excuse for overcooked food. There is also no excuse for calling a shredded piece of carrot “Asian slaw”.

Potato Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Asparagus

Potato Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Asparagus

Next up came the entrees. I shared with everyone at my table so I got to sample a few things. Two things I don’t have pictures of were the fillet, which was standard, that came with a terrible sauce that tasted like a 1/2 and 1/2 combination of BBQ sauce and ketchup. The other thing I sampled was their brick chicken which was moist and flavourful but lacked good sides to support it. I ordered the potato gnocchi, which were indeed hand cut but whoever made them would be incredibly pissed off to see how they delivered on the plate. Some of them were overcooked and some of them were undercooked. This was mind boggling. They were sitting around in a white sludge sauce that tasted like a simple roux with no cheese or seasoning to give it flavor. The mushrooms and asparagus that were mixed in with the gnocchi tasted very good and I wished I’d had more of them.

Crab Cake with Tartar Sauce, Asparagus and Boiled Red Potatoes

Crab Cake with Tartar Sauce, Asparagus and Boiled Red Potatoes

The crab cake, however, was a disaster!! I am convinced they made the cakes with claw meat instead of jumbo lump crab, for one, and two, the entire outside of the cake was seared to a char. I am also convinced that the crab cakes were made on a conveyor belt. The cakes were suspiciously round to a perfected level and all of them were the same width and height. It was paired with a tartar sauce, some sad looking boiled potatoes and 6 sprigs of anorexic asparagus. This was so bad that I wished I hadn’t given away 1/2 of my gnocchi to get it. Now that’s saying something.

Truffle Fries

Truffle Fries

One thing from our menu that I really wanted to try was London Grill’s take on truffle fries. I am not as crazy about the liberal use of truffle as the boy but I do like to have some truffle in my diet. So, against my better judgement, I tried some of the truffle fries. Well, as noticable in the picture, these skinny little shoestring fries were overcooked as well. Even worse, there was no truffle. None. I tried 7 bites in total and wasted about 150 calories on these greasy, crispy suckers but each one was as blah as the first. It was such a shame because I started thinking of all the stellar gnocchi they could have pumped out had those potatoes not been wasted.

Thinking nothing could have competed with the train wreck of dinner, I was really looking forward to dessert. Sometimes dessert can change your mind about a restaurant. A good dessert could have erased the memory of some forgotten utensils, too-warm red wine and declining service. A good dessert could have made me rethink my review and include phrases of, “it wasn’t as bad as it looks” and “the pictures my phone takes just suck”. When it came time for everyone to get dessert, though, I did not receive one. So I asked our now frazzled server if she could get me a chocolate soufflé. Her response? “I don’t have another one.”

Uhhhhh… what?

So I asked again if I could have one and she responded this time with, “I’ll just tell them to throw another one in the microwave for you.”  This should have been my cue to say, “No, that’s fine, I don’t need dessert.” However, I was really counting on this being the savior of the meal; the Jesus Christ of the London Grill. After a few minutes, she returned with my soufflé. Please study the picture below before continuing to read.

Chocolate Soufflé with Hazelnut Sauce and Whipped Cream

Chocolate Soufflé with Hazelnut Sauce and Whipped Cream

As you can probably tell from this picture if you know anything about soufflé at all, this was not a soufflé. I’m not sure why they said it was or called it soufflé on the menu but soufflé this was not. This was cake. The telltale signs of soufflé were completely absent. No rise, no fall, no ramekin. Still a fan of most anything chocolate, I spooned off a section anyway (as you can see above). Wait a minute? What’s that resistance I feel with my cake that is masquerading as a soufflé? Ohhhhh, it’s ice! Oh, silly me, of course! Why wouldn’t I have a frozen cake that is masquerading as a soufflé? Life makes perfect sense.

And if I may, I’d like to make a short note about the service there. Our waitress really did start out strong but, boy, did she decline quickly. She started to complain about the orders, the plates and, most notably, how she had to keep going up and down the stairs. Our party was in a private room off the main floor that was accessibly by going up or down a grand total of 5 to 6 steps. I’m not sure what she wanted to accomplish through all of this complaining but it was not attractive. Furthermore, when a customer asks you for something, don’t say you’re going to throw it anywhere, especially if the location of the throwing of the food item is in the microwave. I understand that not everything is cooked to order at every restaurant but you should not respond in that fashion to a customer. Needless to say, I would not recommend London Grill to anyone who doesn’t even appreciate food and good service let alone to someone who does.

London Grill
2301 Fairmount Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19130
215.978.4545

Italian Sausage Meatball Burgers

•May 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Allow me to start this entry by saying in advance that these were the best burgers we had yet. Any criticism is minor from start to finish. Now, on to the good stuff.

Italian Sausage Meatball Burgers with Fresh Mozzarella and Marinara Sauce

Italian Sausage Meatball Burgers with Fresh Mozzarella and Marinara Sauce

These burgers were simple to make with, besides the meat, ingredients I always have on hand. There was not a lot to them in the line of additional ingredients but that didn’t seem to matter. This recipe will be a keeper for us and I’m happy to say we have 2 patties saved in the freezer for a rainy day. The other thing to note before the recipe is that I divided the mixture up into 5 patties instead of 6 so they wouldn’t be too small. Next time I would make the patties even thinner to have more surface area for the sauce and cheese. They puff up so much when they are grilled.

Taste: 9. This was a delicious yet savory meatball covered in fresh mozzarella and marinara sauce. What could be better?
Creativity: 3. The same reasons that made it delicious also made it not very creative. This was essentially just a flattened meatball and sauce on a hamburger bun.
Appearance: 8. The burger patty was thick with right amount of sauce, cheese and grease. There was nothing fussy about it, it just looked like a good burger. It had that special burger glow that I’ve come to find in restaurant burgers (not usually in my lean, low fat creations).
Burgerliciousness: 8. Loved it! It looked good and it tasted good. It was just a simple burger that would be an excellent base recipe for different kinds of sausage and matching sauces. The fresh mozzarella was delicious!
Overall: 7.

All things considered, this was the best burger we’ve had yet. The only adjustments I would make next time would be the addition of some onion, fresh garlic and bread crumbs to spread out the patty a little more. I served these burgers with a panzanella salad based on a recipe I found in a Weight Watchers magazine. The salad was bright and crispy and packed with veggies which was a needed partner for the carnivorous burgers. Below is the recipe from Cooking Light with no modifications.

Italian Sausage Meatball Burgers

8 ounces sweet turkey Italian sausage
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound ground sirloin
Cooking spray
2 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
6 (2-ounce) Italian bread rolls, split
3/4 cup fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce (such as Muir Glen)

Prepare grill. Remove casings from sausage. Combine sausage, oregano, basil, salt, fennel seeds, garlic powder, and ground sirloin. Divide beef mixture into 6 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.

Place patties on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes. Turn patties over; grill 2 minutes. Divide fresh mozzarella cheese evenly over patties, and grill an additional 5 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165°. Remove from grill; let stand 5 minutes.

Place rolls, cut sides down, on grill rack; grill 1 minute or until toasted. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each roll; top each serving with 2 tablespoons sauce and top half of roll. Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional Information
Calories: 375 (33% from fat)
Fat: 13.9g (sat 5.3g,mono 4.4g,poly 1.7g)
Protein: 28.1g
Carbohydrate: 32.7g
Fiber: 1.8g
Cholesterol: 80mg
Iron: 4.5mg
Sodium: 894mg
Calcium: 130mg
Bruce Weinstein, Cooking Light, AUGUST 2007

Light Panzanella Salad

Light Panzanella Salad

The panzanella salad I fixed was a delicious side for these burgers. Cucumber, red onion, bright tomatoes and fresh mozzarella came together with toasted bread cubes and Italian dressing with basil and Romano. Panzanella is a traditional Italian salad that was traditionally fixed when women needed to get rid of their stale bread but didn’t want to waste it. Since I don’t have a week old loaf of Italian bread lying around, I toast up some whole wheat bread and use that instead. The below recipe is my adaptation.

Light Panzanella Salad

1 cup coarsely chopped tomato
1 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup sliced red onion
3 slices light whole wheat bread, toasted and cubed
1/3 cup diced fresh mozzarella
1/3 cup light Italian dressing — I like Ken’s Light Northern Italian with Basil and Romano
Sprinkle of oregano
Sprinkle of fresh black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix. I would recommend not adding the bread until right before serving time. If you are using actual stale bread, soak it in the Italian dressing for 3 hours before serving. Serves 4.
Now, for me, the best part of the meal came at the end. I was good this week so I was treated to a cupcake! Yay! I carefully selected a chocolate cupcake with buttercream frosting. The cupcake was moist and delicious with a LOT of frosting. My favourite kind! See if you can guess who this cupcake is supposed to represent.

Cookie Monster Cupcake

Cookie Monster Cupcake

Next up: beef!