Battle Citrus: Locked & Loaded


[left to right: citrus slushy, lemon-thyme cakes, hearts of palm + citrus salad, citrus-glazed chicken wings, beef sliders, hurricanes, ceviche, brown butter lemon popcorn, citrus tofu pie]

I’m not sure what’s going on with my immune system, but that thing has been made of steel since moving out to California. Not that I was ever a person who got sick often, maybe 2-3 times a year after leaving a job in pediatrics (those damn kids and their germs!), but still. So far, the sick count is a whopping zilch, zero, nada. I’m sure my time is coming, especially now with all this “cold” weather and rain, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.

Of course, it is officially citrus time, so maybe the extra doses of vitamin C will further combat any wonky sickness that might be coming my way. We’ll see.


[top left: blood orange crostata, bottom left: citrus cake, right: fried chicken wings + lemonade]

I almost titled this post the “anti-Scurvy” battle, but I had a last-minute change of heart. I like “locked and loaded” better, since what I mean here, is that we are now locked and loaded with vitamin C which is, in itself, anti-Scurvy. You see? Good. And it sounds more menacing, which I dig. Menacing, but at the same time totally pointless, since it would take a whole helluva lot of vitamin C deprivation to cause scurvy. Just ask the sailors.

Anywho, after what felt like an eternally long hiatus, we had Battle 3 of SF Iron Chef a couple of weekends ago, and Fancy Chef Winner Molly (too long?) chose citrus, which is an amazing selection for this time of year (clearly, because grapefruits are from Paradise, remember?). Back in Chicago, we had a Battle Grapefruit in early Winter, and it was also amazing – not nearly as heavy as Roots + Tubers, that’s for sure.

I honed in and focused on two things this time around: lemons and Meyer lemons. I almost made an amazing citrus cheesecake, but since Chris and I were stupid enough to do another juice cleanse that just happened to finish up on Friday, I couldn’t fathom making a cheesecake on Friday night whereby I could not stick my whole face into the bowl to lick the excess. Something tells me that might have canceled out three days of all those vitamins and nutrients.

[On a quick tangent though, we tried the juice cleanse through Urban Remedy this time around (they had a groupon back in December) and most of the juices were really tasty. Not sure if I’ll be doing another cleanse any time soon, but if I did I’d use them again.]

So yeah – lemons lemons lemons. First off was a quick spin on air-popped popcorn – I tossed it with a lemon brown butter sauce with lots of lemon zest. YUM. But the main recipe for me was the sliders. It worked nicely, because I was definitely craving some meat after three days of juice and two days before of vegan life, which I do not prefer. I made a Meyer lemon pesto for the topping and a Meyer lemon-herb butter that was shoved inside the patty and brushed atop the homemade buns.

Since we had our little shindig at Judy’s work (The Culinary Edge), we had full use of a professional kitchen, which brought back all kinds of memories of culinary school, like navigating through a foreign kitchen, walking into an entire refrigerator, setting up the sanitizing station for dishwashing, and of course – a shitload of food all around us. Good times. But it also meant I got to grill my tasty sliders right before service the Battle. They turned out just as I’d imagined – juicy, fresh, and ultra-lemony.

Sadly though, they weren’t good enough to win. We have yet another fancy food cooker in our group now (which pardon my sarcasm, I really do like having professional and non-professional cooks at Iron Chef, because it makes us all try just a little bit harder) and he AND his girlfriend took the 1 and 2. Dang. My buddy, Liz, pulled into the top three with her beautiful citrus cake though. It was my favorite of the night.

The Top 3:

1. Jeff’s fried chicken wings with spicy citrus hot sauce and lemonade
2. Dana’s blood orange crostata
3. Elizabeth’s citrus cake with lemon curd filling

I could have sworn the sliders were #4. Just sayin’. And yes, we finally remembered a group shot. And never mind that long, scraggly hair of mine – it was definitely time for a little trimmy trim trim.

So here’s the deal: there are a lot of components to this dish, but most are very easy. You can definitely purchase store-bought slider buns unless you want to make your own. I went the all-authentic route to rack up scoring points, but you don’t need those in real life, at least usually. The first “printable version” link is for ALL components, but you can also print out components piece by piece if you are using them for something different. The pesto goes well on anything, that’s for sure. So does the butter.

And yes, folks. I am aware that the links on my site are hard to click on. They do work though – you just have to oh-so-gingerly hover over them a couple of times. I have no idea why this is happening lately, but can’t seem to figure out how to fix it. Remember – gingerly hover. :).

update – I DID figure it out! apparently my Facebook plug-in somehow interfered with the workability of the links. go figure. anyway, that is gone and the links are back and working like a charm, so click away!

and speaking of clicking, check out Kenna’s post on her very own, inaugural Iron Chef Leelanau (Michigan). Kenna and I met through our blogs, and both went to the same culinary school at slightly different times. She and Michael attended a few Chicago Iron Chefs, and she moved from Chicago to Michigan (and had a baby. a baby during a move!) earlier this year. They had Iron Chef Battle Citrus too – what a crazy coincidence! Kenna also won her first Iron Chef with us (well, her husband claimed the dish…), so maybe that strong competitive streak is paying off for her, right Kenna?!

 

Beef Sliders with Lemon Butter & Lemon Pesto
chiknpastry recipe; makes 16 sliders

time commitment: 30 minutes (with components made in advance)

printable version (all recipes)

ingredients
2 lbs beef, 15% fat
lemon butter (recipe below)
salt and pepper
lemon pesto (recipe below)
16 slider buns (store-bought or homemade, recipe below)
handful of baby arugula
2 small tomatoes

instructions
divide meat into 16 2-oz portions. stuff a 1/2″ cube of lemon butter into the center of each portion. shape each portion into a thin burger patty. season with salt and pepper.

heat grill to medium high. grill sliders for 3 minutes on each side. top with lemon pesto, tomato, and arugula on a slider bun and serve.

 

Lemon Butter

time commitment: 35 minutes (most is chilling butter)

printable version (butter only)

ingredients
3/4 stick of butter, softened
1 T parsley
1 T basil
Zest & juice of 2 Meyer lemons
salt and pepper

instructions
using a fork, mix all ingredients together. place butter on a piece of saran wrap, roll into a log shape, and refrigerate until ready to use, at least 30 minutes.

 

Lemon Pesto

time commitment: 5 minutes

printable version (pesto only)

ingredients
2 c basil
2 cloves garlic
1/3 c pine nuts
zest & juice of 2 Meyer lemons
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
salt and pepper

instructions
in a food processor, combine basil through lemons and pulse until combined. slowly add olive oil until fully incorporated, finish by adding cheese and season with salt and pepper.

 

Brioche-style Slider Buns
adapted from GroupRecipes.com; makes 18

time commitment: 3 hours (most is inactive, rising time)

printable version (buns only)

ingredients
3 T warm milk
2 t active dry yeast
2 1/2 T granulated sugar
2 large eggs (1 for optional egg wash)
3 c bread flour
1/3 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
2 1/2 T unsalted butter, softened

instructions
In a glass measuring cup, combine one c warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg into another small dish.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or large bowl, if doing by hand), whisk flours with salt. Add butter and mix into flour, resulting in a crumb-like dough. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg into the flour mixture. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and turn on low-medium; mix until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Alternatively, you can mix the dough and once it comes together, dump it onto a floured surface and knead about 8-9 minutes by hand. The dough will be on the sticky side but try not to add more flour unless you absolutely have to.

Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

Punch down the dough and divide into 18 equal pieces (mine were about 1.6 oz each, if you want to weigh them). Roll each piece into a ball and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 to 3 inches apart. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 F. If using the egg wash, beat the second egg and brush onto the rolls before baking (I brushed some melted lemon butter onto mine). Once rolls have risen, bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until browned. Remove from oven and let cool on rack.

Top of My List

July absolutely has to be one of my very favorite months. I’m also a big fan of November (because of Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday). September and October aren’t too bad, either. And while I’m at it, I may as well throw in August, which means we are clearly at the very beginning of all of my favorite times of the year. Let the games begin.

For now though, I’m going to keep it together and just talk about July.

When I think about July, a few things come to mind. First and foremost is Summer, and that’s probably because I’ve lived in Chicago for so long. It doesn’t always warm up in May and June there, although from what I’ve heard, this year has been a little toasty. Here in San Francisco, it seems to always be sunny in at least one part of the city, although it’s certainly not always warm, so to speak. That said, we haven’t grilled out nearly as much as we normally would, but I think the warm weather is right around the corner, and for that I’m thankful.

I also think about fruit – cherries, blueberries, watermelon, and all those berries with seeds that sorta get on my nerves. Peaches. Which reminds me – I need to bust out a cobbler or something, like yesterday. And some ice cream, but I’ve got an ice cream recipe in queue that I’m guessing is gonna knock my socks off (yes, I still sleep in socks, even in July).

This year, July means biking through Golden Gate Park or back over to the bridge, and hopefully a road trip over to Tomales Bay for oysters, and maybe some more Stairway Walks (more on those later) and neighborhood hang-outs. Maybe even another baseball game? or is that being too optimistic? We are halfway through this month, I’m aware.

Clearly, many things have changed over this past year, location-wise most definitely, but some things haven’t; one of those is my adoration for this month, and really, all months, but I’m trying to be specific here. July truly is at the top of my list.

And last but certainly not least, July = burger time. Check this out: we’ve had burgers in July for three years in a row, and that’s sayin’ somethin’. Last year, I waxed poetic about getting a meat grinder attachment, and this year I finally did it. Of course, it sat in storage for a while, and even though I’ve had the thing for months, I have used it now for the first time. But like I said last year, the meat grinder is some kinda awesome, and I finally proved it to myself that I needed to get one (ok, use one) a long time ago.

With said ground meat, I churned out a relatively quick and easy burger recipe, sans grill: griddled smash burgers. It’s not a bad idea, really. Heat up your griddle (or pan, if you’re not into pancakes enough to have a griddle specifically for flapjacks), ball up some ground meat, and smash ’em onto the surface, letting the juices sizzle away, smoking up your house almost enough to flip the smoke alarm. Smoosh some onions into them, and finish them off with cheddar cheese and pickles; simple and quick is key here.

Put them on a plate with some baked ‘french fries’, and let the rays of the sun shine on ’em like a pot o’ gold at the end of a rainbow. Two seconds later, eat them as quickly as possible – we’ve got a lot left to do now, and half of July’s already passed us by.

Cheddar & Onion Smashed Burgers
Adapted from Food & Wine, June 2011; serves 4

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

ingredients
16 thin bread-and-butter pickle slices, patted dry
4 burger buns, toasted
1 1/4 lb ground beef chuck (30 percent fat)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 small onions, sliced paper thin
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
ketchup, and other fixin’s that you choose

instructions
If you’re into this sorta thing, grind your own meat, which takes about 5 minutes if you have a good grinder.

Heat a griddle until very hot. If you don’t have a griddle, you can probably use a frying pan on high heat, but I used a griddle that is normally used for pancakes ;). Layer the pickle slices on the bottom buns.

Without overworking the meat, loosely form it into 4 balls and place them on the griddle. Cook the meatballs over moderately high heat for 30 seconds. Using a sturdy large spatula, flatten each ball into a 5-inch round patty. Season the patties with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, until well seared. Press a handful of sliced onions onto each patty. Using the spatula, carefully flip each burger so the onions are on the bottom. Top with the cheese and cook for 2 minutes. Cover with a roasting pan and cook just until the cheese is melted, 1 minute more. Transfer the burgers with the onions to the buns. Top with the ketchup, any other fixin’s, buns and serve.

 

Sure, here’s a burger recipe, and I’ve linked to 2 more on here, but just in case you still want more choices, here’s a list.