52cookbooksYOLO is what Z kept calling this burger.  I suppose because of two things.

1.  The burger is called the Lola, after Mike Symon’s eponymous restaurant in Ohio and he kept thinking YOLO instead of Lola.

2.  Because it annoyed me and it gives him joy when I ‘fight’ back.

Either way, this burger could totally be YOLO or Lola because of the sheer amount of stuff on there.  Crazytown city.  It is bunned up on an English muffin.  If you haven’t used an English muffin in place of a hamburger bun-you should!  It was the suggested thing on here and I thought it was a nice change.  I put on a bit of butter and toasted them in the oven.  The burger is so loaded with stuff that it needed the sturdy bun to even attempt at being eaten.  In looking into this restaurant I see he now has taken the burger and moved it to his new burger joint, B-Spot.  Lola has gone upscale from what he says in the cookbook, Mike Symon’s Live To Cook.  He actually has done a couple of cookbooks after this one that I don’t have and am not so interested in but I do really like this one.  I’ve cooked a number of things from it’s pages including pan roasted ricotta gnocchi and his spicy Sriracha Tomato soup.  The recipes are easy to follow and I’d call them All-American in their mix of flavors and ingredients.  This is stuff made of the melting pot that is the midwest.  I’d like to east at his restaurants but haven’t, as a rule, made Cleveland or Detroit a destination.  But, if I had a reason to go, I’d check them out.yolo

Back to the burger, it is topped with spicy ketchup, cheddar, bacon, pickled onion, dill pickle and a fried egg.  You do only live once to eat that kind of mess.  It was stacked up to tipping and made me nervous as I plated it all up and got dinner on the table.  It tasted good-hitting all the burger notes.  Fatty. Spicy. Savory. Delicious.  YOLO!



52cookbooksIf you know Z at all you know the joy the word runza inspires.  Digging deep I can figure out what inspires me if I let myself.  Lately I’ve been inspired by some of these things:  ice – television – words – creative thinking – chocolate – tulips – positivity.  That isn’t an exhaustive list but it isn’t bad either.   Kind of shameful it would seem – to be inspired by tv but not really either.  I have been watching a new series on Food Network called Heartland Table.  The tv presenter is Amy Thielen, a one time NYC chef returned to her Midwestern roots and how they inspire her life and cookery.   She loves butter, good meat, produce, and regional producers. I got her cookbook for Christmas.  ‘The New Midwestern Table’ – Now, I’m not sure whose table this really is but I recently read that it won a James Beard award and it is lovely reading.  She makes real food – rustic and refined all at the same time.  It isn’t fast food by any mean and each recipe is fairly complex in terms of flavor but not ingredients.  It’s homey but not the home I grew up in.  So, my first recipe out of the gates, Runza.  There was a Runza place in the mall where I lived in high school.  runza

I can’t remember ever eating there so I don’t have anything to judge my Runza’s on except our happy tastebuds.  This was another recipe where I took a shortcut.  I’m finding I do that more often than I realize.  I need to make things quickly and with as much ease as I can or I will never get dinner on the table.  I bought pizza dough.  After carefully reading her headnotes to the recipe I’m sure that the flavor was not the right one but they tasted pretty good to us.  Basically, calzones filled with ground beef and onion and a bit of thyme.  Z thought maybe they needed cheese but I like the plainess of them.  They were easy flavors and thanks to my store bought dough, a fairly easy dinner.  Would I make dough from scratch?  Sure.  Maybe.

*fun sidenote I noticed as I downloaded the photos.  I made a spicy sweet heirloom tomato ketchup last summer from a friends summer tomatoes.  I think she gave me a pound or so and I cooked up just two tiny jars.  I remembered it was in the pantry and we enjoyed this not too hot and sweet sauce alongside the Runza’s.  They totally made the meal.  Thanks April!

smoke & pickles

52cookbooksOk, you actually get a break from all these pickles even though you’d never know it from the title.  Smoke & Pickles is a beautiful cookbook by Edward Lee, a Top Chef alum.  He is a Korean American writing on new Southern cookery and living in Louisville.  He maintains a few interesting and thoughtful things.  One is the Southern and Asian foods are similar for reasons of smoke & pickles.  Kimchi=Southern Pickled Things.  He maintains that smoke is the sixth flavor and says that his ‘recipes are filled with smoky flavors and pickles, but the also reflect the people who raise (his) animals, shoot wild game with (him), boil sorghum, pray and sing, and make moonshine.  For me it’s a challenging cookbook-full of things I want to love but would be more comfortable cooking than eating.  So, I start out easy with a recipe I am surprised didn’t come from Jamie Oliver and a British sensibility-Curry Pork Pies.  What is that?  Shortcrust pastry pies made in a muffin tin and filled with a luscious bacon and pork curried gravy filled with ginger, carrots, and peppers.  Small pies that were filling and comforting even though they were foreign in flavor.  Not your turkey pot pie but something more.  More challenging and more flavor for sure.  I will wind my way through more of these recipes but I am sure it will take me some time and a step away from my comfort zone.  curried pork pies



52cookbooksSo, you know Bobby Flay doesn’t really fail us often but one of the things that I really truly like about him is that he ‘competes’ with the small local big guy and often loses.  I think he loses by design.  The premise of the show is this.  Small local guy doing one dish really great that they are known for.  Bobby challenges them to a ‘throwdown’ to see who does it better.  Bobby creates something that is that thing in essence but in a modern or tweaked out kinda way.  They are both judged.  Depending on the judge, but most often, the classical presentation (the Local folks) win!  A few weeks ago Z picked out a recipe from the Throwdown Cookbook for our 52 Cookbooks dinner and it turned out to be out of Throwdown.  A recipe for green chile queso burgers.  So, in essence, we were going to use his recipe to beat someone making a Hatch green chile burger.  I seriously love me some spicy Hatch chiles.

True story and side note.  My final year of college and I decided to go home for Spring Break.  My parents decided we should road trip down to Santa Fe for some good eats.  Not our first rodeo to this destination.  We hit the road and about six hours later (from Denver) we were there in the freezing cold spring slurry rain of Santa Fe.  We were there to eat breakfast burritos smothered at Tia Sophias, Chile chowder at the Blue Corn  and not less than one sopapilla (think beignet with honey instead of powdered sugar) at Thomasitas.  Oh, and see art galleries on Canyon Road.  It was pouring down rain and I had to buy a hat because I was cold-still have the hat and the memories of a really nice visit.   I hope that I can someday take Z there because he would enjoy every minute (except probably for the art galleries.)throwdown

Anyhow, back to the burger.  He chose this burger and I have to say, it’s solid.   First I pickled some red onions using Bobby’s recipe and only letting them steep as I made the dinner-they were perfect and tart crunchy.  I made a pepper jack queso-easy, thick and a little spicy.  I made beefy patties and toasted the buns  For good measure I crisped a couple of slices of bacon and made some tots.   So, here’s where I went sideways and made my own life easier.  He gave a great recipe for roasting the chiles and steaming them to remove the skins.  Honestly, my grocery store doesn’t have great produce.  So, I used canned green chiles.  Dumped them on there and Bob’s your uncle (and mine coincidentally) dinner is served.

This cookbook is fun and self deprecating and modest which is usually how I find Bobby Flay to be.  He is good but he doesn’t say, hey, I’m good.  I like that about him.  He may not be real but he definitely feels like it.  We use this book as a jumping off place to create and mod our own things, just like this burger.  Our muffaletta comes from here initially but we’ve made it our own.  That is a good place to be.

A New Turn In The South

52cookbooksLately I have been inspired (INSPIRED!) by things – Southern.  I just keep wanting to see and taste the things that define Southern-ness.  So, one of the interesting things about that is this cookbook, A New Turn In The South is written by a Canadian.  Maybe that’s what I like about it.  He’s not from here (here being Georgia) but he embraces it, claims it, chases it.  Hugh Acheson, maybe you know him from Top Chef.  You know, he has a unibrow and a big tattoo of a radish on his forearm.  (ahem, Hughnibrow)  He says things in an admirably clever way.  Somewhere I picked up a copy of his cookbook, maybe a gift, I can’t remember now but it is so much fun to flip through and I’ve finally started cooking from it too.  Novel.  One night recently Z asked for Tilapia Piccata.  It is a fairly standard lightly pan fried fish with a super quick pan sauce made of butter, white wine & capers and I forget how much I like it until I’m eating it.  This time even the cat got a little piece of fish which made his whole day worth living.    On the side I decided to try one of Hugh’s recipes-for Squash Casserole.  First you cook up a leeky cream sauce and then you layer squash with parmesan, bread crumbs and sauce.  Afterward you bake the whole mess until it’s bubbly.  I found it needed to be cooked about twice as long as Hugh requested in his recipe because I wanted the squash to break down and not be too toothy.  The recipe was a nice departure from what I would usually do which is to either steam or pan fry the squash.  It was a lot more involved but the recipe was not difficult to follow save for one thing.  When I was making my leek sauce I could NOT resist adding a bit of the green part of the leek, being hesitant to just toss it.  I didn’t take into account the sauce being totally pureed for use and how minty green it would make it.  So, as in most things, if you follow the recipe, or the ‘rules’ you just might not have to explain what or why you did something later.   You will notice my ultra green sauce in the picture.  We both really liked this dish and will definitely be making it again.  I’m looking forward to trying a bunch of Hugh’s pickling recipes.  Can’t wait to see how he transforms humble Southern vegetables into delicious bites.  I am excited about how he transforms his roots and seizes on Southern ones.anewturninthesouth