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Breakfast Burgers

I may not be a James Beard Foundation award-winning chef, but I’m pretty confident I have conquered a good number of moderately challenging recipes. My risotto is on point, I can butterfly and truss pork tenderloin, and my holiday turkey recipe is out of this world. What’s exciting, though, is that there are many, many things I have yet to master.

Growing up, I was always willing to help in the kitchen but the one area I knew better than to mess with was burgers. It’s pretty common to come across a man of the house who considers himself “burger king”, is quick with a spatula, and can be found at the grill more than the stove. My dad is no different; he knows his grill as if it was his trade and his outdoor cooking area seems like a culinary sanctuary. Located on my parents’ deck, it’s nestled in a special corner with a few chairs overlooking their nicely landscaped garden. Surrounded by tiki torches to ward off any pesky insect intruders, my dad’s shiny, stainless steel grill is conveniently away from the back door and kitchen windows, making his cooking area more of a peaceful place than our busy family kitchen.

The serenity of my dad’s cooking space may have something to do with how great his grilled food is. Steaks and chicken are always delicious but his burgers are the best. Perfectly cooked, the meat is juicy and seasoned just enough. There’s nothing fancy about them, but that’s part of their appeal; they don’t need special sauces or secret spices to grant him the well-deserved “burger king” title in our household. I’m in no position to attempt to steal the crown, but I felt it was time to add burgers to my list of accomplishments. This recipe for breakfast burgers may be no match for my dad’s, but I can bet he would be proud. Read More…

Grilled Corn and Black Bean Salsa

My parents live in a neighborhood adjacent to a development with several windy, hilly roads and not too much traffic, perfect for a run when the weather is decent enough. I’m not one for combining physical exercise and the beaming heat of the sun, so my brother and I take advantage of this area for outdoor training in the evening and occasionally in the morning, as it tends to be a little cooler. It may be more of a workout for me, as he tends to put his cross country skills on their low setting when I ask to run with him. Still, my brother and I each get a lot out of not only spending time together but working at our shared interest of running.

The lengths of our runs vary; although I always ask how long he is interested in venturing out, my energy level tends to dictate our mileage. My brother, on the other hand, seems like he could run forever, quickly, and happily. Even though I always give myself something to train for, like a 5K, the Broad Street Run or the upcoming half marathon (yes, I’m crazy and no, I’m not ready) the biggest reward for me is the time I get to spend with my little brother. We always have an interesting conversation, or at least I listen and gasp for air while he tells me about all of the fun, exciting things he is experiencing in high school. It’s not always a deep, philosophical conversation but at our finish line I’m always left confident the kid has a good head on his shoulders.

Here and there our runs are interrupted by my heavy, burning calves in need of a good stretch. More often, though, we pass a few houses with the sweet scents of a hot grill wafting in our direction from their back yard. Whatever my brother and I happened to be talking about is forgotten, and our run concentration is broken. We then find ourselves discussing steak, burgers and anything else you can throw on the grill grates as we both imagine our dad working hard on our grill, preparing a summer feast for us to replenish our overworked leg muscles upon our return.

Summer scents always bring to mind a handful of my favorite memories, like these evening runs with my little brother. In a few weeks, though, those scents will be shelved until next year. Though my palette is raring to go for a warm pot roast, fall beers and Sunday football, every other nerve in my body is holding on for dear life to the summer of 2011. To help ease the transition, I cranked up the grill, grabbed some soon-to-be out of season ears of corn, and practically bathed in the delicious smells that traveled off of the gas-powered outdoor cooker. Read More…

Flammenküche

I know a good handful of people who’ve traveled to France in the past few months; in my French class alone three people, including my teacher, have visited Paris and other amazing cities in the country. Unfortunately my own plans to travel there have yet to come to fruition but all of the unbelievable stories I have recently heard have me itching to get there more than ever. Though I’ve been lucky enough to hear several accounts of trips to the country, all different but equally dreamy, I’m beginning to have the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” complex regarding French travel.

A few weeks ago, upon his return from his trip, my French teacher brought a stack of material out of a giant briefcase and reviewed with me maps, guidebooks, and brochures of the amazing places he visited in just over a week in France. Using a guide to the restaurants of Paris, he showed me the places he ate and described for me in detail his meals, which sounded très délicieux. The visions of fresh fish in butter and herbs; sweet, pillowy macarons; and carafes of red wine have had me craving the tastes of France ever since. Even more so, I’ve been itching to expand my repertoire of French recipes.

Bistrot La Minette, a French restaurant located on 6th Street between South and Bainbridge, does an excellent job of bringing authentic French flavors to Philadelphia and the ambience adds to the experience – they have a beautiful, romantic outdoor garden with seating underneath white string lights that makes you forget you’re only several blocks away from the kitschy South Street shops. Of all the unbelievable things I’ve tried there my favorite is their Flammenküche, a rustic French pizza with crème fraîche, onions and lardons (thinly sliced, small strips of bacon). This grilled version of the dish, with homemade crème fraîche, is a great way to incorporate outdoor cooking with French flair. Read More…

Grilled Jerk Chicken with Pineapple and Red Pepper

I have a confession to make.

When I look for recipes through cookbooks, various internet sites and other blogs, “healthy” is never a term I apply to my search criteria. That’s not to say the meals I make are junk food, or even bad for you – I try my best to stick to the lower tiers of the food pyramid. However, I can never ignore a craving and love nothing more than a hearty, satisfying meal. “Healthy” to me has always meant plain, simple, flavorless recipes. Boring.

In the past year, I have picked up running as a hobby to compensate for my “eat, drink and be merry” philosophy on food, and have grown to value my time on the road (or on the treadmill) for more than the physical benefits. It had become so enjoyable that I dedicated the past two months to training for the 10-mile Broad Street Run, which took place this past Sunday in Philadelphia. My boyfriend and I, our families and friends all decided to run as a team and celebrate our finish with a tailgate in the South Philly stadiums’ parking lot.

The week of the run, I hastily decided to eat light, refrain from alcohol and drink plenty of water. Not only did I want to eat everything I could not, it became difficult when I wanted to spend time in the kitchen. Like I said, I don’t search for “healthy” recipes. Runners World’s website was a reliable source for training tips when I wanted to improve my running skills; however, I never realized the magazine’s website had quite the catalog of recipes. Their Recipe Finder feature allows you to search by course, ingredient and cooking skill, and even health concerns. Surprisingly, I saw no recipes that were flavorless and boring, and I even had a hard time deciding which one I wanted to try. I settled on a grilled Jerk Chicken recipe with Pineapple and Red Peppers.

Grilled Jerk Chicken with Pineapple and Red Pepper

Adapted from Runner’s World

1 red bell pepper, quartered

4 thick, fresh pineapple slices

canola oil

1 1/2 tbsp jerk seasoning

1 1/2 tbsp oil

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Directions

Oil the grate and heat the grill to medium-high. Toss a quartered red bell pepper and 4 thick pineapple slices in a medium bowl with canola oil to coat. Remove and sprinkle bell pepper with salt. In the same bowl, combine 1 1/2 tablespoons jerk seasoning and 1 1/2 tablespoons oil. Add 4 large boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds) and toss to coat. Grill chicken, pepper, and pineapple about 10 minutes, turning once.

There’s no denying, this recipe is pretty straightforward. It does not include obscure ingredients, several different cooking methods, or involved steps. One of the highlights of this recipe is the ingredients can be gathered in a 5-minute, inexpensive grocery run. Another highlight of the dish was, of course, the flavor. Jerk seasoning includes different combinations of spices (most of which are already in your pantry, if you care to make it on your own) that create a sweet, savory and spicy coating on the outside of the meat. Once the meat hits the hot grill, a delicious, crunchy coating forms that gives you no reason to reach for any condiments to add on the side. The pineapple and red pepper grilled perfectly; however, I kept them near a grill burner that was set to a lower setting as they both cook faster than the chicken. Combining the cooked fruit and veggie with a bite of chicken contradicted my initial impression of any recipes in the “healthy” category. On top of that, grill marks on anything make it enticing.

The few months of hard work paid off, and though I doubt my healthy week of eating had anything to do with a smooth run, I definitely did not suffer for it. To be honest, I think my successful completion of the ten miler had more to do with the festive tailgate waiting for me at the end.

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