Monday, May 26, 2008

Welcome Summer (Unofficially)

Memorial Day is the first official grilling holiday of the year and I felt compelled to do my part to keep the tradition alive! I kept it simple this year -- turkey burgers, beans and lemonade. I would have loved grilled corn, but with braces, it's just too much work to eat it. The OXO Corn Stripper is on my gadget hot list this summer. I'm also holding out for the mango splitter and pineapple slicer, but I digress.

The turkey burgers you've seen before, so let's get to the beans. My mother clipped this recipe from a magazine and taped it to the inside of one of the kitchen cabinets, right near the phone. She also kept family news clippings posted here as well. It was there for as long as I could remember and I'm 34. I never remember her making these, but my stepmom did later. This is my version.
Start with some bacon. My home is a pork-free zone, so this is turkey bacon. All turkey bacon is not created equal. In terms of taste, I prefer Wellshire Farms, Trader Joe's and Louis Rich. You need to help the bacon along by adding a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.

Cook until crispy. Reserve the fat. While the bacon is frying, get started on the veg -- bell peppers, onion and garlic. Man, it's time to oil my board.

Add the chopped peppers and onions to the reserved bacon fat and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

To keep the garlic from burning, give the other veggies a head start by adding them to the pot first. They create a nice bed for the garlic.

Once the veggies soften, add ground turkey. I was multitasking and grilled the turkey outside; I wanted the smokey flavor in the beans.

Crumble this into the veggies. You can chop the meat with a knife or take it for a spin in the food processor. I was having a pretty low-tech day, so I used a wooden turner to break it up in the pot. It's a nice way to work out aggression.

Remember the bacon you fried earlier? Chop and add to the pot.

Add the beans. I'm using Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans. I really wanted some kidney beans too, but I didn't have any on hand.
Stir the beans and veggies. Now comes the fun part. Whip out your yellow mustard, barbecue sauce, ketchup and molasses.
For extra kick and more depth, I added a couple of chipotle chilies and a tablespoon of adobo sauce.
Cover and bring to a simmer on the stove.
Transfer to a 350 degree pre-heated oven and bake, uncovered. The beans should be thick and dark on the top.
I'll let you in on my shameful accident. I did my holiday cooking on Sunday, after participating in Chicago's Bike the Drive. A mere 15 miles later, I was tired! (I'm out of shape, but trying to do better.) I decided that it would be silly to come home and shower just to go outside and grill. I'd just have to shower again. I was afraid that if I slowed down, I'd sleep for the rest of the day.

Therefore, I took my ambition straight to the kitchen after the ride. After the beans went into the oven, I showered. All I had to do now was take the beans out of the oven and I could sleep guilt-free for the rest of the day! It was a great plan, until I dropped the six-quart pot of beans. I don't know what happened. I was using two oven mitts and the pot just slipped. It landed, right-side-up, on the open oven door. Unfortunately, half the beans sloshed out on the oven door and floor. That's why the beans aren't completely dark in the picture, the rest of the dark top portion ended up in the trash can :-(
Moving on to the lemonade. This is Ina Garten's recipe with a twist from Giada De Laurentiis and was made after a much-needed nap. You'll need fresh lemon juice, ice, water and fresh basil. My lemons were so small that I could use the lime part of my double juicer.
Add the juice, ice, water and sugar to a pitcher. I used Splenda instead of sugar.
This was my first time trying lemonade with basil, so I added the basil by the glass and instead of adding it to the pitcher. Besides, I had dreams of making a great Arnold Palmer on Memorial Day; I didn't know how the basil would work with the sweet tea.
I took a basil leaf, crushed it with my fingers and rubbed it in the inside of the glass. I then added the chilled lemonade and floated a sprig of basil in the glass. It was great!
Tools of the trade:

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