Monday, August 23, 2010

Lavender burgers with goat cheese

I had a revelation recently - I am a grocery store snob. Living in urban Seattle, I am surrounded by a plethora of culinary options. I have approximately 12 options available for grocery shopping within a 5 mile radius alone! There are your traditional options (Safeway, the new flagship QFC) the high-end shops (Whole Foods, Met Market and PCC), the moderate options with decent variety (Trader Joes) and the local farmers markets, which are plentiful this time of year! Expand that just a few more miles and I have Uwajimaya, Grocery Outlet and several other outlets of the aforementioned stores. Just about everything I need is at my fingertips!

Occasionally, I get to a store and they're out of the ingredient I need. Honestly, it happens more often than not since the world's smallest Trader Joes is right down the street, but I've just come to expect that. Two grocery stores in one hour? Check! All the ingredients I need for the day's recipe or the week's meals? Check, check!

Now, I'm a big fan of cooking with ingredients that are a little... different. I love to experiment with new vegetables and spices and things that I find here or there. Typically, I'll grab said ingredient while out and about, go home, look up recipes for inspiration then plan on cooking something fun. On a recent trip to the Ballard Market, I picked up a bouquet of fresh lavender. Feeling very inspired by the delicious aromas, I came home, did some research and found this recipe for tagliarini with almond-arugula pesto & meatballs. The results? Delicious!

Having made enough meat to feed a small army, I set aside enough for a BBQ to make burgers with. On my way to that BBQ, I decided to stop and get a special ingredient - crumbled goat cheese - to mix in and change up the recipe just a smidge. Not knowing the area I stopped at the first familiar store I saw - QFC. Needless to say, I was surprised and not at all happy to find out that they didn't carry crumbled goat cheese or the pita chips I had planned on grabbing for an app. Crumbled goat cheese, I can understand, but what kind of store doesn't carry pita chips? Really?

Needless to say, I made do with regular goat cheese (sigh) and the results were extremely satisfying... salty and earthy with a hint of herbs without being too overpowering. More complex than your standard burger, but not so different that a hamburger purist wouldn't enjoy. These really didn't need any of the standard condiments, but I served it (as shown in the picture) with a little leftover arugula pesto. I could also see a garlic aioli pairing nicely as well. Completely delicious, if I do say so myself. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quinoa and Veggie Salad

Do you ever have those days where you keep going and going and going and don't have a chance to relax until you throw yourself into bed? I feel like that's my life in a nutshell these days! Since summer is a limited-time offering here in the Pacific Northwest, I've been doing my best to take advantage of all summer days - rain or shine.

The news described it as "boomerang weather" - hot for a few days, then cold and rainy, then hot again. I call it "crap." Maybe I'm just spoiled from years of beautiful Seattle summers, but rain on the weekends is not something I enjoy.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature and I are not quite on the same page with what is acceptable August weather, so I will just have to deal... for now. One dish that I've discovered that perfectly matches the ever-changing weather is quinoa (properly pronounced "KEEN-wah" however I like to call it "Kin-O-wah"). It can be eaten warm or cold, in salads, as a side... it's easy to prepare and absolutely delicious and...wait for it... healthy! According to wikipedia "...quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source among plant foods." What more could you ask for?

I made this dish on an lovely warm summer day, where I had a bunch of leftover veggies from the market and didn't feel like turning on my oven. You could really use any combination of veggies and I'm sure it would be just as tasty. The pancetta adds enough salty flavor and the goat cheese melts just enough that the dish feels indulgent without being overly so. Bon appetite!