ostrich burgers

I love burgers, but I know they’re not the healthiest thing for me. The other day, P. and I picked up some ostrich burgers. They have a similar taste and texture as beef, but 40% less fat. It’s even lower in fat, calories, and cholesterol than skinless chicken or turkey. 100 grams of ostrich has 2.8 grams of fat and 140 calories, compared to 7.41 grams of fat and 190 calories for chicken and 9.28 grams of fat and 211 calories for beef. “`Cardiologists have given ostrich two thumbs up,’ says Doug Hendrix, a spokesman for Von’s, the supermarket chain that carries the meat of this big bird at its 32 Pavilion stores in California.”

But how does it taste?

P. had never had ostrich before, so he didn’t want to overwhelm the flavor too much the first time. He wanted to know what ostrich tasted like. We seasoned the burgers with just salt and pepper and worcestershire sauce. Then, we grilled them. They tasted remarkably like burgers.

Admittedly, they didn’t taste like the very best flavorful and juicy burger ever, but then, they’re much leaner, so you can’t really compare them that way. If you’re looking for the best tasting burger ever, you go for Kobe or you grind your own beef. If you’re looking for a pretty good burger that you can eat and still stay on your diet, check out ostrich.

It’s best to season them, I’ve read. To add moisture, you could prepare them as you might turkey burgers or you could mix a few extras in with the ground meat or marinate them for a while. And you don’t want to overcook them. That seems to be the biggest thing that just kills the flavor. Grilling adds a bit more flavor to them, and anyway, it’s so dang hot, why not grill everything.

We melted some cheddar on them, then put them on toasted buns with lettuce, onion, tomato, and avocado. And I mashed up some potatoes and cooked up some vegetables (zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and tomato). It was great. Now that we’ve had the “baseline” burger, we’ll try some things for added flavor and moisture next time.

cooking again, at last

We’ve been so busy with the unpacking and the cleaning and the parents and the working, but last night, I couldn’t face take out again. So, I went to the grocery store and grabbed random food and then set out to cook. It ended up working out really well and have I mentioned how much I love my new kitchen?

Anyway, here’s what I made.

a sausage, bean, spinach, and vegetable soup
This was a matter of adding whatever I had that happened to sound good. It all worked except maybe the pasta, which didn’t add anything except distraction. I wanted to add a short, wide pasta of some kind, but all I had was angel hair, so I broke it up into small pieces and dumped it in. I’d recommend skipping that part.

4 links Italian chicken sausage, casings removed
1 Tbl olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
several sprigs of rosemary and thyme
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
several crimini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 russet potato, diced
about 6 cups of chicken broth
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped (it could have used more, definitely)
2 cans cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1 package fresh spinach
some pasta (see caveat, above)
grated parmesan cheese

I crumbled and browned the sausage and then removed it to drain. The pan was really dry, so I added a little olive and then the onions, garlic, and herbs, along with some salt and pepper. I let that get all wilty and then added the zucchini, squash, and mushrooms and let that cook just a couple of minutes. Then, I added the white wine and deglazed the pain, then the potoates and chicken broth (oh, and the pasta that I don’t recommend).

I let everything simmer until the potoatoes were soft (20 minutes?), then added the tomatoes, beans, and the sausage. I let that heat up for about 5 minutes, then added all the spinach, stirred it through, and then put a lid on it and let the spinach wilt down (about 5 more minutes).

Once it was done, I grated some parmesan cheese over it and a bit more salt and pepper. I served it with crusty bread. It was really good, but it could have used maybe a bit more herbs and spices. Also, it probably would have been great with a little really good olive drizzled over the top at the end, but I was trying to stay somewhat healthy.

steamed broccoli
Well, there was nothing much to this. I steamed some broccoli until it was tender, then sprinkled on some red pepper flakes, Maldon sea salt, and grated parmesan cheese. Simple and good.

rosemary and thyme mashed potatoes
I peeled and quartered 4 red potatoes and 2 russets, and boiled them until soft. Then, I drained them, put them in a bowl, and mashed them, just a little, with a potato masher. Then, I melted a couple of tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan and added chopped rosemary and thyme. I let that simmer for a few minutes until the herbs got crispy. I reduced the heat to low and added maybe half a cup of buttermilk and 2 tablespoons sour cream. Once it was warmed through, I slowly drizzled it over the potatoes and mashed them just a little more. I added a bit of salt and pepper. Yum.

sort of like chicken cordon bleu, but probably not really
I know; no measurements

thin chicken breast filets (my package came with 5)
thin sliced deli ham
thickly sliced jarlsberg cheese (or another swiss)
fresh rosemary and thyme
bread crumbs
honey mustard
rosemary sprigs

I soaked the chicken in buttermilk for a half hour or so. I layed the chicken with the herbs. Then, I took a chicken breast and laid it flat. I spread mustard over it, then added a couple of slices on ham to the entire thing, then put the cheese slices on half of it. I folder the other half over and secured it with a rosemary sprig. I coated it in breadcrumbs and put it in a baking dish. I baked them for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

I also made a mustard sauce to put over the chicken at the end.

mustard sauce

2 tbl butter
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup honey mustard
1 tbl dijon mustard
2 tbl honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
splash champagne vinegar
salt and pepper

I softened up the mushrooms (I used shiitake and crimini) and garlic in the butter. Then, I basically just added everything else and let it simmer for about ten minutes. The measurements are approximate. I mostly just did it to taste.

Kobe beef barbecue

On the 4th, we had only gotten the kitchen unpacked. We have our priorities. We barbecued Kobe beef (sirloin and NY strip), seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled on each side for just a couple of minutes. It was pretty good, but not as good as Kobe that we’ve had in restaurants (or, for that matter, Kobe burgers that we’ve grilled ourselves). But still, really really good.

P. made a balsamic reduction for them. I’m not sure exactly how he made it, but I think he sauted some garlic, shallots, and mushrooms in butter, then added balsamic vinegar and let that simmer and reduce for a while (45 minutes?). Possibly there was more to it than that. A friend of mine is about to publish her second cookbook and we talked about adding a few of our recipes to it, including that one. Which means P. will have to write it down and then I’ll know for sure.

We also made twice baked potatoes. I basically followed the Joy of Cooking recipe. I noticed a variation that used bacon and pepperjack cheese. I decided to use some of the wild boar bacon we had. I also used butter, buttermilk, sour cream, green onions and possibly a few other things I’m forgetting. But I’m sure you have the cookbook, so no need to repeat it all here.

I made some cauliflower, baked in a cheese sauce, also from the Joy of Cooking. I would recommend doubling the sauce. I used one head of cauliflower and it was a little dry. Very tasty though.

We tossed together a salad with lots of greens and veggies and that balsamic viniagrette that I like to make and that I make differently every time. (Mostly it’s balsamic, olive oil, garlic, shallots, citrus juice, salt and pepper, honey, and honey mustard.)

We made some bruschetta with goat cheese from Quickies for Couples. We had that out on the deck before dinner with some cheeses, breads, crackers, sausages, and mustards. Oh, and margaritas. We could have just had a full dinner of that.

I made up a dressing I found in Sunset magazine (a magazine from which I will make every recipe listed as to recoup my investment as I realized only as the cashier was ringing it up that it was $9.99. $9.99 for a magazine!) with olive oil, mustard, shallots, garlic, thyme, and other sundry spices that I brushed on sliced summer squash, red onions, and grape tomatoes and then skewered. We grilled these along with some corn on the cob that P. brushed with some type of melted butter concoction and then wrapped in foil.

We had some Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling and then some of their limited edition 2002 Sangiovese. Eroica is our favorite Riesling, and this was the last of our 2002. The Sangiovese was great with the steak.

We also made a lemon meringue pie (also from Quickies for Couples, but we were way too full to eat any of it.

no time for cooking

We actually did do some cooking on the 4th, but mostly, we’ve been eating out. When you’re packing and moving and unpacking, there’s no time to cook, no room to prepare, and no food in the refrigerator. So, here are a few mini-reviews of a few places we’ve been.

Cafe Juanita, Kirkland, WA
We’ve been here before, and as much as we enjoyed it last time, I think this time may have been even better. Last time we went, it was New Year’s Eve, so it was a little more of a formal atmosphere. This time, it was a lot more relaxing. In fact, the waiter said that one reason he loves working there is that it’s not at all stuffy. We took P.’s parents as a thank you for helping us move.

After we ordered, we took a walk through the herb garden as the hostess suggested, although it was getting pretty dark. (It was probably about 9:30.) But it was beautiful out there. P.’s dad had the Limoncello Martini with Caprino Crostino, which I had a sip of, and which was excellent. We also ordered a couple of bottles of wine, but I’ll give them their own entry, since they were so good and anyway, I left the paper with the names on them that the waiter wrote down for us at home.

I had the Prosciutto di Parma with Ninety Farms Fava Beans and Pecorino Staginato and P.’s dad had the Seared Foie Gras with Bing Cherries, Candied Ginger, Cocoa Nibs and Vin Santo. I admit, his was a little better than mine. The foie gras was seared on the outside, which gave it a wonderful crispness. P. and his mom both had Hearts of Romaine with Parmigiano Reggiano, Garlicky Lemon Vinaigrette and Toasted Breadcrumb, also excellent. My appetizer was mostly prosciutto, and while it was really good, I’m not much of a “meat-only” kind of person. I was hoping for more fava beans, but they were tiny. I think it’s pretty early in the season for them.

I also had the soup of the day, which was a chicken broth with handmade noodles and I am so not doing it justice with that description. The waiter brought four spoons, even though only two of us had ordered it, because he said that without fail, people request more spoons once they’ve tasted it. It was a good call.

Then, I had the Barbaresco Risotto with Braised Oxtail. I asked the waiter if I should get the smaller or larger dish, since I was getting so much other food. He said I’d probably only have room for the small, but I should get the large because everyone else would be sneaking bites. My only other experience with oxtail was a sandwich at Salumi. I didn’t think I’d ever experience a better oxtail dish. I was wrong. This was the best risotto I’d ever had. P.’s mom had the Sheep’s Cheese Gnocchi with Cherry Tomato Salsa Fresca or with Ninety Farms Veal Sugo and Sweet Loraine Fava Beans. And both P. and his dad had Grilled Dry Aged RibEye Chop with Walla Walla Salad Onions and Balsamic. P.’s dad said it was the best steak he ever had.

I didn’t have much room left for dessert, so I got some Gianduja and Sea Salt Chocolates. Sea salt and chocolate. Brilliant combination.

The food was great, but the service was just as good. Our waiter was attentive, but not oppressive. He was very knowledgeable about the wines and just in general kept things casual and non-stuffy. I would go there all the time, but then, of course, I would be very broke.

Sage’s, Redmond, WA
I don’t know why I’m even linking to their site, actually, since it doesn’t seem to actually work. Well, maybe you’ll have better luck. (Oh yes, it’s just Firefox it doesn’t like. IE seems to work just fine.) The site says “Don’t come here if you are in a rush though, Chef Bart makes all his dishes from scratch and he prepares everything himself. Plan on spending some time, and enjoying yourself. You know that what you order is prepared by him and not a side chef. He takes great pride in his dishes and strives to please his customers.” We though it was eh. The people we were with really liked it, but anytime the menu includes phrases like “our popular pink sauce”, you have to wonder. I mean, don’t you? The chicken gorgonzola was excellent (how can you go wrong with blue cheese and cream), as was the tomato soup (again, with the cream) but everything else our table had (caprese, chicken ravioli, clam linguini, gnocchi, and a salmon pasta) were just OK.

The waiter seemed a little irritated at us the entire time, like we were putting him out, but there were only maybe two other parties in the restaurant, so I can’t imagine we made things that difficult. We ordered a bottle of pinot grigio (the only Italian pinot grigio on their wine list, sadly) and it was again, just OK. We went to order a second bottle of wine and the waiter automatically went to get the same one. I asked if we could see the wine list again so we could try something else and he seemed very annoyed and said that if we were going to get a red, we may as well get the special as it was only $28. I would have rather looked over the wine list, but P.’s dad said we should give it a try. It was OK. But not as good as I would have expected from the wine specifically recommended by the waiter.

The entire wine list was a little sad anyway. One Italian pinot grigio in an Italian restaurant? I notice they had the Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay listed for $70. And yes, I realize that the markup on wines in restaurants is huge, but that seems a little excessive for a wine you can get for $35 at the grocery store. Part of what I figure I am paying for in the restaurant markup is the restaurant’s research. They are doing the work to find me unique and different wines to try. That’s worth paying for. A wine list that looks like someone ran down to Safeway that afternoon and picked up whatever was on special isn’t quite the same.

Mayuri, Bellevue, WA
I got takeout the other night, so I can’t speak for the ambiance. The saag paneer was great. The chicken korma was just OK, but I’ve started to realize that when I don’t like the chicken korma, it’s not that I don’t like the sauce generally. It’s that the dish has dark meat in it, rather than chicken breasts, and I just don’t like dark meat at all. So, I think that was the problem. The naan was pretty good also, although not the best ever or anything. But definitely worth a return trip to check out some other dishes. I think I should try their lunch buffet next.

Raga, Kirkland, WA
A friend and I tried the lunch buffet last week. We were the only people in their, which seemed odd at noon during the week. A guy was in front, yelling at someone on a cell phone. The waitress seated us and tried to discreetly motion the man to the back. He went into a back room, and we could hear his muffled yelling continue. I tried a little of everything in the buffet, but nothing really stood out. It was just OK. Not memorable or really worth going back.

P.’s parents are going to Lola in Seattle tonight and unfortunately, we have to miss it. Well, maybe next time