Bruschetta Burger (many apologies for the out of focus photo)
While I had planned on last night's bruschetta burgers for dinner, I had not planned to grill in the midst of a snowstorm...the answer lay in my George Foreman grill. While I do not use it a lot, this little appliance has been most helpful for grilling needs during inclement weather, and those times when you are grilling so little that it is not worth the bother (not to mention the expense) of using an actual grill. I had four nice chuck patties (80/20), that I squished into oval shapes to better fit the mini ciabatta rolls that I had. A note about the ciabatta rolls- I got these partially baked rolls at Aldi, and I find them perfect for all kinds of sandwiches, and they are cheap at $1.69 for a package of four (and the package will keep for a long time stashed in the fridge). Anyway, back to the burgs- four minutes in the Foreman gave me a perfectly cooked "medium" burger, and another minute gave me a well done burger for the boy. I layered these burgers onto the rolls with the leftover caprese salad from Thursday's dinner and some pesto mayo. Delish, delish, delish, definitely and upscale take on the simple burger (but yet, still so simple to prepare). The pesto I mixed with the mayo was from the stock I put away this summer in the freezer (I'll share below), but you can very easily use any prepared pesto from the grocery.
I was digging through the fridge looking for side dish inspiration (I did not want fries with the Italian flavors of my planned burger), when I spied a the bowl of leftover plain spaghetti from this week's spaghetti and meatballs. In the veggie drawer I found bits and pieces of red bell pepper, red onion, steamed green beans (also left from a dinner earlier this week), and black olives. I sliced everything up, tossed it with bottled Italian dressing (we like Kraft Tuscan House Italian), and dubbed it "clean out the fridge" pasta salad. Pasta salads, like noodle bowls, are wonderful in that you can put just about anything you like in them. This salad is going to pull triple (or quadruple) leftover duty- for today's lunch I am going to toss what is left with some shreds of leftover paprika roasted chicken. I've said it before and shall again- leftovers are great.
4 ground chuck patties (or whatever you like)
coarse salt, fresh ground black pepper, & garlic powder
4 small ciabatta rolls, toasted or warmed somehow
2 tbs. (about) light mayo
1 tbs. (about) prepared pesto
fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
ripe, red tomatoes, thinly sliced
baby spinach, a good handful
Season the burger patties with salt, pepper, and garlic powder- grill as desired. Toast the ciabatta rolls and split horizontally. Mix the mayo and pesto- spread on the top half of the rolls. On the bottom half build your stacks- spinach, tomato, burger, mozzarella, and top bun with pesto mayo. Eat (yum, yum).
"Clean Out the Fridge" Pasta Salad
leftover bits of veg
leftover bits of meat and/or cheese (optional)
bottled Italian dressing
There is obviously no recipe here- just cut your leftover bits to match your pasta- if using long pasta like spaghetti, but your bits into strips, if something like a shell then dice it up (especially nice if the shells can capture the bits inside. The key is to use a tasty salad dressing- none of that generic (and tasteless) Italian stuff.
2 packed cups of fresh basil (tiny stems okay)
1/2 cup walnut pieces (or pine nuts, but they can be pricey)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
3 large garlic cloves, peeled (about 1 tbs. if using jarred, pre-minced)
extra virgin olive oil
Rinse and dry the basil leaves (they don't have to be perfectly dry). Toss into a food processor with the nuts, garlic, and cheese. Pulse until chopped fine but not pureed. Dump into a small mixing bowl (and repeat if making multiple batches). Mix in olive oil to desired consistency. Use immediately or package for freezing- if stowing in the fridge, cover with a piece of plastic wrap in contact with all the top surface (keeps it from turning a yucky color).
On the olive oil- I only mix in enough to make a paste and then package it into 1/2 cup portions for freezing. If I find that leaving it as a paste gives me more options for its use- I use it thick for mixing into mayo or cream cheese (try that sometime for a taste treat on your morning bagel), or for rubbing under the skin of a whole chicken before roasting (try that one too). If I want to use it as a sauce by itself I can thin it with more olive oil, or alternately, a little white wine or even warm water. I make large quantities of pesto in the fall when my huge pot is short for the world- a great way to use it up and have some on hand to get me through the winter.