Sunday, April 25, 2010

Classic Burgers with Barbecue Spices

When you make sure to buy good quality ground beef, it's true that you can make it into delicious burgers with nothing more than a little bit of salt and pepper, and maybe some Worcestershire sauce. However, if you feel like adding a little kick to your burger meat, do I have the spice blend for you!

This spice blend is adapted from Weber's "Charcoal Grilling" and is our go-to rub for hamburgers. It's the perfect combination of spicy, sweet, salty, and pungent ingredients, and it's the only thing you need to add to your beef before forming patties. Forget the eggs, oatmeal, or bread crumbs; as Iron Chef Bobby Flay would say, these are burgers, not mini meat-loaves! Simplicity is best.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I wanted to try a blend of cream cheese and blue cheese as a burger topping; I've had it since then and it's a new favourite. The creaminess and the strong flavour of the cheese really complements the beef.

I combine roughly equal amounts of the cheeses together, spread the mixture on some pita buns and then place them on the burgers when they're close to being done. Mouth-watering meltiness ensues. Mmmmm mmmm!

With your favourite fixings and condiments (lettuce, tomato, and lots of mustard for me) these classic burgers with barbecue spices make for the perfect summery meal. Simple, cheesy, juicy...what more can you ask for on a nice, grill-friendly day?

Classic Burgers with Barbecue Spices: The Recipe
Adapted from Weber's "Charcoal Grilling: The Art of Cooking with Live Fire" by Jamie Purviance

1.5 lb ground chuck (80% lean)

1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pure chili powder
1/2 tsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp ground cumin

Combine rub ingredients in a small dish. Add to ground chuck and gently incorporate. Form 4 equally-sized patties. Grill or fry as usual to your liking. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Smoked Salmon Spread

Last summer, we got together regularly with two other couples for what I like to call "Barbecue Club." Every few weeks, we would take turns hosting gatherings to which everyone brought their own meat to grill (and beverages, of course) while the appetizers and sides were a shared responsibility. It was a fun and no-pressure way to have frequent dinner parties.

Therefore, as this weekend's temperatures hit the high teens, I was delighted that we resurrected Barbecue Club. As Jeff prepared a spice rub for the steaks he bought at the farmers market that morning, I whipped up the appetizer I had agreed to provide: a smoked salmon spread.

Atlantic smoked pepper salmon was on sale at my grocery store, so I took advantage. I combined roughly equal amounts of flaked salmon and a mixture of cream cheese, mayonnaise, and fresh lemon juice by hand, folding in green onion, fresh dill, and pickled capers for extra flavour. Once it was well blended, I gently folded in more salmon flakes for a chunkier texture.

I let the spread sit for a couple of hours before tasting it. It was delicious! Very rich, creamy, and full of great flavour. I served it with an assortment of fancy crackers, but it would also be perfect on rice crackers, crostini, rye toasts, or even on lettuce leaves or cucumber slices.

Whether served at an elegant cocktail party indoors or a casual outdoor gathering with your pals next to a hot grill (my preference), this smoked salmon spread is a great way to kick off an evening of good food and conversation. I can't wait for all the delicious meals that I'll be having in good company thanks to the arrival of nice weather!

Smoked Salmon Spread: The Recipe
Amanda's notes: If you can't find smoked pepper salmon, just add plenty of freshly cracked pepper to the spread.

150 g smoked pepper salmon, flaked, divided
3/4 block of cream cheese, softened 
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 green onions, finely chopped (including green parts)
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tbsp pickled capers, drained, roughly chopped

Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, and lemon juice in a bowl, working with a spatula until very smooth. Mix in 3/4 of the flaked salmon until smooth. Fold in green onions, fresh dill, and capers until incorporated. Gently fold in the rest of the flaked salmon, until just mixed through. 
Let spread sit in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. Garnish with a sprig of dill, and serve immediately with a selection of crackers, rice crackers, crostini, rye toasts, or mound onto lettuce leaves or cucumber slices. Enjoy!