Month: September 2013

Caprese Burgers with Sweet Corn-Potato Salad or the Last Rose of Summer

Caprese Burgers with Sweet Corn-Potato Salad or the Last Rose of Summer

        After this post, More Time will be on vacation for a brief period.  See you later!

The last two days, when Dave and I have gone out to walk the dogs, it’s been all of 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  Now, of course, we live in Minnesota; the rest of the country might not have those lows.  We have freeze warnings coming up, so I was out collecting the last of the tomatoes and also enjoying the last blooms in our yard…

Backdoor Italian parsley


Backdoor herb pot–Sage (top), Chives (left), Thyme (right), Rosemary (bottom), Mint (left)


Almost the last of the cherry tomatoes

Last rose of summer?


Dried dill seed


Birds still enjoying the sunflowers


Last rose??

When the summer seems to be slipping away, jackets are dug out, gardens are dug in, and, when you walk up for groceries, the stores are decorated with mums and winter squash.  There are end caps full of canned butternut squash.  (I saw a pumpkin on a porch while walking the other day.)   My initial response is, “Wait! It’s too soon. Why are there stands of dried cornstalks?  It’s still warm. I haven’t worn out my shorts yet! Let’s go to the lake one more time.”  But, it’s real; it’s true; it’s mid-September.  So I watch the garden for the last of its bounty, stand in the sun every chance I have, and think about what’s in the freezer that needs to be used before the season changes–and also, in our case, before we move back to Colorado.


What to make with both dill and tomatoes?   Hamburgers from the freezer?  A round of fresh mozzarella in the fridge? Two ears of corn?  For a couple of years, I’ve thought of caprese everything (as you’ve seen), but while I had Caprese burgers in mind, I never made them.  They might be better with lamb, but I had beef—there it is!  A little potato salad that used up the gorgeous Minnesota corn was the perfect side.  It was 65 degrees in the back yard, so we donned sweaters and ate on the patio.
Try this:
caprese burgers  serves 4
  • 1 pound ground meat–beef, lamb, turkey, chicken, pork, or sausage
  • Canola oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 4 1/3″ – 1/2″ slices fresh mozzarella
  • 4 sprigs fresh basil
  • 4 thick slices of a large tomato
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 4 whole wheat buns
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar, optional
1.  Heat grill over high heat.  Divide ground meat into four sections and pat each one a ball and then flatten into a burger. Season generously with salt and pepper. Lightly oil grill and place burgers on grill.  Cook burgers about four minutes, flip and cook another three minutes or until burgers are done to your liking. (Safe cooking for beef is 160 degrees Fahrenheit. 165 for chicken and turkey See temperature chart here.)
2.  While burgers cook, spread buns with mustard and place a slice of salted and peppered tomato and a little chopped onion on the top half of the bun. When burgers are done, add a burger to the bottom half of the bun and top with a slice of mozzarella and some basil.  If desired, sprinkle tomatoes with a little balsamic vinegar.  Serve hot.
While much of our fragrant dill has flowered and gone to seed, we still have some baby dill weed.
sweet corn potato salad      serves 4
Leave out the crushed red pepper and hot sauce if you don’t like your salads with a kick.
  • 2 large baking potatoes, baked and chopped (leave skin on)
  • Kernels of two freshly cooked ears of corn*
  • 1 cup cooked green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 carrot, sliced thinly
  • 2 boiled eggs, peeled and chopped**
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 small dill pickle, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon-style  mustard
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
  • Hot sauce, optional
*Cook 2 ears, unshucked, in microwave 5 minutes @ full power.  Cool, hold perpendicular to board, and slice kernels off.
1. In a large bowl, place potatoes, corn kernels, green beans, carrot, and eggs.  Sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper) and the pinch of crushed red pepper; drizzle with one tablespoon oil and mix gently.
2.Stir in onion, pickle, and celery.  Sprinkle with fresh dill and parsley. 
3. Stir in mayonnaise, the other two tablespoons of olive oil,  mustard, and vinegar.  Mix gently, but thoroughly. 
4.  Add one tablespoon lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning; add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice if necessary.  (You might also like more red wine vinegar or a few drops of hot sauce.)

5.  Serve immediately at room temperature or refrigerate, well-covered, overnight and serve cold.

**Quick, microwaved “boiled” eggs–instructions here.

{printable recipe for potato salad}

Sing a new song; make a new potato salad,

Ina Fridays — Sides, Salads, and Soups –Arugula, Watermelon, and Feta Salad

Ina Fridays — Sides, Salads, and Soups –Arugula, Watermelon, and Feta Salad

I’m so ready for fall. There I said it.  Ach.  While the tomatoes are coming on (a good thing), the heat, too, doesn’t want to go away. I long for nights with the windows open and no air-conditioning white-noise drowning out the morning birds and joggers.  (Ok, the late night drunks, too; I live in the city.)

 Because heat IS NOT MY FAVORITE THING, I’m always glad when cool weather appears.  Suddenly I’m cleaning house, working in the yard, roasting chickens, making chili, and generally appearing like I have a bit more energy than the dirty dish rag in the sink.  But I do think that because I’m an avid home cook, and a person who loves change, that I only get about half-way through a season before I’m longing for the ingredients and cooking styles of the next.  And that’s about where I’m at.  The h— with salads and grilled salmon and definitely the h— with white wine. Give me some red meat to cook, for God’s sake.  A couple of bottles of Pinot Noir.  Let me want a rip-roaring fire.  I long to wear a sweatshirt and jeans.  I’ve destroyed my summer sandals and shoes cooking in them; it’s time for real leather, isn’t it???  (Isn’t it?)

Tomorrow I’m cooking dinner for the cover artist for my book, the talented Daniel Craig and his lovely wife, the accomplished and beautiful pianist (St. Paul Conservatory) Kim Craig.

Available Fall, 2013–

Dan’s an inventive, top-flight commercial artist, and I thought I’d cook him a steakhouse meal as a thank-you for joining my team. (You feel pretty alone writing a book until you have an editor, designer, and artist.)  Just to have Dan to talk to once in a while has been so heart-warming for me.  Sharing my little baby with him.  Trusting him to “get” my focus.  Believing in his abilities–and he in mine.  Anyway, I splurged on some Kobe beef, and am making crostini with homemade fresh cheese and grilled tomatoes (with Champagne), traditional Caesar salad, Old-School Twice-Baked Potatoes, Lemon Green Beans, and Tin Roof Sundaes — with homemade sauce as well as homemade ice cream.  (I made David Lebovitz’ Salted Butter Chocolate Sauce.)  Tin Roofs, you might guess, are Dan’s downfall.  And, you knew it, the temperature is supposed to hit 91 degrees F.  Insert nastiness of your own making.  I’ll share one difficulty:  Dan drinks beer or white wine. I’ve got to jump down into my small (but sweet) cellar and see if I have a big, oaky, chewy Chardonnay that will stand up to a steak. I might have ONE Fisher Chard. (Do you know Fisher?  Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful California–actually Sonoma, not Napa winery.) Otherwise, I’m putting myself at the mercy of Thomas Liquors. I’ll admit that I’ll open a red for Dave and me.  (We are still waiting on some editing and production items before the book goes to press.  Hopefully soon!)

Lemon Green Beans here.

Today, already up in the ’80s, I’ll admit I was glad to have something cool to pull off for supper–Ina’s Arugula, Watermelon, and Feta Salad.  But I sure hope next month’s blog happens with it’s 50 degrees F so I can leave something in oven for a couple of hours.  In between, I have to move.  So if you’re a once a month reader, you’ll catch me on the flip side living in Colorado full-time again and cooking at-altitude recipes.  So 50 degrees–it’s a real possibility!

Our Colorado front yard (west) in the late fall.  In the far distance is Pike’s Peak!

As this recipe is posted on line, I felt free to re-print it here; I do include the link below.  This is a hearty, but heart-healthy salad that could serve as a main dish or a side. If you’re taking it to someone’s house, put it together and dress it when you arrive so the melon doesn’t “melt”  around the edges.  For Weight Watchers, leave salad plain and let each guest dress their salad. The devil is in the details, i.e. the vinaigrette.

Just for fun, I took this salad outdoors and photographed it in different parts of my garden.

arugula, watermelon, and feta salad                  
              6 servings

For the vinaigrette:

1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 cup minced shallots (1 large)
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the salad:

6 cups baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/8 seedless watermelon, rind removed, and cut into 1-inch cubes
12 ounces good feta cheese, 1/2-inch diced
1 cup (4 ounces) whole fresh mint leaves, julienned

Directions:  Whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, shallots, salt, and pepper.  Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly, to form an emulsion.  If not using within an hour, store the vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator.   Place the arugula, watermelon, feta, and mint in a large bowl.  Drizzle with enough vinaigrette to coat the greens lightly and toss well.  Taste for seasonings and serve immediately.

Read more at:

So what did I think:  A toothsome journey into a mix of textures –juicy, tender-chewy, crunchy– and ambrosial-briny tastes.  While this salad has been around a few years and blocks, I hadn’t made it yet.   Dave and I both enjoyed the luscious sweet, liquid watermelon juxtaposed with the citrusy-onion vinaigrette, peppery arugula, and salty feta.   With a piece of toasted or grilled bread, perhaps, this would be a whole meal for someone without a huge appetite.  Summery, summery contrasts! The more Dave ate this, the better he liked it.  While maybe a tad skeptical at the onset, he ate a lot, and ended up saying, “This is definitely my kind of thing!”

What made the difference:  Making this salad when Minnesota watermelon was at its peak made a world of difference.  I also splurged on Spanish (sheep) feta — a square cut from the larger cheese in brine–and was really happy with the results.  Ina’s instruction are to cut things into smaller pieces; I chose the lusher, larger cuts for grins and giggles. Why not? I like big wedges of melon.  Instead of tossing the elements in a big bowl, I served the salad composed on a large platter so that the colors showed up a bit more.   And, ok, I did use GOOD olive oil, as indicated. In fact, I used Ina’s favorite, Olio Santo. (California), available at Williams-Sonoma.  In other words, one of Ina’s primary tenets — use the best ingredients you can afford in season — was proved totally valid.  Shop well.  

Alyce’s options:  Try spinach, goat’s cheese, and cantaloupe in place of the arugula, feta, and watermelon.  
If you’d like to try a similar salad of Ina’s that uses Parmesan in place of the feta and skips the orange juice, check here.

more ina??? why not???

Anna Quindlen’s Interview with Ina. (2011)  Don’t miss this.

Keep in touch with Ina regularly; friend her on fb!

Check out the Ina Fridays fb page here.

Take a tour of Ina’s barn at House and Beautiful–Fun Slideshow

Barefoot Contessa dot com—for Ina’s blog, recipe index, book info, and more

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ina

The first Friday of the month, food bloggers from many parts of the world join together in posting a favorite Ina recipe.  This month we have Salads, Soups and Sides; next month we’re cooking a Main Course. 

Stop in and see what all of our fine writers are cooking up today or any day:

*Not all writers will blog Ina every week–there’s work, vacation, family–but take a peek anyway.

Are you a food blogger? We’d love to have you every month or even once in a while! Email Alyce @ to join the group or link in to join us occasionally (click on blue oval link button at bottom and follow prompts) only if you’re blogging Ina! No other posts, please?! 

On my Dinner Place (Cooking for One)  Blog This Week: 
  Grilled Oregano Shrimp Caesar with Tomatoes and Crostini

Sing a new song… and Shanah Tovah! to all our Jewish friends and bloggers,