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 INA FRIDAYS –First Friday of every month. Come cook some Ina with us this weekend.  Scroll down to join the group. ♥♥♥         Upcoming:  Desserts:  July 4.     Check out Ina Fridays on Pinterest.

As a cook and a lover of my friends and family, one of my frequent questions to pose is:

What’s your favorite meal?

People will often need a moment because we have so very many things we love.  I myself can unequivocally answer,

Pizza!

This even though I often live on eggs, don’t particularly want to live without asparagus, and am rarely more pleased than when there’s beef stew for dinner.  I like great individual artisan pizza, take-out or delivery pizza, homemade pizza (my son makes the best), and probably only draw the line at frozen pizza — though I’ll eat Lou Malnati’s anytime, good Chicago girl that I am. I love pizza so much that I’m not picky. (Ok, I don’t do Chucky Cheese.)  But I’m amazed how many times Americans will answer, “Hamburgers”  when it comes to their favorite food. They include fries more than half the time, I’d wager. (Click HERE for a list of Top 50 American Foods.)  And while they love a great or famous burger from a bar, I think they’re even happier with a summertime grilled-at-home version or even a drive-in dive sandwich. (If I jump in the car, I can be at Cy’s in two minutes with a green line down at the corner.) 

I’m no social scientist, but I’ve thought about it more than once.  Our answers to the question may have to do with our age (Do Gen Xers like Pad Thai best?  Or do Millenials love burritos?), but they may not.  The answer “hamburgers” seems to float boats across the years, states, income levels, and genders. To say nothing of vegans and vegetarians who can’t wait for that black bean burger.   If I try to figure out why I love hamburgers — and I have –I discover that what I really love are the toppings and the goop.  Ketchup, mustard, onions fresh or grilled, pickles, cheese, and so on.  Because that’s true, I’m nearly as happy with a veggie burger as anything.  I might be able to eat a hamburger without the hamburger and be….No, I wouldn’t be happy.

If I ponder,  I think that as a nation we maybe like hamburgers in part because the very word says, “fun.”  Cook-outs, summer parties, easy living, trips to the burger joint, time spent sitting in the bar with a burger and a beer, no real cooking or clean-up work.  And for people my age or older, burgers for many years meant a treat. Going out to eat didn’t happen every day as it does for so many people now (think how many people don’t even brew their own coffee in the morning–witness the line at Starbucks), it was a special occasion.  Even when it was just a burger.  Somehow that feeling persists.  Listen up in many restaurants and you’ll hear, “Oh, I’m gonna break down and get the burger.” Or just, “I’m getting the burger! Oh yeah — what the hell — fries, too.”  I think there are many among us who cannot help themselves when it comes to hamburgers and their best friends french fries.  One sounding German and one sounding French, we think of them as purely American.

When Ina Fridays rolls around, I try to make something I haven’t made before.  This time, I chose ubiquitous  hamburgers because my husband is seldom happier than when they’re on the menu. If there’s blue cheese involved, he’s all over that in a heartbeat.  Or a big smile.

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But as I read the recipe, shopped for ingredients, and got things organized, I suddenly figured out I don’t ever make hamburgers — or I haven’t in more years than I can remember.  We eat them grilled — when means Dave cooks them outdoors in good weather — or we go out for them. I rarely order them in restaurants. (Good pun.) Or at least I don’t order beef burgers.  I’m more likely to choose turkey, chicken, veggie, or salmon.  So making burgers for me was indeed something new.  Pretty much.  Dave asked if he should mix the meat and seasonings and I said, “No, I’ll do it.”  This one’s on me.  He did cook them.

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I don’t grill.  I’m not starting now.

While you probably know how to make burgers, you might want to try Ina’s Blue Cheese Burgers (recipe HERE.)  Just to see what you think.  Between you and me, I like Dave’s burgers better, but I know on what side my bun is buttered.  We dressed them just as Ina says to, but Dave did need a little spicy mustard and the ketchup bottle did make an appearance near me.  The only significant change I made was to use Colorado ground bison in the interest of health.  I skipped the Danish blue cheese and went for the Maytag Blue Cheese from Iowa, which we can’t get enough of.  I didn’t make fries, but I did cook up my Grilled Garlic Potatoes and Instant Pickles.  Here’s how:

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GRILLED GARLIC POTATOES

These will cook in about 10 minutes on the grill if you’ve microwaved them first.

serves 4

  • 1 1/4 pounds small red potatoes with skin, cut in half
  • 3 tablespoons olive or canola oil, divided
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed red pepper
  • Large clove garlic, minced finely

Heat grill to medium-high.

Place potatoes in a 2-3 quart microwave-safe container and add about 1/4 cup water.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Microwave on high 7 minutes or until at least half tender.  Drain well, return to casserole, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the oil.  Season well with salt, pepper, and just a pinch of crushed red pepper.

Grill 10 minutes or until browned and very tender. Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a small skillet and, watching closely, cook the minced garlic over low heat 2-3 minutes or until garlic is tender, but not browned.  Return potatoes to casserole; drizzle with garlic and oil. Toss well and serve hot.

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ALYCE’S INSTANT PICKLES

serves 4-6

  • 2 English cucumbers, unpeeled, sliced 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 cup plain white vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon Crushed red pepper — or more to taste
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon celery seed –or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 teapoons granulated sugar– or more to taste

Mix all ingredients well in a non-reactive container (glass or plastic.)  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve at room temperature or cover well, chill/let mature a couple of hours or more, and serve cold.  Keeps in the refrigerator several days.

Cook’s Note:  You can add a sliced or chopped onion — or some chopped bell peppers — if you’d like.  If you like other seasonings, the celery seed can be replaced by dill, mustard seeds, garlic, etc.

♥♥♥

FROM INA’S FB PAGE–NEW BOOK AND TOUR…

With my new cookbook Make It Ahead coming out this October, I’m doing a book tour again! This time, I’m doing something different and fun- I’ve asked culinary journalists around the country to have a conversation with me for an hour on-stage, plus 30 minutes of audience Q&A. (Signed cookbooks will also be available for sale at the events.) I hope you’ll join me this fall if I’m coming to a city near you, and if not, I’ll be planning additional dates next spring! I can’t wait to answer all your best Make It Ahead questions!

Click here for tickets and more information:http://www.barefootcontessa.com/tour.aspx

 

Current tour dates are in November, 2014 and February-March, 2015.  Wednesday, November 19, Ina will be in Denver at the Paramount Theater; my tickets are bought!

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ALL ABOUT INA FRIDAYS:

This month we have Main Courses but next month — on Friday, July 4, 2014 –we have gorgeous summer desserts. Mark your calendar and plan on visiting and cooking up lots of sweet somethings.

Stop in this Friday or beyond  and see what all of our fine writers are cooking up.  All writers will not participate every month, but check out the blogs anyway.  If you’d like to participate on a monthly basis, email me at afmorgan53@yahoo.com.   If you’d like to join in occasionally, just follow the prompt for the “linky” or blog hop and add your post – Ina Garten recipes only, please.
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Sing a new song,  Alyce

The proof copies of my book are in, so it should be available on amazon … oh–sometime soon!

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