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burgers with onions
Grilled Dijon Burgers


cucumber salad
Cucumber Salad

Menu Plan for the week of August 30, 2013: Day 3 Recipes

Grilled Dijon Burgers with Onions
Cucumber Salad

Cooking time:  90 minutes for menu 30 minute break       Cooking schedule: see below for instructions

      Our last hurrah of the season - the classic late summer salute to the vegetable garden: Ratatouille.  It's a little time-consuming, but easy to make. It's easy to increase for an end-of-summer party and it's perfect made ahead.  As is, it will be enough for 3 meals, in different forms. To fit the schedule better we only marinate the cukes for 90 minutes.

Grilled Dijon Burgers with Onions                  Preparation and cooking time:  30 minutes
  Made with hot, spicy Dijon-style mustard and served with grilled sweet onions, these are not your normal burgers! Use more or less mustard if you like... you could even add a drop or 2 of Tabasco...

12oz (360gr) ground beef (mince)
2 tbs dried breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tbs Dijon-style mustard
1 tbs red wine
1 tsp garlic powder
1 large red or sweet onion
Basting Sauce
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs Dijon mustard
2 tbs red wine
1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce

Burgers: Mix breadcrumbs, mustard, red wine and garlic powder.  Add beef and mix thoroughly - hands work best.  Shape into 3 or 4 patties.  Oil hinged basket.  Place patties in basket and cook on barbecue grill over direct heat for 4 - 5 minutes per side, basting each side with sauce. 
Or sauté in nonstick skillet for same amount of time, basting. 
Onions: Slice onion into 1/2" (1.25 cm) thick slices. Brush both sides of slices with basting sauce and put on a mesh grill pan (the idea is not to have the slices fall through the grate into the fire....) Cook over direct heat 4 - 5 minutes per side, turning once or until they have a nice color and are crisp-tender.
Or sauté in nonstick skillet for same amount of time, basting. 
Basting sauce: Put olive oil, mustard, red wine and Worcestershire in a small bowl, stir well to combine.

Ratatouille                                                                   Preparation and cooking time:   80 minutes
     There are as many recipes for Ratatouille as there are cooks who make it.  And as many methods.  Some call for cooking it all together in one pot for hours, some in separate pots for 30 minutes, some for sautéing first, others for roasting.  This is my way,  I think sautéing the vegetables first highlights their individual flavors.  The one universal is the list of vegetables (although not their ratio) and stirring in fresh basil at the end! Yes, there is a lot of olive oil - it's part of the recipe, not just a cooking medium.

1 small - medium aubergine (eggplant), about 8oz, 240gr
2 small - medium courgette (zucchini), about 14oz, 420gr, total
1 1/2 large bell peppers, I used 1/2 green and 1 yellow
2 medium onions 
4 cloves of garlic
5 medium tomatoes
5 laurel (bay) leaves
2 tbs chopped fresh thyme
big handful of fresh basil leaves
4 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper  optional

Roughly chop the onions and peppers. Mince the garlic.  Cube the aubergine.  Slice the courgette in half the long way, then in 1/4" slices.  Peel and roughly chop the tomato.
Heat 1 tbs oil in large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onions and sauté until starting to brown.  Add garlic and sauté for a minute or two longer. Put onions and garlic (and cooking oil) into a large pot.
Put the pot (with the onions) on low heat.
Return the skillet to heat and add 1 tbs oil.  Add peppers and sauté until starting to brown and blister.  Put peppers and oil on top of onions.
Return the skillet to heat and add 1 tbs oil.  Add courgette and sauté until starting to brown and soften.  Put courgette on top of peppers.
Return the skillet to heat and add 1 tbs oil.  Add aubergine and sauté until starting to brown on all sides.  Put aubergine on top of courgette.
Put bay and thyme on top of aubergine.  Put tomatoes on top of herbs.
At this point you can add a bit of salt and pepper if you like.
Give it a gentle stir or two, cover and increase heat slightly until you hear it simmering.  Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.  Stir it every once in awhile. When ready to serve, remove from heat, tear the basil leaves, stir in and serve.

Note: It took me about 35 minutes to do the chopping and sauteing; everything was tender and well done in 30 minutes but I let it simmer for 45.
Note 2:  Peel tomatoes by blanching in boiling water for 30 seconds first.  The peels slip off easily.

Cucumber Salad                                                         Preparation and cooking time: 20 minutes
    Another summer classic, this is loosely based on my mother's recipe - which was her mother's.  She used cream, I use yogurt but the taste is surprisingly similar.  I can't be real specific here - I never measure and it depends on how big the cukes are, etc. But this is an easy 'taste and adjust' salad.  Just play with it until you like it - you really can't screw it up (unless you try to hurry)

2 - 3 medium - large cucumbers
kosher, rock or sea salt
shallot or small onion
4 whole cloves
2 - 3 tbs lemon juice fresh if you have it
3 - 4 tbs salad olive oil
1/3 - 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or plain yogurt
2 - 3 tbs snipped fresh chives

First: Peel cucumber and thinly slice on box slicer.  (You know, the kind your mother had with three slits on one side for slicing and different size holes on the other 3 sides for grating and shredding.)   Stick the whole cloves into  the onion half.  Put the studded onion in the bottom of a deep bowl large enough to easily hold the cukes.  Put in a layer of cukes, sprinkle with salt, and repeat 3 times using about 1/2 tsp salt on each layer.  Put a small plate or saucer on top of the cucumbers - it should be sitting on the cukes, not the sides of the bowl.  Put a big can or jar of something heavy on the plate - to weigh it down.  We want weight on the cukes - the plate is just to distribute it more evenly.  Let it sit at room temperature for 4 - 10 hours. 
Second:  Remove weight and plate.  The cucumbers will be sitting in a lot of water.  Put cucumbers in a strainer - discarding onion and cloves.  Rinse cucumbers (remember all that salt?)  You don't want to get all of the salt off - just about 80%  Taste to test.  When rinsed to your satisfaction take the cucumbers in your clean hands and gently squeeze most of the remaining liquid out.  Put back into the bowl (that you have rinsed)
To finish: Add 2 tbs lemon juice, 3 tbs oil and stir.  Add 1/3 cup yogurt , stir and taste.  Adjust to the quantity of cukes and your liking.  Add fresh ground pepper, chives and serve. This will keep a week, but it never lasts that long at our house.

Cooking Schedule: 90 minutes for menu
Assemble all ingredients and utensils
Utensils: measuring cups, spoons, knives,
scissors, large nonstick skillet, large pot, box slicer,
large bowl, small plate, medium bowl, small bowl,
barbecue grill with basket and pan, strainer
Heat water for blanching tomatoes (use pot)
Peel cucumbers, slice
Stud onion with cloves, put in bowl
Layer cucumbers and salt, weight, set aside
Chop onions, sauté in oil in skillet
Mince garlic
Chop peppers
Add garlic to onions, sauté
Blanch tomatoes, rinse in cool water
Empty, dry pot
Remove garlic, onions to pot, turn on heat under pot
Add oil, peppers to skillet, sauté
Slice zucchini
Chop thyme
Remove peppers to pot
Add oil, zucchini to skillet, sauté

Cube eggplant
Chop tomatoes
Remove zucchini, add to pot
Add oil, eggplant to skillet, sauté
Add eggplant to pot
Add herbs, tomatoes to pot, stir, cover, heat
Turn heat done under pot, let simmer very slowly
    Go take a break for 30 minutes - or longer
Back? Stir the ratatouille - how's it doing?
Turn on / light barbecue grill
Make burgers, patty
Make basting sauce
Slice onion, brush with sauce
Start to cook burgers and onion
Baste burgers
Drain, rinse, drain, taste cucumbers
Turn burgers, onion, baste
Squeeze cucumbers, finish salad
Remove burgers, onions
Tear basil, stir into ratatouille
Remove bay leaves and serve
Refrigerate the rest of the ratatouille, cucumber salad

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