Umami Burger

We don’t eat red meat all that often so this was a treat we were looking forward too.

You begin with sautéing mushrooms and red onion together and then mixing that with a combination of oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and gochujang. I have to tell you, this smelled great and looked amazing.

The onion and sauce mixture is added to ground beef and shaped into four patties. Dorie tells us to cook in a skillet at high heat for 4 min before flipping and cooking another 3. Ours took longer than that to get the patties done in the middle. I wish we could have bbq’d them but I think they would have crumbled with all the mushroom/onion mixture studded throughout.

I have to ask…any of you other bakers think it odd that Dorie suggested “tasting” the beef and onion mixture before forming into patties to see if you need more salt or pepper?? 😳. I mean me personally…I had on gloves just to mix and make the patties haha there is no way I was “tasting” the raw meat. 🤷‍♀️🤦‍♀️

We had high hopes for this one…liking everything about it, but husband and I both had the same reaction that the flavor got lost in the bun. It was better when you just ate the patty by itself but even then it was muted. I feel like these would have had more of a punch to put the mushroom/onion mix on top of the patty so you could really taste it. We enjoyed trying these but were underwhelmed by the end result. I do think I will try using the mix though with something else as a topping!

Chocolate and Walnut Bars

These bars are based on a memory of a torte Dorie had in Rome. They have the dry, sponge texture found in European cakes along with a walnut flavor studded with chocolate chunks and nuts.

We are warned there is a fair amount of work and bowls required in this bake, but that we will be rewarded at the end. It does make a decent amount, so there was plenty to share and all of my tasters love when that happens! 😍

The bars are made from ground walnuts, flour, butter, sugar…and many eggs! Eight yolks go into the mixture and 8 whites whipped up and folded ever so gently into the batter…after the melted chocolate, chopped chocolate and a small amount of chopped nuts are mixed in. I am always nervous when “gently folding” but I got a good rise and spongy texture so I am guessing I had a soft enough hand. Yay! 😂

After baking, the torte is unmolded and turned upside down onto a cooling rack leaving the smooth bottom as the top as it will be nicer for glazing. While that cools, we prepare a chocolate glaze made from heavy cream, more chocolate, sugar, and water. The top is iced and then set in the fridge to chill for a min of 30 min to set the chocolate top.

The torte is sliced and cut into bars as you need them, but I cut the whole thing up and set off delivering to family and my good friend.

The reactions were all positive..everyone loved them..and loved the texture with the finely chopped walnuts in the bars. My husband thought they would be perfect with coffee in the morning which I am sure he is saving his second piece for exactly that tomorrow haha.

I had an end piece so maybe that is why, but I was surprised that these didn’t seem overly rich or too chocolatey. You would certainly think so with chocolate on top…and also melted and chopped in the batter. I was thinking more like a brownie, but this was something else. Definitely more light and “spongey”. It was a nice surprise and worth the work.

This one is a keeper!

Rousquilles

The name Rousquilles means “little wheels” which is appropriate for these white glazed ring cookies that are popular in Barcelona and also the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Traditionally they are flavored with anise seeds and orange flower water which Dorie tells us can be divisive. We are given the option of making them in a more plain version without the seeds and then milk, instead of the orange flower water…which I did.

The dough, which is pretty simple consisting of flour, confectioners sugar, butter, egg yolk, milk, and honey, is prepared in a food processor and then rolled between parchment paper. We were to use two circle cookie cutters…mine ended up being a glass and and the top of a spice bottle haha! It worked. 🤷‍♀️. The rings can be any size, ranging from small to large. I think mine were on the bigger side since I only got about 15 cookies instead of the 30 the recipe suggested.

After these cook, they are to be iced with a cooked version of a glaze. I had heard from my fellow bakers this is tricky since you don’t have much liquid to work with and just not necessary when there are easier ways to accomplish the same thing. I ended up using the recipe I have from my Grandma for an icing we would use for her sugar cookies. I love that when I looked it up on her handwritten recipe card, she called it “Ornamental Frosting”. I miss her and know she would have loved to have followed this baking journey I have been on. 😍

So, the verdict on these cookies is that they are delicious…simple and perfectly sweet. My husband thought they reminded him of a graham cracker in flavor…and I have to agree…(specifically these big dinosaur shaped cookies I remember from when the kids were young. Anyone else remember those?!! 🤦‍♀️ ) These have just enough flavor and sweetness to keep calling you back for another. The only think I would do differently next time, would be cutting them in another shape. I know not quite the right thing to say since they are called “little wheels” but just plain circles or any shape would taste perfect and not be quite so labor intensive with the double cutout.

We loved these! They are a keeper!

Torta Sbrisolona

Torta Sbrisolona is a traditional cookie that has been around since the Renaissance. Translated from Italian, it means “crumbly cake” but most people think of it as a cookie.

It is “struesel like”, but made with almond flour, corn meal, and chopped almonds..along with flour, sugar, egg yolk, cinnamon, and butter. It is crunchy, sweet enough, and dry the way biscotti is. I had a feeling this would be a hit for us.

Interestingly, in the making of the cookie you make the dough in a food processor and mix only until you have “wet sand”. We are told to drop the dough by squeezed streusel-like morsels. Then, I listened when I read the next instruction…

When all the dough is in, pat it down gently-“gently” bring the important word. You don’t want to crush the clumps, you just want to start them on the road to sticking together.

So I listened.

It sounded like I barely press down and then I was thinking maybe the butter melts it down to make more of a bar. 🤷‍♀️

The torta gets baked for about 35 min at 325. I could tell right away I was in trouble as my “streusel morsels” were in the same spot as I placed them haha. There was no turning the block out onto a rack…more like dumping it onto a cutting board. Gosh it looked like a mess.

I tried one, and it tasted great…so phew…but what a mess. I left them cooling on the counter. My husband told me he walked by and thought I ran to the store to get more ingredients because it didn’t look done haha. We had a good laugh over the whole thing. Needless to say, they were delicious and if I made them again I will most definitely press harder to make bars!!

Grilled Dry-Rubbed Chicken

Perfect summertime recipe for us to try out this month. This dry rub can be used really on anything…steak, chicken, fish or even corn on the cob or wedges of squash. The beauty of the rub is actually in the color, crust and depth of flavor it gives as it is grilled.

The rub is quite complex…check out the ingredients used:

  • Brown Sugar
  • Salt
  • Chile Powder
  • Paprika
  • Old Bay Seasoning
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Chinese Five Spice
  • Pepper
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin

I wasn’t kidding…there is a lot going on!

The chicken is rubbed generously on both sides and then grilled. We were impressed with the color and crust we did get on our chicken as it seems like with other marinades, a lot falls off.

My husband and I both had similar reactions to this chicken. It was good and it seemed to get better the more you ate, but honestly there is a lot going on…maybe too much. I think personally I don’t care for cinnamon, and maybe the Chinese Five Spice, on meat as I think we have had that before in another recipe as those seemed to be what I tasted. Anyway, it was good and we enjoyed it but like my husband said, he wouldn’t crave it. I would have to agree.

Cowboy Caviar Salad or Side

Our recipe this month is a throw back from 1940. Originally called Texas Caviar and created by Helen Corbitt while culinary director of Neiman Marcus in Dallas. Traditionally it is made with black-eyed peas and served on New Years Day for a year of prosperity.

Our take on it uses either black-eyed peas or red, black, or pinto beans. They are mixed with green onion, red onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, tomato, and garlic…corn is also an option so I added it. The salad is then tossed with a vinaigrette made from olive oil, lime juice, cumin, salt, smoked paprika, and honey. The whole thing can then be drizzled with hot sauce if so desired.

I am not a fan of beans, so I had to defer to my husband on his thoughts about this “caviar”. He really enjoyed it as a side, but thought it would also work perfectly in a rice bowl with chicken or fish…so that is how he had it the second day. He loved it and said it gave the bowl a lot of flavor..I am guessing primarily from the vinaigrette.

I think this is a keeper and can be used a variety of ways!

Pimento Cheese

This was a hit…with everyone!

I would have to say, it was rather addictive. For something so simple, it sure had a wow factor.

I would also have to admit, I had to look up what pimentos actually were after a friend asked me haha. I was like…the red filling in a green olive 🤷‍♀️🤦‍♀️

Turns out…

“A pimiento or pimento is any kind of pepper. In some English speaking countries, it is mostly associated with a variety of large, red, heart-shaped chili pepper that measures 3 to 4 in long and 2 to 3 in wide. Pimientos can have various colours including yellow, green, red, and maroon.”

This particular pimento cheese is easy to make…and other than making sure you have the pimentos…pretty basic ingredient list. We used a combination of extra sharp and sharp cheddar cheese, pimentos, small amount of Mayo and cayenne. We are told to trust the small amount of cayenne, because as the spread chills for the 4+ hours, the heat will intensify.

The heat was perfect…just enough to keep you coming back. This was so enjoyed by everyone, I will most certainly make it again!

Baby Buckwheat Bars

Well, these were a surprise…

I really had no expectations for these bitty bars…I mean a high fiber, gluten free, dark flour dessert…didn’t really create a high desire to have them haha…and Dorie’s description didn’t help much either…”pleasantly dry and grainy texture” 🤷‍♀️. Although, they did included chocolate, so that is always a plus!

We learn that buckwheat has quite a variation in color…could be almost black, thus giving it its name of black wheat. We are told this flour is very rich and nutty in favor.

I opted to make a half batch as the ‘100 bars’ the full batch made scared me off haha. I still ended up with 50 of the baby bars so this really makes a lot. Other than the buckwheat, the ingredients are very common: eggs, butter, baking powder, salt , sugar, vanilla, optional dark rum, and chocolate.

I am surprised how much we enjoyed these! The nuttiness really came through…almost like there was a slight peanut butter flavor in the chocolate. We felt the texture was better the first few days…they were described as a little “chalky” the longer they sat. That wouldn’t deter me from making them again though…just need to eat them faster haha. I do have the rest of the buckwheat flour, so I would say I can see me making these again. These were interesting…and a keeper!

Drop-Biscuit Berry Cobbler

Our blog recipe this month is a peach cobbler, but we are given a berry option in the side notes, so I went that route since we are berry fans. 😍

Cobblers seem to be a dessert that really is good anytime of the year…either eaten warm in the fall and winter or room temp in the spring and summer. A berry cobbler though, really does scream sunshine and summertime.

I went with a mixture of berries: blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries. To help with the moisture that can be a problem when cooking with berries, some cornstarch is added to the mix. The berries are placed in the pan and then topped with drop biscuits…the recipe being one for beginners. No cutting in butter, or worrying about working the dough too much or too little. The recipe uses heavy cream and buttermilk. Just a little mixing and that is it. Easy.

The cobbler is baked for 45-55 min, until the topping is golden brown and the fruit juices can be seen bubbling around the edges….then cooled to room temperature and eaten with or without ice cream or whipped cream.

Based on the feedback I received from my tasters…the ones that ate it with a topping, loved it…the ones without, said it was good but a little dry and too much biscuit on top in parts. Since the biscuits are dropped in mounds…the dough could be out of ratio with the berries depending I guess which part you got haha. I am thinking you just don’t notice that if there is ice cream or whipped cream involved. 😂

Seemed like a perfect summertime dessert…and if I make it again, I will be sure to serve it with either ice cream or whipped cream!

Citrus-Marinated Halibut with Mango Salsa

We eat a lot of fish…multiple times a week in fact, so for us, this was a fun change-up from our usual go-to recipes.

I did use Mahi in place of the halibut since I had it on hand, but I would think, especially with white fish, any would be interchangeable.

The fish is marinated in a lemon and orange juice and zest combination…scallions, jalapeño, and cayenne round out the spice. The marinade has a duel purpose, marinating and then having been cooked down, then as a drizzle on the finished product. Since my fish was frozen I just used the marinade as a topping which I think worked just fine.

The mango salsa can be made up to two hours before serving which makes the dinner easier to bring together. The salsa includes the mango but also tomatoes, red bell pepper, red onion, basil, lemon juice and a pinch more of cayenne.

The fish is super easy to put on the table…bake, drizzle, and top. This dish screams summer and freshness. The only complaint we had, was that the overwhelming flavor was the lemon. We thought that could be toned down a bit, but, all in all, very good.

For us I think everything is judged against that salsa we made for the shrimp tacos a while back…I have made that so many times I wouldn’t be able to count haha. I think we would both say we still prefer that fruit salsa but we are always up for trying a new fish dish.