Archive for May, 2012

May 30, 2012

Strawberries Are Here!

I still have vivid memories of when I was a little girl, sitting around the kitchen table at my grandparents’ house in Tinton Falls, New Jersey. They had this white round table (very modern), with a single round navy blue placemat that lived in the center. There was always a set of salt and pepper shakers and a few paper napkins strewn on top of that placemat. I can still picture the salt and pepper shakers, from Dansk, walnut and brushed stainless. My grandmother loved kitchenwares from Dansk. Pretty cool if you ask me. We would all squeeze in together around the table to enjoy whatever treat my grandmother had prepared. We ate for sport. We ate because my grandmother told us to, and we ate because frankly, it’s what we all loved to do most.

Some of our best eating was done sitting around that kitchen table enjoying an afternoon Scrabble game. The ladies in my family are vicious Scrabble players. I used to think they made up half the words, cheaters! My mother is the best Scrabble player alive. She’ll tear you to shreds. She wins every game. She whips my husband into a frenzy, crushing him at Words with Friends. I often hear him scream out “I hate your mother! She just got 52 points for the word cat!

My grandmother could never sit down for an entire game. She was up and down the whole time, putzing at the stove or mixing up some concoction. The only time my grandmother could be still for more than 5 minutes was when Another World was on. I think it’s the only time she ever shh’d me as a child. She’d sit in her den, leaning forward towards the TV, engrossed like it was the President giving a speech. She’d munch on roasted cashews and sip her afternoon coffee, content to sit for that hour of the afternoon, undisturbed.

The simplicity of life at my grandparents’ makes me smile. For so many of us, the appreciation of a single moment during the day can get lost along the way. When was the last time any of us actually sat down for an hour? With the first patch of strawberries ready a little early at Manoff Farms, I couldn’t help but pull together this quick dessert. You see, store-bought pound cake is one of the best cheats. I learned this from my grandmother, too. Fresh fruit, pound cake and a little homemade whipped cream (it must be homemade)… what could be easier or more scrumptious?

INGREDIENTS (Serves about 4-6)

  • 1 quart fresh strawberries
  • Sliced fresh pound cake
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 4 tsp sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2-3 tbsp water

To make the whipped cream, place the heavy cream, 2 tsp of sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whip to soft peaks. I don’t like to make my whipped cream very sweet. If you prefer it sweeter, just increase the amount of sugar.

Slice the berries in half or quarters depending on their size, and place in a bowl. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tsp of sugar over of the berries and drizzle a couple of tablespoons of water over top. Toss the berries together, cover and place in the refrigerator. The combination of the sugar and water will macerate the berries and make a delicious sweet juice in the bottom of the bowl. You should taste the berries to see how sweet they are. You can add a little more sugar if needed.

To serve, place a slice of pound cake on a plate, top with the berries and a generous dollop of whipped cream. Nothing fancy, just simply delicious.

May 24, 2012

4plates2table Ultimate Burger

Cheddar BLT Burgers with Tarragon Russian Dressing

All countries and cultures have their signature dishes that play an important role in defining their cuisine. Spanish tapas, Greek gyros, Israeli falafel, Moroccan tagine, Indian tandoori… If you were thinking French cuisine should include French fries, French dressing or French toast, that’s not it. French Onion Soup would be a better choice (here’s a link to a great recipe).

What’s American?  Apple pie and the hamburger! There’s actually a little history behind our hamburger. According to CHOW, the hamburger made its first début in 1836 at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York. It was 10 cents and was listed as a “hamburger steak.” The cheeseburger wasn’t created until 1924, when a guy named Lionel Sternberger put a piece of cheese on a patty at the Rite Spot Restaurant in Pasadena, California. McDonald’s opened its first franchise in 1955, but it took until 2004 for the documentary Super Size Me to show us that fast food hamburgers aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Today burgers take on many forms. For example, turkey, black bean, veggie burgers and lamb burgers. All good options, but this Cheddar BLT Burger with Tarragon Russian Dressing is the ultimate killer hamburger in our house. I discovered this recipe in Food and Wine magazine many years ago. It’s super flavorful with the tangy Russian dressing and smoky bacon. I love the addition of fresh tarragon to the dressing. It adds something really special to an already awesome burger.

Adapted from Food and Wine, 2009


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 8 slices good thick cut smoky bacon – cooked crispy
  • 1lb ground beef (enough for 4 burgers)
  • Kosher salt & pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 hamburger rolls, split and toasted on the grill
  • Red leaf lettuce
  • Tomato slices
  • Red onion slices

To make the tarragon Russian dressing, combine the mayo, ketchup, vinegar, parsley, tarragon and Worcestershire in a bowl and whisk together. Put in the refrigerator until it’s time to serve.

Make 4 hamburger patties and sprinkle each with salt, pepper and garlic powder on both sides. Grill until cooked through to your liking. Top each patty with a slice of cheddar cheese and allow cheese to melt.

To assemble, top each cheddar burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, 2 slices of bacon and tarragon Russian dressing. Enjoy!

* This is a great all-purpose Russian dressing that would be delicious used on other sandwiches as well.

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