Friday, May 9, 2008

Impromptu Greek Salad and Homemade Hamburgers

Ever since I eagerly devoured an awesome Greek salad at Westville in the West Village, I have been craving the combination of leafy greens and creamy feta. So Wednesday during lunch I followed my cravings. I wandered through the Union Square Greenmarket, beginning with a selection of a variety of lettuces, bright red radishes that were calling out to me, a red onion, and finally, feta cheese from Lynnhaven Farms. Back in midtown, I stole little plastic cups of balsamic vinegar from the deli across the street (shhhh). Then at my desk, I chopped and assembled the. best. impromptu lunch ever. The lettuces had that lively tenderness that signaled freshness.

So I assembled the same salad to accompany burgers for dinner that night, and then for lunch a couple of days later. By then, it was clear that two days in the refrigerator had taken their toll on the lettuce, and they now had the more wilted quality of supermarket mixed greens. See, the difference is noticeable! And although $6 per little tub, the feta cheese was worth it for its creamy, salty tang. It was reminiscent of the goat cheese my mom made when I was a child from the milk of the goats raised in our backyard barn. I didn't know how good I had it then.

As for the burgers, the meat was ground chuck from Hawthorne Valley Farm, picked up from the Greenmarket a week ago and frozen solid. While it took its time defrosting in a water bath, I improvised some hamburger buns that came together surprisingly quickly. The key was taking the necessary amount of flour and yeast out of the refrigerator that morning so they were nice and warm when it was time for baking after work. I used half whole wheat and half all purpose flour to give it a little more fluff than my usual dense all whole wheat bread.

It was a test run for my locavore potluck next month, and they came out good enough that I will be serving them again then. They may not be perfectly round and airy like store-bought buns, but they will be wholesome, made with simple ingredients, and hot from the oven. The recipe below is more for my reference so I can replicate it. And not so much a hard and fast recipe. Because there are things I'm not sure about. Like the ideal size of the pan, and whether the pan needs to have sides so that the buns rise upward. Advice is welcome.

I prepared the burgers with worcestershire sauce, and some freshly chopped sage from the deck. They were grilled to medium-rare perfection served with those salad ingredients again - sliced red onions, lettuce, and feta cheese, albeit non-local ketchup of course. Yum. I'm glad it's grilling season again, that the grill is fixed after a two week hiatus, and that I have another package of local hamburger meat awaiting me in the freezer for a future barbecue.

Hamburger Buns
2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup warm water
1 tbsp olive oil

Combine yeast and 1/2 cup warm water and let sit a few minutes until bubbly.
Meanwhile, combine flour and salt. Then add olive oil, yeast mixture, and half the remaining water. Combine in bowl with a rubber spatula. Add additional water as necessary until a slightly sticky dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and need 10 minutes, adding flour as needed so it doesn't stick to everything. Return to bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in warm place for 40-60 minutes until doubled in size. (My warm place is inside my gas oven with the door propped open, and in that situation, the dough was over-ready and sighing back on itself when I poked holes into it at 45 minutes, so make sure you check on it periodically.)

Preheat oven to 400. Grease two small or one large baking pan. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and gently press down, pressing out air bubbles. Divide in half and set one half aside under the bowl. Divide each half into five balls (ten balls total) and place on pan. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let sit 25-35 minutes until proofed - the rolls will touch each other slightly. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, removing when rolls are golden brown and hollow when you tap the underside.

1 comment:

  1. I can still taste the goat cheese mom made when i think about it...even though I havent had it in over 10 years!