Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Monday Eats - A Memory of Ashley the Fire Truck Dog and Burger Night

In our childhood home, Saturday night was always "hamburger night". It didn't matter if it were a holiday or during the school year, if there was disaster looming somewhere or news of war on TV, everything we could possibly worry about was held in abeyance until that  ritual was complete.

There could be snow on the ground, or heavy rain and winds of 50 mph and Dad would have a grill out, lashed to something, making hamburgers. If you haven't had a barbecue that's a combination of Maverick and The Deadliest Catch, you haven't lived.
Mom would  be inside making the side dishes in her Mrs. Cleaver attire (her Sheriff's badge put away, and Chanel No. 5 donned).  Dill pickle spears,  carrots, celery sticks and the occasional radish for Dad (which he called "belly rumblers") would be placed on the ever present relish tray.  With that, there would be  plates with thick slices of cheese, lettuce, mayo, bacon slices (if the fatted pig had been dispatched), sliced Walla Walla Sweet onions, a big bowl of Ruffles potato chips, lightly buttered and toasted hamburger buns plus sometimes, macaroni salad and coleslaw if we'd worked hard doing our chores that day.

Dad would present us each a burger with a ceremonial flourish of the spatula that was the childhood equivalent of being knighted and we'd then go into the kitchen and head down the line of goodies making our burgers just the way we wanted.  I thought of that as I packed Mom's relish tray, brought home with me from my recent trip to visit Dad.

But for tonight, after a couple difficult work days, in memory of  two and four-legged friends who have left us, a little less calorie laden dinner that will bring back memories by the family deck, meals  prepared with love.
Ashley - the fire truck dog.  
My Dad's companion until she left for the Bridge at age 13

Turkey Soft Tacos with roasted corn salsa.  For the meat, use your favorite ground meat. Ground pork tenderloin or chicken breast makes a nice light accompaniment to the salsa but use any ground meat or veggie meat substitute you like (I use the Gardein veggie "meats" products several times a week).

First, prepare the corn salsa so it has a few hours to blend flavors.  If you like the corn salsa at Chipotle, you will LOVE this.

1 small red bell pepper (seeded and chopped)
1 and  1/2 cups Trader Joes frozen roasted  corn - thawed (until corn season when you can do your own fresh corn roasted on the grill)
2-3 Tbsp. of onion finely chopped
pinch of garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ancho chili powder
Juice of one lime (not less than 2 Tbsp)
1  and 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vineger
1 and 1/2 teaspoon wild honey
pinch  or two of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 and  1/2 teaspoons of your favorite hot sauce (the ones pictured were a 30th birthday gift from my best friends to my husband who shared them for the photo.  The Scoville Brothers Heavy Metal Heat is a favorite in my fridge).

Mix vegetables in one bowl and set it aside.  In another bowl, mix all other ingredients except the olive oil.  In a thin stream, slowly pour in the olive oil whisking briskly until it emulsifies. Drizzle over vegetables and toss.

Fry up the meat.  If using lean cuts, you won't need to drain, otherwise, cook about 3/4 of the way through, drain, then add your spices, you want just enough fat left on the meat for flavor and to help the spices adhere. I don't use the commercial taco seasoning which is often loaded with salt and chemicals.  For each pound of meat use:

1 teaspoon  cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
and a pinch of salt, pepper and sugar 

When the meat is cooked through, add a couple tablespoons of water, cover and turn heat off so the flavors blend as you set the table, stirring occasional.
Then get your tortillas ready.  This is my favorite brand, made here in Chicago by the descendants of immigrant Raul Lopez who came to the states in the 40's to work as a Illinois Central railroad trackman. But he had a dream and that dream became one of the most successful tortilla companies in the Midwest.   It's the only brand I buy.
Don't nuke them or just heat in a dry room on a hot fry pan. You need moist heat to properly soften them.To prep  yours in the oven preheat it to 250 degrees. Wrap a stack of tortillas in a damp, clean dishtowel and place in a casserole dish of similar size. Cover with a lid or a tight fitting piece of aluminum foil. Place in oven for 20 minutes.
Mom!  Throw one like a Frisbee!

Once the tortillas are heated, transfer them to a tortilla warmer to keep them nice and hot  (Disclaimer: any resemblance to the top of this tortilla warmer and the "authentic UFO!" photo taken from the deck that night we all had a few beers is purely coincidence).  If you don't have a warmer, put them on a plate under a warm, slightly damp dish towel.

Place meat, salsa, shredded cheese (I went for a low fat version and left the cheese off the one pictured), chopped tomatoes and crisp romaine, rice,  chopped jalapenos, cilantro and additional hot sauce and low fat sour cream or ranch dressing in bowls and line up!  Each burrito will be as individual as you are.  He's too far away to join us but  even Dad would approve.


  1. OMD OMD Love the Burger Night tradition... so much Healthier than the PIZZA night that kids now have...
    We just had our supper... butt are all Suddenly HUNGRY again... BOL.... Abby... did you get the "FRISBEE" ?????

  2. Here's a healthy tip for you. Substitute plain Greek yogurt for sour cream.

  3. oh yes yes yes... please throw such a frisbee to me too....


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