It certainly felt that way during our Summer Picnic cooking class, where we prepared and and then feasted upon Inside-Out Dragon Burgers with Herbed Mayo, Honey Balsamic Strawberry Salad, Roasted Kale Chips and Smashed Potatoes. Our instructor, Elisabeth Bailey rounded out the meal with some homemade rhubarb-ade and some honey-mint ice cream that was simply incredible. I could definitely imagine recreating this menu at home and enjoying it on a sunny deck with some locally brewed beer or a rhubarb mojito!
This wasn’t just your average burger menu – we also learned a lot of new techniques. Salting ground beef well before cooking will allow the meat to bind together, and stuffing lean and flavourful grass fed beef with Dragon’s Breath Blue cheese is a great way to keep them moist. We also reduced an enormous pile of kale to a manageable serving bowl by roasting it with a bit of salt and lemon juice for about 20 minutes. A great way to eat your greens!
Jean Snow from Lake City Farm, joined us for dinner and discussed her challenges with getting municipal governments to address zoning regulations for growing food to sell within city limits. It’s always great to combine stimulating conversation with great food! (For more info about this issue, check out this CBC story and to contact city planner Darrell Joudrey email him at firstname.lastname@example.org).
2 pounds local, grass-fed ground beef
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, beaten
4 ½ tablespoons Dragon’s Breath Blue cheese from That Dutchman’s Farm, Upper Economy, Nova Scotia, or other soft cheese
1 tablespoon butter
Combine ground beef, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl. Gently blend the mixture, then refrigerate for at least 1 and up to 6 hours. (Giving the salt a little time to work on the meat will help the finished burger stick together.)
Preheat a frying pan on the stove over medium heat. Remove beef mixture from the refrigerator, add egg, and mix to combine. Gently form beef mixture into10 thin patties. Place 1 generous tablespoon of cheese in the middle of 5 patties, then cover them with 5 remaining patties. Gently mould the edges to seal them together.
Melt butter in heated frying pan then add burgers, cooking in batches if they do not all fit at once. (Do not press down on the burgers with a spatula as this will dry them out.) Cook until burgers reach an internal temperature of 160˚F.
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil, oregano, dill, or thyme leaves, or a mixture
4 springs fresh parsley
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Purée the herbs, parsley, mayonnaise, and lemon juice in a blender. (Alternatively you can hand-mince the herbs and stir with mayonnaise and lemon juice to combine.) Season with salt and pepper, then cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
Yield: roughly 2 cups
1 bunch kale, washed and dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat an oven to 325˚F.
Rip tender parts of the leaves off the thick stems and into bite sized piece. Toss in a large bowl with olive oil and salt (you may also add any other seasoning you like, such as lemon juice, parmesan, or Cajun spice—personally, I like mine with a bit of lemon and a squirt of hot sauce!)
Spread kale evenly over a baking sheet. Bake until pieces are crisp and edges brown but are not burnt, 15-20 minutes.
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons local honey
3 pints strawberries (or any other in-season berry)
Combine balsamic vinegar and honey in a mixing bowl and whisk to blend. Add strawberries and gently toss to coat. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.
1 cup salt
3 pounds new potatoes, gently scrubbed clean
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary (or other fresh herb of your choice)
Butter and pepper to taste
Heat a stock pot with 2 quarts of water over medium-high heat. Add salt and stir to dissolve.
Once water begins to boil, add potatoes, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 20–25 minutes or until potatoes split easily when stuck with a fork. Drain immediately, but do not rinse.
Toss the potatoes with rosemary, butter, pepper, and love.
Use this potent liquid as an alternative to lemon juice in many recipes, or to make a delightful rhubarbade with the addition of sugar or honey and either flat or sparkling water.
4 cups chopped rhubarb
Cook rhubarb over medium low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until fibres have completely broken down into the liquid. Set aside to cool for 20 minutes, then strain through a colander lined with cheesecloth. Squeeze cheesecloth firmly to extract all liquid. Transfer rhubarb to ice cube trays and freeze. Once frozen, seal in a freezer bag until ready for use.