Sesame Turkey Burgers and Blue Cheese Broccoli Casserole

Last Saturday we had a somewhat impromptu gathering at the home of Neilbert and Saundra (as my parents are known colloquially). I had planned to make dinner and watch Star Trek with my father, as is our weekly custom, before heading out to the Saturday Night Dance I host at the studio. We invited Sabrina and Ted in effort to tempt them into joining us for dancing (we failed).

I’m currently on a ground meat kick, culinar-ily, and so I decided to try a recipe for turkey burgers. Not that I have any serious objections to beef burgers (though, Sabrina and Ted do), but I have a certain affinity for turkey burgers. Beef burgers always present a conundrum for me, because I know they taste so much better rare, but that eating rare ground meat is like sending an engraved invitation to food poisoning. Turkey burgers, however, I can enjoy dilemma-free.

I looked around the internet for some highly-rated turkey burger recipes and came up with the following:


3 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
one bunch of green onions, sliced thin
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped or torn
fresh ground pepper, to taste
2 lbs. ground turkey
plain breadcrumbs, as needed

Combine oil and sesame seeds in a non-stick skillet. Heat over low fire until sesame seeds start to turn golden. Remove from heat.

Combine soy sauce, garlic, onions, cilantro, pepper and ground turkey in a medium bowl. Add sesame seeds and oil once they have cooled a bit. While combining the ingredients, dust on some breadcrumbs to absorb excess moisture. Add enough breadcrumbs that the mixture reaches a good consistency for shaping the burgers. Shape burgers into desired size and grill until heated through.

All in all, I would say that the burgers were pretty good. The soy and sesame flavors were the most pronounced. I was a little disappointed that the cilantro flavor didn’t not have a greater presence. Next time I make them, I might use more cilantro for a stronger cilantro presence.

On to the side dish…


2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 (8oz) package cream cheese
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup milk or half-n-half
fresh ground pepper
2 1bs. broccoli florets, steamed to taste
1 cup crumbled crackers
6 tablespoons melted butter

Melt butter in a saucepan. Mix in flour until you form a creamy paste. Add cheeses, milk and pepper. If cheese remains clumpy when melted, my trick is to use an immersion blender to smooth it out.

Combine the cheese sauce and broccoli. Meanwhile stir crackers together with melted butter until absorbed. Stir about a third of the crackers into the broccoli mixture, sprinkle the rest on top of the casserole. Bake covered at 350 for 15 minutes and then remove the cover for another 15 minutes.

It’s hard to go wrong with vegetables smothered in cheese. My only qualm with the way this recipe turned out is that the broccoli was a little too “al dente” for my taste (if such can be said of broccoli). I used two bags of frozen broccoli cuts, allowing them to defrost a bit but not steaming them beforehand. I prefer my broccoli a bit softer, so I added the direction of making sure to steam it thoroughly enough for whatever your taste is (if you like it crunchier, go ahead and skip the steam).

Amazingly Delicious Korma with Mango

I forget how wonderful this korma recipe is when I don’t make it for awhile. I should probably preface any further remarks about this recipe by saying that I make no claims of authenticity with this recipe; in fact, I have never seen a curry like this one on any Indian restaurant menu. This recipe is designed to be easy and tasty and whether anyone outside of Western culture would touch it with a ten foot pole, I couldn’t tell you.

As with most of my curry recipes, I treat this one as a sauce that can be used to cook whatever items (animal, vegetable… maybe not mineral…) of sustenance one desires. I have make this recipe with chickpeas and with mixed vegetables, and I suspect it would be quite tasty with chicken or seafood. I made this recipe two weekends ago and I was so happy with it that I’m making it again this weekend.


1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup cream
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 to 2 teaspoons hot red pepper or paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 cup blanched almonds or cashew pieces
2 tablespoons mango chutney
1 lb. chicken, seafood, tofu, chickpeas, mixed vegetables, etc.

Sauté the onion in the melted butter. Combine all remaining ingredients in the pan and simmer until nuts are softened. Process smooth with an immersion blender (or, in the alternative, process smooth in a food processor before adding to the pan). Add the meat or vegetables and reduce heat. If sauce gets too thick, add a bit of water to achieve a more curry-like consistency. Cook until meat and vegetables reach desired doneness.

Kofta Curry

I’ve been in something of a recipe rut over this past winter. I couldn’t exactly say why, only that I’ve been uninspired to try new recipes, or even to root through my tried-and-true recipes to resurrect old favorites in the interest of keeping variety in my repertoire. But after a not-so-long, not-so-cold winter of culinary ennui, I have been struck by the urge to cook adventurously again.

And so, I plan to sift through old favorites to post on this blog, as well as to post new recipes as I slake my desire for uncharted culinary horizons. Overblown enough for you? I have a rough goal of trying/posting a new recipes every weekend, or so… though, life happens, so I’m not writing it in stone… only, I suppose, in HTML.

Bumping around recently on, I found myself–following a confluence of otherwise unrelated link click-age–intrigued by the concept of a Kofta, or Meatball, curry. Now, “kofta” needn’t mean a meat dish by necessity. I once much enjoyed a Malai Kofta at a Taste of India buffet, and in looking up recipes for such confirmed my memory that it was in fact a non-meat “meatball.” Being unfamiliar with most languages outside Eastern Europe, I could not begin to speculate on the finer nuances of the word “kofta,” but I gather it has a somewhat broader meaning than “meatball” does in American English.

Still and all, it would appear that an otherwise un-linguistically-modified “Kofta Curry” would imply meatballs in curry sauce. I hope to explore non-meat koftas at a later time, but in the meantime meatballs seem like an awesome nucleus for curry.

Why do meatballs seem so awesome? Well, I’m always looking for new, cheap and low-carb item to be the crux of curries. I find it often expensive and a bother to keep larger pieces of meat, i.e. chicken breasts, beef steaks, pork loins, etc., stocked regularly at my abode, but vegetables are easy, as are legumes of the ilk of garbanzo beans, and canned fish like salmon or tuna. While I don’t regularly keep ground meat at my apartment, I can’t deny the appeal of a meatball, as the meat is cheap to purchase and interesting things are bound to come of it (since ground meat alone is pretty boring).

On the other hand, I’ve never been especially intrigued by the family of “keema” or loose ground meat curries. But there’s just something about a meatball. Meatballs are one of the few Italian foods I gravitate toward, and so a curry-deserving version of the meatball concept was undeniably appealing.

Without belaboring the point further, I give you my first attempt at kofta curry, starting, of course, with the kofta.


1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teapsoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons diced onion
1 green chili, diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
1 egg
1/8 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 lb. ground meat, i.e. beef, turkey, etc.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, except meat, until well combined. Add meat and process to desired fineness. It appears that kofta recipes tend to favor the more finely ground meats, so don’t be shy about pulverizing it.

Form the meat into roughly golf-sized balls and place in a lightly oiled ceramic or glass pan to bake for about 45 to 1 hour at 300. I would recommend baking until the outside of the meatball is browned and a little crispy.

Having baked the kofta, we need a curry sauce to complement it. I perused a number of kofta curry sauces and formulated a rough consensus of common and appealing ingredients:


vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon red pepper or paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoons ground almonds
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes in liquid
2 curry leaves or bay leaves
2 tablespoons cream or yogurt
cilantro leaves

Combine everything up to and including the tomatoes in a saucepan or a food processor. If you have an immersion blender, you can saute the ingredients awhile in a saucepan, until the almonds soften, and then pureed them with the blender. Otherwise, combine the ingredients in a food processor first, and then heat in a saucepan. Once pureed, by either method, the curry or bay leaves can be added. Stew awhile longer and then add the cream shortly prior to serving. Garnish with cilantro leaves.

When all was said and done, I was pleased with my kofta, but unenthusiastic about the sauce. I found myself wishing for a sauce that tasted more like a tikka masala or “butter chicken” type sauce. As it was, it seemed to me like the tomatoes and the almonds sort of cancelled each other out, flavor-wise. I went back and reviewed further recipes for kofta curries, and the use both tomatoes and nuts seems pretty standard. Perhaps in the future, I will try using the nuts as a garnish, rather than mixing them in, korma-style, in effort to preserve the tangy-ness of the tomatoes. Then again, maybe I’ll just make tikka masala sauce, instead.

Massaman Curry – Potato Curry for St. Patrick’s Day

I’ve been tinkering with this recipe for awhile. Sarah originally concocted a massaman curry one night with a little assistance from me and some taste testing by Ted and Roger. (You can read her blog, and find her recipe, here: The idea was to develop no-paste curry recipes, curries one could just throw together the night-of without having to worry about making an elaborate paste beforehand. Following up on this project was crucial to me because, as I’ve mentioned before, I love curry, and am increasingly becoming too poor to go out to eat as often as I’d like to to eat it.

I liked Sarah’s massaman curry – if you look at her recipe, you’ll see that our versions aren’t too terribly dissimilar – but it just wasn’t … right to me. So I took her recipe and began to tinker. Luckily, massaman curry is Ted’s favorite Thai dish, so he didn’t mind me making it over and over again. Besides my overall urge to get the recipe just to my liking, I also wanted to get another recipe together to share on my friend Mark’s excellent cooking blog, – he has a feature there, called Made with Love Mondays, that asks for recipes made from scratch. And this week seemed particularly appropriate: he had asked for Irish recipes, in honor of St. Patrick’s day, and I thought, “Hell, potato curry – what’s more Irish than that?” Ahem.

So without further ado, here is my final No-Paste Thai Massaman Curry recipe. I particularly like this recipe because it requires no fresh ingredients other than what I put into the curry sauce. By this I mean, if I stop at the store to pick up potatoes, a bell pepper, and some chicken thighs on the way home, everything else is something that’s almost guaranteed to be in my house already as a staple.

You’ll need:
Onion, garlic, ginger, dried red peppers, cooking oil, ground galangal, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground nutmeg, whole coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar, tamarind paste, ground peanuts (NOT peanut butter), filtered water or broth (chicken or vegetable), potatoes, protein, vegetables, and basmati rice. (I would also advise fresh cilantro, for garnish.)

Step One: In a food processer, process together the following ingredients. (I don’t have an immersion blender, and the transferring of a hot liquid from pot to food processer and back again is too perilous for me, so therefore I do the food processing in advance. But if you don’t even have a food processer, that’s OK, too – just mince the onion and ginger and garlic really finely.)

1 onion
3-4 garlic cloves
2 tbl fresh ginger (If you don’t have fresh ginger around, use 1 tbl of ground ginger in Step Three)
Dried red chilies (I use sanaam chilies, which are small and hot – I use three of them, but this is a matter of taste and pepper quality, so adjust according to your preferences)

The pureed onion, ginger, garlic, and peppers.

Step Two: Sauté this puree in 1-2 tbl of neutral-tasting oil (like canola) until the liquid cooks off.

Step Three: Add to the pan the following spices.

1 tsp dried galangal (A must for at-home Thai cooks – they have it at Penzey’s)
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamom
Pinch of nutmeg

I always use generous measurements, so more like, “heaping ½ tsp”, etc. Saute for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.


Step Four: Add the following to your spicy paste.

1 can of whole coconut milk
6-10 dashes of fish sauce
2 tbl brown sugar
1 tbl tamarind paste
2 tbl ground peanuts (NOT peanut butter – I mean the ground nut paste you can get out of the machine at Whole Foods. If you can’t get this, just crush up some roasted, unsalted peanuts as finely as you can, about 3 tbl worth, and add those.)
1-2 cups filtered water or broth (I use veggie broth, personally)

… plus bite-sized potato chunks and protein. Two things about the potatoes: one, definitely cut them small – for whatever reason, cooking them in this mixture takes forever, MUCH longer than just simmering a potato. If you use large chunks, be prepared to wait upwards of an hour and a half before they’re tender. Two, though I usually leave the peel on my potatoes for the nutrients and fiber it provides, you really should peel your potatoes for this recipe, so that they can absorb as much of the delicious curry sauce as possible; potato flavor sponges, that’s what they are. Also, as to protein, I favor chicken thighs, but that’s your call.


Step Five: Simmer 30-45 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Step Six: Add veggies. I like to use chunks of red, yellow, and/or orange bell pepper, but I also think cauliflower would work well in this dish – you’d be better off with a vegetable on the neutral-to-sweet side, I think. Simmer 10-15 minutes.

Step Six: Serve over basmati rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if you’ve got it.

Sabrina's Massaman Curry

ETA: thanks to @javelinwarrior for posting this recipe on his blog!

Sarah’s Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee has the reputation of being a very difficult dessert to make, but the most difficult part is planning and patience. If you can wait out the time it takes for your custard to set up, you can get make an impressive dish with consistent results.

My sage advice is to plan to make this recipe a day before you need it, and make sure you have something to do while you hang around the house waiting for it to finish. As long as you have the right equipment and don’t rush this recipe, you’ll find that it’s a no-fail creme brulee.

The right equipment is essential, so make sure you have the right items before you start. I recommend using two personal souffle ramekins (mine are approximately 4-5 inches in diameter and about an inch to 1 1/2 inches deep) and one glass or ceramic (I use Correlle or Pyrex) baking dish large enough to hold them both; it is essential that the creme brulee is baked in a water bath.



1 cup cream or 1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
brown sugar or turbinado or other natural sugar, for the brulee garnish

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Warm the cream in a small saucepan on low fire. Don’t bring to a boil, just heat the cream.

Meanwhile beat the eggs well in a medium-sized bowl. Add the sugar and beat it thoroughly into the eggs. When cream is heated, add it gradually to the eggs while beating. Add vanilla while beating.

Prepare the water bath by placing both ramekins in the chosen baking dish. Fill the dish with warm water so it reaches two thirds up the sides of the ramekins, then fill the ramekins with the liquid custard.

Bake for 30 minutes at 300 degrees. Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees, and bake for another 30 minutes, and then check on the custard. Custard is set only if it seems solid (a pudding-like jiggle is okay) when you gently jostle the ramekin. If it has a liquid-like slosh, set the timer for another 30 minutes keep baking at 275. Check every 30 minutes and keep baking until custard solidifies. After it sets, chill the custard for at least two hours.

Add the garnish by covering the tops of the chilled custards with sugar (it should stick to the top of the custard so you can just pour out the excess). If you have a creme brulee torch, that is the easiest way to caramelize the sugar. But if you don’t, you can use your oven’s broiler. After preheating the broiler, put the ramekins under the broiler coil for about a minute or two, leaving the oven or broiler door open.


The baking portion of this recipe is where the patience comes in. Depending on individual ovens (older ovens tend to lose temperature power and accuracy with time), you may need more or less time. That’s why I recommend checking every 30 minutes and resetting the time. The last time I made creme brulee it took a good two hours, maybe a little more. If you’re not patient will the custard it will be too liquid. Plan a project for the day where you’re in earshot of the kitchen timer.

It will also take more or less time depending on the type of creme you use. I generally prefer to use heavy cream, as that creates the thickest, richest custard. Though, sometimes for the sake of cost and/or convenience (i.e. I need half-n-half for something else I’m making), I will use half-n-half. Naturally, the lighter the cream, the fewer milk solids it has, and the more liquid content it has. Using half-n-half will create a softer, more delicate custard, but it will also take more time.

Living with Invisalign: Cleaning & Under-achieving Teeth

I’m about halfway through my aligners now (20 of 42), and really over two thirds of the way to getting my top, and most visible teeth, to substantial completion (note in my Invisalign projection movie that the top teeth stop moving around aligner 30). My orthodontist has purported to be very impressed with how well my teeth are moving (of course, maybe he says that to all the patients), but there has been one–not unexpected–hitch in the process. My top lateral incisors (the teeth on either side of the “two front teeth”) are a little behind the curve. My orthodontist predicted as much at the beginning, warning me that those laterals would be the hardest teeth to move. He recommended getting attachments on them, and I opted out for the sake of my eternal vanity… not a decision I regret, as there will still be the opportunity to get attachments on them for the much-shorter duration of refinements after the initial treatment. But as a result of not having attachments, those laterals are falling noticeably behind. Luckily, after the initial lag, they don’t seem to be falling increasingly behind. They are sore right along with the other teeth after a new aligner set goes in. At the advice of my orthodontist I concentrate on the laterals with my aligner chewies whenever I put my aligners back in. The laterals continue to move… they’re just under-achievers.

Going into this process, one of the things I was most concerned about was keeping the aligners clean. I can deal with pain, I can fight through discomfort, but when I read an article online called 18 Things I Wish I Knew Before Invisalign, I was admittedly a bit spooked. One commentator in this compendium said “Kiss your social life (and romantic life) goodbye until the trays are gone. They give you bad breath, make you speak oddly, discolor your teeth…” which is more than a little frightening for a confirmed bachelorette. Additional research led to many online forums where people complained of perpetual odor despite reportedly heroic efforts to clean the aligners.

I decided to go ahead with the aligners, despite my fears, armed with a number of alternative strategies for cleaning. When I first started wearing my aligners, I was uber careful about cleanliness. I never, ever drank anything that was not a clear liquid when I had them in. I brushed my aligners with a wet toothbrush (I read online that toothpaste can etch the plastic of the aligners, creating space for bacteria to grow) whenever I took them out, soaked them in hydrogen peroxide whenever they were out of my mouth, cleaned my teeth thoroughly with a floss, then Listerine, then brushing regimen every time before I put them back in. I soaked them in generic Polident inside my sonic cleaner a couple times a week.

This strategy worked out swimmingly. I had absolutely no problem with odor or plaque build-up… or really anything. I think I even have better morning breath with them in than I did before I started Invisalign. I smelled my old aligners in a side-by-side comparison with the new ones when it was time for a fresh set. No difference. Certainly, this cleaning system was conscientious, but by no means heroic. I couldn’t understand what all the complaints were about.

Since my initial days of Invisalign, my cleaning is still conscientious, but it has certainly become more relaxed. Depending on the circumstances, I drink a variety of beverages with the aligners in. I generally stay away from heavy stainers like coffee and tea or red wine, but I’m not shy about most bar drinks and sodas. One of my bar staples is whiskey and diet, though I’ve had everything from whiskey rocks to margaritas, caipirinhas and Sam Adams Cream Stout with them in (though, not all on the same night). My sonic cleaner broke, and so I still use it as a place to soak my teeth, but I threw away the batteries and never turn in on.

Only once did an aligner ever come out of the two weeks looking noticeably stained, and that was when I spent nearly a whole week in Las Vegas at a dance competition where I drank a lot of those aforementioned whiskey & diets and where I had forgotten to bring my peroxide and never bothered to do a Polident treatment; I was particularly misbehaved about my cleaning regimen because I was always down in the ballroom (and thus a 20 minute walk from the elevators to my room) when meals were served, and so the aligners usually just got popped out and stuffed in the case, and then lightly brushed before being put back in (onto clean teeth, of course!). There was a noticeable difference between that aligner and the new one, but the stain was only evident in contrast to the new aligner, not when they were on my teeth.

Going back to the predictions of doom (“They give you bad breath, make you speak oddly, discolor your teeth…”) to the Invisalign user’s social life, I can handily dispel each prognostication. While my aligners might have become discolored in Vegas, my teeth certainly did not. In fact, my teeth are whiter than they have ever been with my thorough and frequently cleaning enforced by the Invisalign process. As for speaking oddly, I have never had a single problem, and I speak for a living. When I first put the aligners in, my orthodontist’s assistant assured me that there was enough wiggle room in my required aligner-wearing time each day that I could feel free to remove them if I had a special circumstance, say… if I had to do some sort of public speaking. I was polite enough to make no comment, and not to bark back that I’d have to leave them out all day, because as a teacher at a dance studio, my whole day is public speaking. Since getting my aligners in the first place, my job has become even heavier on speaking, as I spend much of my day doing meetings and interviews with new students. I forget they’re in most of the time. I only ever notice during large classes when I have to yell over music in the next room at the top of my lungs, and sometimes the force of air tries to go through the aligner. Otherwise, I forget I have them in more easily when I’m speaking than when my mouth is closed.

Finally, the dreaded bad breath has never been an issue. In my job, I’m already very sensitive to breath and smell aesthetics. I pop a mint before every 40 minute lesson, just as I did before Invisalign. I asked my co-workers to be brutally honest, when I started the Invisalign, if they noticed any change in my breath, so that I could be vigilant about fixing any Invisalign-related hygiene problems. Well… those co-workers constantly forget about my Invisalign, offering me snacks and food throughout the day. Sure, my breath gets stale if I haven’t done any sort of cleaning or had any sort of beverage for several hours, but that would happen without the Invisalign. As for my social life, it’s going just fine, thank you. I have locked lips with more than one gentleman without his realizing that I was wearing the aligners… no complaints from them so far.

The process moves along slowly and steadily. The movement of my teeth is still annoyingly incremental, but that’s par for the course. All of the other scare stories I read about the process seem like over-blown whining now that I’ve lived through twenty aligners.

Sarah’s Garbanzo Salad

This salad is one of my favorites, and I had nearly forgotten about it until last week when I was paging through some old recipes to get ideas for a dinner I was cooking. It has a sweet and tangy flavor and offers an attractive mix of colors. It makes a great complement to a first course plate, doubling as a light side and attractive garnish. It also works well as a summer picnic salad, providing a great alternative to lettuce salads and pasta salads.


2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup kalamata olives or ½ cup black olives, coarsely chopped and pitted, if necessary
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh basil or 2 tablespoons parsley or 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Whisk together vinegar, olive oil and mustard in a medium sized bowl.

Add tomatoes, olives, green onion, garbanzos and herbs; toss with vinaigrette.

You can eat this salad right away, but I’ve found that it tastes best if you chill the salad and let the flavors meld for a couple hours. Grape tomatoes could be substituted for the cherry tomatoes, in a pinch, but I find that brighter, sweeter flavor of the cherry tomatoes makes a big difference in this salad, so if given the choice, stick with cherry.