Sit. Stay. Cook.

Cook to live. Live to cook.

I came across this picture the other day:

Looking at this, I finally understand what it means when people say that muscle weighs more than fat. I get it now, how one can gain weight while losing mass. Do you see? Do you get it?

Does it click for you, too?

This clicked so hard for me, that I joined a gym – the North Kansas City Community Center – in order to build more muscle, which in turn will help me burn more fat.

Because, you see, I have decided to try something new. I’ve been fat – had a high body fat percentage – for as long as I can remember. Since childhood. I’ve never not been fat. So I’ve decided to try not being fat for a while and see how that goes. In order to give it a run, I’ve got to do some work in the form of weight training, cardio and all the rest.

Speaking of cardio – I started Week 4 Day 1 of the Couch to 5K program yesterday. After a 5-minute warm-up walk, I ran for 3 minutes, walked for 90 seconds, ran for 5 minutes, walked for 3 minutes, ran for 3 minutes, walked for 90 seconds and ran for 5 more minutes before walking a cool down. For those keeping score, I ran a total of 16 minutes yesterday, a personal record! Sure, I’m not a speed demon at this point in my running career, but I’m not working on speed. I’m going for endurance. Once I can run for 30 minutes in a row, then I’ll work on how far I run in that 30 minutes.

All of this running and walking and weight training means we’ve been trying to put together quicker dinners lately. Luckily, it’s summer so there’s all sorts of fresh fruits and veggies out there to throw in the mix. Also, salmon sears up fast! Here’s a couple of hits recently:

Salmon with Strawberry Salsa and Cilantro Lime Rice:

How pretty is that?!

Salmon with Peach Cucumber Salsa and Tabbouleh:

No recipe with this one – I had leftover tabbouleh from camping (I’ll post that recipe soon) and whipped up a peach salsa with cucumber, cilantro, red onion, a Serrano pepper, peaches and lime juice. Delish!

Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Frittata and a salad with spring greens, beets and goat cheese:

All of these meals are fresh, healthy and quick to prepare. That last part is pretty important when I want to spend a couple of hours in the gym each evening.

Tonight we’re having baked fish fillet sandwiches with leftover tabbouleh – I’m on a tabbouleh kick lately – before heading out to the gym for an upper-body workout. My arms are going to smart tomorrow, but I’ll earn that pain.

Remember – sweat is just fat crying. I love to watch it cry.

 

I’ve been in a weight-loss slump for the last year. I haven’t gained any back (thank goodness), but I haven’t lost any, either. I needed something to get me going again – a jump-start. A kick in the (still larger than I’d like them to be) pants.

Enter the Fitbit.

The Fitbit is a high-tech pedometer that tracks steps, distance, stairs, calories burned and activity levels, then syncs the information via a base station to a website. The website then shows graphs and charts of activity through the day, and can also be used to track food, weight and health stats. There’s a social aspect in that you can Friend others with Fitbits, and keep track of their information via a leaderboard – who walked the most steps, was most active, etc. It will even track sleep patterns, though I haven’t used it for that (yet).

Mr. Awesome and I got Fitbits about two weeks ago and have since turned into walking machines. Our goal is to walk at least 10,000 steps a day, but we’ve exceeded that by thousands every day so far. We see it as a competition of sorts – who can walk the most during the day at work, can we be at the top of the leaderboard – and that keeps me motivated to want to walk further.

It’s also what is making me want to take up running.

I’ve never been a runner. In high school, I avoided physical activity of that sort like the plague, and have never run more than a couple hundred yards in my life that I can remember. That is, until the last few days.

Gradually, as we walk on the trail near our house, we’re inserting short bursts of running. “To the end of the fence!” “To the scoreboard!” “Make it to the big tree – not this big tree – that big tree up there!” Over the last few days, as I’ve been able to run in these short segments and realize that I’m not gasping for air or tripping or keeling over in pain, my self-confidence has grown and I am coming to believe that yes, I can be a runner.

Last night, I ran almost a quarter of a mile in one stretch. I wasn’t fast, but I made it, and when I reached my goal point (a light pole somewhere on the trail) I almost cried.

I can’t wait to do it again tonight.

If you have a Fitbit, befriend me at http://www.fitbit.com/user/234NVL. If you don’t have a Fitbit, consider getting one. It’s changed my life – I really don’t think it’s too soon to say that.

All this new activity requires proper fueling for the body. Lately, we’ve been eating a lot of salads for dinner…

…like this one with spring greens, smoked salmon, beets, blue cheese crumbles and candied walnuts:

Or this one with baby arugula, beets and imitation lobster:

Those are goat cheese stuffed dates in the background. Which, by the way, are about as delicious as it gets.

Sometimes, we want a little more than just a big salad. When that happens, an egg makes an appearance:

Don’t forget the Sriracha!

I’m planning on starting the Couch to 5K program in a few days. I’m optimistic – for the first time in my life I can actually picture me not just slimmer, but active and physically fit. This is really exciting – I’m going to be a runner!

Remember when I told you I love to cook seafood? I also like challenging myself to find new ways to cook seafood, which is why I picked up a copy of Rick Moonen’s Fish Without a Doubt. I love this book because there’s a good mix of simple and challenging recipes throughout. Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve made two meals from the book, both with excellent results.

The first recipe we tried was for Jalapeno Salmon Burgers. The instructions were clear and easy to follow, and the only modification we made was to serve the burgers on whole-wheat hamburger buns instead of pitas.

These are so flavorful. I think we’ll kick the heat up a bit next time, though, by using a Serrano pepper instead of the jalapeno. Just a tiny bit more heat would be really good.

The other recipe we tried was his Oil-Poached Halibut with Gribiche and Poached Eggs, with became Sous Vide Whitefish with Gribiche and Poached Eggs. This one we modified quite a bit to reduce fat and because I couldn’t find some ingredients locally. We used cod because we couldn’t find halibut, but I prefer halibut so we’ll use that when it’s available. We also chose to sous vide the fish, rather than oil-poaching it, because while oil poached fish sounds delicious, it also sounds like a plea for a heart attack. Our version was really, really good, capturing the essence of Moonen’s dish while staying true to our healthy convictions.

Another winner.

So many people say they “don’t like fish.” I don’t get it. There are so many varieties of fish, and preparation methods – it’s like saying, “I don’t like vegetables” or “I don’t like meat” – such a sweeping condemnation of such a large family of food choices. Poach it, eat it in a burger, pan-sear it, form it into patties, chunk it up in stew – jeez, the possibilities are endless. Moonen’s book as recipes for all of these and more. It’s hard to decide what to cook next.

Such a wonderful dilemma.

I love seafood. I love cooking it, I love eating it, I love looking at it all laid out in a fish counter. Seafood can be temperamental, if not treated right. But when you do get it right – and it’s not hard, once you have a little practice under your belt and know some basics – it’s divine.

We pan-sear lots of salmon in our house, because we love salmon, because pan-searing is easy, it’s versatile, and it’s a great way to get stunning results with little effort. You’ll need a good, non-stick skillet, and we’ve found that a cast-iron skillet works the best. So long as you use the minimal amount of oil possible to cook with – cooking spray is perfect to help monitor oil use – you’ll end up with a beautiful, healthful, delicious piece of cooked protein.

To perfectly pan-sear salmon fillets, pre-heat a cast-iron skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Pat the fillets dry and season with a little salt and pepper about 1 minute before they are ready to go in the pan. Spritz a little cooking spray in the skillet and immediately lay the fillets in the pan. Set a timer for 3 minutes, and leave the fillets alone until the timer goes off. After three minutes, flip the fillets over, set at timer for 2 minutes and leave the fish alone again. Remove from the skillet to whatever plate you’re eating on and admire that gorgeous, golden crust.

This will cook your salmon to medium doneness. I prefer mine a little on the less-done than more-done side, so adjust your time by about 30 seconds either way for each level of doneness you prefer.

We usually cook some rice, make some sort of sauce and serve our fillets on the rice with sauce and veggies, like so – Red Curry Salmon with Peppers and Bok Choy:

A meal like this, if you have some Trader Joe’s frozen rice, can take about 15 minutes to put together, from the time you open the fridge to get the salmon, to the time you sit down and take your first, luscious bite. So quick. So easy. So, so mouthwateringly good.

Lots of good food going on in our kitchen lately…

Some of it is really simple, and some of it has been a bit more complex. We’ll stick with the simple stuff for now.

Like a ham and cheese omelette:

A day off led to sleeping in, after which I thought an omelette was appropriate. I was right.

Egg Beaters, leftover ham, cheddar cheese, Penzey’s Sunny Paris seasoning (ah-mazing with eggs), salsa, sour cream. Great way to start a day. Or an afternoon.

Or like sous vide pork chops with pan roasted cauliflower:

Tastes like super-thick bacon.

Brine the pork overnight in a solution of 1/4 c. salt dissolved in 4 cups of water. Rinse, season with a little salt and pepper, vacuum seal and sous vide at 140 degrees for 8 to 10 hours. Remove from bag, pat dry, and sear in a blazing hot cast iron skillet for about 1 minute on each side.

Or maybe old-school taco crunch:

Ah, the best part of high school food – taco crunch. Mine isn’t as good as the kind covered in Fritos, but it’s close.

Lettuce, baked corn chips, cheese, salsa, sour cream, taco meat – nothing fancy here, just tasty.

Or like a sous vide flank steak with roasted purple potatoes and blue cheese:

Let’s talk for a minute about steak.You can have a tender cut (tenderloin, strip) or a flavorful cut (flank, skirt) but you usually can’t have both. Which is why the sous vide method of cooking is so incredible.

Season a flank steak with salt and pepper, vacuum seal it, and sous vide it at 140 degrees for 36 hours. Remove from bag, pat dry, sear and slice. You’ll have a perfectly cooked medium piece of tender, flavorful steak.

I repeat – if you want the best steak you’ll ever eat, cook your steak this way. Your first steak cooked this way is worth the cost of a Sous Vide Supreme. For reals.

So simple!

In the spirit of people making New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve vowed to expand my cooking horizons in the new year.

This vow has stemmed, in part from the fact that I received many excellent cookbooks for Christmas. Many. Excellent. Cookbooks. This will receive its own post as soon as I unload my camera (I probably should vow not to procrastinate as much this year, but I think I’ll save that one for next year).

One of the books I received was Ferran Adria’s The Family Meal, a well-done, practical guide to simple, straightforward cooking. Loaded with photos to guide you at every step along the cooking process, the book is filled with recipes for complete meals made from common and inexpensive ingredients. Like many cookbooks, this one has a section of “basic” recipes for things you can use in other recipes. Things like pesto, tomato sauce, and the first thing I decided to make from the book, sofrito, which is a combination of onions, garlic and tomatoes used as the base for many dishes.

Sofrito
Servings: 2 1/3 cups – for use in other recipes

9 garlic cloves
1/2 c. extra-virgin oil
4 1/3 c. onions, finely chopped
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
3/4 tsp. dried rosemary
1 dried bay leaf
8 oz canned tomato puree
1/2 tsp. salt

Put the garlic into a tall jar or beaker, then process to a paste using a hand-held blender. Put a saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Fry the garlic until browned.

Meanwhile, process the onion in the blender. Add to the pan with the garlic. Lower the heat, add the herbs, then fry, stirring frequently, until the onion has browned.

Add four-fifths of the tomatoes and cook for 30 minutes. Add the remaining tomato, cook for 30 more minutes, then season with salt and pepper.

This will keep in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for 6 months.

I froze most of this for use later, but used some of it in dinner last night:

That, my friends, is one of the tastiest, and probably the healthiest preparation Chicken Tikka Masala you or I will ever eat. Those are some halved dates on the plate in the background, left over from Christmas’s sticky toffee pudding (I promise to post about that sometime soon, too).

I based my recipe on one I found from Weight Watchers, but tweaked it quite a bit to fit my proclivities in the kitchen – like the addition of sofrito to the sauce, and using the sous vide cooking method for the chicken. Using sous vide for the chicken cut down on time, in that I could cook the chicken and marinate it in one step. The chicken came out melt-in-your-mouth tender, and was intensely flavorful. Sofrito added a depth of flavor to the sauce that isn’t normally found in quick-cook meals, and really took this dish to the next level.

Lyndsey’s Chicken Tikka Masala
Servings: 4

For the chicken:
2/3 c. low-fat plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 tsp. fresh ginger root, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tsp cumin seeds, divided
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast(s), cut into 2-inch chunks

For the sauce:
2 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp. sofrito (see above)
1 small jalapeño pepper(s), minced
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp paprika
8 oz canned tomato sauce
1 cup(s) fat-free evaporated milk
1/4 cup(s) cilantro, fresh, chopped
2 cup(s) cooked white rice, basmati, kept hot (we used TJ’s Frozen Jasmine Rice)

For the chicken:
Heat the Sous Vide Supreme to 147 degrees F.

In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, lime juice, ginger, garlic, cumin and pepper; add chicken and toss to coat. Put into a food-safe bag and vacuum-seal on medium. Sous vide for 1 1/2 hours.

Remove chicken from bag and pat off most of the marinade.

Heat 1 tsp. oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Just when the oil starts to smoke, add the chicken and sear for 1 minute on each side. Remove to a plate while you make the sauce.

For the sauce:
Heat 1 tsp. oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the sofrito and jalapeno; cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Add remaining teaspoon of cumin and paprika and stir to coat. Add tomato sauce and evaporated milk, reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add chicken back into skillet with the sauce and simmer 1 minute to heat through. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro. Serve with rice.

Both Mr. Awesome and I loved this dish and plan on putting it in the permanent rotation.

This will be a year full of love, laughter, good food and good times. Hello, 2012!

We recently had a craving for Mexican food, but not the kind that’s slathered in cheese and served with a side of gloppy beans. We wanted something a bit more authentic, but authentic isn’t easy in the suburbs. However, there are a couple of local gems to be found here and there, and one of them is a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican place in KC called Ixtapa. It’s not the most authentic in the world, but it’s not On The Border, either.

My favorite thing on their menu is a plate of these delicious open-faced tacos with caramelized onions, grilled chicken, guacamole, cilantro and salsa verde. To. Die. For. And simple. So I figured I could recreate these little discs of goodness at home.

And I was right, for the most part.

Don’t those look delicious?!

We started at the bottom with the tortilla, and bought some corn tortillas from the grocery store. Next, we looked on the jarred salsa isle for some salsa verde. I know, I know – the best salsa is that which you make yourself, but I wanted these to be as easy as possible, and finding all the right ingredients for fresh salsa verde in December in a Kansas City suburb isn’t all that easy. I settled for Pace Salsa Verde and believe it or not, this stuff is really, really good.

Next was the chicken, which is where we get nice and creative. I got some espresso rub from Spices Inc. a few months ago, and it’s a little spicy, a little sweet, a little savory, and just seemed perfect for our tacos. So I covered some boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the rub, vacuumed sealed them, and popped the them in the Sous Vide Supreme for an hour at 146 degrees.

While the chicken was doing its thing, I caramelized some onions and Mr. Awesome chopped up some cilantro. When the chicken was done, we took it out of the vacuumed-sealed bags and tossed the breasts into a smokin’ hot cast-iron skillet for a quick sear before slicing into strips/chunks.

Better-Than-Your-Average-Taco Tacos
Servings: 4

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Spices Inc. Espresso Rub (or another flavorful rub with a little heat)
2 large yellow onions, sliced
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
12 smallish corn tortillas
Salsa verde (we used Pace)
Guacamole (we used some store-bought organic guacamole)
Canola oil
Cooking spray
Salt and pepper
1 lime, for juice

Preheat the Sous Vide Supreme to 146 degrees F. Rub the chicken breasts with the espresso rub until sufficiently coated. Put the breasts in a food-safe plastic bag and vacuum seal on Medium. Put the bag into the Sous Vide Supreme and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove the chicken from the Sous Vide Supreme, take out of the bag, and let cool slightly.

When the chicken is almost done, heat a wide-bottomed skillet coated with canola oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and spread them out to cover the bottom of the pan. Let the onions cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes. You want them to brown slowly, but not burn. If they stick, add a little bit of water. I keep a cup of water nearby and just splash some in there every once in a while. About halfway through cooking, season the onions with salt and pepper. The onions are done when they are very soft and caramel-colored.

Preheat a cast-iron skillet coated with canola oil over medium-high to high heat. When it’s really hot, add the chicken and sear for 1 minute on each side. Remove from pan and slice into strips/chunks.

Preheat an indoor grill (like a Cuisinart or Foreman) to high heat. Spray a little cooking spray on each tortilla and grill for 1 to 2 minutes per side until warmed and soft. Don’t overcook, or they’ll harden up.

To assemble:
Place three tortillas on each of four plates. Top the tortillas with some caramelized onions, then chicken, the some guacamole, then cilantro. Squeeze a little lime juice on each taco. Put the salsa verde in a bowl on the table, and add a spoonful of salsa verde to each taco before eating it. You don’t want to put the salsa verde on in advance or else the tacos will get soggy.

The biggest difference between my tacos and the ones served at Ixtapa is the tortillas. The Ixtapa tortillas are smaller and softer, and I like them better than the ones we found at the grocery store. I think I’ll hunt around for a store that sells more Mexican products and would hopefully have a better tortilla selection. Better yet, maybe I can find a place that sells homemade tortillas… any thoughts?

As for my tacos, despite the not-perfect tortillas, they are really delicious. They go great with some red sangria and a little Latin-flavored chill-out music playing in the background.

We didn’t take any pictures of our drive to Denver on Saturday, so here’s a photo of dinner from Friday night (October 14th):

This is Baked Italian Salmon with Lemon Spaghetti and a side of roasted Brussels sprouts. Y.U.M.!

Friday evening we took Finnie to the kennel, packed our suitcases and went to bed nice and early.

I sort of tossed and turned during the night and didn’t get a whole lot of sleep, but I can’t attribute that to the filgrastim. It was more before-roadtrip nerves.

On Saturday, October 15th, we got up bright and early, packed up the car and drove to the downtown Denny’s.

Although it was 6:30 in the morning, the parking lot was packed with all types of people, some scary and some not-so-scary. A Denny’s in the dark is much more frightening than a Denny’s by the light of day, and that’s saying something. After a few minutes, the home health nurse arrived to give me my second filgrastim injection. The injections stung again, but not nearly as bad as they did before. I realized it was because the nurses on Friday gave me the injections towards the front of my arm, and the nurse at Denny’s gave them to me in the meatier back part of my arm.

It was at this point that I began to examine the choices in my life that lead to me sitting in a stranger’s van in a seedy Denny’s parking lot with a needle in my arm. After a few seconds of thoughtful self-reflection, I thanked the nurse for meeting us and we headed out of town. The injection sites itched a tiny bit for about 30 minutes afterwards, but I just rubbed them a bit and it stopped pretty quickly.

The drive to Denver was a bit different than our trip over the summer. Because it’s closer to winter, we drove our Jeep instead of our Camry. The Jeep is awesome, and better yet, it’s paid for. But the Jeep doesn’t have built-in navigation, so we bought a mount for Mr. Awesome’s phone and used that for navigation. It took some getting used to, but it worked out really well. The other thing the Jeep doesn’t have is a stereo system that will play MP3 discs. So instead of one CD with 20 This American Life episodes, I burned 20 CDs with one This American Life episode on each disc. That also ended up working out better than expected, since we didn’t have to remember which track we were on.

During the drive, I was tired, but again, I can’t attribute that to the filgrastim, since I didn’t really sleep well the night before. Nothing a Starbucks couldn’t fix.

We arrived in town around 4:30 (I love the whole “losing an hour” thing that happens when we go west – it’s like a whole extra hour of vacation) and checked into our hotel, the Hilton Garden Inn in Cherry Creek. Really nice place – valet parking! Comfortable beds! Great location! Highly recommended, this one.

We were both worn out from the long drive, so we decided to go to dinner someplace close. The Cherry Creek Shopping Center was right up the road so we headed there to look around and had dinner at Kona Grill. It was just okay. I realized while eating that I can make the same type of food much, much better. The portions were way too big, and the presentations were a little over the top. They try to please everyone and end up not pleasing us at all. After dinner we shared a bag of Doc Popcorn (the cinnamon and sweet butter mixed together is so good!) and tried not to spill it all over the mall as we walked around. Then it was back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Next up – injection day 3 and and elk yells at us.

(This is a cross-post with my not-so-foodie site, Sit. Stay. Good Blog. It’s important, so I want as many people to learn about bone marrow donation as possible.)

When we were in Colorado several weeks ago, we ate dinner at PF Chang’s because they have a really good happy hour. One of the items on their Happy Hour menu is an “Asian street taco” of spicy shrimp in a red curry sauce. I thought these were delicious, so when we got home, I set out to make my own version.

The result is a blend of Asian and Indian, in a Mexican wrapper. If that’s not fusion, I don’t know what is.

Lynn’s Curry Shrimp Tacos
Servings: 2 servings of three tacos each

18 medium-sized raw, peeled, tail-on shrimp (like the ones sold frozen at Costco)
Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming spice blend
1 c. light coconut milk
1 1/2 Tbsp. red curry paste
1 Tbsp. lite soy sauce
1 Tbsp. mirin
2 tsp. fish sauce
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Juice from one lime
1/2 cucumber, cut into very thin slices
1 1/2 c. shredded red cabbage
1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
6 small soft flour tortilla shells, warmed (wrap in damp dishtowel and put in 250 degree oven for 20 minutes)
4 lime wedges

Preheat your grill.

Sprinkle the shrimp with the Arizona Dreaming, a little on each side of each shrimp. Thread the shrimp onto metal skewers.

Combine the coconut milk, curry paste, soy sauce, mirin, fish sauce and cayenne pepper in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil gently for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Add the lime juice and taste, adjusting seasoning as necessary. Reduce the heat to low to keep sauce warm while you grill the shrimp and assemble the tacos.

Grill the shrimp for about 2 minutes on each side, until done.

To assemble the tacos, place three or four cucumber slices in each taco shell. Add three shrimp to each taco, then cabbage, then cilantro, then sauce. Serve with additional lime wedges to hold up the tacos and to use for additional seasoning.

I love this sauce, which is similar to one I use in another recipe involving salmon, bok choy and peppers (I’ll post that one soon) and thin sliced cucumbers in a taco are really, really good. I would never have thought cucumbers would work in a taco, but they’re just perfect!

The meal comes together pretty quickly, so it’s great for a weeknight. They beg for a fairly light and fresh side dish, so we’ve served these with watermelon and tomato salad, as well as corn on the cob.

What’s an ingredient that you’ve had prepared in an unexpected way that worked out well?

After we returned from Colorado last weekend (see part 1 and part 2 of our trip description), we were anxious to get cooking again. The first morning back, we headed to the City Market and stocked up on supplies for the week. This was our $26 haul:

Basil, beets, peaches, focaccia bread, blueberry jam, corn, limes, apples, onions tomatoes, mushrooms, thyme and a watermelon. Drool.

To celebrate our bounty, we whipped together a watermelon and tomato salad.

Lynn’s Watermelon and Tomato Salad
Servings: 4

A third of a seedless watermelon, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 c. mixed small tomatoes, halved
1/4 c. red onion, diced
Juice from 1 lime
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

But the real hit of dinner was a burger. I got the idea from a website promoting Australian lamb and adapted it to suit our tastes (and what we had on hand)

Lynn’s Mediterranean Burgers
Servings: 4

1 Tbsp. capers, drained
1 medium shallot, peeled
1 c. fresh basil leaves
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 1/4 lbs. ground buffalo (or other lean red meat)
Cornmeal
1 focaccia bread, cut into quarters (for buns)
Soft goat cheese
Sweet-hot pepper relish (like Dickinson’s)

Preheat your grill.

Combine the capers, shallot, basil and pepper in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. In a large bowl, combine the buffalo with the caper mixture and combine well. Form into four patties.

Pour some cornmeal into a shallow, wide dish. One at a time, dust each patty with cornmeal on all sides. When the grill is ready, cook the burgers until done, about 5 minutes on each side. About 2 minutes before they are done, put the focaccia pieces, cut-side down, on the grill to brown.

Spread some goat cheese on the bottom “bun” of each focaccia quarter. Top with a burger and put a dollop of pepper relish on each burger before adding the top of the focaccia bun.

Serve with watermelon and tomato salad for one of the best meals ever:

Make sure you use good quality ingredients whenever possible while cooking. They make all the difference in the world.