Juniper Pickled Beets and BBQ Meatloaf for Cruise Night 2013

Recipes in this PostPickeled Beets with Juniper Berries

Every year, Glendale, California closes off its main street, the Brand Boulevard of Cars. Beautifully kept antique cars park up and down the street, some with their hoods up, so everyone can enjoy them. Spane and I have been going to Cruise Night since before he was born – I say that because I even went when I was pregnant with him. As usual I like to cook something special for Cruise Night dinner, mainly because even though there are hamburgers and hot dogs available, I would rather have my own fresh food, and save money for a treat for Spane.

I love beets, I mean I really, really love beets. So does Spane. We like them plain, pickled, cold, hot, red beets, orange beets, any beets! Beets are very good for you, and studies have shown it can prevent liver, heart and muscle diseases. This is not the same thing as a Sugar Beet, which although is in the same family, almost all sugar beets are genetically modified, and used to make sugar.

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Homemade Charcoal Chimney Starter, Burgers Topped with Cheddar and Coleslaw

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Raleigh Burger - Coleslaw Cheddar on a Kaiser Roll

Raleigh Burger – Coleslaw Cheddar on a Kaiser Roll

There used to be a wonderful coffee-shop in Santa Monica called Nick’s. One day, I went in there and ordered something called a Nick Burger. It had coleslaw and swiss cheese on it. It was so juicy you had to eat it over the plate. It became my favorite burger, and tonight, I decided to recreate it, with a little zip.

I’ve been becoming very brave of late with my Weber. First I started out with Match Light coals because they were pre-soaked, and easy to get started. Then, I graduated to using charcoal fluid and regular coals. Then today, I realized I had run out of fluid, and the corner store was closed. I knew that there are specially made charcoal chimney starters, and I thought I could make one from scratch. It wasn’t difficult at all making a homemade charcoal chimney starter. No more relying on charcoal fluid for me!

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Easy Meaty Chili

Easy Meaty Chili

Chili with fixin's

Sometimes, on a cold day that looks like it might rain, you have to have chili. Usually, I make a big pot of it, and it cooks a long time to let the beans get nice and soft. Sometimes, you just don’t have that kind of time, but you don’t want something that came out of a can.

I don’t buy the Chili mix in the bag. I make my own, and you should, too. It’s very simple, and better because you can control the heat and you know what’s in it. Basically, it’s a mixture of chilies, cumin and a little salt.

If you live in California, you probably have access to fresh Anaheim chilies, if you live in New Mexico, you have the New Mexico chili which is a bit hotter than the Anaheim. Both chilies have thick skin, so they should be charred before use. When making my chili, I charred two nice big red bells peppers as well.

How to Char Chilies

Charring chilies is very simple. You need four things, the chilies themselves, a gas stove top, long tongs and a plastic bag (the one the chilies came in is fine). Put the gas flame up as high as it will go, and just lay the chili on the burner. Use the tongs to turn the chilies as they char. When most of the skin has been charred, put the chili in the plastic bag, close it, and let the chili steam in the bag. When the chili is cool enough to handle, remove the charred skin under running water. Not only is this a great way to skin a chili pepper, it also give the chili a nice roasted flavor. Of course, if you want really smoky flavor, do it on the Weber!

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Three Pepper Spicy Meatloaf with Cowboy Salad

Recipes in this PostThree Pepper Meatloaf with Cowboy Salad

A lot of people don’t like meatloaf. I don’t blame them, I hated meatloaf as a child because it was bland and the only thing that was even a tiny bit tasty was the dried ketchup on the top. That all changed when I went to dinner with a friend who raved about the meatloaf and Cowboy salad. I tried it, and I was a convert.

What made this meatloaf different was that it was spicy, and it had little pieces of vegetable inside. I loved it. The restaurant is long gone, but the meatloaf is here to stay.

Of course, the best thing about meatloaf is the sandwiches the next day. Some people heat up the meatloaf, some people, like me, do not. For me, there’s nothing better than a thick slice of cold meatloaf on a slice of crusty sourdough bread, slathered with mayonnaise.

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New School Hamburger Gravy

When I was in grammar school at Cheremoya Avenue Elementary School in Hollywood, California, about once every two weeks we had Hamburger Gravy and Mashed Potatoes.  I really loved that dish, it was my favorite.  All the other stuff was pretty bland, and actually kind of nasty, especially the paper thin cheeseburgers.  For years and years, I have been trying to replicate the special taste of that gravy, and have been pretty much successful.

Years ago, when I first met Chef John Farion, he treated some friends and I to dinner at another chef’s restaurant on Melrose .  I ordered the filet mignon with blue cheese sauce.  It was truly fantastic, and I have been pairing blue cheese with beef ever since.  I guess I’m not the only one, even Carl’s Jr. now has a steakhouse burger featuring blue cheese.

I get my blue cheese at the Armenian stores, for several reasons, 1) because the cheese is of a superior quality, 2) because it is much less expensive than the major chain supermarkets, and better quality.  I just bought a half a pound brick a few days ago, and it was sitting in the cheese drawer waiting to be the star of some dish.

I had an epiphany!  Why not make hamburger gravy and add blue cheese at the end?  I tried it, and it was, well, fantastic!  This was much, much better than the gravy I had had when I was a child.  Now, just because Spane gave it a big thumbs up, I can’t guarantee that every child will like it as much as we did.

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