Roasted leeks with smoky romesco sauce

But is it authentic? How many times have you heard this toe-curling, gut-wrenching, nail-scratching-down-a-chalkboard question? You know what I mean…you’re at a restaurant, perusing the menu, wondering if eating two desserts is really such a bad thing when someone at the neighboring table or – heaven forbid – at your own, asks the dreaded question: Is it authentic?

Is it the way they really cook it in Paris, Morocco, New Orleans, Rome, Mexico City, ‘insert world city here’. It’s typically said with a smug, worldly-wise sneer, leaving the poor waiter longing for the customer who orders their Wagyu beef well done with ketchup on the side.

The whole authenticity thing wasn’t so bad in the beginning. We’d frankly had our fair share of ‘fusion’ cooking that was so confused it was an identity crisis on a dinner plate. We were tired of chefs throwing everything at the menu, leaving us confused, grumpy and often hungry at the end of the meal.

So we went the other way – we looked for dishes that were stripped down and purer and harkened back to their culinary roots. Not a bad thing but somewhere along the line we forgot that the world is one big culinary melting pot today. Neither people nor foods are only one thing – we’re an amalgam of places and tastes and flavors that come together into something special.

So when we whip up a batch of romesco sauce – that quintessentially Catalan dish from Spain we give it our own Chile Trail spin. Instead of pimenton, we use chipotle chile. Is it authentic? It is for us. And more importantly, it’s mighty tasty. And isn’t that what it’s all about at the end of the day?

Roasted leeks with smoky romesco sauce

Serves 2-3

¾ lb leeks, untrimmed weight

Olive oil

Salt

Romesco sauce

6oz roasted red peppers

1 slice of sour dough bread, about 1oz

1 garlic clove, peeled

¼ tsp Los Chileros Chipotle chile powder

¼ tsp Los Chileros Cayenne powder

1oz almonds

2oz olive oil

1 Tbsp sherry vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425º

Trim the top green section from the leeks and the roots at the stem end. Slice them in half lengthwise and place them in a roasting tin. Drizzle generously with olive oil and salt. Place them in the oven and roast until nicely browned. Turn and continue cooking until softened and browned all over.

To make the romesco sauce, toast the almonds in a frying pan over medium heat for a minute or too until they release a nutty aroma. Remove the almonds and drizzle some of the oil in the pan. Add the garlic clove and the slice of bread. Sauté for a minute or two until the bread is nicely toasted on both sides and the garlic clove is golden.

Tear the bread into pieces and place the bread, garlic, nuts, roasted red peppers and chile powders in the bowl of a small food processor. Pulse, drizzling in the oil until you have a smooth sauce.

Place the leeks on a serving plate and dress generously with the romesco sauce. Serve the rest of the romesco sauce on the side.

Gobble, gobble burgers

Turkey burgers? Hmmmm….not so sure. I know, I know. I’m the guy who extolled the virtues of lamb burgers just a couple of weeks ago – but turkey? Here’s the problem. People like to talk about turkey as the “healthy” choice and say things like “replace your hamburger with turkey and you won’t even notice the difference.” It’s like a bait and switch operation where you take one food and try to make it taste like another.

guac 4

Why can’t turkey just taste like turkey?

The answer is that ground turkey – nice and lean and lower calorie – can be pretty boring. I’ve been messing around with turkey burgers for a while and I know. You start out with this lean meat and you want to keep it moist so you add an egg but then the whole thing looks way too mushy so you add bread crumbs. You make them into patties, fry them up and suddenly you’ve got something that looks and tastes like a shot-put.

So what do you do? I figured out the key is to skip the bread crumbs. You don’t need them. They are not your friend. They make your turkey burgers heavy and dense. The other key is to add lots of seasoning – fresh herbs and chile are a must. Turkey can take it – honest. Now the burger mixture you’re going to get is soft – too soft to form into patties – but that’s okay. You’re going to scoop the mixture onto the hot pan, let it cook through (no medium rare here guys) and then serve it up with some creamy avocado.

I’ve added zucchini to the mixture too. No, this is not my way of sneaking in a vegetable on you. I’ve done it for one reason and one reason only – it tastes great.

Turkey Zuchini Burgers with Chile, Dill & Mint

guac 3

I’m going to be honest with you. This mixture – pre-cooking – isn’t going to win any beauty contest. It’s a bit goopy but persevere because they taste great. Honest.

Serves 3-4

Turkey burgers
1 lb. ground turkey meat
1 zucchini, coarsely grated
3-4 scallions, finely chopped – about 3 ½ Tbsp
1 medium egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ Tbsp dill, finely chopped
1 ½ Tbsp mint, finely chopped
1 tsp cayenne
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Salt
Olive oil or vegetable oil for frying

Creamy avocado
1 avocado
1 Tbsp dill
1 Tbsp sour cream
Lime juice
Salt

In a large bowl, mix together all the burger ingredients thoroughly but avoid over mixing as it damages the texture of the turkey. Heat a frying pan and coat with a tablespoon or two of oil. When the pan is hot, place spoonfuls of the burger mixture onto the pan (about ¼ cup per burger). When browned, flip and continue cooking until cooked through. If you have time, test a small sample burger first, taste and adjust the chile and salt as needed.

guac 2
guac 1

While the burgers are cooking, make the Creamy avocado. In a small bowl, mash the avocado until fairly smooth. Stir in the dill and sour cream and a good squeeze or two of lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve on top of or along side the burgers.

guac 5