For this Independence Day we’re bringing you two simple but creative recipes, each from different cookbooks that offer unique perspectives on the world of food. Adventures in Starry Kitchen by Nguyen Tran encourages at-home cooks to take risks, asserting that you don’t have to be a trained chef to make something incredible. Signs and Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook, written by Monte Farber and illustrated by Amy Zerner, challenges readers to look to the sky to contemplate how food connects us to our families, history, culture, and the natural world itself.
It’s not a BBQ without a good burger. Nguyen Tran’s take from Adventures in Starry Kitchen is simple, classic, and delicious:
Classic Double Cheeseburger
Butter, melted or softened to room temperature
4 Bimbo hamburger buns, or a similarly “enriched” squishy burger bun (no brioche—don’t do it!)
Kosher salt and pepper
2 pounds (8 patties)
80–20 ground Angus chuck or a custom blend with leaner cuts, shaped into thin 5- to 6-inch-wide
8 slices American cheese or medium cheddar cheese (American cheese is classic; cheddar gives a different, beefier kind of burger)
Pickled Persian Cucumbers
Red onion, sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick—thick enough to get that onion crunch with every bite!
Butter lettuce, cleaned and separated
Tomato, sliced 1/4 inch thick—who needs ketchup when there’s a tomato?
1. Heat a pan/griddle to medium-high heat. Spread top and bottom of buns with butter, lay open-face down in pan and cook for 1–2 minutes. Once the buns get a golden and almost crispy crust, remove from pan and set aside on a plate. In that same pan, add a tiny bit of cooking oil, and liberally sprinkle a layer of equal amounts of salt and pepper in the pan. Next, add beef patties and cook 3–4 minutes, while frequently smothering patties into pan. Don’t move patties until they get a nicely browned salt-and-pepper crust.
2. Once they’re encrusted with those tasty crunchy burger bits, temporarily remove patties from pan. Add another layer of equal amounts salt and pepper to the pan, then flip the uncooked side of the patties down into the pan. Let the smothering continue.
3. Note: cook the burgers close to well done to achieve that awesome salt-and-pepper crunchy crust. (I know, BLASPHEMY!)
4. Add a slice of cheese on top of each patty while still in the pan.
5. As the cheese melts, spread a thin layer of mustard on the open-side of the bottom buns, remove and stack two patties on the bottom bun, then layer the burger with pickles, onions, tomato, lettuce, and the top bun.
With all ingredient powers combined, “the power is YOURS” to enjoy the spoils of our extensive burger research for maximum burger consumption and pleasure.
And for desert: Coconut-Peach Crisp from Signs & Seasons: An Astrology Cookbook!
I decided to try out this last recipe myself to give it a patriotic twist. For a small alteration, set aside some extra blueberries, and leave the shredded coconut out of the streusel topping completely. Instead, while the crisp is cooking, add shredded coconut into two separate bowls (about 1/3c. each). One bowl will be set aside to be used for your white stripes; in the other, add a few drops of red food coloring and stir with a fork, mashing the coconut when needed to properly distribute the color. Keep adding drops until you achieve your preferred shade. Take your crisp out of the oven 5-minutes early and decorate with your flag by adding the blueberry stars and alternating stripes of red and white coconut. Then pop back into the oven for the last 5-minutes to toast the top! This version adds more coconut to the overall flavor, but in my opinion, that’s never a bad thing. (If, however, you’re personally opposed to more coconut, you can achieve a similar affect with crushed almonds—although the white stripes won’t stand out as much!)
For the streusel topping:
1 cup sliced toasted almonds (see below for Roasting Seeds and Nuts)
1/2 cup rolled oats
½ cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
⅓ cup sugar
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
2 tablespoons shredded coconut
For the fruit filling:
3 large ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Combine the almonds and oats in the bowl of a food processor, and gently pulse until blended. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon, and sugar, and gently pulse to combine all evenly. Add the butter, and pulse to distribute. Transfer to a large bowl, stir in the shredded coconut, and refrigerate while you make the fruit filling.
Butter a 10-inch pie dish or a 9 × 13-inch baking dish. In a large bowl, combine the peaches and blueberries. Sprinkle the lemon juice and vanilla over the fruit. Add the sugar and cornstarch, and gently toss.
Pour the filling into the pie dish. Distribute the streusel topping evenly over the top, squeezing little clumps of streusel together as you go.
Place the dish on a foil-lined cookie sheet in case the filling bubbles over. Bake for 45 minutes, watching to make sure the top doesn’t get too dark.
Serve warm with ice cream or yogurt.
Roasting Seeds and Nuts
Roasting seeds and nuts is best done in the oven. They roast more evenly when the heat can get at them from all sides. Spread them on a baking sheet, and place them in a preheated
325°F oven, shaking frequently, until they are lightly brown and aromatic, 12 to 15 minutes.