Last night I was exhausted, but since we had nothing to eat and just ate out Tuesday, dinner still needed to be made. I was also supposed to be in class but I’m still sick and just feeling worn down in general. On the plus side, I didn’t feel as crazy as I did Monday when I saw the doctor, but definitely wasn’t back to 100% yet. Sometimes it sucks having to be a responsible adult (I’m 27). Apparently getting married and working full-time has turned me into *gulp* my mom (who is an amazing woman that I completely love but wasn’t ever planning on morphing into). Funny how the lens changes the older you get and you start to realize everything your parents were dealing with.
So normal dinner dilemma experienced by thousands around the world. I got home at 6:15, and after putting away laundry and straightening a bit, what was I actually going to make? As I’ve mentioned previously I’m a bit anal retentive on the meal planning so at least that part was done. Every week I always have four dinners planned out and groceries bought, but last minute plans change so I try to be a bit more flexible on what I cook on each actual night. Yesterday was supposed to be a slow cooker night, but after my disastrous morning (refer to previous post) I didn’t have time to actually get the slow cooker going before I left the house.
On a side note, for all of those super creative McGuyverish (what, that’s not a real word?) people who can throw nothing together last minute and have it taste fantastic, I completely admire/envy you. I need to at least have a plan of reference to refer to on a weekly basis.
And if you’re one of those amazingly organized people who do Once a Month Cooking and know that they have something fabulous in the freezer I also admire/envy you. I havn’t quite worked up to that point yet, plus I have serious space constraints (a tiny apartment freezer with no shelf in it) that I’m working on rectifying. Who knew I was such an envious person?
Anyway, I wanted something quick and relatively easy. Looking through the meals I still have scheduled for this week I settled on Sesame Ginger Pork Patties with Grilled Pineapple from Eating Well. Plus we just got an awesome new indoor electric grill (we live in an apartment with no patio/balcony) and I was cheered at the thought of being able to use my new toy.
So one of the main ingredients the recipe calls for is watercress. I’ve heard of watercress. I understand it’s a type of green/leaf often used in tea sandwiches (is that right?) but I’ve never actually used nor tasted watercress. Wikipedia defines watercress as, “Watercresses are fast-growing, aquatic or semi-aquatic, perennial plants native from Europe to central Asia, and one of the oldest known leaf vegetables consumed by human beings. These plants are members of the Family Brassicaceae or cabbage family, botanically related to garden cress and mustard — all noteworthy for a peppery, tangy flavour.”
Huh. Alright then, I’m game. I did decide to change it up a bit and do half watercress half baby spinach simply because I wasn’t sure if we would end up liking watercress (although there aren’t many veggies I don’t like), and I needed spinach for another recipe I’m planning this week. And besides, we love spinach, especially raw in salad form.
The recipe states to remove the tough stems from the watercress. Hmm…should’ve looked up how exactly to prep it but I was in the middle of dinner preparations so I ended up just ripping the big stems off of the bottom of them and leaving the smaller stems between the leaves mostly intact. I ended up using 2 cups of watercress and 2 cups of spinach to toss with the carrots. And I guess watercress is supposed to taste sorta peppery? I didn’t really notice, but it’s not like I have the most refined palate and the taste of spinach probably overshadowed it. I’d use it as an ingredient again though with no worries.
For the patties themselves I stuck pretty close to the recipe. I doubled the garlic, because I always do, and instead of sesame oil used sesame chili oil for a bit of heat. I also threw a bit of pepper into the mix and somehow, I didn’t buy scallions at the grocery store so ended up using freeze dried chives. And since I’m basically incapable of leaving a recipe alone, I also added a bit of cayenne for a little more kick. Then I moved on to the actual cooking with my fancy new grill.
I love this thing. I’m already picturing having people over for dinner and actually being able to cook for everyone in dum, dum, dum: one batch! Its 200 square inches and I was able to put all of the patties along with the pineapple on it. It wasn’t completely smokeless, but I didn’t actually expect it to be. I mean, even normal pans can smoke a bit depending on the heat and what you’re cooking. Plus clean up was insanely easy since I lined the drip pan with foil and rubbed the actual cooking surface itself with a bit of grapeseed oil. I could have used my grill pan, which I also love, but the problem is that I didn’t really want to have to cook in batches and I would have had to when it came to pineapple time.
The recipe calls for 4 – 5 minutes per side for the pork. Maybe it was because I was using an indoor electric grill, but I ended up having to do about 10 minutes per side (much to my dismay). I followed the cook time as stated but when I temped the middle it was only around 130 degrees and still pretty pink. Now I do eat my pork more on the medium to medium-well side especially since the FDA has lowered the safe cooking temp to 145 (Read an article about it here) but 130 isn’t close to the right temp. I reduced the heat and covered the grill with one of those ‘disposable’ aluminum roasting pans (I always wash them out and reuse them as long as they hold their shape) for the extra 10 minutes of cooking, flipping them halfway. During this point that the patties were cooking, I tossed the salad with the remaining sauce mixture and started plating only to realize that I forgot to cook rice.
I have this cute cheap little rice cooker that I normally would have started first, but it just completely slipped my mind. I’ve heard that you can freeze rice in individual containers for moments such as this, but I havn’t gotten to that point where I’m freezing already cooked rice yet (can’t wait till I get that freezer!). Uncle Ben’s Ready Whole Grain Medley to the rescue. I’m still working on eating/cooking healthier and plain brown rice would have been less calories/fat but it’s hard to beat the convenience of a 90 second pouch. A one cup serving of the Uncle Ben’s has 220 calories and 3.5 g of fat and now that I’m typing this I realize that I should have made the pouch into 4 servings instead of 2 (the bag has holds 2 cups). Note to self – measure ½ cup servings next time. Plus, it tastes delicious and I didn’t have any other options (short of waiting 40 minutes for it to cook while the rest got cold).
Here’s the recipe itself with any of my changes/comments in italics:
- 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons sesame chili oil, divided
- ½ tsp black pepper, to taste
- ½ tsp cayenne, to taste
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 4 pineapple rings, 1/4 inch thick
- 2 cups watercress (about 1 large bunch), tough stems removed
- 2 cups baby spinach (could also do all spinach or all watercress as the recipe originally calls for)
- 1 cup shredded carrot
- Preheat grill to medium-high. Or check stovetop variation below.
- Combine soy sauce, scallions, garlic, ginger, pepper, cayenne (if using) and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in a small bowl. Place pork in a medium bowl. Add half of the sauce mixture to the pork and gently combine without overmixing. Form into 4 patties, about 3/4 inch thick. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon sesame oil and vinegar to the remaining sauce mixture and set aside.
- Oil the grill rack. Grill the burgers, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 155°F (new USDA guidelines say 145 is safe), 4 to 5 minutes per side. During the last 3 minutes of cooking, add the pineapple rings to the grill and cook, turning once, until dark grill marks appear. (I had to cook for about 10 minutes for side, which rereading the recipe I just realized that their stove top variation doesn’t give a specific time and advises to cook on medium till the right internal temperature – oops should have read that part before cooking).
- Combine watercress and/or spinach and carrot in a large bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons of the reserved sauce. Divide the salad among 4 plates. Top each portion with a pineapple ring and a burger. Drizzle any remaining sauce on top.
- Stovetop Variation: Coat a nonstick pan, preferably cast-iron (or a grill pan), with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Add burgers, reduce heat to medium and cook, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer registers 155°F (for pork and bison) or 165° (for beef or chicken), 4 to 5 minutes per side.
Nutritional Info: 217 calories; 9 g fat ( 3 g sat , 1 g mono ); 66 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 25 g protein; 2 g fiber; 531 mg sodium; 540 mg potassium.
Overall – pretty tasty. Unfortunately not as healthy as intended due to the Uncle Ben’s Rice but it was nutritious and filling. I ended up not even finishing my whole portion. Plus, have you noticed that when things are on some sort of lettuce/spinach/green they just feel like you’re eating healthier? From start to finish it took me about 25 minutes and I wasn’t rushing. In fact I was probably acting like I was moving through molasses due to before mentioned tiredness. The only rough moment was when it didn’t cook as quick as I thought it would (definitely wish I would have read the notes on stovetop variation) and I had everything else all ready and plated.
It also worked pretty well for lunch as far as reheating goes. The only issue was the amount of containers that I had to bring. One for the pork, rice, and pineapple. Another for the spinach/watercress/carrot salad, and another little one to keep the sauce separate although I suppose I could have just thrown the sauce in with the pork.
Would I make it again? Sure, I’ll put it in the keep file. I don’t know if I’d serve it to guests, but for just a quick family dinner it works.