I smelled it in the yard the other day. Memorial Day. The start of summer -- and the start of burgers on the grill.
You start smelling those sizzling burgers with the coming of our first nice days. It's funny -- the neighbors are always peeking over our fence when we cook outdoors.
"What are you having?" they'll ask, thinking I'm grilling up some gourmet creation. Which sometimes I am. But usually I reply, "Oh, we're just having burgers."
But they don't have to be the tasty, traditional old standby -- juicy ground beef. Burgers can be just about anything. From lamb burgers on homemade rosemary buns with roasted red pepper mayonnaise, topped with the nutty-tasting arugula and crisp slices of sweet Walla Walla onion to salmon burgers basted with lemon butter and piled high with tangy, crunchy slaw.
Also on the lighter side, the usually maligned, dry, ground turkey patties are given moisture, flavor and texture with the addition of crunchy, minced water chestnuts, green onion, fresh ginger and teriyaki sauce. Then they're topped with fresh grilled pineapple slices.
For non-meat eaters there are numerous vegetable and nut patties available. My favorite is the Wholesome & Hearty Garden Burgers made from a wealth of nutritious ingredients such as mushrooms, brown rice, oats, cheese, bulgur wheat and lots of seasonings and spices.
When grilling veggie patties, be sure to cook them over medium-hot coals and watch them carefully as they char easily. Remember, they're already cooked, so all you're doing is heating them through and grill-marking them.
Another unique and delicious burger variation is the very largportobello mushroom (available at specialty produce markets) dipped in a marinade of olive oil, garlic, lemon and orange juices, soy sauce and ginger, then grilled. Serve on slices of chewy, toasted rustic bread and adorn with goodies such as fresh Tomato Relish and wild greens. Voila! You've got a delicious, rich, meat-like textured, vegetarian alternative.
If ground beef burgers are your norm, then why not try a flavotwist? Stuff burger centers with a chunk of blue cheese or mix in chopped fresh garlic, sauteed mushrooms or zippy salsa. Try adding flavorings such as soy sauce, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces, barbecue sauce or fresh chopped herbs. Minced celery, onions or chopped black or green olives will add a bit of fun texture. Don't be afraid to try new things. Experiment with melting different cheeses on top or try a variety of breads for the bun.
Sun-dried tomato herb baguettes, cut into 5- to 6-inch lengths, split and grilled, make for a creative new look and taste. Just be sure to form your patty in the shape of the bread it's going on.
The nutty-tasting arugula brings great flavor and crunch to this recipe for lamb burgers that's been adapted from "Pacific Northwest the Beautiful Cookbook" (Collins Publishers).
Barbecued Lamb Burgers on Rosemary-Garlic Buns
Makes 4 burgers
1 small sweet red pepper or 1/4 cup diced, purchased roasted red pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 Rosemary-Garlic Buns* (recipe follows)
thinly sliced Walla Walla or red onions
arugula or lettuce leaves
Roast red pepper over hot flame or grill until skin is very charred. Peel, seed and pat dry. Mince very fine and then combine with mayonnaise in small bowl. Refrigerate until needed. (Can be made up to 3 days in advance.)
Mix lamb, pepper, mustard, rosemary, onion, garlic, vinegar, egg and salt to taste in bowl. Mix well. Divide meat into 4 portions. Shape into 1/2 -inch-thick patties.
Heat barbecue until coals are very hot. Set patties on grill, turning when first side is browned. Cook to desired doneness, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes per side for medium. Split buns and toast lightly. Place burgers on buns. (Substitute store-bought buns spread with garlic butter mixed with minced fresh rosemary for Rosemary-Garlic Buns, if desired.)
Serve with mustard, red pepper mayonnaise, thinly sliced onions
Makes 6 buns
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water (90 degrees)
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon whole dry rosemary, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Bring milk in small saucepan just to a simmer. Remove from heat. Stir in butter, sugar and salt. Dissolve ingredients and cool until lukewarm. Pour into large mixing bowl.