Avocado salsa, cheddar top juicy hamburgers

Sunday Gourmet

May 14, 2000|By Betty Rosbottom | Betty Rosbottom,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

According to the calendar, summer doesn't officially begin until around June 21, but I, like others, consider Memorial Day weekend the launching pad for this warm weather season. By the end of May the temperature is finally warm in New England where I live, so we celebrate this American holiday with an annual ritual of pulling out the grill and moving our cooking outdoors.

For this year's festivities, I am planning to grill hamburgers and top them with white Cheddar cheese and some chunky guacamole salsa. To go with the burgers, there will be black beans seasoned with cumin and little fried corn cakes. A bowl of strawberries and pecan shortbread cookies will make a simple early summer dessert.

The burgers with their special homemade guacamole garnish will, I am certain, be the piece de resistance of this casual menu. To make the salsa, coarsely chopped avocados and plum tomatoes along with minced jalapeno chili are tossed in a lime dressing seasoned with cumin and cilantro. This piquant guacamole, which is chunky rather than smooth, makes a delicious condiment for juicy burgers covered with melted Cheddar cheese and enclosed in warm toasted buns.

Because the avocados are coated with a citrus vinaigrette, they do not discolor, and so the salsa can be prepared several hours in advance and left at room temperature or refrigerated. And, I discovered recently that day-old leftover salsa, which was covered and refrigerated, was still fine, and made an excellent dip to serve with crispy tortilla chips.

This salsa could be used creatively in other ways as well. You could scoop out summer tomato halves and fill them with the chunky guacamole and serve them as a side dish. Or, you might like to fill soft flour tortillas with grilled shrimp or other shellfish and add a garnish of this salsa and shredded lettuce greens before rolling them into burritos.

Grilled Hamburgers with White Cheddar and Chunky Guacamole Salsa

Makes 8 hamburgers

CHUNKY GUACAMOLE SALSA:

(see note)

2 ripe avocados, soft but not mushy

2 ripe, large plum tomatoes

1 jalapeno chili

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

HAMBURGERS:

2 pounds lean ground beef, shaped into 8 patties

about 1/2 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, thinly sliced

8 good quality hamburger buns

To make Chunky Guacamole Salsa, peel, halve and seed avocados and cut into 1/2 inch dice. Place in nonreactive bowl. Halve tomatoes, remove seeds and stems and cut into 1/2 inch dice. Add to bowl.

Wearing rubber gloves, halve chili lengthwise and remove and discard seeds. Mince chili and add to bowl.

In small mixing bowl, combine lime juice, shallots, cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper. Whisk in oil, then pour over avocado and tomato mixture. Mix well. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

If not using immediately, leave at cool room temperature up to 3 hours. Salsa also can be covered and refrigerated up to 1 day; bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

To grill hamburgers, prepare a grill and when hot, grill burgers, turning once or twice, until cooked through. Top burgers with enough cheese slices to cover. Place buns, cut sides down, on grill to toast lightly. When cheese has melted, place burgers on bottoms of buns, mound with Chunky Guacamole Salsa and cover with tops.

Note: This recipe makes about 2 cups Chunky Guacamole Salsa.

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