Burger with Balance

People who love to cook and watch public television probably are familiar with Daisy Martinez. Daisy is an actress, model, chef, television personality and author who hosts the PBS television series, "Daisy Cooks!"

I’ve watched the show a few times and love the way Daisy shares things about her childhood and cooking with her family. Some of my favorite memories of growing up revolve around food, too.

Daisy is one of the cooks who is taking part in The Associated Press’ "20 Burgers of Summer" series, and in an interview with J.M. Hirsch, the AP food editor, she talks about how her  blueprint for a great burger goes back to her childhood.

"Some of my fondest hamburger memories involve making homemade patties with my dad when I was little. He would season them with salt, fresh ground pepper and onion powder, then we would grill them over charcoal briquettes in our backyard, and the result was a slightly charred burger on the outside that was pink and juicy on the inside," she told Hirsch in an e-mail. For the topping, it was beefsteak tomatoes and lettuce fresh from her mother’s garden, as well as her “salsa golf” (a mayo-ketchup blend).

Daisy’s contribution to the series is what she calls a burger with balance. He told Hirsch that a great burger does a bit of tug-of-war in your mouth.

"I always like to put together flavors that complement as well as contrast each other. This concept is especially important when creating a burger because you should experience that ‘kapow factor’ with each and every bite."

In her recipe, Daisy sought a balance of salty and sweet, which she satisfied by pairing grilled fresh figs with serrano ham.

"It was a short leap then to add the piquancy of a Cabrales blue (cheese), which complements the beef component of the burger," she said. "Can you say ‘party on my plate’?"

Barcelona Burger
1 pound ground beef
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
½ cup mayonnaise
Zest of 1 lemon
½ cup water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large Spanish onions, halved and thinly sliced
4 fresh figs, halved
4 large hamburger buns
¼ pound Cabrales or other blue cheese, crumbled
¼ pound serrano ham, thinly sliced (prosciutto also can be used)
Form the beef into 4 equal patties, then season each with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir the mayonnaise with the lemon zest. Set aside.
In a large skillet over high, add the water, olive oil and onions. Cook until the water is completely evaporated, then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and completely caramelized. Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.
Heat a grill to medium-high. Coat the grates with cooking spray.
Place the beef patties on the grill, cover and cook for about 3½ minutes per side for medium-rare.
Season the figs with pepper, then place on the grill cut-side up. Place the buns on the grill cut-side up, as well. Sprinkle the bottom halves of the buns with the blue cheese. Cover the grill and cook for 1 minute.
To assemble, place each beef patty on a bun half with the melted cheese. Top with 2 slices of ham, 2 grilled fig halves and a dollop of the caramelized onions. Spread the remaining toasted bun halves with lemon mayonnaise, then top the burger.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 658 calories, 333 calories from fat, 37 grams fat (11 grams saturated, no trans), 104 milligrams cholesterol, 44 grams carbohydrates, 39 grams protein, 3 grams fiber, 1,381 milligrams sodium.

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