Battle Citrus: Locked & Loaded

[left to right: citrus slushy, lemon-thyme cakes, hearts of palm + citrus salad, citrus-glazed chicken wings, beef sliders, hurricanes, ceviche, brown butter lemon popcorn, citrus tofu pie]

I’m not sure what’s going on with my immune system, but that thing has been made of steel since moving out to California. Not that I was ever a person who got sick often, maybe 2-3 times a year after leaving a job in pediatrics (those damn kids and their germs!), but still. So far, the sick count is a whopping zilch, zero, nada. I’m sure my time is coming, especially now with all this “cold” weather and rain, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.

Of course, it is officially citrus time, so maybe the extra doses of vitamin C will further combat any wonky sickness that might be coming my way. We’ll see.

[top left: blood orange crostata, bottom left: citrus cake, right: fried chicken wings + lemonade]

I almost titled this post the “anti-Scurvy” battle, but I had a last-minute change of heart. I like “locked and loaded” better, since what I mean here, is that we are now locked and loaded with vitamin C which is, in itself, anti-Scurvy. You see? Good. And it sounds more menacing, which I dig. Menacing, but at the same time totally pointless, since it would take a whole helluva lot of vitamin C deprivation to cause scurvy. Just ask the sailors.

Anywho, after what felt like an eternally long hiatus, we had Battle 3 of SF Iron Chef a couple of weekends ago, and Fancy Chef Winner Molly (too long?) chose citrus, which is an amazing selection for this time of year (clearly, because grapefruits are from Paradise, remember?). Back in Chicago, we had a Battle Grapefruit in early Winter, and it was also amazing – not nearly as heavy as Roots + Tubers, that’s for sure.

I honed in and focused on two things this time around: lemons and Meyer lemons. I almost made an amazing citrus cheesecake, but since Chris and I were stupid enough to do another juice cleanse that just happened to finish up on Friday, I couldn’t fathom making a cheesecake on Friday night whereby I could not stick my whole face into the bowl to lick the excess. Something tells me that might have canceled out three days of all those vitamins and nutrients.

[On a quick tangent though, we tried the juice cleanse through Urban Remedy this time around (they had a groupon back in December) and most of the juices were really tasty. Not sure if I’ll be doing another cleanse any time soon, but if I did I’d use them again.]

So yeah – lemons lemons lemons. First off was a quick spin on air-popped popcorn – I tossed it with a lemon brown butter sauce with lots of lemon zest. YUM. But the main recipe for me was the sliders. It worked nicely, because I was definitely craving some meat after three days of juice and two days before of vegan life, which I do not prefer. I made a Meyer lemon pesto for the topping and a Meyer lemon-herb butter that was shoved inside the patty and brushed atop the homemade buns.

Since we had our little shindig at Judy’s work (The Culinary Edge), we had full use of a professional kitchen, which brought back all kinds of memories of culinary school, like navigating through a foreign kitchen, walking into an entire refrigerator, setting up the sanitizing station for dishwashing, and of course – a shitload of food all around us. Good times. But it also meant I got to grill my tasty sliders right before service the Battle. They turned out just as I’d imagined – juicy, fresh, and ultra-lemony.

Sadly though, they weren’t good enough to win. We have yet another fancy food cooker in our group now (which pardon my sarcasm, I really do like having professional and non-professional cooks at Iron Chef, because it makes us all try just a little bit harder) and he AND his girlfriend took the 1 and 2. Dang. My buddy, Liz, pulled into the top three with her beautiful citrus cake though. It was my favorite of the night.

The Top 3:

1. Jeff’s fried chicken wings with spicy citrus hot sauce and lemonade
2. Dana’s blood orange crostata
3. Elizabeth’s citrus cake with lemon curd filling

I could have sworn the sliders were #4. Just sayin’. And yes, we finally remembered a group shot. And never mind that long, scraggly hair of mine – it was definitely time for a little trimmy trim trim.

So here’s the deal: there are a lot of components to this dish, but most are very easy. You can definitely purchase store-bought slider buns unless you want to make your own. I went the all-authentic route to rack up scoring points, but you don’t need those in real life, at least usually. The first “printable version” link is for ALL components, but you can also print out components piece by piece if you are using them for something different. The pesto goes well on anything, that’s for sure. So does the butter.

And yes, folks. I am aware that the links on my site are hard to click on. They do work though – you just have to oh-so-gingerly hover over them a couple of times. I have no idea why this is happening lately, but can’t seem to figure out how to fix it. Remember – gingerly hover. :).

update – I DID figure it out! apparently my Facebook plug-in somehow interfered with the workability of the links. go figure. anyway, that is gone and the links are back and working like a charm, so click away!

and speaking of clicking, check out Kenna’s post on her very own, inaugural Iron Chef Leelanau (Michigan). Kenna and I met through our blogs, and both went to the same culinary school at slightly different times. She and Michael attended a few Chicago Iron Chefs, and she moved from Chicago to Michigan (and had a baby. a baby during a move!) earlier this year. They had Iron Chef Battle Citrus too – what a crazy coincidence! Kenna also won her first Iron Chef with us (well, her husband claimed the dish…), so maybe that strong competitive streak is paying off for her, right Kenna?!


Beef Sliders with Lemon Butter & Lemon Pesto
chiknpastry recipe; makes 16 sliders

time commitment: 30 minutes (with components made in advance)

printable version (all recipes)

2 lbs beef, 15% fat
lemon butter (recipe below)
salt and pepper
lemon pesto (recipe below)
16 slider buns (store-bought or homemade, recipe below)
handful of baby arugula
2 small tomatoes

divide meat into 16 2-oz portions. stuff a 1/2″ cube of lemon butter into the center of each portion. shape each portion into a thin burger patty. season with salt and pepper.

heat grill to medium high. grill sliders for 3 minutes on each side. top with lemon pesto, tomato, and arugula on a slider bun and serve.


Lemon Butter

time commitment: 35 minutes (most is chilling butter)

printable version (butter only)

3/4 stick of butter, softened
1 T parsley
1 T basil
Zest & juice of 2 Meyer lemons
salt and pepper

using a fork, mix all ingredients together. place butter on a piece of saran wrap, roll into a log shape, and refrigerate until ready to use, at least 30 minutes.


Lemon Pesto

time commitment: 5 minutes

printable version (pesto only)

2 c basil
2 cloves garlic
1/3 c pine nuts
zest & juice of 2 Meyer lemons
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
salt and pepper

in a food processor, combine basil through lemons and pulse until combined. slowly add olive oil until fully incorporated, finish by adding cheese and season with salt and pepper.


Brioche-style Slider Buns
adapted from; makes 18

time commitment: 3 hours (most is inactive, rising time)

printable version (buns only)

3 T warm milk
2 t active dry yeast
2 1/2 T granulated sugar
2 large eggs (1 for optional egg wash)
3 c bread flour
1/3 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
2 1/2 T unsalted butter, softened

In a glass measuring cup, combine one c warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg into another small dish.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or large bowl, if doing by hand), whisk flours with salt. Add butter and mix into flour, resulting in a crumb-like dough. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg into the flour mixture. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and turn on low-medium; mix until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-6 minutes. Alternatively, you can mix the dough and once it comes together, dump it onto a floured surface and knead about 8-9 minutes by hand. The dough will be on the sticky side but try not to add more flour unless you absolutely have to.

Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

Punch down the dough and divide into 18 equal pieces (mine were about 1.6 oz each, if you want to weigh them). Roll each piece into a ball and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 to 3 inches apart. Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 F. If using the egg wash, beat the second egg and brush onto the rolls before baking (I brushed some melted lemon butter onto mine). Once rolls have risen, bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until browned. Remove from oven and let cool on rack.

Top of My List

July absolutely has to be one of my very favorite months. I’m also a big fan of November (because of Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday). September and October aren’t too bad, either. And while I’m at it, I may as well throw in August, which means we are clearly at the very beginning of all of my favorite times of the year. Let the games begin.

For now though, I’m going to keep it together and just talk about July.

When I think about July, a few things come to mind. First and foremost is Summer, and that’s probably because I’ve lived in Chicago for so long. It doesn’t always warm up in May and June there, although from what I’ve heard, this year has been a little toasty. Here in San Francisco, it seems to always be sunny in at least one part of the city, although it’s certainly not always warm, so to speak. That said, we haven’t grilled out nearly as much as we normally would, but I think the warm weather is right around the corner, and for that I’m thankful.

I also think about fruit – cherries, blueberries, watermelon, and all those berries with seeds that sorta get on my nerves. Peaches. Which reminds me – I need to bust out a cobbler or something, like yesterday. And some ice cream, but I’ve got an ice cream recipe in queue that I’m guessing is gonna knock my socks off (yes, I still sleep in socks, even in July).

This year, July means biking through Golden Gate Park or back over to the bridge, and hopefully a road trip over to Tomales Bay for oysters, and maybe some more Stairway Walks (more on those later) and neighborhood hang-outs. Maybe even another baseball game? or is that being too optimistic? We are halfway through this month, I’m aware.

Clearly, many things have changed over this past year, location-wise most definitely, but some things haven’t; one of those is my adoration for this month, and really, all months, but I’m trying to be specific here. July truly is at the top of my list.

And last but certainly not least, July = burger time. Check this out: we’ve had burgers in July for three years in a row, and that’s sayin’ somethin’. Last year, I waxed poetic about getting a meat grinder attachment, and this year I finally did it. Of course, it sat in storage for a while, and even though I’ve had the thing for months, I have used it now for the first time. But like I said last year, the meat grinder is some kinda awesome, and I finally proved it to myself that I needed to get one (ok, use one) a long time ago.

With said ground meat, I churned out a relatively quick and easy burger recipe, sans grill: griddled smash burgers. It’s not a bad idea, really. Heat up your griddle (or pan, if you’re not into pancakes enough to have a griddle specifically for flapjacks), ball up some ground meat, and smash ’em onto the surface, letting the juices sizzle away, smoking up your house almost enough to flip the smoke alarm. Smoosh some onions into them, and finish them off with cheddar cheese and pickles; simple and quick is key here.

Put them on a plate with some baked ‘french fries’, and let the rays of the sun shine on ’em like a pot o’ gold at the end of a rainbow. Two seconds later, eat them as quickly as possible – we’ve got a lot left to do now, and half of July’s already passed us by.

Cheddar & Onion Smashed Burgers
Adapted from Food & Wine, June 2011; serves 4

time commitment: 30 minutes

printable version

16 thin bread-and-butter pickle slices, patted dry
4 burger buns, toasted
1 1/4 lb ground beef chuck (30 percent fat)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 small onions, sliced paper thin
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
ketchup, and other fixin’s that you choose

If you’re into this sorta thing, grind your own meat, which takes about 5 minutes if you have a good grinder.

Heat a griddle until very hot. If you don’t have a griddle, you can probably use a frying pan on high heat, but I used a griddle that is normally used for pancakes ;). Layer the pickle slices on the bottom buns.

Without overworking the meat, loosely form it into 4 balls and place them on the griddle. Cook the meatballs over moderately high heat for 30 seconds. Using a sturdy large spatula, flatten each ball into a 5-inch round patty. Season the patties with salt and pepper and cook for 2 minutes, until well seared. Press a handful of sliced onions onto each patty. Using the spatula, carefully flip each burger so the onions are on the bottom. Top with the cheese and cook for 2 minutes. Cover with a roasting pan and cook just until the cheese is melted, 1 minute more. Transfer the burgers with the onions to the buns. Top with the ketchup, any other fixin’s, buns and serve.


Sure, here’s a burger recipe, and I’ve linked to 2 more on here, but just in case you still want more choices, here’s a list.

On the Lamb

I’m sure you’re all just as ready as I am for me to be settled in San Francisco, right? It seems to be a hot topic in my life these days, and the move essentially dominates every conversation I have lately. I guess I can understand that; in fact, in some ways I feel like all I’ve done is think about and prepare for the big move.

And now, step 2 of that big move is here: we close on our house and move the F out of it.

I mean that in the kindest way ever, really I do. This condo means a lot to us and I’m sure when tomorrow comes and all its’ contents are packed into boxes, I’m going to burst into tears, which is sorta common lately. Again, in a good way. I like to think that crying means we’ve really, and I mean really, lived here. Made friends here, made a life here, really lived here. But selling a home is hard and stressful, I tell ya, and I will be glad when Step 2 has come and gone.

Which brings me to this next minor detail. I will be a little homeless this month. And I do mean a little, because I have some really great friends who have offered to let me shack up with them, so while I won’t be in my home, I’ll be in theirs. I’ll also be heading to another one of those conferences that I love so much, and even making an unplanned trip to California in an effort to start this job-hunting quest that is entirely inevitable.

As if I need to say so, I’ll be busy, and I might, might, be MIA around here. You’ll understand, won’t you?

For now though, there is this simply divine lamb burger we have to talk about before I head back out into condo-packing-and-cleaning land. I made this a long time ago, well a couple of months ago, and it is certainly one of my very favorite home-cooked burgers. Do you ever look at a recipe and say to yourself, “man, there is no way whatsoever that this dish can be anything less than super”? That’s what I said with this recipe, and it’s true. A really pungent French-Indian spice/onion mixture, called vadouvan, is made and mixed into the lamb, creating an über flavorful burger that just gets better when topped with a yogurt-mint sauce. I couldn’t stop thinking about this burger while eating another burger leftover for lunch today, and took that as a hint to take a break to tell you about it.

But, alas, that break’s over, and there is trash to take out and clothes to pack. Aren’t you jealous?!

Oh! I should also say this, in an effort to appease you: I’ve updated the recipes (during another, er, break) so if you start to miss me, should I happen to disappear for a bit, there’s always a ton of recipes to fall back on..

Indian-Spiced Lamb Burgers with Yogurt-Mint Sauce
adapted from Cooking Light, July 2010; makes 4 burgers

time commitment: 1 hour or less, all active

printable version

1  T  olive oil
3/4  c  finely chopped onion
1/4  c  finely chopped shallots
2  T  minced garlic, divided
3/4  t  ground cumin
3/4  t  ground coriander
1/4  t  ground cardamom
1/4  t  ground mustard
1/4  t  ground turmeric
1/8  t  ground red pepper
Dash of grated whole nutmeg
1  lb  ground lamb
2  T  finely chopped fresh mint, divided
3/4  t  kosher salt, divided
1  red bell pepper
1/2  c  2% low-fat Greek-style plain yogurt
1  T  fresh lemon juice
1/4  t  freshly ground black pepper, divided
Cooking spray
4  (1 1/2-ounce) hamburger buns
1 c thinly shredded red cabbage

Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and shallots; cook 15 minutes or until onions are golden, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, cumin, and next 6 ingredients (through nutmeg); cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, turn burner on high and place bell pepper directly onto flame. Turn with tongs until pepper is charred all over. Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 10 minutes. Peel, remove core and seeds, and cut into 4 pieces.

Combine lamb, onion mixture, 1 T mint, and 1/4 t salt. Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, gently shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Press a nickel-sized indentation in the center of each patty. Cover and chill until ready to grill.

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine remaining 1 1/2 t garlic, remaining 1 T mint, yogurt, juice, 1/4 t salt, and 1/8 t black pepper in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Sprinkle patties evenly with remaining salt/pepper. Place patties on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 4 minutes or until grill marks appear. Carefully turn patties; grill 3 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each bun; top each serving with 2 tablespoons yogurt mixture, 1/4 of cabbage, 1 piece of bell pepper, and top half of bun.

An Affair, of Sorts

Burgers used to be reserved for parties (July 4th, anyone?), and those heavily anticipated trips to McDonald’s, although to tell you the truth, I was more of a “McNugget” kinda girl in my younger days, because that way I didn’t have to worry about the possibility of them putting mustard on my patty. Now that I’ve decided to befriend mustard of all shapes and sizes, lastly the deli-style, I’ve moved to ordering cheeseburgers at Mickey D’s, and although I know there’s more corn than meets the eye in that burger, probably more corn than beef, I do enjoy them once every year or so. The chopped onions and pickles are the best part, really. Or is it the McFlurry, or the fries?

However. We didn’t have White Castle in North Carolina as we do in Illinois, and if I got to choose my fast-food burger joint, I’d possibly choose White Castle over the Golden Arches, extra grease and all. I enjoy the ‘regular’ slider, but Hubs prefers the ones with jalapeños. The beauty of White Castle is that the burgers are teeny weeny, so you can get both. Maybe even two or three of both. Just sayin’.

Holy crap. I realized when re-reading this that I totally forgot about Culvers! Okay, Culvers wins over them all….. hands down.

Thanks be to our CSA meat share, rather than choosing the dish and then procuring the ingredients, I’ve started choosing recipes based on what protein’s in the freezer and what veggies are left in the crisper, and then I fill in with a trip to the g-store. We plowed through the pork sausage relatively quickly, used some chicken thighs in a lackluster paella recipe (use this one instead, please), not to mention the last of my smuggled Spanish chorizo, and have now made burgers twice in the past two weeks. Yes, twice.

I see no problem with that. And you shouldn’t either.

In fact, I’d like to invest in a meat grinder attachment in an effort to take my relationship with burgers to the next level, if you catch my drift. But for now, since vacation is nigh and ‘unreasonable spending’ is frowned upon (but really, is a $30 meat grinder unreasonable?!), I’ll be settling on the pasture-fed, organic meat from the local farmers that’s supplied to me monthly, by the box, at the little kitchen store across the street.

This relationship is sort of on the back burner, I suppose. But I’m not hiding anything – I want it, and bad I’m afraid.

If you’re also not quite ready for that next stage in meat-lovin’, might I suggest that you try out some ground bison, if you haven’t already? There’s certainly nothin’ wrong with sirloin, or ground chicken or turkey even, but bison is another beast, if you will. There’s a lot less intramuscular fat in bison than in beef, and as a result you wind up with healthier burgers that are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. If you’re not sold on the healthy schmealthy stuff, try this on for size: they taste better too.

Of course, with a recipe like this, it’s quite possibly hard to go wrong no matter what ground variety you choose. The poblanos add a little spice but not too much heat, and the chipotle cream is a concoction that will sub for cheese any day, and before now I thought there was no such thing as a burger if it wasn’t a cheeseburger. Pickled onions? The icing on the cake, or rather, the bun. Enough said.

Roasted Poblano & Bison Burgers with Pickled Onions & Chipotle Cream
Adapted from Cooking Light, July 2010; serves 4

printable version

2  poblano chiles
1/2  c  sugar
1/2  c  rice vinegar
1/2  c  water
1  jalapeño pepper, halved lengthwise
1 large red onion, sliced into thin, vertical pieces
1  T skim milk (or other milk)
1  slice of bread, crust removed, torn into tiny pieces
4 T fresh cilantro, minced, divided
1  t  g cumin
1/2  t  g coriander
1 t chipotle chile powder
1/2  t  kosher salt, divided
1/2  t  freshly ground black pepper, divided
1  lb g bison
1/2  c  light sour cream
1  T  minced shallots
1 garlic scape, minced (or 1 minced clove of garlic)
1  t  fresh lime juice
1 T + 1 t adobo sauce & 1 minced chipotle chile (from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce)
Cooking spray
4 hamburger buns, toasted

turn burner on medium-high heat. place poblano chiles directly on burner/flame and turn often with tongs to char all sides (~8 minutes). Place in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel chiles, and discard membranes. Finely chop.

meanwhile, pickle the onions. bring sugar, vinegar and water to boil and toss in sliced onions. turn off heat and let sit for about 5 minutes, covered. rinse onions in cold water and refrigerate until ready to use (extra pickled onions can store in the fridge for a couple weeks).

combine milk and bread in a large bowl; mash bread mixture with a fork until smooth. Add poblano chile, 2 T cilantro, cumin, coriander, chipotle chile powder, 1/4 t salt, 1/4 t black pepper, and bison to milk mixture, tossing gently to combine (don’t overwork or you’ll have tough burgers, which is bad). Divide mixture into 4 equal portions, gently shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick patty. Press your thumb gently in the center of each patty to form a small indentation (this prevents the burger from shrinking, which is also bad).

preheat grill or grill pans to medium-high heat.

combine the remaining cilantro, salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Stir in sour cream, shallots, scapes/garlic and lime juice. Add adobo sauce and minced chipotle pepper (remaining can of sauce/peppers can be covered and stored in the fridge for a few weeks).

place patties on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 3 minutes or until grill marks appear. Carefully turn patties; grill an additional 3 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Place 1 patty on bottom half of each bun; top each serving with chipotle cream and onions.

An Uncanny Hankering

I am a big fan of the burger. One of the very first eateries we encountered here in Chicago was a lovely bar, right around the corner from where I now work, called O’Neil’s (sadly, it’s gone now and replaced by a lame clothing store).  They had big, fat, juicy burgers, great fries, and of course, the much-needed brewsky to wash it all down. The outdoor seating, fairly new to us Southern transplants, was icing on the cake, so to speak.

Midway through grad school, a few of us discovered the Chili’s build your own burger special (how we found it is beyond me, as we certainly weren’t watching a lot of TV those days), and many dinners (and of course, brewskys) were consumed there – my “southwestern-style” burger and Cheryl’s  mushroom/swiss burger – the cessation of that special was more hurtful than having my fingernails yanked out. Well, close, at least. Very close.

While I do love a good burger, I certainly don’t eat them nearly as much as I used to, but now that M Burger is open on the north side of my building, I smell those damn burgers all the time – there isn’t much better than the smell of a grill, especially on a warm summer day, of which we’ve had quite a few lately. And while their standard burgers are extra-tasty, simple, and eerily reminiscent of McDonalds’ burgers (but much, much better, and fresher, and if possible to use this word in the same paragraph as burger, likely healthier), their vegetarian burger is out of this world. Sans patty, the filling is simply a large, thick, juicy beefsteak tomato, finished off with the basics and M Burger’s ‘special sauce’, which again, is probably a riff off the Golden Arches burger.

It’s safe to say that, during this month of vegetarianism, I have wanted nothing more than a juicy, all-beef burger. With bacon. Why, I’ve caught myself drooling at least twice in the middle of restaurants, the juice from the burgers dripping all over the diner’s hands, running down their arms. I wanted to bathe in it. But I used what class I have, which isn’t too much, and I continued to munch on my wheat berries, washing them down vigorously with a hefty glass of Malbec.

So unfortunately, we’re still not in the clear here (4 days left!), and for the time being, I’m going to give props to this black bean burger recipe I snagged from The Kitchen Sink. It’s the second black bean burger I’ve made this month (yes, I was trying desperately to satisfy a burger craving, and failing miserably), but only the first one I’ve liked. It’s loaded with enough fixin’s to make you forget, momentarily, that there’s no meat. Does it replace a ‘real’ burger? H, E, double hockey sticks, NO.

But it’ll work for this week….and in June, I’m going here and here. And for lunch Tuesday, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m heading straight to M Burger.

Black Bean Burgers
Adapted from The Kitchen Sink, who adapted from Gourmet; serves 4

2 (14-ounce) cans organic black beans, rinsed and drained, divided
3 T 2% Greek yogurt
1/3 c plain dry bread crumbs
1 T g flax seeds (optional)
1 t g cumin
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t chipotle chili powder
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 c cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
3 T canola oil
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns

Fixin’s: sliced avocado, spinach, red bell pepper slices, goat cheese, red onion

Pulse 1 can beans in a food processor with yogurt, bread crumbs, cumin, oregano, cayenne, chipotle chili powder, and salt until a mixture is coarsely chopped (will look light greyish and pasty). Transfer to a bowl and stir in cilantro and remaining can beans.  Add juice of lime (if mixture comes together well, use less than one lime; my lime was small).  Form mixture into 4 patties.

Preheat oven to 300 F. While burgers are cooking, slightly toast buns (optional).

Heat canola oil in a large skillet over med-hi until it shimmers. Cook burgers until outsides are crisp and lightly browned, turning once, about 5 minutes total. Serve on buns, along with the fixin’s.

I Like Big Buns and I Cannot Lie

beef burgers
Yeah – I know. Just come right out and tell me how you feel. I promise I can take it. A post about a delicious, succulent burger with the best in the midwest kick-you-in-the-ass-spicy-but-also-sweet-bbq sauce – after the 4th of July? After?!! Well, yes. Yes, yes, yes. In fact, heck yes and you bet your bottom dollar, yes.

Because unlike some of you weirdos out there, I like burgers more than just on the 4th. And for those of you out there making chicken and sausage and whatnot over the weekend, what were you thinking? I mean, c’mon. Of the 365 glorious, lovely days in the year, there is one day where eating a burger must fit some sort of requirement to being an American. [I’m not sure where vegetarians fit here…. but maybe the higher powers would let you guys slide if you promise to eat something that at least looks meaty?] So again, on the most American day of the year, you’re eating something that is not the epitome of being American? Uncool, brothas & sistas. T-totally uncool. Although I’m sure they were all tasty. In fact, check out my buddy’s beer can chicken – yummers, right?! And yeah, it’s your food and you can eat what you want to. But for me, this weekend meant one thing on our menu – burgers. Damn good ones too.

bbq sauce ingredients

Once again, I was forced to surrender my apron and toque to the “grillmaster”, aka Chris. I sense that, having spent hours the night before making the grill squeaky clean, he felt entitled to re-christen it, and re-christen it he did. On the up-side, I got to prepare the sauce (and the other ten-thousand things we ate that day as well as things we didn’t eat, like gluten-free pizza which will require another go to perfect.).

bbq sauce

The burgers themselves were semi-ordinary, but thanks to Chris’ scrutiny in shaping and my recommendation to weigh each one to ensure even cooking, they looked downright perfect and could have been delicious as is. The real kicker though, was the sauce. Straight from a Bobby Flay recipe – should I just stop here?

As with all things Flay, this bbq sauce was packed with intense flavor, and a generous punch of heat. Chipotle chiles – smoke-dried jalapenos – and a load of ancho chile powder which together produce a lovely “smoky heat”. You throw in everything else in your basic bbq sauces – vinegar, ketchup, Worcestershire, honey, etc and, as if that weren’t enough, you add in one more level of flavor by finishing it off with a dollop of creamy peanut butter to round off the sauce and add that little hint of sweet.

just off the grill

My recommendation is that you make extra. I tripled the recipe below due to the number of folks at our place, but also to ensure I had plenty leftover sauce for another night of bbq. I was in love with the sauce on the burgers, no doubt, but also think it’d be absolutely mouthwatering on some grilled chicken, ribs, or pulled pork. It should keep for a couple of months in the fridge. But lock your doors – I’m not afraid to steal yours once mine is all gone 🙂

burger close-up

Beef Burgers w/ Peanut-Chipotle BBQ Sauce
Adapted from Food & Wine, July 2009; serves 4

printable recipe

We served our big burgers n’ buns with a spicy jicama and Napa cabbage slaw and baked sweet potato fries sprinkled with cayenne pepper. And if you can locate heirloom tomatoes, spend the extra buck or so and slap those on your patty as well.

1 T canola oil, + some for brushing
1 onion, diced
2 T fresh ginger, minced

1 c tomato puree
2 T ketchup
1 T red wine vinegar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 T Dijon mustard
2 T honey
2 T molasses
3 T ancho chile powder
1 canned chipotle in adobo, minced*
spoonful of adobo from can
1/2 c water
2 T creamy peanut butter
salt and pepper
4 hamburger buns w/ sesame seeds*
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (preferably 80/20 beef to fat)
1/2 c shredded cheddar
1 scallion, chopped
lettuce & tomato slices (I used butter lettuce & heirloom tomatoes)


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat 1 T oil. Add onion & ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, ~5 min. Add garlic and cook another minute, stirring. Add tomato puree, ketchup, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, honey, molasses, ancho chile powder, chipotle, and water. Bring to simmer and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Transfer to blender or blend with immersion blender in saucepan until smooth. Season with s&p to taste. Note: Can be made well in advance and stored for ~2 months. So make extra!
  2. Form meat into 4 inch thick patties (about 6 oz each) and brush w/ oil Season w/ s&p.
  3. Light grill. Brush buns w/ oil and grill until toasted, about 30 seconds. Spread some bbq sauce on buns.
  4. Grill patties over high heat, turning once, until nearly cooked through, about 5 minutes. Brush burgers with some of the sauce and grill until lightly glazed, about 2 minutes. Top with cheddar & onion and close grill to melt cheese, about 1 minute.

*If you need GF version, be sure to buy San Marcos or La Costena chipotles in adobo sauce. Some others have wheat flour in the ingredients list. Obviously, buns aren’t g-free but those can be purchased if needed.