delicious discourse

friday burgers & corn

Posted in recipe by delicious:discourse on September 9, 2008

There really is nothing like ending a long week with a comforting meal in preparation for the leisure of the weekend. This week, even though it was only four days, felt like forever; odd, considering usually getting a magazine ready for press results in a shortage of hours. But, this week would not end, and when it finally did, Matt and I decided to cook an easy, but scrumptious meal in order to celebrate.

I usually make 99 percent of the culinary decisions in our household. This is no secret and I am sure Matt would agree. However, he must be credited with the genius outline of the menu: burgers with grilled corn, cuban style. We hoped to recreate the grilled corn served at Cafe Habana in SOHO that is garnished with chipotle seasoning, cotija cheese, and a lime wedge. In a collaborative spirit, I filled in the details by choosing buffalo burgers with a spinach arugula pesto, fresh mozzarella, and sliced tomato in addition to a spinach salad with dried figs, walnuts, and locally made goat cheese (Pure Luck Farm & Dairy).

There really is no way to describe the satisfaction one simply good meal can provide. I am a very simple cook and I often find the dishes I admire most are simplistic nature. Of course, I have an appreciate for fine cuisine and hours-long processes, but fresh and rustic can really not be beat.

Matt executed the corn beautifully. Consulting Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, Matt peeled back the corn husks keeping them attached and rubbed the ears with butter and seasoned with salt, pepper, and chipotle seasoning. Putting the husks back in place, the corn were placed back on the grill until the kernals were tender, but crisp. To serve, Matt removed the husks and sprinkled the corn heavily with cotija. To serve, we drizzled with lime juice. It could not have been better with the spice of the chipotle and the salty kick of the cotija followed by the sublte citrus of the lime. The only difference between ours and Cafe Habana’s version was grill marks, and that we can easily remedy.

Trying to avoid high-fructose corn syrup in any form, and that includes store-bought ketchup, I needed a burger that would be complete without the traditional tomato paste. This burger not only made my mouth water, but it was aesthetically pleasing with the crisp white, red, and green—it could have been a Christmas burger in September, and in that regard, it truly was a gift. The tablespoons of homemade pesto that you mix into the meat, keep the burger very moist and juicy, while adding tons of flavor from within the heart of the burger. I used bison meat instead of beef, which is by nature leaner and therefore dryer than beef, but this burger oozed that sought-after juice. And yes, it does taste as good as it looks.

I found the burger recipe on

8 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 10 cups packed)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon (packed) finely grated lemon peel
Large pinch of dried crushed red pepper
4 cups (packed) fresh arugula leaves, divided (about 5 ounces)
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 3/4 pounds ground beef (20% fat)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 hamburger buns, split horizontally
6 1/3-inch-thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese
(about 10 ounces)
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
Rinse spinach; drain briefly, then place in large glass bowl. Microwave spinach, uncovered, on high just until wilted, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Drain, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Combine garlic, lemon peel, and crushed red pepper in processor; blend until garlic is finely chopped. Add spinach, 2 cups (packed) arugula, pine nuts, and lemon juice; process until coarse puree forms. With machine running, gradually add oil in thin stream and blend until almost smooth. Mix in cheese. Transfer pesto to small bowl; season with salt.
Do ahead: Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover; chill.
Combine ground beef, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and 6 tablespoons spinach-arugula pesto in large bowl; mix lightly with fingertips or fork just until incorporated. Form meat mixture into six 3/4-inch-thick patties. Place patties on platter.
Do ahead: Beef patties can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill burgers to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Grill buns, cut side down, just until lightly toasted, about 1 minute. Build burgers with pesto, patties, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and arugula. Cover with bun tops.


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