John Belushi and Dan Akroyd brilliantly brought that timeless skit to life in the early years of Saturday Night Live. However, historically speaking, the first American hamburger was created in 1900 by Louis Lassen; owner of Louis’ Lunch in Connecticut (officially declared so by the Library of Congress in that year). Other rivals have claimed its creation and the hamburger gained national recognition at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri when a New York newspaper attributed the hamburger as “the innovation of a food vendor on the pike”. It is the quintessential American national dish although some would argue that would be the hotdog. In any case, kick off the summer cookout season’s fave with burgers that have personality.
I have prepared burgers with a variety of ground meats ~ turkey (icky), pork, sausage or lamb (too greasy but oh so tasty) and even venison (too dry). When I put together my own patties I like to use a mix of ground beef with 15-20% fat, ground pork and veal, salt, pepper and fresh parsley and grill to medium-rare on the rare side. Top that with lots of cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, sliced tomato and spicy guacamole with pickles on the side for one. There’s always the Big Mac replica ~ two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. This slogan always conjures up sweet childhood memories when McDonald’s was a treat and cost 15 cents for a burger. Oops, dating myself again.
There has been a lot of press in the last few years about contributing factors to obesity in this country especially concerning fast food. However, an occasional red meat delight alone will not make you fat. Yes, they are loaded with calories but also hamburgers happen to be the perfect cure-all for a hangover (Cindy and Jon – you asked how I did it!). Forget the hair of the dog. A greasy burger is guaranteed to make you feel better before THE NAP.
A fun, casual way to entertain is to host a ‘build your own slider’ party. Sliders, the new kid on the block, are adorable mini-size hamburgers that allow you to seriously eat ¼ to ½ lb. of meat at once! Plus you can top each differently to determine which your favorite is. Prepare a few of the following fixin’s, serve with corn on the cob, cold beer and ice cream cones for dessert. How easy is that? The possibilities are endless ~ sure, there are the go-to standards of lettuce, tomato, pickles and let’s not forget the usual condiments mustard and ketchup. But why not kick it up a few notches and in addition to those offer theme burgers. Here are a few suggestions for your fixin’s bar and some recipes.
For a southern twist, serve pickled okra slices (which I am processing as I am writing this post) and a variety of purchased hot sauces. Don’t turn your nose up to okra until you have tried my recipe. I am a huge fan of preserving/canning food ~ not because I fear the end of the world as we know it ~ but because I get tremendous satisfaction from growing my own vegetables. AND I will continue to argue that there is no comparison of store-bought canned tomatoes to my canned vegetables!
ALI’S PICKLED OKRA
3 lbs. small to medium okra pods
- 3 cups water
- 3 cups vinegar
- ¼ cup Kosher salt
- 2 small red chili peppers*, cut in half
- 2 tsp. mustard seeds
- 10-12 sprigs of fresh dill
- 4 cloves garlic
1. Wash the okra and trim the stems.
2. Combine water, vinegar and salt and bring to a boil in a large pot.
3. Pack okra into sterilized pint canning jars.
4. Add ½ chili pepper, ½ tsp. mustard seed, 3 sprigs of dill and 1 garlic clove to each jar.
5. Ladle hot liquid over okra in jars, leaving ¼ inch head space.
6. With a small spatula, remove air bubbles.
7. Seal with canning jar lids.
8. Process jars in boiling-water canner for 15 minutes as per USDA guidelines**
*Use red, hot chili peppers of choice. I like the flavor and heat of jalapeno peppers and chipotle peppers have a smoky jalapeno flavor if you like that. I have also used cayenne peppers.
**When I started canning food years ago, I followed the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing and Dehydration.
Along those lines you can fry up sweet maple-flavored bacon and purchase BBQ sauces – mild to hot. I have been known to smear cocktail sauce loaded with horseradish on my burger but also tartar sauce with ketchup (simply thousand island dressing and extraordinarily tasty). Another dressing could be wasabi mayonnaise or spicy salsa to get your blood flowing and head sweating. Try mine…
Ali’s Pico de Gallo
- 4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large fresh jalapeno pepper, minced
- 1 large sweet banana pepper
- 8 cilantro sprigs
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 T. olive oil
- Splash of red wine vinegar
- Salt/pepper to taste
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
2. Allow salsa to stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.
Finally, my personal favorites are caramelized onions, sautéed wild mushrooms and/or grilled garlic. And always cheese!
Ali’s Grilled Garlic
- 2 garlic heads, whole and unpeeled
- 4 T. olive oil
- Salt/pepper to taste
1. Cut 2 pieces of aluminum foil.
2. Place one garlic head in each piece of foil.
3. Saturate each head with olive oil, season with salt and pepper.
4. Seal the foil, creating a packet with a twisted closing.
5. Cook over hot coals for one hour.
6. Remove garlic, cool slightly.
7. Separate the peel from the garlic and smash cloves for a garlicky spread (the garlic will be very soft and silky).
8. May mix with mayonnaise to ‘tone’ down the garlic flavor if preferred.
Cooking hamburgers on a charcoal grill screams summer to me even though we have been known to grill in the snow. So when the craving strikes and is insatiable, brush off the grill and get the party started!