The inspiration for this post came from last week’s craving: I was really yearning for a fresh, basic tomato sauce before all the good summer tomatoes disappeared. It had to have just a few basic ingredients to be a great, simple sauce: tomatoes (roma), olive oil, garlic and fresh basil. It only needed a little fresh basil, so I was stuck with nearly an entire bunch of basil, wondering what to do with it. Pesto was the obvious answer, and while my recipe would use all of my remaining basil it would also make an abundance of pesto. More than enough for one pasta dish, even two. Within three days I would have to freeze it and before that I was trying to use it in as many dishes as possible. I enjoyed it with raviolis and smeared over plain cream cheese on a bagel (I may even post in the future about how to make pesto cream cheese at home; is there interest in such a recipe?). What else could I use it in? Well, I’d always loved pesto potatoes.
This weekend is a long weekend for Americans: Labor Day weekend, where most of us also get Monday off and for many a last official chance to grill. Of course I had to get in on the fun. Since I already had the pesto potatoes planned out as my starch I decided to let the flavors of Italy inspire my burger as well. Thus the "Italian" Burger was conceived. I flavored my burger with a zesty, herbed tomato sauce concentrate and topped it with fresh mozzarella and some grill roasted grape tomatoes. The result was a fabulously flavorful burger that was a great compliment to the pesto potatoes. Whether it's the last of the grill weather for you and you'll have to be making these in a pan indoors, or you live in a climate where you can grill this time of year, you have got to give these a try. I roasted about 4 - 5 grape tomatoes per burger on skewers by brushing them lightly with olive oil and seasoning with salt & pepper before grilling them over direct medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side.
"Italian" Burgers with Tomato & Herb Concentrate
Makes 6 patties
2 lbs ground chuck
3 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
1. Make the tomato sauce concentrate: in a small saucepan over the lowest heat, sweat garlic in olive oil for approximately 2 minutes to infuse the oil. When the smell of garlic fills up the house, add basil and oregano. Cook for another 2 minutes.
2. Add tomato paste, 1/2 cup of water and salt, to taste. Stir to thoroughly combine.
3. Reduce over the laziest simmer for about 15 minutes.
4. Remove concentrate from heat and allow to cool completely.
5. In a medium bowl, very gently mix together ground chuck and tomato sauce concentrate. As delicately as possible, form into 6 equal patties.
6. Brush grill with olive oil and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Flip and add sliced mozzarella. Cover the grill and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Serve on a toasted bun and topped with roasted tomatoes. Goes really well with pesto potatoes.