Burgers don’t have to be bland and boring, Dee Dee says

Posted Tuesday, May. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Hamburgers can be so much more than the traditional ones we all grew up with. If we allow ourselves to explore new "hamburger horizons," we may find a keeper. Weather permitting, you'll find one of the Thompson men outside grilling:either over a charcoal kettle or on our wonderful propane grill. By adding a few variations, one can make this dinner more interesting.

With the last burst of cold air behind us, let's hope our weather will become more spring- like. The tomato plants already have tiny tomatoes, the peppers are holding their own and the okra is ready for thinning. It's time to replace those worn out flowers that rewarded us in the colder weather, like snapdragons and pansies. I located a flat of sweet potato vine in the lime green shade, as well as three shades of bronze-leafed begonias which I am planting this weekend. Plant nurseries are full of some of the most beautiful plants and garden decorations. It's fun just to walk around, come home and get inspired to try new things in the garden!

There's no denying that burgers taste best when when cooked on a char-grill. Our son likes to build a charcoal fire and get the flames just right before adding the burgers. I have to confess I've never attempted that. I barely do propane grilling. One can also fry or broil a good hamburger.

If you can grind your own beef, that's a real tasty treat, but most of us count on our favorite meat market to provide the right selection. We prefer to buy grass-fed beef because of no added hormones or additives.

The Classic

1 pound, 12 ounces well-trimmed, coarsely ground beef, chilled

1 onion, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 slices American-style cheese

1 cup shredded ice-burg lettuce leaves

2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 onion, sliced

We like to add the diced onion to the meat before grilling for an extra good flavor. We season the meat with salt and pepper to taste. Chill the meat for at least an hour, then form the meat/onion mixture into patties, depending on how thick you want to make the patties. Grill for at least 3-4 minutes on each side. We use a meat thermometer for safety, getting the temperature just right. Butter the buns and toast under the broiler and add all the condiments desired. Place the cheese on top when the meat is ready to take off the grill, so it doesn't completely melt away. Add mayo, mustard or cats-up to the buns.

Italian Veal Burger

These are fantastic and served on Ciabatta bread instead of hamburger buns.

1 pound, 12 ounce coarsely ground veal

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

2 Tablespoons basil pesto (can buy it a good deli or Central Mkt. or get a recipe and make your own)

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/3 cup finely chopped black olives

1 red bell pepper, halved, de-seeded, and finely chopped

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Options: Top the burger with romaine or arugula leaves and shaved Parmesan cheese.

Combine all the hamburger ingredients in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of water, mix together well and chill for one hour. Season the mix to taste and divide into desired sized burgers and cook for 6-8 minutes-until cooked to correct meat temperature for veal. Toast the Ciabatta bread and spread the basil pesto on the bread and top with tomato slices. One can add shaved Parmesan cheese and Romaine lettuce or arugula leaves.

Thompson's Giant Cheeseburgers

1 1/2 cups shreded Monterey Jack cheese (about 8 ounces)

1 small can (2 and 1/4 ounces) chopped black olives

1/8 teaspoon red pepper sauce (We use Tabasco.)

1 3/4 ground beef

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 whole wheat hamburger buns

Melted butter (about 1/2 stick)

Combine cheese, olives and red pepper sauce; mix well. Divide mixture evenly and shape into six balls. Mix ground beef with onion, salt and pepper; shape into 12 thin patties. Place a cheese ball in center of 6 patties and top each with a second patty. Seal edges of each patty to enclose cheese ball. Lightly oil grid. Grill patties on covered grill, over medium-hot briquets (We use Kingsford.) Grill 5-6 minutes on each side or until done. Split buns, brush with melted butter and place cut-sides down on grill to heat through. Serve cheeseburgers on buns. One can also add lettuce, tomato, etc.

• Next week, let's look at some more very tempting and different hamburger options. I'll feature the Mikester's "secret" barbecue sauce.

Meanwhile, let's enjoy our garden planting days, before it gets too hot to be out there in the late afternoon.

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