Summer's start lurks just around the corner, so it's time to figure out your Memorial Day weekend cookout menu. Everyone loves burgers, of course, but perhaps it's time to come up with some exciting burger options to shake up the usual spread.
To do so, we turned to a new cookbook called Burger Parties by James McNair and Jeffrey Starr (Ten Speed Press, $19.99). Inside the 192-page paperback, filled with festive food photos, are recipes that include winners from Sutter Home Winery's annual Build a Better Burger Recipe Contest and Cook-Off. We picked an Italian delight and a seaside-inspired sandwich from among alternative burger winners, as well as an intriguing fresh slaw and a dessert guaranteed to become a summertime favorite.
Get your family in the kitchen to help prepare the burger patties, salad and sweet treat -- there are plenty of easy duties to share. Most have do-ahead steps, leaving you time to enjoy the company coming to your holiday weekend celebration.
Orange State swordfish burgers with tangy apple tartar sauce
Wakefield, R.I., resident Valerie Szlatenyi created this recipe to win the 2008 Alternative Burgers People's Choice Award in burger contest. This popular summertime creation is healthful, particularly paired with the cool, tart fennel slaw. If you can't find Portuguese rolls, any freshly baked soft roll will suffice.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped bread-and-butter pickles
1/3 cup chopped tart apple (such as Granny Smith)
1 teaspoon McCormick Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 pounds swordfish filets, finely chopped
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1/4 cup crushed cornflakes
1/4 cup chopped bread-and-butter pickles
1/4 cup minced sweet onion
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill
5 teaspoons McCormick Old Bay Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 Portuguese sweet rolls, split
2 cups shredded fresh lettuce
1. Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover or preheat a gas grill to medium high.
2. To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to blend thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until assembling the burgers.
3. To make the patties, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently. Form the mixture into 6 patties of equal size to fit the rolls.
4. Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover and cook, turning just once, until opaque throughout, about 4 minutes per side. During the last few minutes of cooking, place the rolls, flat side down on the outer edges of the grill to toast lightly.
5. To assemble the burgers, place on each roll bottom an equal amount on lettuce, a patty and tartar sauce. Add roll tops and serve.
Fennel and jicama slaw with citrus dressing
2 bulbs fennel with fronds
1 small jicama (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into julienne (about 6 cups)
1/2 cup sliced (1-inch long) chives
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup orange liqueur (or 1 tablespoon orange zest)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
Kosher or coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Remove the fronds from the fennel and chop enough to yield 1/4 cup; set aside.
2. Core the fennel bulbs and slice very thinly. Transfer to a serving bowl along with the chopped fronds. Add all remaining ingredients, including salt and pepper to taste, and toss to mix. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Toss again just before serving.
Little Italy sausage burgers
This 2007 winner for Best Alternative Burger in the Sutter Home contest was the creation of Rebecca Reese in Henderson, Nev. You'll like its pure Italian flavors, which would pair well with a simple white-bean salad you can throw together with fresh basil, Roma tomatoes, green onion and vinaigrette.
For the buns
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup bottled red wine vinaigrette
9 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 6 slices
6 bun-size pieces of focaccia, sliced horizontally
6 thin slices red onion
2 cups coarsely shredded romaine lettuce
1 pound ground pork
1/2 cup chopped pickled pepperoncini
1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
1/2 cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Prepare a medium-hot charcoal grill with a cover or preheat a gas grill to medium high.
2. Combine the mayonnaise and vinaigrette in a small bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until assembling the burgers. Set other burger garnish aside.
3. To make the patties, combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Form the mixture into 6 patties of equal size to fit the focaccia buns.
3. Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover and cook, turning once, until done, about 4 minutes on each side. During the last few minutes of cooking, place the mozzarella slices on the patties to melt, and place the bread pieces, cut side down, on the outer edges of the grill to toast lightly.
4. To assemble the burgers, spread the mayonnaise mixture on the cut sides of the bread. On each bread bottom, place a patty, onion slice and a portion of the lettuce. Add bread tops and serve.
Key lime puddings
Prettier than the traditional Key lime pie, this easy recipe offers a happy blend of tartness and crunch with a sweet finish. If you don't see Key or Mexican limes in the grocery, you can use the regular limes found in the produce section. Fresh limes are always preferable to bottled Key lime juice.
4 egg yolks (see note, below)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (Key or Mexican limes are best)
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh lime zest
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups crushed crisp sugar or coconut cookies
6 thin lime slices for garnish
1. Place the egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until pale yellow. (Note: if you're worried about using raw eggs, use pasteurized eggs, sold in the egg section of your grocery store.) Add the milk, juice and zest and whisk until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 4 hours or overnight.
2. Pour the cream into a bowl and beat with a whisk or electric mixer just until the cream begins to thicken. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the cream holds its shape well. Be very careful not to overbeat if using an electric mixer.
3. Layer the cookie crumbs, lime pudding and cream into 6 (6-ounce) glasses or dishes, dividing evenly. Refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 1 hour. Garnish with lime slices and serve chilled.