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Cal-Ital Burgers with Blue Cheese and Basil Guacamole

I find that when I grill I tend to gravitate to bold fresh flavors, probably due to having grown up in southern California with its abundance of fresh produce. These juicy beef burgers, with their decided influences from both California and Tuscany, make for great eating. Wine-steeped wild mushrooms, fragrant rosemary and a bite of spicy ancho chili give these burgers great taste and texture. Traditional guacamole goes one better with the addition of creamy Gorgonzola, fresh basil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Definitely worth firing up the grill for!


2 small ripe California avocados, diced
1 tablespoon Colavita Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar
2 ounces creamy Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup Sutter Home Pinot Noir or Sutter Home Zinfandel
1 package (0.5 ounce) dried porcini mushrooms
2 pounds ground chuck
1 tablespoon roasted garlic puree (or 2 garlic cloves, pressed)
2 teaspoons dried ancho chili pepper
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Colavita Olive Oil, for brushing the grill rack and the rolls
6 ciabatta or Kaiser rolls, split
24 arugula leaves
6 thin red onion slices, separated into rings


Preheat a gas grill to medium-hot or prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover.

To make the Blue Cheese and Basil Guacamole: Mash together avocado, vinegar, blue cheese, basil, and salt. Cover and chill until ready to use.

To make the patties: Heat wine in a small, heavy fire-proof saucepan on the grill rack until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the dried mushrooms; let stand 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms and chop. Combine beef, mushrooms, garlic, ancho chili pepper, rosemary, and salt in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly, handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it. Shape into 6 patties to fit the rolls.

When the grill is ready, brush the grill rack with oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, until done to preference, 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium. Brush cut sides of rolls with oil and place, cut sides down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly during last 2 minutes of grilling.

To assemble the burgers: Spread the guacamole over the cut sides of the rolls. On each roll bottom, place 4 arugula leaves, a patty, and an onion slice. Add the roll tops and serve. Makes 6 burgers


Fresh and packed with flavor, all the ingredients are readily available at any well-stocked supermarket.