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Espresso Burger with Grilled Fennel and Blood Orange Mayonnaise

The Espresso Burger with Grilled Fennel and Blood Orange Mayonnaise is inspired by a vivid childhood memory. My grandfather, Saverio, is smiling at me across the kitchen table after yet another glorious meal prepared by my grandmother, Emilia. In the light from the round fluorescent tube on the ceiling, and with the summer sounds of the small city at the window, he is preparing his after dinner ritual. He has before him a small steaming cup of strong dark espresso and an equally small clear glass of aromatic anise liqueur. He is also carefully peeling an orange while holding a lit cigar between his fingers. The combined fragrances were at once potent, mysterious and inviting. My burger combines spiced beef with the magically heady aromas of espresso and anise. The satisfyingly insistent bite of black pepper and arugula complement the refreshing relief of orange kissed mayonnaise. This is a captivating combination like no other.


Blood Orange Mayonnaise
1/4 cup Mayonnaise
2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1 small Blood Orange, peeled, sectioned, seeded (if any), roughly chopped and zested.
Espresso Rub
2 tablespoon espresso coffee beans, finely ground
2 tablespoon black pepper, freshly ground
Patties 2 lb ground round
1/4 cup Zinfandel
24 green cardamom pods, shelled and finely ground
1/4 cup shallot finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
2 small Fennel bulbs, quartered lengthwise, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
Fresh Mozzarella, 12 Ciliegine size, each halved
6 poppy seed rolls sliced horizontally
3 bunches Arugula trimmed, washed and dried


Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high. To make the Blood Orange Mayonnaise thoroughly mix the mayonnaise, mustard, paprika and chopped orange sections in a small bowl. Reserve zest. To make the Espresso Rub combine the espresso and black pepper in a dish and mix well. To make the Patties, in a medium bowl combine the ground round, zinfandel, cardamom, shallot and salt. Handle the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting and breaking the fibers, yet mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties to fit the rolls. Place patties on a large platter and spread 1 teaspoon Espresso Rub on each side, pressing into meat, turn and repeat on other sides. Make a ¼” deep indent with your thumb in the center of one side to keep the patty flat during grilling. Brush the fennel slices with the olive oil. When the grill is ready, brush the rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the hotter center of the grill, and the sliced fennel at the edges, cover, and cook. Turn patties once, 4 minutes on each side for medium. After turning the patties, top each with 4 slices Mozzarella and cover to melt the cheese. Turn fennel slices and remove after well marked by grill. When the patties are done remove from the heat and let rest. Place rolls, cut side down, on the grill to toast lightly. To assemble, place 1/2 bunch arugula leaves on each cut roll bottom. Spoon on a generous amount of Blood Orange Mayonnaise. Next place a patty on each and top with slices of grilled fennel. Sprinkle with reserved orange zest, add the roll tops and serve.


This recipe makes 6 unbelievably good burgers. If Blood Oranges are unavailable substitute Navel or Valencia oranges.