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Garden State Burger with Eggplant Relish, Italian Long Hots & Pancetta

New Jersey is the Garden State and we are famous for our wonderful produce. Among those are the eggplant, Jersey tomatoes and Italian long hots that I used in this recipe. I live in South Jersey, just across the bridge from Philadelphia. South Philadelphia, where my husband was raised & where we lived for 4 years with his parents after we were married, has a huge Italian population. Many of them have moved to South Jersey, along with their foods. This burger is my tribute to the Southern Italians in the area.

Ingredients 

EGGPLANT RELISH:
1-1/2 pounds baby eggplant, peeled & sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large cloves garlic, minced
6 green onions, white & light green parts only, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

PATTIES, ITALIAN LONG HOTS & PANCETTA:
1/2 pound thinly sliced pancetta
6 long hots (long, thin Italian hot peppers)
2 pounds ground beef chuck
1/4 cup Sutter Home Cabernet Sauvignon
4 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fennel seed, ground medium-fine in a spice grinder
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons kosher salt
12 ounces sliced mild provolone cheese
6 round Italian sandwich rolls or ciabatta rolls, split
6 (1/2-inch-thick) slices tomato (preferably Jersey tomatoes)

Instructions 

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

To make eggplant relish, sprinkle eggplant slices with salt and place on grill rack. Grill until softened, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove to a cutting board, let cool slightly, then finely chop. Place in a bowl with all remaining ingredients and set aside at room temperature.

Separate pancetta layers (they needn’t stay intact) and place on a double layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil on the grill. Grill until very crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove and set aside. Cut long hots in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes. Flatten with palm of hand and place directly on grill rack and grill until skins are blackened, turning frequently, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove to a plastic bag for 5 minutes to steam, then remove blackened skin. Cut each pepper in half crosswise.

Place ground chuck, wine and garlic in a arge bowl. Combine the fennel and next 4 ingredients and add to bowl. Handling meat as little as possible, mix well and shape into 6 patties formed to fit the rolls. Brush grill rack with vegetable oil and grill patties to desired degree of doneness, 4 to 6 minutes per side for medium. During last few minutes of grilling time, place cheese on patties to melt. Also during last few minutes of grilling time, lightly toast both sides of rolls on edge of grill. To assemble burgers, spread eggplant relish on cut sides of rolls. Place patties on bottom halves, top with pancetta, long hots and tomatoes and replace roll tops.

Makes 6 burgers.

Comments 

This burger has many layers of flavor, from the spicy burger, to the salty pancetta, creamy eggplant relish and wonderful tomatoes.