RECIPES: Recipe Details

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Garden State-Grown Burgers ( Arugula-Walnut Pesto Burgers with Grilled Peach Salsa, Jersey Tomatoes, and Herbed Goat Cheese)

The components of these burgers aren't just garden grown; they're Garden State-grown! I live in Nevada now, but I grew up in New Jersey and Texas (how's that for a combination of accents?) People who live outside of New Jersey tend to associate it with "The Sopranos", Newark Airport, and the New Jersey Turnpike. What most people don't realize, however, is that New Jersey is nicknamed "The Garden State" for a very good reason. New Jersey is rich in farm country, growing such produce as beautiful varietals of tomatoes, juicy peaches, herbs, peppers, and sweet corn. Visiting the roadside stands to pick out fresh local produce was one of my favorite things to do on the weekends, and there was always a bountiful crop to select from. New Jersey is one of those lucky states that has 4 distinct seasons, which made the idea of "seasonal ingredients" much more meaningful. This is definitely an American summer burger, not only for New Jersey, but for any area of the country that has good summery produce. It was inspired by an imaginary trip to the local New Jersey farm stand, where peaches, tomatoes, basil, peppers, arugula, and parsley were just picked that morning. Talk about a delicious way to get your vegetables!


For the Herbed Goat Cheese:
1/4 cup finely chopped mixed herbs, such as flat-leaf parsley, basil, and mint
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 (8-ounce) log goat cheese (chevre)

For the Grilled Peach Salsa:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
Salt and pepper
2 large firm ripe peaches, halved and pitted
1 large red pepper, quartered and seeded
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

For the Arugula-Walnut Pesto:
1 cup arugula leaves, packed
1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, packed
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Generous pinch crushed red pepper
1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts, chopped
2/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

For the burgers:
2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 cup Arugula-Walnut Pesto
2 tablespoons Sutter Home Zinfandel
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack

6 thick slices from 2 large beefsteak or heirloom Jersey tomatoes
6 Whole grain, whole wheat, or cracked wheat Kaiser rolls, split
3 cups arugula leaves, loosely packed


(recipe serves 6):
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high heat.

Prepare the goat cheese log: On a flat plate or work surface, combine the mixed herbs and pepper and then spread the mixture over the surface. Roll the goat cheese log in the herb mixture, coating the sides and pressing to adhere. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and chill until ready to use.

Prepare the salsa: In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, mint, basil, and garlic. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir to blend. Brush the cut sides of the peaches with the herb mixture, reserving the rest for later use. Grill the peaches over medium-hot heat, cut sides down, until lightly browned, 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool. Grill the red pepper quarters, peel side down, until charred, 8-10 minutes. Transfer the pepper quarters to a paper bag and let steam for 6 minutes. Peel the peaches and the pepper quarters, chop both ingredients, and transfer to a medium bowl. Add the red onion, Serrano pepper, vinegar, and reserved herb mixture. Toss to blend, cover, and chill.

Prepare the pesto: In a food processor or mini chopper, combine the arugula, basil, parsley, and garlic, and pulse to roughly chop. With the machine running, add the olive oil in a slow stream until the greens are pureed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the chopper as necessary. Add the crushed red pepper, walnuts, cheese, and lemon juice and process until thoroughly blended. Season with salt and pepper.

Prepare the patties: In a large bowl, combine the ground chuck, 1/2 cup pesto, Zinfandel, salt, and pepper and mix well, handling the meat as little as possible to avoid overworking it. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties to fit the buns.

Remove the goat cheese from the refrigerator, and slice 12 (1/4-inch) rounds, using a sharp knife or dental floss. Top each tomato slice with 2 rounds (rounds can be halved to fit the surface of the tomato.)

Grill the patties: Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. During the last few minutes of grilling, place the cheese-topped tomato slices and the cut sides of the rolls around the circumference of the grill. Close the lid to soften the cheese. Remove the rolls when they are lightly toasted.

Assemble the burgers: Spread both cut sides of the rolls with a thin layer of reserved pesto. Divide the arugula among the bottom halves and top with some of the peach salsa (drain the salsa against the side of the bowl to prevent a soggy burger!) Top the salsa with a patty, a cheese-topped tomato, and the top halves of the rolls. Serve immediately!


Other types of heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes may be substituted for Jersey tomatoes.