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Geno's Genovese Chicken Burger with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Artichokes

Genovese Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a native plant of India, Africa, and Asia that has been used in Europe as a flavoring and medicinal herb since the early Greek civilizations at least 7 centuries before the common era. It is considered the "King of herbs" and is a sign of love in many cultures. In the hot moist climate of summertime Houston, our garden produces bushels of Genovese Basil. To deal with this "burden", we make countless varieties of pesto which, of course, we integrate into the Texas tradition of grilling. Blending the sweet smoky flavor of roasted red bell pepper into a traditional pesto has emerged as an ideal complement to grilled chicken and is a particular favorite of my father Eugene (Geno). Thus was born, "Geno's Genovese Chicken Burger with Roasted Red Pepper Pesto and Artichokes". Buon appetito y'all.

Ingredients 

1 small red bell pepper
2 medium Vidalia or Texas sweet onions
1/2 cup Colavita extra virgin olive oil (2 Tbsp for caramelizing the onions, 4 Tbsp for the pesto and 2 Tbsp to brush on the ciabattini) 2 oz pignoli (pine nuts)
2 oz fresh Genovese basil
4 cloves garlic (2 for the pesto and 2 for the patties)
2 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt (1/2 tsp for the pesto and 2 tsp for the patties)
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper (1 tsp for the pesto and 1 tsp for the patties)
1 oz aged parmigiano-reggiano
6 tablespoons sourdough nibblers crushed for breadcrumbs (approximately 20 pieces)
2 10 oz jars of Colavita country style artichoke hearts
1/4 cup Sutter Home Chenin Blanc
2 pounds ground chicken (preferably ground thighs they're tastier) Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
6 Ciabattini (ciabata rolls), split
1 large beefsteak tomato
12 thin slices of provolone (approximately 9 oz)

Instructions 

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high. Place the red pepper directly on the grill and allow the down side skin to blacken. Turn the pepper and repeat this process until the whole pepper is well charred. Wrap the pepper in foil and set aside to cool. In the mean time, peel the onions and grate a part of one to yield about 6 Tbsp. Place the grated onion and juice in a small bowl and set aside. Chop the remaining onions to a very coarse dice and put in a non-stick frying pan placed on the grill along with 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Sauté the onions slowly, stirring intermittently, until they are lightly caramelized (about 5-6 minutes). Tamp the caramelized onions on a paper towel and set aside to cool. To make the pesto, put the pine nuts in a dry non-stick frying pan placed on the grill and lightly toast the nuts with constant stirring (pay close attention as they will quickly burn if left unattended). Put the toasted pine nuts in a bowl and allow to cool. Pluck the leaves from the basil stalks and wash thoroughly to remove any grit. Dry well on paper towels or in a salad spinner and set aside. Peel the garlic and place 2 cloves into a food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Add the cooled toasted pine nuts and puree with the garlic until the mixture becomes a paste. When the charred red pepper is cool, completely remove the blackened skin, stem and seeds and add to the pine nut mixture in the food processor along with 1/2 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper. Puree until the red pepper is smooth and has melded with the paste. Add the basil leaves and process, stopping as often as necessary to push the unincorporated leaves down into the paste. When all the basil leaves have begun to integrate into the paste, add 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Puree the mixture continuously while slowly adding another 3 Tbsp of oil. When the paste is fully mixed with the oil and has reached a smooth consistency, grate in the parmigiano-reggiano and process until it is just combined. Decant the pesto and place it in a covered container to it prevent from oxidizing (turning browning). To make the patties, grind the pretzels in a food processor until they are the consistency of rough cornmeal. Drain the artichoke hearts and set aside reserving 1/4 cup of the marinade. Crush 2 cloves of garlic in a garlic press and combine in a bowl with the pretzel crumbs, 2 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper, the grated onions, the reserved artichoke marinade, the Chenin Blanc and 6 Tbsp of the pesto. Add the ground chicken to the combined ingredients and mix well, handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions, form each into 1 inch thick patties and coat each with a little vegetable oil to prevent their sticking to each other and the grill rack. Refrigerate the patties for at least 1 hour to fully mature the flavors. Prepare the medium-hot grill by brushing the rack liberally with vegetable oil. Brush the ciabattini rolls with the remaining olive oil and lightly toast the inside surface on the grill. Put the roll halves back together and keep on the grill away from the fire so they stay warm but do not dry out. Cut the beefsteak tomato cross-wise to yield 6 equal slices each about 1/8 inch thick and set aside. Place the patties on the rack and cook covered for 3-4 minutes until browned with nice grill marks. Turn the patties over and top each patty with 1 Tbsp caramelized onion, 3 pieces of artichoke heart and 2 thin slices of provolone. Cook covered for a further 3-5 minutes until internal temperature is 170 degrees Fahrenheit and the cheese has melted. To assemble the burgers, place 1 tomato slice on bottom half of each roll. Place the burger patty covered with the onions, artichokes and cheese on top of the tomato. Divide the remaining pesto and spread on the top half of the rolls. Cover the burgers with the roll tops and serve. Makes 6 burgers

Comments 

The flavors of the aromatic pesto and tangy artichoke hearts complement the richness of the cheese-covered patty. These tastes are accentuated by the cool feel of the tomato and smooth texture of the caramelized onions. The combined effect is a burger that is dazzling and luxurious.