RECIPES: Recipe Details

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Sicilian Salt of the Earth Burgers with Gorgonzola Mayo and Apple-Spice Caponata

I created this burger not only to represent the northeast but also to honor my dad. My dad was so very proud to be Italian and he often said that the very best part of me came from Sicily. However, I was raised in an Italian neighborhood in NJ. My dad was a hard working man who lived his American dream of providing a higher education for his 5 children; something he never had. In addition to loving his family, my dad loved to cook and garden. He raised as much of his food as possible. In the garden state of New Jersey he loved digging in the earth and showing off his eggplants, tomatoes, herbs and whatever else he was growing. Nothing ever went to waste. In fact, I think he may have been the original organic gardener as he composted whatever we didn’t eat to enrich the soil and only used local chicken or rabbit manure for fertilizer.

My dad is gone now and I live in Connecticut. The apple and nutmeg in the caponata recipe is a bit of a twist and nod to my home. Connecticut is nicknamed "the nutmeg state" and the apple has been honored as the state fruit. Our local orchards grow many varieties of deliciously sweet and tart crisp apples. I think my dad would have been really proud of my creation.

Ingredients 

Gorgonzola Mayonnaise

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Apple-Spice Caponata

1 large eggplant peeled and diced (about 2 1/2 cups diced)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 cup Colavita olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 apples, cored, peeled, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 (14 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped pimento stuffed olives
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 to 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup Sutter Home Merlot

Sicilian Salt of the Earth Burgers
1 pound ground chuck
1 pound ground sirloin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup day old Italian bread crumbs moistened with 2 tablespoons of milk
1 1/2 cups crumbled gorgonzola cheese
2 cloves finely minced or pressed garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley

vegetable oil for greasing grill rack
6 ciabatta rolls, split
6 crisp romaine lettuce leaves
Sicilian Sea Salt (I use McCormick’s)

Instructions 

For gorgonzola mayonnaise combine all ingredients in a bowl; cover and chill. For apple-spice caponata, toss the diced eggplant in a colander with 2 tablespoons of salt shaking the colander to coat the eggplant evenly with the salt. Set the colander on a plate and put a second plate inside the colander so it is in direct contact with the eggplant. Place a weight, such as some heavy canned goods on the plate so the plate will press down on the eggplant. Set aside for 30 minutes (The purpose is to squeeze some of the sometimes bitter juices out of the eggplant. Rinse the eggplant in fresh water and squeeze dry. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large grill-safe skillet over medium-high heat. Cook eggplant until golden brown; push to the side of the skillet. Add 2 more tablespoons of oil. Add onions, apples and celery; cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring, until onions are softened. Add tomatoes, olives, capers, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and wine. Cook, uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes or until relish consistency. Season with salt and additional sugar, if needed. Set aside until burgers are ready. Can be made the night before and is delicious warm or chilled. Preheat a gas grill to medium high. To prepare burgers, combine both ground beefs with the salt, pepper, moistened bread crumbs, cheese, garlic and parsley and mix together gently but thoroughly. Form into 6 patties to fit the size of the rolls. Grill patties on a lightly greased grill rack over direct medium heat 4 to 6 minutes per side or to desired doneness. During last few minutes of grilling time toast cut sides of rolls on grill. Spread the bottom half of each roll with gorgonzola mayonnaise. Top with lettuce, a burger and a generous portion of caponata. Sprinkle very lightly with Sicilian sea salt. Cover with roll tops. Makes 6 servings.

Comments 

Sicilian sea salt is a finishing salt. It has a nice little crunch to it.