Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Goat-Cheese-Stuffed Burgers on Focaccia

Meat lovers know how good grilled burgers are, whether cooked outside on the grill or inside in a grill pan. And, of course, the better the beef, the better the burger. If your butcher has lean, responsibly raised, grass-fed beef, go for it. You really can tell the difference. (If “single-ground” beef is available too, even better.)

Single-Ground, Grass-Fed beef
So, if you’re getting quality meat, give it quality accompaniments. That means skipping the typical ketchup, mustard, and pickles in favor of fresh, flavorful, not-so-typical toppings—and stuffing.

Homemade fresh-tomato ketchup is a cinch to prepare and it’s loaded with rich, real-tomato taste. Choose larger tomatoes because they’re easy to peel.

Thin slices of pleasantly tart pickled cucumbers are a great switch from dill spears, and a tangy goat cheese filling ensures cheesy goodness in every bite. (Most of the soft cheese will be absorbed into the meat, but some may seep out as it cooks.)

May as well skip the buns too. Plain or garlic focaccia makes a flavorful substitute. Cut your own squares for the burgers and freeze the rest for later use.

Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar, plus 2 tsp
  • 2 tbsp white sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried red chile flakes
  • 16 very thin slices (about 1/16-inch thick) seedless cucumber
  • 2/3 lb stem tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp chile powder
  • sea salt
  • 3/4 lb ground beef
  • 2 oz goat cheese, room temperature
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil, for brushing
  • 2 4-inch focaccia squares, sliced into tops and bottoms
Slice the Cucumber Very Thinly 
Cucumber Slices 
Tomatoes, Spices, and Paste for the Ketchup
Cut the Squares into Tops and Bottoms
  1. Whisk 1/2 cup vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, fine salt, and chile flakes in a medium bowl until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the cucumber slices, pressing to submerge. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at least 2 hours and up to 4. Drain before serving.
Cucumber in Pickling Brine 
Drained Pickled Cucumbers
  1. Place the tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons vinegar, cinnamon, and chile powder in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a light simmer. 
  2. Reduce the heat to low and cook slowly until the tomatoes break down and the mixture is fairly thick, 20-25 minutes. Remove from the heat, season with salt, and cool completely.
  3. Place the mixture in a food processor and process until pureed. Transfer the ketchup to a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Use right away, or keep refrigerated 2-3 days.
Ketchup Ingredients Ready to Cook
Cooked Ketchup Ingredients
Homemade Ketchup
  1. Divide the ground beef into 4 equal balls and place them on a sheet of waxed paper. Lay a second sheet of waxed paper on top and press the balls into patties, about 1/3-inch thick.
  2. Remove the top sheet of waxed paper and spread or press half the goat cheese on 2 patties. Place the other 2 patties on top and press to adhere. 
  3. Crimp the edges with your fingers and push into round patties. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Divide the Beef into 4 Balls 
Press into Patties with Wax Paper 
Patties with Goat Cheese
Stuffed Burger Patties
  1. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and brush lightly with oil. Grill the burgers for a total of 14-15 minutes, turning 3 to 4 times, until medium-well. (Avoid pressing down too hard on the patties to keep the juices inside. Some of the cheese will seep out.)
Burgers Beginning to Grill
Burgers Halfway Through
Grilled Burgers
Serve the burgers on focaccia topped with ketchup and pickled cucumbers.

Burgers with Toppings
Goat-Cheese-Stuffed Burgers on Focaccia

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