You can build a better burger – yes, you can

Barb Randall’s Oregon Harvest Burger with Rosemary Aoili.

Labor Day is approaching, and with it, the end of the official barbecue season. Have your last meals prepared on the grill leave your guests wanting more by building a better burger this Labor Day.

I twisted the arms of Review Editor Martin Forbes, his wife Carolyn and Review and Tidings Reporter Cliff Newell to eat what I hoped would be better burgers. I wanted their opinions on my entries in the Sutter Home Wine 'Build a Better Burger' contest.

The contest submissions were to showcase local foods or represent the area where you live or grew up. You could enter either the beef or the alternative burger category; competitive creature that I am, I entered each.

My beef category submission calls for spiking beef with Pinot Noir, and serving the beef between grilled zucchini and Portabella mushroom caps, layered atop grilled Como bread. Holding all the layers together is an earthy aioli fragrant with grill roasted garlic and fresh rosemary. As you might expect, it is easiest to eat this burger with a knife and fork.

My alternative category entry is a tribute to our Russian-German heritage and calls for ground pork and ground beef sprinkled with caraway seeds. A mixture of grilled onion, bacon, Swiss cheese and sour cream is enveloped between two meat patties and grilled to perfection. Served on whole wheat buns with spicy brown mustard topped with sauerkraut, these are burgers our dear Granny Kottkamp would have made.

Want to send off summer with a memory making meal? Call in your own crew of taste testers and aim to build a better burger this Labor Day. You are limited only by your imagination and tastebuds!

Bon Appetit! Eat something new!

Oregon Harvest Burger

with Rosemary Aioli

Serves 6

The inspiration for this burger came from a sneaky zucchini that hid until it had reached gargantuan proportions. Slicing it into rounds before grilling it, it lays between the grilled Como bread and the burger. Topping the burger is a mushroom cap laced with Sutter Home Pinot Noir. To keep this local, use an Oregon pinot.

For aioli:

1 head garlic

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced

1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat grill to high heat. Cut top 1/3 off the garlic head and wrap in foil. Place on the grill to roast for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the garlic is soft to a gentle squeeze with tongs. Remove from heat, unwrap and allow to cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic out of the bulb into a small bowl; you should have about one tablespoon. Add the mayonnaise, rosemary and olive oil and stir to mix well. Set aside.

For vegetables:

6 portabella mushrooms, stems removed and chopped

½ cup Sutter Home Pinot Noir

1 3 ½ to 4 inch in diameter zucchini

olive oil

For burgers:

2 pounds ground beef

¼ cup Sutter Home Pinot Noir

1 tablespoon Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary

6 ½ inch slices Como bread

olive oil

To grill vegetables, remove the stems from the mushrooms; chop the stems fine and put in a large bowl for mixing the burger ingredients.

Place the mushroom caps in a shallow bowl or pie plate and pour ½ cup pinot noir over them. Allow to marinate for 20 to 30 minutes.

Wash and slice the zucchini crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds. Brush lightly with olive oil and place on the hot grill with the foil wrapped garlic. Grill until grill marks appear and zucchini softens, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and grill second side until nicely colored and soft, about 3 to 5 more minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the mushrooms on the grill gills down. Brush olive oil on the bread and place it on the grill at the same time. Toast the bread on one side until golden brown, about 3 mintues. When mushrooms are soft and starting to become fragrant, flip to the cap side. Continue grilling until soft and aromatic, about 7 to 10 minutes total.

Meanwhile, add beef, pinot noir, Worcestershire, thyme, rosemary and black pepper to the mushroom stems in the bowl and mix well by hand. Form 6 4-inch diameter patties and place on grill to cook as the other items finish. Grill for 3 or 4 minutes on first side, checking for deep brown color before turning to cook second side for another 4 to 5 minutes.

To assemble burger, place one slice of Como bread on a work surface. Spread with aioli and place 1 or 2 slices of zucchini on the bread, top with the burger and a then spread another dollop of aioli on the meat before topping with the mushroom cap.

Either arrange on an individual plate or platter and serve with a knife and fork for easiest eating.


The Granny Kottkamp Burger

Serves 6

These burgers are reminiscent of the food my husband's Russian-German Granny used to make - she used lots of onions, bacon and sour cream. Easy and delicious!

For the filling:

1 small onion, peeled and cut into rings

2 strips bacon

4 ounces grated Swiss cheese

1 tablespoon sour cream

For the burgers:

1 pound ground pork

1 pound ground beef

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

½ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce

6 whole wheat hamburger buns

1 ½ cups drained sauerkraut

Spicy brown mustard

Preheat your grill to medium heat. Place the bacon and onion slices on the grill; watch carefully so bacon doesn't burn. Turn bacon after 1 minute and cook the second side. When done, remove from heat; cool and crumble into a small bowl. Continue grilling the onions until they are soft and grill marks appear, about 3 minutes, then turn and grill on second side, about 3 more minutes. Remove and allow to cool; then chop small and place in bowl with bacon. Add grated cheese and sour cream and mix well.

Increase heat to high and oil grill.

Mix pork, beef, caraway seeds, pepper and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl and combine well by hand. Form 6 equal sized balls of meat and divide each ball into two equal sections.

On a bake sheet lined with waxed paper, place half of one ball into a 4 inch round, about 1/3 inch thick, add 1 heaping tablespoon of the onion bacon mixture to the center of the patty. Flatten the other half of the meat between your hands and top mixture with second patty, sealing the onion bacon mixture between the two patties. Form the rest of the patties in the same manner.

Toast buns on grill. Remove from heat when golden.

Place patties on the hot grill for about 4 minutes, until you can tell they will not break when you flip them over. Flip and continue cooking for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

To assemble the burgers, spread brown mustard on top and bottom of buns, add the patty and top with sauerkraut.

Granny would approve serving these burgers with German potato salad or cole slaw with a still-warm slice of homemade apple pie.


Randallwelcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at [email protected] .