Friday, March 23, 2012

What's for dinner? The March Burger

Canadians have been talking about how this past winter was the winter that wasn't. We've experienced an incredible March so far, with temperatures reaching into the high 20's and keeping mild and dry at night. Visitors might erroneously believe that Ottawa is temperate. In honour of this exceptional weather, I decided to make a burger to toast spring.

Historically, not much is seasonal in March because we are supposed to be buried under snow at this time. When designing a burger for spring, my mind immediately went to the spring-iest of foods - asparagus - because beef and asparagus in one mouthful is profound on the palate. Sadly, the local asparagus crop hasn't hit my grocery store's shelves yet, so I opted for microgreens instead.

I used to think that microgreens were pretty ridiculous. They grow in this sci-fi nutritional paste and require silly amounts of effort to grow for their size. Carnivore-types will view them with great suspicion: they're a bitter, nutritious, impractical food that hearkens the hippie movement. They serve a culinary purpose of course; microgreens inspire the flavour of the fallow field. So it's with this mind that I used them as the key flourish of the burger.


Burger after the break.


The March Burger

An organic beef patty topped with ricotta cheese, garlic, fresh basil and young broccoli sprouts, served on an Art-Is-In dynamite white baguette.

The key to good ingredients is that they look delicious even before prep

You'll need:

(Serves 4)
454g / 1 lb ground lean organic beef (I used Field Gate Organics this time)
6 cloves garlic - skins on
8 leaves fresh basil - chopped roughly (this is your "lettuce")
200g ricotta cheese
100g young broccoli sprouts
1 baguette - sliced to appropriate width for your patty
1 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper to season

A couple of notes first:
  • Don't buy extra lean meat unless you want to add a binder to make your burger. You'll just end up trading fat for carbs or fat for other fat, so just stick with the beef's natural fat as your binder.
  • You can use low-fat ricotta for this recipe - you won't lose anything by doing so.
  • I realize that broccoli sprouts aren't exactly the easiest things to come by. I rely on my local Farm Boy for a variety of microgreens from Aquafuchsia. You can substitute the broccoli sprouts for any similar microgreen, such as alfalfa or onion. Each will have a slightly different flavour profile, but they all suggest spring.
  1. First, heat the olive oil in a small pan on medium heat. Fry your garlic cloves in the skins until you see them turn a deep brown. Turn occasionally to prevent burning. When ready, remove them from the pan and let them cool enough to handle without burning yourself. They will easily slip out of the skin when pinched. Place the naked clove on a cutting board and press with the flat of a knife. It will smoosh without resistance. (See pic below)
  2. In a bowl, stir the garlic into the ricotta. You can pour the remainder of that lovely garlic oil from the pan in too. Lightly salt the mixture.
  3. Now make your patties. Divide the beef into four balls and then shape them into a patties. Season with a bit of a sea salt and black pepper. Keep them in the fridge while you go about and do your other stuff. Bear with me, I'm not a practiced recipe writer.
  4. Wash your hands. Don't bother moisturizing, you'll be touching the meat again.
  5. If you are using microgreens, chances are they are growing in a nutritional paste. With a sharp knife, cut the stems of the sprouts as close to the base as possible.
  6. Cook your patties. Time will depend on cooking method - a grill pan will require five minutes a side, a hot BBQ slightly less. Just ensure that for safety reasons your burgers are cooked through - a little pink is okay but red is not.
  7. Now assemble! From bottom to top: bun base, patty, ricotta mixture, sprouts, basil, bun top.
Fried garlic: in skin / out of skin / smooshed.
I grilled some sweet potato fries to go on the side. They're simple enough: keep the skins on, microwave for four minutes first if you're impatient, ensure even cook time, smoked paprika if you're feeling sassy. We paired the burger with a glass of Beau's All-Natural IPA. It's one of their seasonals, so if you can't get your hands on one, find any hoppy offering from a craft brewery near you.

Ain't she a beaut?
There you have it, your very own March Burger. Despite the name it is appropriate to eat all year round, although if we're buried under snow next March you might have trouble envisioning its springicity.

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