Sunday, April 29, 2012

LAFF Series #1: The Morsel Burger

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I am taking the opportunity to promote the upcoming Locavore Artisan Food Fair by crafting some burgers that showcase some of the delicious offerings of the LAFF vendors. I won't be able to get all of the vendors in before May 12, but I figured that the local love should continue afterward as well.
It arrived by stork.

The first burger up is the Morsel Burger, named after Morsel Specialty Dessert Catering. Morsel only recently burst onto Ottawa's dessert scene. Owner and baker Robin recently returned from years of travelling the world with her partner, gathering some incredible culinary intelligence along the way. That said, she is as proficient with her more down-home traditional recipes than the exotic ones. So when a freshly baked large zucchini loaf arrived at my door wrapped like a bouquet of flowers, I was overjoyed. Even before making the burger I sampled a "modestly" sized piece. Moderately sweet, moist and full of flavour it was baking excellence in every bite.

The burger was a chicken burger with zucchini pesto, tomato, and sauteed shiitake mushrooms on two slices of Morsel's zucchini bread.  It is a careful balance of sweet and savoury flavours.
It tastes as good as it looks.

Figuring a dessert into a savoury burger was somewhat of a challenge and I have to admit only partially successful. Every foodie fails to achieve their vision from time to time; and while I certainly can't say that the Morsel Burger was a failure - the results were delicious - I will offer some lessons learned in my instructions after the break.

Keep reading!

What you'll need

Makes four burgers with a bit of leftover pesto - you'll need a food processor for this recipe

4 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
3 green onions, dark green parts removed, chopped finely
1 egg
Salt and pepper to season

Zucchini pesto:
1 medium zucchini, sliced into rings
150g raw cashews, toasted until browned (don't buy toasted cashews if they are covered in oil - buy them raw and toast them yourself)
1/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil (you eat the pesto raw, so the quality of the EVOO shows)
Blurs the line between bread, cakes and vegetables
1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves, picked from their stems
1/4 cup shredded parmigiano reggiano (or substitutes like grana padano)

1 loaf of Morsel's zucchini bread (you only need 2 slices per burger, but you'll want to eat the rest of it)
1 beefsteak tomato, cut into thick slices
20 shiitake mushrooms
1 tbsp butter


You can find the recipe for my chicken thigh patties here. The only difference is that the garlic is removed, because it would combat the sweeter profile of this burger.

Make sure when you place the patty on the bread that as little liquid fat as possible comes with it.


The zucchini pesto is straightforward to make with a food processor, but the best way to make it is not to put all the ingredients and blend away. Instead, put the zucchini, basil and cheese in, pulse about 10 times until you have a medium chopped consistency. Slowly add the oil and cashews, alternating between both, until it becomes mostly smooth. I say mostly because there may be some small nutty bits that linger, but that just gives the mixture a good texture. Don't salt the pesto.

You'll have leftovers, unless you just dig in with a spoon.
Ideally your flavour profile will be sweet, nutty and fruity. The only balance to the sweetness comes from the cheese, which also gives it nuttiness. You can use other nuts of course; almonds and pecans will offer sweetness as well. Promise me that if you experiment you'll inform me of the results!


For the mushrooms, melt 1 tbsp butter in a pan and sauté for five minutes on a medium-high heat until they are a rich brown. Carefully remove them from the butter with a slotted spoon; you want to keep residual butter to a minimum. "But why?" you ask, "I love butter!" Well kind reader, here's why.

You have to admit, it's a good looking burger
Morsel's delicious zucchini loaf is wonderfully moist. This allows it to stay fresh for days after, but unfortunately means that if you allow a significant amount of moisture from the burgers and toppings to seep into the bread, it will quickly disintegrate into a zucchini-tinged mess. You have two choices then: eat it open-faced with a fork and knife, or keep your excess moisture to a minimum.

In hindsight the zucchini bread would have been a perfect platform for a veggie burger, which is often lower in moisture.


Zucchini bread
Tomato slice
Zucchini bread

Might have sliced them a bit thick...

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