It has been a while since I’ve had creative time in the kitchen; we’ve been in maintenance mode since the end of June. A string of easy, go-to meals became a real lifeline … sometimes dependable, get-it-on-the-table (boring) is what life demands. Yes, even food bloggers have seasons when inspiration is lacking and we rely on taco night. (I have wedged more random ingredients in a flat corn disc over the last two months than I ever imagined possible).
The kitchen is my favorite room in the house, my happy place, but like I said to a friend over coffee a few weeks ago—when life is overwhelmed, cooking is tedious for me too. It is especially so when there isn’t any margin for browsing grocery aisles, thumbing through glossy magazines, or pondering new recipes. I don’t know about you, but when I notice I’m not passionate about something I’m normally passionate about, it is time for a break—a short hiatus to invite creativity and inspiration to return.
Early in the summer, before life was interrupted with fire evacuation and what not, we decided to blend some of our favorite Italian flavors into burger night. Since it is still grilling season, we are sharing our Lil’ Italy Burger for you to enjoy while I am away from blogging these next few weeks. Fresh garden basil and ripe tomatoes are like a jeweled crown for this mushroom and cheese infused beef-prosciutto burger.
I have grown quite fond of adding cheese and savory components directly into the beef instead of waiting to add them as a topping. It’s all there, distinct flavors of Italy—prosciutto, fontina cheese, porcini mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, and fresh basil—in each and every bite. We surrounded ours with toasted Caramelized Onion Sprouted Wheat Buns to catch all the juicy details.
Lil’ Italy Burger
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms , re-hydrated and chopped
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons olive oil , plus more for grilling tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 1/4 pounds ground beef (80/20)
- 1/2 cup fontina cheese , cut into 1/4-inch cubes or coarsely grated
- 4 ounces prosciutto , cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 3 whole Campari or Roma tomatoes , sliced thick
- 20 basil leaves
- 4 buns
- Place porcini mushrooms in a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cold water to remove dirt or debris. In a small bowl, soak mushrooms in 1 cup of red wine to re-hydrate, about 30 minutes (the wine should be room temperature or warmed slightly, not cold).
- Once the mushrooms are hydrated and plump, drain over a measuring cup or bowl to reserve the liquid. Set liquid aside to allow any sediment to settle at the bottom of the bowl. Coarsely chop into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and garlic to a medium skillet and cook over med-low heat until garlic is fragrant. Add mushrooms to the skillet and cook for 1-2 minutes longer. With a small ladle or large spoon, add enough of the reserved mushroom liquid to the pan to loosen any browned bits; be careful to only use the liquid from the top and not to disturb the sediment in the bottom of the bowl.
- Set mushrooms aside until ready to mix into the beef. Mix the pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, and oregano in a small bowl. In a large bowl, loosen the block of ground beef with your fingers and loosely spread it out in the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle the beef with the seasoning mix.
- Add the cheese, prosciutto, and mushrooms to the bowl and gently mix everything into the ground beef. Be sure to not over work the beef during mixing. Shape into patties with a small indention in the center of each patty using your thumb--this will keep the burger from curling or puffing.
- Salt and pepper the sliced tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Grill along side the burgers until just softened.
- Grill burgers over high heat until seared well on both sides and cooked through, roughly 4-5 minutes on each side. If there is room on the grill, toast buttered buns (butter side down) until toasted, while burgers finish. Otherwise, toast once burgers are done.
- Garnish burgers with grilled tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.
I hope you enjoy the last bit of summer with family and friends on the patio or around your table. Hearth & Soul Hop will still appear on Tuesdays (blog friends, add your links!) … otherwise, I’ll see you again in September.