Summer’s here. Great grilled burgers are back!


The Great American Burger is a treat whose history goes back to a rather unpleasant individual who created this type of meat in a rather unpleasant way.

It seems that Genghis Khan and his Mongol marauders liked their meat soft and tender. To soften the sinewy meats of the time, they would place pieces on the backs of their horses, under the saddle, and then ride all day. The bouncing and heat would soften the fibers of the meat and when they stopped, they would enjoy the softened meat. This technique was carried to Russia and beyond and steak tartare was born.

This concept of tenderized meat migrated through the centuries to Germany. Rather than sit on the meat to soften it, the butchers of Hamburg would shave the tougher cuts of meat and form the pieces into flat shapes which they would sell as Hamburg Steak which customers then roasted. Often, the Hamburg steak was rolled around a filling of vegetables or onions and people would eat this with their hands. Eventually, someone thought to put the meat into a loaf of bread. 

The idea of this softened meat was taken across the sea to the New World. Rumor has it that in 1884, the Delmonico restaurant offered their version, the Delmonico steak on their menu. Research has shown, however, that the company that printed those menus was not in business until several years later. 

It seems many want to lay claim to the iconic American fare as their own. Louis’s Lunch in New Haven claimed that the modern burger was created by their cook who once put a broiled meat patty on a dinner roll for a hurried customer. Another story says that an innovative young man in Wisconsin was having a hard time selling his meatballs, so he smashed two of them together between sliced bread and sold it as a sandwich. Another story says that the burger was created in 1884 at a fair in Hamburg, NY, when a vendor ran out of sausages. He added brown sugar, coffee grounds and other things to some meat, fried it and sold it as a “Hamburg.”

Whatever the origin, the burger is today’s most popular meat meal, especially in the summer. Keep grilling and enjoying the outdoors.

Best burger practices

Wet hands with cold water and loosely pack the meat, quickly forming a burger that is about one-inch thick. Repeat as needed, using cold, wet hands each time.

If possible, refrigerate the meat for an hour after forming patties. 

•Heat the grill to high and oil the grates.

•Brush both sides of the meat lightly with olive or Canola oil.

•Place burgers on the hottest part of the grill and ignore them for 3 to 5 minutes. This allows a crust to form and the meat to move easily.

•Flip the burgers and cook until desired doneness. 

•Let rest for 5 minutes so the juices can absorb into the meat. 


Onions and Garlic and Burgers. Oh Boy! (Meat)

•1 Tbsp. Canola oil

• 1 leek, 2-3 inches of white

• 1 yellow onion, minced

• 3 to 6 cloves garlic

• 1 bunch scallions, all but last three inches of green tops

• 2 large red onions 

• 2-1/2 pounds ground beef, chicken or turkey

• Salt and pepper to taste

Trim the leek, wash and cut into inch-long pieces. Peel and cut the yellow onion into chunks and the scallions into pieces. Place all in the bowl of a food processor. Add garlic and pulse until finely chopped.

Heat a large skillet and add the canola oil. Add the onion mixture and sauté over low heat until the onions are softened. Let cool. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Can be made one day in advance.

Place the meat in a large bowl and add the onion mixture. Mix gently. Form into 10 patties. Slice the red onions and brush each side with Canola or olive oil.

Turn the grill on high and oil the grates. Place the patties and the red onions on the grill ignore for about 4 to 6 minutes. Flip burgers gently and cook until desired doneness. Grill onions until they are slightly charred. Flip and cook the other side. Serve burgers with grilled onions. Makes 10 burgers.

Mushroom Ragout for Burgers (Meat)

Just a bit on each burger elevates a grilled burger to a gourmet steak dinner!

• 3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

• 12 oz. assorted mushrooms, finely chopped 

• 2 large shallots, finely diced

• 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced

• 3 large Portobello mushroom caps, peeled, gills removed, thinly sliced

• 2 to 4 Tbsp. dry red or masala wine

• 2 Tbsp. pareve, trans-fat-free margarine

• 1 Tbsp. unbleached flour

• 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

• Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large pan and add the olive oil. Add the shallots and the garlic. Sauté until soft and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms. Sauté until the juices are bubbling in the pan. Add the sliced Portobello mushrooms and sauté until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the wine and mix well.

Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, melt the pareve margarine and add the flour. Whisk until bubbly and lightly golden, 2 to 4 minutes. Add the mixture to the mushrooms and mix well. Continue cooking until thickened and fragrant. If too thick, add more wine or some water. Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Use as a topping on the burgers.

Makes about 3 cups.

Cabernet Sauvignon Burgers with Shallots and Mushrooms (Meat) 

This is a fantastic burger that will delight adults.

• 1 bottle Cabernet Sauvignon wine

• 2/3 cup shallots, minced

• 9 Tbsp. unsalted Pareve margarine, softened

• 2 tsp. brown sugar

• 1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary or parsley, if you do not care for rosemary

• 1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms

• 2 to 3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1-1/2 pounds ground beef

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. black pepper

• 1/2 cup pareve, unflavored, breadcrumbs

• 3 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 extra-large egg

• Canola oil

• 6 pareve focaccia rolls. 

Place the wine and minced shallots in a medium, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the wine is reduced to about 3/4 cup. Remove from heat and add one tablespoon margarine and the sugar. Stir till melted. Set aside.

Mix the rest of the margarine with the rosemary or parsley and set aside.

Place the meat in a large bowl and add the egg, garlic, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup of the shallot wine mixture. Form into 6 patties, brush lightly with vegetable oil, and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the mushrooms. Sauté until they turn golden. Add 1 to 2 Tbsp. of the shallot sauce to the mushrooms and heat through. Set aside.

Heat the grill to medium high heat. Grill burgers, basting them with the remaining wine/shallot mixture.

Brush the cut halves of rolls or focaccia bread with the margarine/ rosemary mixture and grill until golden. Serve burgers with the sautéed mushrooms, sliced tomatoes and baby field greens.

Serves 6.

Hot and Spicy Steak and Burger Rub (Pareve)

You can easily triple this (1 tsp. to 1 Tbsp.) and keep it in an airtight container for about a month.

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. white pepper

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 tsp. ground ginger

1 tsp Kosher salt

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

1 Tbsp. paprika

2 Tbsp. dark brown sugar

OPTINAL: 1 minced Habenero pepper for more heat

Mix all ingredients and rub on both sides of steaks or burgers 10 minutes before grilling. If you use a fresh Habenero pepper, use gloves to mince it, discard the gloves immediately and then wash the knife with hot soapy water. You can adjust the heat by cutting down the amounts of black and white pepper and the cayenne. Or, conversely, you can increase the heat by increasing any of the peppers.

Makes about 1/2 cup.