16 Wheelers – Big Rig Burgers with Cilantro Pesto

Pairs well with:

White Merlot

Imagine sipping a lighter Merlot. This fresh, pale-pink wine is a nice change from traditional red or white wines.


Tomato Salsa:
2 TB peanut oil
1/4 C. fresh poblano chilis, fire roasted, cleaned and finely minced into 1/4” dice
1/2 C. red onion, fire roasted and finely diced
1 lb fresh tomatillos, fire roasted and smoothly processed in food processor
1/2 tsp kosher salt
Cilantro Pesto Mayo:
2 cups firmly packed fresh cilantro, coarsly chopped Juice of one lime
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 large clove fresh garlic, crushed and minced
1/4 c shelled, unsalted pumpkin seeds, toasted and finely crushed 1/8 c peanut oil
1/8 c crumbled cotija cheese
1 cup mayonaise
2 pounds 70/20 ground chuck
2 fresh poblano chilis, fire blackened, cleaned and cut into
dice 1 medium red onion, cut into 1” slice for grilling then chopped into 1/4” dice
2 c. fresh cilantro, coarsly chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 c finely crumbled cotija cheese
Vegetable oil, for brushing grill
6 Kaiser rolls, split
1 lime
1/2 c corn meal
3 cups shredded napa cabbage
3 medium ripe avocados, peeled, pitted and sliced into 1/2” slices



Directions: Lower grill as close to fire as possible and preheat to high. To fire roast vegetables: Peel onions and remove root and top ends. Lay on side and slice into 1/2” slices. Brush grill with oil and place whole poblanos, tomatillos and onion slices on fire to blacken and char. Carefully turn chilis and tomatillos with tongs to blacken all sides. Flip onion slices gently to grill evenly. When poblanos and tomatillos are blackened and onions are browning around edges, remove onions and poblanos to plate to cool. Place tomatoes with skin in food processor and process to coarse consistency. To toast pumpkin seeds: Spread pumpkin seeds in dry saute pan over high heat. When they start to pop toss or stir to toast as evenly as possible. When golden remove from heat and put aside to cool. When cool place in zip lock and crush until fine. When poblanos are cool rinse under cool water to remove as much skin as possible. Place on cutting board, slice open and remove stem, seeds and veins. Slice poblano into 1/4” strips then cross-cut into 1/4” dice. Place cooled grilled onion slices on cutting board and slice into approximate 1/4” dice. For the Tomato Salsa: Heat 2 TB peanut oil in saute pan over high heat. Add poblano and onion. Saute poblano and onion about a minute over high heat. Add tomatillos and salt to saute pan. Be careful because it might spatter. Cook over high heat stirring constantly until mixture comes to boil, about 3 minutes. Move pan to side of grill and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, over med/low flame 1/2 to one hour or until thickened, but not a paste. Remove from heat, cover and put aside to cool. For the Cilantro Pesto: Place cilantro, lime juice, salt, garlic, the pumpkin seeds and peanut oil in processor. Blend until smooth scraping sides often. Add 1/8 cup crumbled cotija cheese and pulse a few more times until blended. Place in bowl and combine with 1 cup mayonaise. Mix well, cover and refrigerate. For the patties: Gently combine beef, poblano, onion, cilantro and salt in large bowl. Divide into 6 equal portions and form into patties to fit rolls. Cover and set aside. Raise the grill to original position over flame and reduce flame to medium/high. Brush the grill with additional oil. Place the burgers on the grill, cover, and grill until browned on the bottoms, about 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully flip the burgers and cook about another 5 minutes for medium. After about 4 minutes and shortly before removing from grill, sprinkle 3 TB of cotija cheese on each of the burgers. While burgers are grilling, lightly brush the tops of the rolls with lime juice and sprinkle with corn meal. Shortly before burgers are done gently place the tops of rolls cornmeal side down and the bottoms cut side down on the outer edge of grill to toast briefly. Remove when lightly toasted and warm about 3 – 4 minutes. To assemble: Generously spread both top and bottom of cut sides of rolls with pesto mayo. On each roll bottom place 1/4 cup cabbage, a burger, 3 heaping TB of tomato salsa, the remaining cabbage and 2 or 3 slices of fresh avocado. Add the tops and serve Makes 6 burgers