Cali Sunshine Burgers with Avocado Walnut Pesto

Pairs well with:


Bright and full-bodied, this Zinfandel wine is a curious contradiction in tastes.

We recently traveled to Northern California, visiting Berkeley, Monterey, Carmel, and Gilroy.We picnicked on the beach near Carmel one day, making sandwiches with avocados, local cheese, and fresh sourdough bread. I thought these ingredients would all go well on a burger, and they do!


6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 1/4 pounds 90/10 ground beef (preferably grass-fed)*

3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

1 8-10 ounce avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced*

2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup whole pitted black olives*

1/3 cup walnuts*

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (from sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil)*

3 cloves garlic*

1 Fresno chile, stemmed (jalapeño may be substituted)*

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Vegetable oil cooking spray

12 deli slices Monterey Jack cheese*

6 cage-free eggs*

6 sourdough hamburger rolls, split*

12 leaves Bibb lettuce (or other butterhead lettuce)

1 large heirloom tomato, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices*


Preheat grill over a low flame. Melt the butter in a small, grill-safe pan set on the grill grates. Remove from the heat and turn off the grill. Gently pull apart the ground beef and spread across a foil-lined sheet pan. Sprinkle the beef with 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, and the thyme. Drizzle the melted butter on the beef. Form into six loose balls, then press into patties, about 3/4 inch thick. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill.

In a non-reactive bowl, toss the diced avocado in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Cover and set aside. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the parsley, olives, walnuts, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, Fresno chile, 1 teaspoon of salt, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Pulse until well combined. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil until combined. Transfer the pesto to the bowl of avocado and stir to combine. Cover and set aside.

Set a cast-iron griddle (or other grill-safe pan) on one side of the grill. With grill unlit, spray the grill grates and griddle with cooking spray. Preheat grill and griddle over a medium-high flame. Grill burgers on grill grates, with grill closed, for about 4 to 5 minutes per side. For medium rare burgers, grill burgers until internal temperature reaches 130 degrees. For medium burgers, grill burgers until internal temperature reaches 140 degrees. Melt 2 slices of cheese on each burger during last 2 minutes of grilling. Transfer burgers to a platter and loosely cover with foil. Rest burgers several minutes before plating and serving. Internal temperature of burgers will increase somewhat during resting.

Recoat the griddle with cooking spray, and fry the eggs, flipping once, until the yolks have just set, about 2 minutes per side. Season the eggs with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Spray the insides of the rolls with cooking spray and toast on the grill grates until golden.

To assemble the burgers, place 2 lettuce leaves and 1 tomato slice on each bottom roll half. Place a burger, cheese side down, on each roll and top with an egg. Spread the pesto on the top roll halves and complete assembly.

Serves 6.