At the end of every summer, my dad would always use up the bountiful harvest from his Indiana garden by whipping up a batch of vegetable soup. As a kid, I have to say that it was not one of my most anticipated meals.But when you combine all those delectable little treasures of the earth into a burger—well now we’re talking’! Grilling the vegetables first for the grilled vegetable ragout makes all the difference in the world, considering grilling brings out all their wonderful natural flavors. Balancing out the spiciness of the ragout is a cool cucumber cheese spread, and the all beef patty is domed with a generous portion of crispy fried okra. While my grandma always fried her okra in bacon fat (mmm, bacon fat), I have opted for a healthier vegetable oil instead. To me, this burger represents an end of summer gift from the rich soils of Indiana.
Grilled Vegetable Ragout
1 ear fresh corn, husks and silks removed
2-4 tablespoons olive oil, for brushing on vegetables
1 yellow bell pepper
1 jalapeÃ±o pepper
1 small zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices
1 large onion, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
4 medium tomatoes, sliced in half, seeds and stems removed
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup Sutter Home Zinfandel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Creamy Cucumber Cheese Spread
6 ounces light garlic-and-herbs spreadable cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup peeled, seeded, chopped cucumber
2 pounds freshly ground chuck
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh marjoram
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
2 teaspoons salt
3-4 cups vegetable oil, for frying
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound fresh okra, sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
6 good quality whole wheat buns, split
3 cups pre-washed bagged mixed baby greens
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.
To make the grilled vegetable ragout, wash corn and brush with olive oil. Place ear on double thickness of heavy duty foil; wrap snugly. Place on grill and cook, with cover closed, 25 to 30 minutes, turning frequently. Cut corn off cob and set aside. Brush peppers, zucchini, onions and cut side of tomatoes with olive oil. Place peppers on grill and cook, without cover, 5 to 7 minutes, turning frequently, until peppers blister. Place peppers in a zip-top plastic bag; seal. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel peppers; remove and discard seeds. Place zucchini on grill and cook until tender, about 4 minutes per side. Place onion slices on grill and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Place tomatoes, cut side down, on grill and cook for about 5 minutes or until the tomatoes start to brown and you can easily lift off the skin. Remove skins from tomatoes and chop all cooked vegetables, except corn, in a rough chop. Place all vegetables except zucchini into a medium, heavy fire-proof saucepan. Add balsamic vinaigrette, garlic, wine and salt. Place saucepan onto grill and cook for 15-20 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini and basil and set onto indirect heat to keep warm.
To make the creamy cucumber cheese spread, mix cheese, dill and cucumber in a small bowl. Set aside.
To make the patties, combine the chuck, garlic, marjoram, sage and salt in a large bowl. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties to fit the buns, making a slight depression in the middle of the patties to compensate for the tendency to bulge during cooking. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
To make the fried okra, heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed fireproof skillet or Dutch oven to 350 degrees F on grill (Do not fill the pan more than halfway up the sides with oil). In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour and salt. Dip okra in buttermilk and then dredge in cornmeal-flour mixture to coat well. Carefully add okra to the hot oil and cook until golden brown. (It may be necessary to fry the okra in batches.) Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
When the grill is ready, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, until done to preference, 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium. During the last few minutes of cooking time, place the buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the grill rack to toast lightly.
To assemble the burgers, spread 1/6th of the cheese mixture on each bun top. On each bun bottom, place 1/2 cup greens, 1/6th of the grilled vegetable ragout, a patty and 1/6th of the fried okra. Add the bun tops and serve.
Makes 6 burgers