Toasted Spice Burgers with Piquillo-Tomato Mayo, Sizzled Serrano and Lemon-Fig Arugula

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

I am obsessed with smoked paprika; which always leads me to Spanish and other Mediterranean flavors.This burger combines toasty, smoky spices with a savory tomato-pepper mayo and a bright, slightly peppery arugula salad.


Piquillo-Tomato Mayo:
¾ cup drained, patted dry, chopped, bottled piquillo peppers
½ cup chopped, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 TBSP Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 TBSP sherry vinegar
½ tsp. Spanish smoked paprika
¾ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. each sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 extra large sweet onion, peeled
1 TBSP coriander seeds
½ TBSP cumin seeds
2 TBSP dry Sherry
2 TBSP worcestershire sauce
2 TBSP minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1½ TBSP minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground mixed peppercorns
¼ tsp. Spanish smoked paprika
2 pounds ground chuck

Lemon-Fig Vinaigrette:
1 TBSP Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 TBSP hazelnut or walnut oil
2 tsp. fig jam
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1 tsp. honey Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Sherry vinegar
¼ tsp. each sea salt and freshly ground pepper

¼ cup olive oil
3 ounces thinly sliced Serrano ham, cut crosswise into ½-inch strips (substitute Prosciutto if unavailable)
vegetable oil for grill grates
6 good quality, not too hard, Kaiser rolls, split
4 ounces baby arugula


Place piquillo peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, 2 TBSP olive oil, garlic, 1 TBSP sherry vinegar, ½ tsp. smoked paprika, sugar, sea salt and pepper in a mini-processor and puree. Transfer half of the mixture to a large mixing bowl and set aside. Transfer the other half to a small bowl and whisk in the mayonnaise. Refrigerate mayo mixture until ready to serve.

Preheat a gas grill to medium high heat.

Cut 2 ½-inch-thick slices from the center of the onion. Grill the onion slices until slightly softened and lightly charred. Remove from the grill; cool and chop. Stir into the red pepper mixture in the large mixing bowl. Grate enough of the remaining onion to equal ¼ cup and add to the same bowl.

While the onion cools, place a small fire-proof skillet on the grill. Add the coriander and cumin seeds and toast until fragrant and beginning to turn golden, 1-2 minutes. Remove to a plate; cool and grind in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Stir into the red pepper-onion mixture in the large mixing bowl.

Stir in Sherry, worcestershire, parsley, thyme, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. pepper and ¼ tsp. paprika. Gently, but thoroughly mix in the ground chuck and form mixture into 6 patties, with a slight indentation in the center. Place on a plate and refrigerate until ready to grill.

For vinaigrette, whisk together 1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil, hazelnut or walnut oil, fig jam, lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, 2 tsp. Sherry vinegar, ¼ tsp. sea salt and ¼ tsp. pepper. Set aside until ready to serve.

Place a large nonstick fire-proof skillet on the grill grates. Add ¼ cup olive oil. When hot, add the ham and sauté until lightly crisped, 2-3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover and cook, turning once, until done to preference, about 5 minutes per side for medium. During the last 2 minutes of grilling, place the buns, cut side down, along the outer edges of the grill to toast lightly. Remove burgers and buns.

Toss the arugula with the vinaigrette.

To serve, divide the arugula mixture between roll bottoms, top with a burger, a large spoonful of the mayo, the ham and the roll tops. Makes 6.