After tasting this burger, Cat Cora of Iron Chef America, a noted Greek cooking authority and a judge for Sutter Home Winery’s Build a Better Burger 2006, shouted, “Opa! This takes me back to the old country!” The other judges were equally enthusiastic and awarded creator Elizabeth Bennett of Mill Creek, Wash., the top prize for Best Alternative Burger.
Sopressata, a dry-cured Italian sausage, is available in Italian markets or the deli section of many well-stocked supermarkets. Substitute a flavorful salami if you can’t locate it.
Adapted from “Burger Parties: Recipes from Sutter Home Winery’s Build a Better Burger Contest” by James McNair and Jeffrey Starr.
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup chopped roasted red bell pepper
- 2 cups (about 8 ounces) crumbled goat feta cheese
- ½ cup pitted and chopped Kalamata olives
- 1 cup red wine, preferably Sutter Home Merlot
- ½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 Italian-style bolo rolls or other rustic rolls, split horizontally
- 12 thin slices sopressata
- 1 cup loosely packed baby spinach leaves
- 6 large tomato slices
Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium high.
Combine the mayonnaise and bell pepper in a small bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until assembling the burgers. In a separate small bowl, mash the feta with a fork. Stir in the olives; set aside.
To make the patties, pour the wine into a heavy fireproof saucepan and heat on the grill until the wine begins to simmer. Remove from the heat and add the dried mushrooms, stirring with a fork to moisten all the mushrooms. Set them aside to reconstitute for at least 30 minutes. Then drain and squeeze them gently to remove excess liquid. Chop the mushrooms and transfer to a large bowl. Add the lamb, garlic, oregano, chile flakes, salt, and pepper. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Form the mixture into 6 equal patties to fit the rolls.
Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, until done to preference, about 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. During the last few minutes of cooking, place the rolls, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly.
To assemble the burgers, spread the mayonnaise mixture over the cut sides of the roll bottoms and the feta mixture over the cut sides of the roll tops. On each roll bottom, place a patty,
2 slices of the sopressata, some spinach leaves, and a tomato slice. Add the roll tops and serve.