By Elke Probkevitz
I am a burger purist who believes in adding nothing to your burger mixture except some salt and pepper. When it comes to toppings, that’s a different story. Toppings can add contrasting flavors and textures to your burger. With traditional accompaniments like lettuce, tomato, and ketchup, you can’t go wrong. But sometimes you want a burger with a little more personality. Creating a gourmet burger bar will take your cookout to the next level, allowing everyone to customize their own meals. You can prepare all the condiments in advance so later you can focus on just flipping those burgers.
Sautéed mushrooms. Sauté sliced mushrooms in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and add fresh sliced garlic and thyme. Cook until brown. Add a little lemon juice for freshness.
Caramelized onions. Cook sliced onions in a mixture of butter substitute and olive oil over low heat for 15‑20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until well caramelized. Season with salt and pepper. Pile onions onto grilled burgers with or without sautéed mushrooms.
Flavored ketchup. You can create any number of variations of ketchup just by adding a few ingredients. Add 2 teaspoons of sambal oelek (chili paste) or Sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce) to a ½ cup ketchup to kick your ketchup up a notch. Add roasted red peppers to ketchup and purée for a smoky sweet flavor. Create a mango ketchup by blending a chopped mango with some mango chutney, ketchup, soy sauce, and white-wine vinegar for a delicious twist on ketchup good on anything from burgers to chicken.
Grilled pineapple. Grill thick slices of pineapple glazed with a mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice. Top burgers with grilled pineapple and grilled sweet onions.
Guacamole. Cube two small avocados and combine with chopped onion, minced chili pepper, salt, and cilantro. Mash coarsely and add lime juice. Top burgers with guacamole, tomato, and red onion.
Fried egg. A perfectly cooked egg with a slightly runny yolk is good on everything. Fry up an egg seasoned with salt and top your burger to make a rich, decadent sandwich. Add some Facon for a real breakfast burger experience.
Crispy pastrami. Place thinly sliced pastrami in a heavy skillet and brown on both sides till crispy. Pairs well with a creamy condiment like coleslaw or mayonnaise.
Olive tapenade. Finely chop 2 cups pitted kalamata or nicoise olives, mix with 2 teaspoons olive oil, chopped shallot, and fresh thyme for a briny burger topping. Top burger with tapenade, sliced avocado, and fresh tomato.
Herbed mayonnaise or butter. Mix mayonnaise or softened butter substitute with any chopped herbs you have on hand: basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, or any combination of herbs. Add some chopped fresh garlic for an added punch of flavor.
Coleslaw. This condiment has so many variations depending on your preference. Make a creamy version with a dressing of mayonnaise, sugar, lemon juice, white vinegar, and celery seeds on top of shredded cabbage and carrots. For a mayo-free coleslaw, make an oriental version with white and purple cabbage, sautéed slivered almonds, and ramen noodles dressed with a soy sauce and red-wine vinegar dressing. You can also make a completely different slaw with shredded brussels sprouts and kale. v
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and chopped
2 Tbsp. store-bought mango chutney
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. white-wine vinegar
1 drop of Tabasco sauce, or more to taste (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend till smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.
½ lb. pastrami, sliced very thin
Place pastrami slices in a 12” nonstick or cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.
Cook until pastrami is browned and crisp on one side, about 3 minutes.
Flip and brown second side, 45 seconds.
Transfer to paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining pastrami.
4 slices pineapple, ½” thick, peeled and cored (preferably fresh pineapple)
1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. packed light brown sugar
1½ tsp. lime juice
Whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice in a small bowl. Brush pineapple with mixture. Grill over medium heat until grill marks form, about 3–4 minutes per side.
Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.