The great thing about living in a place with four full seasons is that you get to experience the happy transition from winter to spring. When the snow melts and the weather warms, people are visibly happier. By the end of winter, everyone has had it with the cold, and the bundling up, and the light fading by 5 pm. When spring hits, everyone is out on the street, excited and smiling. When summer hits, everyone is basking on a patio, relaxing and smiling.
For me, burgers on the BBQ are synonymous with summer. That’s not to say ground beef isn’t used frequently in our house; it is. It gets used in spaghetti sauce, and shepherd’s pie, and dog food.
A quick, slightly stinky, note about our dog, Quinn: Two years ago we started making our own dog food using ground beef as the base. Our dog had (has) some issues with flatulence. Before we started making our own dog food we tried a number of dog food brands to try to rectify the problem. The problem got so bad that friends would come for dinner, and half way through the main course would literally want to escape our house for some fresh air. It was bad! Instead of polite dinner conversation, there was a lot of ‘what the fuck?’, ‘ oh my god’, ‘seriously, is that Quinn’, ‘Brutal’! Quinn appeared indignant about his stink. If aroused by the fuss, he might unapologetically raise his head and look at you as if to say, ‘what’s the problem?’ Or, he would get excited by the attention and use the opportunity to try and climb on a lap, making a bad situation worse.
Now, thanks to a helpful tip from a dog-owning friend with a similar issue, we have a ground beef recipe that has amazingly cured his stink! Send me a note if you’d like the recipe or know anyone that should have the recipe.
Ok, back to burgers. I’ll see if I can recover from that verbally flatulent note.
Right, summer and burger time!!
Hot weather, BBQs, beers, a lake, and burgers equal a perfect summer day. Burgers are all about relaxing. There’s nothing tricky about cooking them, unless you’re doing something crazy and clever like putting blue cheese in the center and letting it melt as the burger cooks. Then, biting in, you experience the rich flavour of beef infused with the sharpness of the cheese.
We don’t do stuff like that to our burgers. I suppose we could, but that would mean effort and hot summer days and burgers should be effortless. Again, burgers are for relaxing, and being lazy.
Burgers are also a conduit for condiments, in particular Heinz ketchup; another reason I can’t be bothered getting too fancy.
Here’s another quick tangent (less stinky, more savory).
Just to press how important Heinz is in the world of condiments I like to take the opportunity to mention an article written by Malcolm Gladwell for The New Yorker. The article entitled ‘”The Ketchup Conundrum” outlines the reign of Heinz Ketchup in the world of ketchup. When an entire New Yorker article can be dedicated to one condiment you know the condiment has some serious clout. Those articles are never short, or light. In the article Gladwell identifies Heinz’s place as the undefeated champion of ketchup describing how it unequivocally captures and blends all “five known fundamental tastes in the human palate: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami.” Umami, as describe in the article is the “proteiny, full-bodied taste of chicken soup, or cured meat, or fish stock” etc.
So, to my point, Heinz has done all the complex work so that burgers can be simple, allowing us to enjoy our summer days without worrying about how to fancy them up.
This weekend we headed up to the cottage. The last weekend in May felt like mid August. We had perfect summer weather. The whole weekend was sunny with temperatures hovering around 25C (I think that's about 77F). The previous weekend and week were hot too, so the water had warmed. Warmed enough even for me. I’m a huge cold-water wimp.
On the way to the cottage my husband stopped at the farmers market to pick up some local, grass-fed ground beef. He ended up with local bison, a lean and delicious alternative.
It was a perfect weekend basking in the sun, swimming in the water, sitting on the patio/deck and BBQ-ing lazy burgers.
Malcolm Gladwell’s article “The Ketchup Conundrum” can be found in Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink. 2007. Pg.365.
Note: I think it first appeared in The New Yorker, September 6, 2004.
3 tbsp Olive oil
Mix ground bison with egg and olive oil. Since it is such a lean meat adding the egg and olive oil helps the burger stay together. Place on the BBQ and cook until desired doneness.
1 Sautéed onion
10 Fried mushrooms
Dijon Mustard (some of the fancy people preferred it)
Finely sliced strawberries
Julienned ½ a beet
Finely slice 1 tomato
Finely slice 1 carrot
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
1 bunch of asparagus
salt and pepper
In a bowl drizzle asparagus with olive oil and toss with salt and pepper. Place on BBQ and cook until done but still firm.