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A Taste of Tuscany Burger

My passion is baking, but I love to cook Italian. This burger recipe first began as a topping for pasta. When my family tires of the traditional "red sauce", I'm always looking to do something different. I set out to to use a few baby eggplants that had been sitting in my kitchen counter for a few days. My initial endeavor yielded much more than needed to top the pasta so I refrigerated it. Several days later... with no salsa in the pantry to put into my "usual" burgers... I substituted the eggplant mixture and "A Taste of Tuscany Burger" was born. Tuscany... where the women are hearty and the Pecorino and red wine flow.


1 - 2 T. good olive oil
2 baby eggplants, small dice
1 small yellow onion, small dice (can substitute 1 c. diced frozen onion)
1/2 c. , heaping medium heat bottled salsa
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
1 T. granulated sugar
1/2 wine glass, red Merlot
2 lb ground sirloin
1 lb ground chuck
1-1/2 c. plain breadcrumbs (3 palm fulls)
1/2 c. Pecorino cheese, grated
2 t. salt
1 extra large egg, slightly beaten
Handful of fresh basil, chopped
6 large Kaiser-type buns, split
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
6 slices Provolone cheese
6 Romaine lettuce leaves
1 small purple/red onion
2 medium red peppers
Extra oil for grill


For the Base:
Coat medium-size, non-stick saucepan with olive oil, place on grill side burner or stove and add onion. Cook until transparent and add diced eggplant. Saute for about five or ten minutes, stirring frequently, and add salsa, salt, pepper and sugar. Continue cooking on high/medium heat, stirring to prevent burning, until mixture is cooked down to an almost "smashed potato" consistency. Add Merlot, reserving a sip for the cook* who could use it about now! Continue cooking and stirring until all wine is incorporated and mixture is further reduced. Remove pan from burner and place it in a bowl of cold water and ice cubes. Cool for at least 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Note: the base mixture can be made the night before and refrigerated.

Lightly butter split Kaiser rolls and set aside. Slice red peppers and purple/red onion horizontally into rings (thickness is optional) and set aside.

Meanwhile, assemble the burger mixture. In a 9 x 13 pan, place sirloin and chuck and sprinkle with bread crumbs, grated cheese and basil. Beat the egg slightly, add salt, and pour over meat mixture. Top with cooled eggplant mixture and mix thoroughly with clean hands. Divide in six portions and hand fashion burgers. They will be huge! Place burgers in a flat, rectangular pan.

Oil and preheat grill to high and begin grilling burgers. Grill two minutes on high, reduce heat to medium and grill another four minutes. Flip burgers and grill
for a minute or two. Place buttered buns on grill for one minute, and place a slice of cheese on each burger. Continue grilling burgers and buns for another minute or so -- which should make buns and burgers ready at about the same time.

To assemble burgers, place one leaf of lettuce on bun bottom, then a red pepper ring, burger w/cheese, three purple onion rings then bun top. This assembly keeps the burger from making the lettuce and bun bottom soggy, keeps the red pepper ring from slipping when taking a bite, and the purple/red onion rings make a pretty finish.

*Cook's Mantra: "I always cook with wine --sometimes I even put it in the food."


This burger has become my signature burger. The eggplant/onion/wine base has also become a favorite over pasta, thinned with a little beef stock... and also eaten warm, right out of the pan spread over a slice of Italian crusty bread or a toasted crostini. This burger has tons of robust flavor and needs no other sauce or accompaniment. I chose Merlot because it compliments the flavors of the other ingredients... much more so than my favorite "white" wine. I appreciate the opportunity to submit my burger for consideration. Thank you.