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Red Rock Sedona Burgers with Chimichurri Mayonnaise and Avocado-Cactus Relish

I created these colorful, bold-flavored burgers to introduce my out of state family and friends to southwestern cooking styles, spices and tastes. When friends and family come to visit us in Arizona, we always take a day trip to Sedona. With its beautiful awe-inspiring red rock formations plus the splendor and diversity of Oak Creek Canyon, it is considered a locality equal or superior to many national parks. When we return home, we head for the backyard for a relaxing swim and grilled savory Red Rock Sedona Burgers. "One bite and you will taste how I have captured the Southwest."


3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Sutter Home Pinot Noir
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon pepper, divided
1 large ripe California avocado
1/2 cup chopped Nopalitos *(tender cactus, see comments below)
1/3 cup chopped red pepper
2 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 cup minced sweet onion
3/4 cup crumbled red corn tortilla chips (blue corn, or yellow corn tortilla chips can be substituted)
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
6 red leaf lettuce leaves, shredded
2 Roma tomatoes (sliced into 12 slices)
6 Kaiser Rolls split


Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium high.

To make the chimichurri mayonnaise: Combine the mayonnaise, parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, Sutter Home Pinot Noir, honey, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Mix well, cover and refrigerate until needed.

To prepare the avocado-cactus relish: Peel and seed the avocado, and dice into small chunks. Add the avocado into a small bowl and gently fold in the cactus and bell pepper and season with salt and pepper. Set aside until needed.

To make the patties: Season the ground chuck with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and a 1/2 teaspoon pepper, add the diced onion and gently mix well, handling the meat a little as possible to prevent compacting it. Divide the meat into 12 equal portions. Gently form twelve patties into shapes that are slightly larger then the Kaiser rolls. Top six of the patties with divided crumbled tortilla chips, and jack cheese, then top with the remaining patties pinching the edges to seal.

When the grill is ready, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook turning once, until done to preference, 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until an internal temperature of 160 degrees F has been reached. Place the split rolls, cut side down, on the outer edges of the grill rack to toast lightly during the last minute of grilling the patties.

To assemble the burgers: Spread the chimichurri mayonnaise on the inside bottom of rolls, follow with a mound of shredded red leaf, two tomato slices, burger patty and then top with a generous amount of avocado-cactus relish. Add the roll tops and serve.


*Nopalitos can be found in your grocery store in the Mexican food section. To save time, you can prepare the chimichurri mayonnaise up to three days in advance, and refrigerate until needed.