RECIPES: Recipe Details

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Traditional Sicilian Burger with Canestrato Cheese and Caper Aioli

Featuring ingredients popular in Sicily (which has lots of North African influences), my burger starts with a moist beef burger infused with raisins and almonds and topped with Canestrato (Pecorino Siciliano) cheese, tomatoes, and baby arugula served on a ciabatta roll smeared with Caper Aioli. This burger really treats Sicily as an entity distinct from just straight-ahead Italy (which the Sicilians consider themselves to be). And, trust me, all of these distinct flavors just make this burger taste great!


1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds ground chuck
Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
6 ounces Canestrato cheese, grated (AKA Pecorino Sicilian—if unavailable, use pecorino romano )
6 ciabatta rolls, split
6 (3/8-inch) slices tomatoes (preferably heirloom)
3 ounces baby arugula


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

To make the Caper Aioli, in the bowl of a food processor combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, garlic, and capers; process until well combined. Remove the mixture to a small bowl. Refrigerate until serving

To make the patties, in the bowl of a food processor combine raisins, almonds, olive oil, parsley, salt, and pepper; pulse until well combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add beef. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties to fit the ciabatta rolls.

Brush the grill rack with oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, just until done, about 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. During the last few minutes of cooking, top the burgers with a slice of cheese and place ciabatta rolls, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly.

To assemble the burgers, spread a generous amount of Caper Aioli on the cut sides of the ciabatta rolls. On each ciabatta roll bottom, place a cheese-topped patty, a slice of tomato, and baby arugula. Add the ciabatta roll tops and serve.