I spent the holiday weekend in the Hudson Valley at the home of a friend who recently planted a lush, beautiful kitchen garden. Every time the breeze blew, the scent of cilantro, basil, and dill would waft through the backyard. Though I consider myself content in the big city, I seriously envy the ability to maintain such a kitchen garden. Oh, to step outside my door and pick fresh mint for lemonade!
Given it was July Fourth, our group felt it would be un-American to eat anything but grilled burgers, though we also wanted to take advantage of all the fresh herbs. Rather than go potato salad crazy, I decided to put a large mixture of herbs in the burger meat.
I kicked off my shoes and with a pair of clippers went to the garden to pick a mixture of thyme, lemon thyme, sage, rosemary, and oregano. I chopped all the herbs finely and added them to mixture of a beef, pork, and veal. I formed the patties with an indent at the center, to account for the plumping and ensure they would be evenly cooked. The menfolk at the house grilled the burgers while I sliced up super classy Gruyère cheese to melt on top at the very end. We used poppy seed buns from the grocery store bakery.
Each bite of the burger tasted a tiny bit different. The sage came through most strongly, while the lemon thyme was a subtle background that made the burgers taste fresh and light. Dijon mustard added even more wonderful, fresh flavor.
Now is the perfect time to take advantage of fresh summer herbs. It’s hard, even during peak season, to find local herbs in your supermarket. (Key Food and every bodega in Washington Heights still insists on basil from Mexico.) Therefore, you’ll really need to pay a visit to your local farmer’s market, which is good for your heart, soul, and community.
Take your time and choose herbs you really like. Pick them up, smell them, and see what appeals to you. There aren’t any flavors that will dramatically counter each other, though some herbs like dill are more delicate and can be overwhelmed. Once you find a selection you like, also consider making a chimichurri sauce. Simply put all the herbs you like best in a food processor and chop while drizzling in a lot of olive oil. You can serve it as a side to chicken or steak as they do in Argentina.