Actually, that's a good debate. Should you follow a recipe exactly the first time through - out of respect for the writer or just because you should? Or, should you follow your instincts and tweak? I almost always come down on the tweak side for two reasons. One, there are so many recipes out there that I'll in all likelihood never get back to one unless it's spectacular (spinach/blueberry/almond salad, chicken elegante.) And, two, a different ingredient may well suit our tastes better OR more often, be in my pantry or refrigerator.
So it was here. I didn't have arugula but did have spinach. We happen to much prefer spinach to arugula. So, I substituted. I also added to the actual burgers. The tweak I wish I'd made was to switch out the mozzarella for provolone. I didn't have smoked mozzarella and didn't see any at the grocery. So, I used regular fresh mozzarella. Bad move on my part. I was matching the texture and not the flavor. The grocery was also out of ciabatta buns so I bought ciabatta bread and sliced it to make "buns." That worked out perfectly. Next time we'll probably mince some salami and add it to the ground beef to see if that brings out the Italian a bit more. And, I might use a little Italian dressing in the burgers. See, what I mean? Lots of potential tweaks - even with a spectacular recipe like this. That's part of the fun of cooking. Figuring out what you like and what goes together. So, try this and see what you think. Here's my take - Sommer should enter this in a burger cookoff. It's that good!!!
Sommer's Little Italy Burger
for the burgers:
1 pound ground beef
1 t tomato paste
1 T Andria's steak sauce (or other steak sauce)
2 t dried shallots
4 slices pancetta
for grilling the burgers:
1 red onion, sliced in thin rings
smoked mozzarella or provolone, sliced
for the tomato paste:
3 T butter
2 t tomato paste
1 t anchovy paste
for assembling the burgers:
1/2 c basil pesto
fresh spinach or arugula
NB: the wine in the photo is indeed an ingredient - for the cook :-)
Oil your grill grates. Heat your grill.
Mix the ground beef, shallots, tomato paste and steak sauce.
Form into four patties. (Yeah, I know there are only three there. They were too thick so I'd do four next time.)
Top each with a slice of the pancetta and firmly press the pancetta into the patty.
Soften the butter and cream in the tomato paste and anchovy paste. Spread the tomato butter on the cut sides of the ciabatta rolls.
Now it's time to schlep things out to the grill. You'll need the burgers, onion, cheese and ciabatta rolls.
Grill the burgers with the non-pancetta side down first. Put the onions on the grill at the same time. You'll want to flip the onions when the first side of the burger is about halfway done. Flip the burgers, top with the onions then the cheese.
You want the cheese to be able to melt here.
Put the buns on the grill, cut side down. They'll only take a few minutes to get lovely grill marks. One the buns are warmed through and have grill marks, remove them from the grill.
When the burgers are done, you get to assemble the sandwich. It's pretty much a Dagwood so count on needing lots of napkins :-) Here's how you do it: Slather the cut sides of the buns with pesto.
Put a burger on a half bun, top with a slice of tomato then the spinach or arugula.
Then the other half of the bun.
Adapted from A Spicy Perspective. If you're not already a follower of Sommer's please head over to her blog and check it out. Everything we've tried has been fantastic. She's obviously a wonderful cook!!!