“Few people share my obsession with food like my friend Karen. Over the years we’ve tackled vats of melted chocolate (not very appetizing when dripping down your hands and elbows) to make Valentine’s Day truffles and handmade ice cream sandwiches like the Good Humor ones sold on ice cream trucks —rectangular with a soft, dark chocolate cookie and a vanilla center (once was enough) for 4th of July.
“When we get together, the husbands escape to the golf course, the tweens huddle out of earshot and Karen and I cook, drink wine and catch up on life. For her husband’s birthday dinner, we set out to each prepare a dish using a protein we had never cooked before. After dissecting the meat counter at Whole Foods, I settled on buffalo. I’d had it before and really enjoyed its clean, sweet flavor but had never cooked it. Inspired by the Father’s Office burger and so many others nowadays that do away with ketchup, pickles and secret sauce, I came up with this buffalo burger that is a great option to serve with your favorite microbrew or glass of red.
“I love this burger because it provides the perfect yin and yang between savory and sweet, and it is decadent without going overboard. The ground buffalo, when cooked until just medium-rare, is juicy and delicious. The Cambozola cheese adds a much-needed punch of flavor and richness to this lean meat. I’m a huge fan of figs and dates, so to counterbalance the sharpness of the Cambozola I made this “jam” with dried figs and dates that have reduced down, then added to caramelized onions that have gotten a flavor boost from freshly chopped rosemary and garlic. Watercress adds peppery notes. It all comes together inside a beautiful kaiser bun. Adults, kids — everyone loves this burger.”
— Debbie Pappalau, Westlake Village
Buffalo Cambozola burger
Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Note: From Debbie Pappalau of Westlake Village. Ground buffalo and balsamic cream are available at many well-stocked markets and butchers, as well as online. Cambozola is a triple-cream cheese with blue veining and can be found at select well-stocked markets and cheese stores, and is available online.
2 pounds ground buffalo
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 large onions, thinly sliced across the grain
Chopped leaves from 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 crushed cloves garlic
1/2 cup medjool dates, pitted
2 to 3 dried black mission figs
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon balsamic cream
6 ounces Cambozola cheese
6 kaiser hamburger buns
1 1/2 cups watercress or arugula leaves
1. In a large bowl, combine the meat with the salt and pepper. Mix to season, then divide the meat into 6 even portions. Shape the portions into patties, and set them aside to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes before grilling.
2. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and continue to cook until the onions turn golden-brown, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the remaining tablespoon oil, chopped rosemary and garlic. Cook, stirring until fragrant, then remove from heat and set aside.
3. While the onion is cooking, in a small saucepan combine the dates and figs. Add the water and bring to a simmer. Cook 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture is thickened and reduced, then break up the dates and figs using the back of a spoon. Continue cooking, adding additional water if needed, until the mixture is reduced to the consistency of jam. Stir in the balsamic cream. Stir the fig and date mixture in with the onions. Taste, and season as desired with salt and pepper. Return the pan to low heat and cook, stirring until well combined. Remove from heat and set aside in a warm place. This makes about 1½ cups jam.
4. About 15 minutes before assembling the burgers, place the cheese in the freezer to firm it up for slicing.
5. Heat a grill or skillet over medium-high heat. Warm or toast the buns as desired. Lightly oil the grill and cook the burgers 2 to 3 minutes on each side for medium, or as desired, careful not to overcook.
6. Remove the cheese from the freezer and slice into 6 thick (1-ounce) slices. To assemble the burgers, place a hot burger patty on the bottom of each bun and top with a slice of cheese. Add a dollop of the fig, date and onion jam to the top of each cheese slice and top with watercress. Top with the remaining bun half and serve immediately.
Each serving: 650 calories; 44 grams protein; 52 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 30 grams fat; 11 grams saturated fat; 112 mg cholesterol; 17 grams sugar; 976 mg sodium.