Bruschetta Burgers

Whenever people ask me what my favorite part of Italy was, I struggle to come up with something I enjoyed more than the bruschetta. I mean the museums and history were great and all. But those fresh tomatoes... (I'm drooling.)

"Bruschetta" is actually just grilled bread, brushed with olive oil and garlic. But, in America its pretty much always paired with a fresh tomato and garlic mixture. So, if you find yourself in Italy, make sure you order Bruschetta al Pomodoro.

They aren't lying when they say the food is fresher in Italy, and the tomatoes were no exception. They were bright and acidic; some were so sweet I could have sworn they added sugar. I'm not going to lie to you. I'm kind of a bruschetta expert at this point. It was the first thing I ordered when we arrived, and we had it with every single meal. (I'm not kidding.)

I think what makes bruschetta such a popular, classic Italian dish, is that there are only a few ingredients, and they each stand so beautifully on their own. The crunch of the warm toasted bread and then a splash of chilled, bright tomatoes. The sharpness of the raw garlic, and the sweetness of the basil. It isn't until you start chewing that the smoothness of the olive oil coats your tongue and you get the deep earthy flavor of a strong Extra Virgin Olive Oil. (You don't want to skimp on quality of oil with this recipe.) So, needless to say, I've dreamt of the bruschetta since the day we left Italy. Every time I go to the grocery store I buy the prettiest tomatoes I can find in hopes of recreating it.

On Sunday afternoon while Zack was grilling burgers, I saw my bright red tomatoes sitting on the counter calling my name, just begging to be made into bruschetta. I pared them with some fresh spinach and a balsamic aioli to make our Bruschetta Burgers, the perfect fusion of our two favorite cuisines. (I'm pretty sure the Italians would be appalled at the idea of a "bruschetta burger." But, I never claimed to be a true Italian did I?)

Bruschetta Burgers with Balsamic Aioli 
Makes 4 Burgers                                      Prep Time: 30 Min

What you'll need:
4          Fresh, high quality buns
2 lbs    Ground Beef
1 TB    Salt
1/2 TB Black Pepper
1 C      Spinach, washed
Mozzarella Cheese for melting on the burgers

For the Aioli:
1/2 C Mayonnaise (Bonus Points if you make your own)
1/4 C High Quality Balsamic Vinegar
1 TB  Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp  Salt

For the Bruschetta:
1 C   Diced and Seeded Tomatoes (Plum, Roma, Campari, etc)
3       Garlic Cloves, chopped
5       Fresh Basil Stems
1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Don't substitute for a lighter oil... just DON'T.)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Lemon Juice or Red Wine Vinegar (I usually only add this if I need more acid)

1. This is a very basic burger. I didn't want the hamburger to compete with the other flavors. Mix salt and pepper into ground beef, grill until cooked through. Melt cheese on top.
2. Brush buns with olive oil, grill for 1-2 minutes until they are lightly toasted.

1. In a small bowl, gradually add vinegars to mayonnaise, tasting as you go. I'm addicted to vinegar, so I always use the full 1/4 cup. You may not want yours that strong.

1. Cut tomatoes in half or quarters and clean out the seeds. They will make your bruschetta watery. You don't want them.
2. Finely chiffonade the basil. (Here's a basic chiffonade tutorial from my girl Martha.) You do not want to use dried basil for this.
3. Stir together tomatoes, basil, and chopped garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.
4. Taste the mixture at this point and decide if you want a stronger acidic flavor.

The ideal stacking order is: (starting from the bottom) bun, aioli, burger, spinach, aioli, bruschetta, bun.

Honestly, these burgers were the answer to this pregnant girls prayers. (Is that blasphemous?) They were juicy and bright, not to mention satisfying. Plus you get like all the food groups in this one dish. Grain, check. Meat, check. Dairy, check, Vegetable, check, Fruit, check. Healthy oil, check. Wow! Thats kind of amazing.

Let me know how this one turns out for you guys!!


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