Friday, July 13, 2012

Beef & Black Olive Tapenade Burgers with Stilton

These burgers are my secret weapon! To me, they are the quintessential summer burgers. The black olive tapenade creates meat that is extremely moist and flavorful, yet doesn't taste overwhelmingly "olivey." In fact, if I didn't tell anyone there were olives in it, they probably wouldn't even know (Aaron's not the biggest fan of olives, and he LOVES these). So why add them you ask? Since olives are naturally meaty, they're a perfect combination with red meat. In my opinion, they make burgers taste more like burgers (in the same way coffee makes chocolate taste more like chocolate). The ingredients in the tapenade simply season the meat and keep it nice n' juicy.

I first incorporated tapenade into my burgers a few years ago while working at a gourmet olive oil and food store. Occasionally, we would be given jars of tapenade that were nearing their expiration date. I used tapenade on toast and fish, but soon stared experimenting with it in other ways. Of course making the tapenade yourself will provide a deeper, richer flavor, but a good quality store bought variety works just as well.

There are so many recipes for burgers out there that require a bunch of seasonings. I like to keep it simple and just add one. Blue cheese pairs wonderfully with this burger (I used Colston Bassett's Stilton). If you want to go down the Greek route, try using crumbled feta, or any cheese your heart desires! 


1½ lbs. ground chuck (80% lean)- or a combination of chuck and sirloin (see notes below)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
7 tbsp. homemade black olive tapenade (see recipe below) or good quality store-bought
4 brioche rolls
Extra virgin olive oil
6 oz. Stilton or other blue cheese, crumbled
Baby arugula, for garnish 

Place the beef in a large mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper. Using the tines of a fork, break up the meat and mix in the black olive tapenade until it is evenly incorporated (be careful not to mash the meat). Using your hands, gently shape the meat into 4 patties. Set aside.

Slice the brioche rolls in half and lightly brush each side with olive oil. Place cut-side down on a hot grill and cook until you have beautiful grill marks and the buns are crisp and golden. Set aside.

Place the patties on the grill and cook for 3 minutes on the first side. Flip the patties and add the blue cheese. Cover the grill and cook for 3 minutes more for medium-rare (if using an indoor stovetop grill, simply place circular cake pans over the patties to melt the cheese. Once the cheese has melted, remove pans from the grill using oven mitts). Garnish each burger with arugula and serve immediately.

Yield: 4 burgers

  • Seek out some really great ground beef for your burgers, or have your butcher grind it for you fresh. In the New York area, check out Grazin' Angus.
  • For long-term storage, wrap the patties in plastic wrap and again in foil, label, and freeze for up to 3 to 4 months.

Adapted from Saveur, Issue #40

½ cup pitted, roughly chopped Kalamata olives (see notes below)
1 anchovy filet
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tsp. capers
3 to 4 sprigs Italian parsley
Juice from half a lemon
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped. Taste to adjust seasonings. If you have the time, cover and refrigerate overnight before using, to allow the flavors to meld. Refrigerate for up to 4 days. 

Yield: ½ cup

  • The easiest way to pit an olive is to firmly press the side of a chef's knife against the olive, which loosens the pit from the flesh. You should then be able to use your fingers to remove the pit.
  • If you're adverse to using anchovies, you can certainly leave it out. It does, however, add a nice tang to the tapenade. 

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