It was to be a hamburger day, and I was trying to think of something different to do with mine.
There’s nothing wrong with a patty of ground chuck, simply seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper, and perhaps a little basil. But I’ve also stuffed them with blue cheese; mixed in crumbled bacon; and of course, topped them with sharp cheddar cheese.
Today, though, I remembered the jar of hot giardiniera sitting in the refrigerator, gift from a friend who lives in Chicago. Why not, I thought. Hot is good, giardiniera is wonderful. Hamburger is very accepting.
I had never heard of giardiniera until I moved to Chicago, but I became an instant convert. Giardiniera is an Italian or Italian-American relish of pickled vegetables in vinegar or oil. In Italy, it’s typically eaten as an antipasto or with salads. But Chicagoans have embraced it as a condiment, most often found as a topping on Italian beef sandwiches. Those sandwiches and the giardiniera alone made my time in Chicago worthwhile.
So, I eagerly reached for that jar of giardiniera, spooning perhaps three generous tablespoons of it onto a cutting board to be chopped, because the mix is is very chunky. My variety was in olive oil, the only way to go as far as I’m concerned, and it was spicy hot, not merely medium hot. Just the way I like it! I drained most of the oil off, but made sure some was left since it carried a bit of the flavor with it.
To the ground chuck–enough for two hamburgers for me and George–I added garlic, a little salt, pepper, and a healthy dose of cumin because I don’t mind at all combining seasonings from more than one culture. Then in went the giardiniera, and I shaped the patties.
I used a grill pan to cook them, and when I was finished I grilled top and bottom of a Brownberry’s “skinny bun” for George. I eat mine without a bun. Some cooked, mixed veggies, avocado chips, and this very simple meal was done. Then I waited for unsuspecting George to take that first bite.
“Whoo!” he said. Then he grinned. “WHAT did you put in these?” When I told him, he gave his famous response:
(Now my dilemma is finding more HOT giardiniera. I located the medium variety at the grocery store, but that simply won’t do. Since Sturgeon Bay is close enough to Chicago that some of the big city’s cuisine can be found here, George has suggested asking our local pizza joint, which makes Italian beef sandwiches, if we can buy some giardiniera from them. I wonder if they sell it in bulk?)