Due to an unfortunate case of cooking-related masochism, I tend to forget that not every meal requires hours of preparation and compilation. It took a recent experience to remind me of something that working parents have known for years: Weeknight dinners do not, in fact, need to be served at 10:00 p.m.
After a particularly demanding day in the trenches, I was in the mood for something indulgent; I didn’t have the budget for anything fancy but wanted comfort food nonetheless. This burger, an umami*-rich combination of Italian sausage (I used half hot and half sweet, with great results), anchovy-spiked spinach, and sharp provolone cheese, couldn’t have been a better fit.
It took longer to wash and dry the spinach than it did to cook it; a minute in boiling water, a minute in the skillet, and it was ready to go. Amazingly, the most time-consuming element of the process was waiting for the sausage patties to cook, and that only took ten minutes. (Well, that and searching the grocery-store shelves for the requisite sun-dried-tomato pesto—I couldn’t find it, and it took me way too long to decide on a replacement. I eventually went with the cheapest spread available and was thoroughly satisfied with my choice.) I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.
Cradled on a sturdy ciabatta roll, sandwiched between a smear of that acidic tomato spread and a pile of that funkily tangy spinach, this is a burger for the permanent files.
* For those unfamiliar with the term, umami is the fifth element our tastebuds can identify. Per the Wall Street Journal: “First identified by a Japanese scientist a century ago, umami has long been an obscure culinary concept. Hard to describe, it is usually defined as a meaty, savory, satisfying taste.”
Italian-Sausage Burgers with Garlicky Spinach
By Grace Parisi | Food & Wine, June 2010
10 ounces baby spinach
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausages (or a combination of both), casings removed
4 slices of provolone cheese
1/4 cup sun-dried-tomato pesto
4 round ciabatta rolls, split and toasted
1. In a large skillet, bring 1/4 inch of water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 1 minute; drain and press out as much water as possible. Wipe out the skillet.
2. In the same skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and anchovy paste and cook over high heat, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the spinach, season with salt and stir just until coated, about 10 seconds.
3. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Using slightly moistened hands, form the sausage meat into four 4-inch patties, about 3/4 inch thick. Brush the burgers with oil and grill over moderate heat until browned and crusty on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip the burgers. Top with the cheese and grill until the burgers are cooked through and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes longer. Spread the pesto on the rolls. Top with the burgers and spinach and serve.