One of the most satisfying parts of a vacation, strangely enough, is always coming home again. Touching down on the tarmac and cabbing it into town. Stepping into a quiet apartment and flicking on the lights. Home.
San Francisco, though, is my kind of town.
I didn’t really know this for certain when I packed up my life in Washington, D.C. and moved four-plus years ago, but I had a hunch. It was one of the most picturesque cities I’d ever seen, that I knew.
As it turns out, San Francisco is very pretty on the inside, too. People tend to be open and friendly, like labradors: friends-of-friends will often give a hug when introduced. (I’m still not really used to it. I think I’ll always be more of a cheek kisser.) Culture and art (and the vibrant creative class who makes it) are appreciated in a way that I find unique to this town. Folks are committed to protecting the environment. People here are way into food.
While we’re awash in photo opportunities and progressive politics, San Francisco is sometimes (how shall I put this delicately?) a bit lacking in the weather department. It is perpetually fall, as far as I can tell. (I have more pashminas and scarves than pairs of shoes, for this reason.)
Digressions could be launched from here about San Francisco’s fog patterns and microclimates, but please just take my word for it. Bring a sweater. Layer. It’s always chilly at night, and often during the day if the wind picks up. (When I first moved here, there was much eye rolling over San Franciscans’ complaints about the wind, particularly when it was 62 degrees out in November. Look who’s complaining now?)
All that said, you might imagine what happens (as it will this weekend, today!) when San Francisco gets a solid streak of sunny, warm weather. Sunshine, mid-seventies, still air and a Saturday afternoon?
People go nutso.
I don’t think we have switchboards any more, per se, but for our imaginary purposes, those switchboards are lit up. They are shooting sparks and they are on fire. An outdoor location is hastily selected, and assignments are sent around via text and iPhone: Beer! Ice! Salads! Charcoal! Veggie option for our vegan friend! Meat! Move, people, move!
When the weather is glorious, and the door to your backyard is open and beckoning you with summery promises, there’s no time to spare on elaborate food preparations. You need to get outside, and now.
I have a favorite turkey burger recipe that gets me outside quickly. Ten ingredients, a ten minute prep, and about ten minutes on the grill yields exactly ten burgers for ten wild-eyed friends, who are by now tipsy on microbrews and delirious with the pleasure of springtime, outdoors and sans jackets.
The burgers evolved, as they often do, from a recipe I found in Bon Appétit magazine a few years ago. I find the original incarnation just as meaty and savory as mine, if a bit salty, so try that one, too. (I won’t be offended if you prefer it to my recipe, I promise.) The good people at Bon Appétit recommend a variation of ground lamb, which you should totally go for. Maybe with a crunchy cucumber and tomato salad on the side. I like the herbal punch of dill in mine rather than mint, but it’s your BBQ.
Perhaps, though, you’re a little suspicious of the “turkey” part of the turkey burger. Won’t it be dry and hockey puck-ish? Don’t worry too much. The addition of dark meat, olive oil and blue cheese will keep the burgers moist and juicy, but still much lighter (and less caloric, but who’s counting?) than your average burger. Herbs, onion and garlic add high savory notes to the party.
Also, save your fancy Stilton or Point Reyes blue for the cheese plate; we’ll go for easy-breezy (but not windy!) for the occasion, so just use the supermarket tub of blue crumbles. Swap out crumbled goat cheese if you don’t care for les bleus.
Turkey Burgers with Blue Cheese
makes 10 burgers
- 3 lbs ground turkey, equal parts dark and light meat
- 1 C red onion, finely chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
- 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
- 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
- 1/3 C flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt (or to your taste)
- 1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 Tbsp olive oil (plus additional oil for grilling)
- 5 oz blue cheese, crumbled
Get yourself outside. Pour yourself a glass of rosé or crack a beer. Heat grill to med-high heat. Bring the ground turkey to room temperature while prepping the other ingredients.
In a large bowl, lightly mix all ingredients together. Form into ten patties.
Brush each burger lightly with olive oil. Grill, flipping halfway through, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees (about 10 minutes total, depending on the temperature of the grill and burgers). Serve on toasted potato, brioche or whole wheat buns.