Welcome to Summer Food Memories, a series we're doing in collaboration with Yahoo Food. We asked four interesting people—writers and chefs we like, plus a few surprises—to help us say goodbye to summer with some culinary nostalgia. We're developing recipes loosely inspired by their essays.
For the first installment, novelist Emma Straub goes back to summer camp and her youthful (and short-lived) flirtation with vegetarianism. She ate her veggies all summer—until the hamburgers came around at the end of camp. Read her story—and then come back to make this pretty hamburger. (Hey, that's not cheese, it's thinly sliced sweet potatoes!)
Check back next Friday for more summer-feeling recipes and stories.
Hamburger with Pickled Tomatoes, Sweet Potato and Avocado
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 4 burgers
Prep Time: 1 hour, plus pickling time
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes, plus pickling time
For the Pickled Tomatoes:
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup water
1 large beefsteak tomato, cut into ¼-inch slices
For the Garlic Mayonnaise:
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Salt, to taste
For the Burger:
1½ pounds ground beef chuck
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced using a mandolin
1 large eggplant, sliced ¼-inch thick
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 packed cup arugula
1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled and smashed
4 hamburger buns (such as Martin's), toasted
1. Make the pickled tomatoes: Put the vinegar, salt, sugar and garlic in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and stir, until the salt and sugar has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the water. Let the liquid cool for 20 minutes. Add the tomato to the pickling liquid and let stand for at 2 hours and up to 6 hours.
Make ahead: The tomatoes can be pickled 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
2. Make the garlic mayonnaise: Stir all the ingredients together in a small bowl and season with salt; set aside.
3. Make the burger: Transfer the meat to a plastic cutting board and divide into 4 equal portions, about 6 ounces each.
4. Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a large cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sweet potato and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a medium bowl; set aside.
5. Wipe the cast iron clean with a kitchen towel and heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant slices and fry until golden brown on both sides, about 8 minutes. Remove the eggplant slices and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.
6. Wipe the cast-iron clean and heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Season the patties aggressively with salt and pepper and transfer to the cast-iron. Cook until lightly charred on the outside and medium-rare on the inside, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer the patties to a cutting board and let them rest for a few minutes before serving.
7. To assemble the burgers, generously spread the garlic mayonnaise on both sides of the burger bun. Place the meat on the bottom bun, then top with fried eggplant, the sweet potato-onion mixture, pickled tomato, arugula, avocado and the bun top. Repeat with remaining burgers and serve.