We are really on a roll now, flying back and forth across the oceans – our next stop is Costa Rica. The Republic of Costa Rica is located in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama.
The over 4.5 million Costa Ricans enjoy relative economic stability and high literacy/education levels. Before the world economic crisis (or what I like to call the plummeting of my retirement account), Costa Rica was doing well and had nice solid year on year growth in their economy. Things are still pretty good, just not as good (sounds kind of familiar).
The best part about Costa Rica is that there are great food traditions on which we can build a yummy burger. I couldn’t find any quintessentially Costa Rican burger, so we’re on our own to create something from scratch. What I did find was a new condiment – and one that I will come back to again and again (especially since it comes in a bottle – no cooking! Easy peasy!).
According to my sources, no table in Costa Rica would be complete without a bottle of Lizano® Salsa. How to describe this sauce? The ingredients are written in Spanish, so I can’t tell you exactly what is in it, but there is a flavor of cooked vegetables, vinegar, cumin and a little spicy undertone. This doesn’t come close to explaining what this sauce does to beef. I know many of you are fans of Worcestershire sauce in your burger – well, Lizano® will convert you to an all new flavor experience. The flavor is deeper, richer and more interesting and really transformed what seems like otherwise a pretty simple burger. I couldn’t find Lizano® in my local grocery store, but it is available online (thank goodness for the Internet), and well worth paying for the shipping (I had to overnight mine to keep to my schedule, no buyers remorse here).
I’m sure I am going to here from a few purists that you can’t really may Costa Rican food without making black beans and rice. It is a staple and eaten throughout the day. But we’ve done black beans on our Brazil burger and I wanted to try something different here. So we start with Lizano® as our inspiration, add some grilled onions (I found several references to grilled onions being a popular topping for burgers and sandwiches), then add a little cabbage – wait a minute, cabbage? Cabbage and tomatoes are a common combo for salads that are served with many meals in Costa Rica – Costa Ricans like to eat pretty balanced meals, a little meat, a little starch and some veggies – so I thought I’d try cabbage as a replacement for lettuce on this burger. Because cabbage can be a little tough, I pickled the cabbage lightly in white wine vinegar. At the end of the day, the texture of the cabbage was nice, but if you aren’t planning on making a cabbage based dish, just substitute a bib lettuce or something like that. I love Napa Cabbage, but the heads are HUGE! Luckily this burger goes really well with cole slaw, so no cabbage was wasted in the making of this recipe.
Cheese again was really difficult to get a good read on. The only cheese I could find in my research was Queso Fresco – so I bought some and crumbled it into the burger. We tried it both with the cheese and without and found the cheese added nothing special to the burger, so I’m leaving it out of the final recipe.
For the bread I stuck with a standard hamburger bun – this burger is really juicy and it doesn’t need a big heavy bun or anything fancy. I did intend to fry some plantains as a side dish, but instead I served Congo burgers the same night as Costa Rican burgers (because I had fallen behind – can’t let that happen). I don’t recommend serving the two burgers together – they were both good, but not very complimentary. It was too crazy trying to do two burgers and cole slaw in one night, no time to fry plantains, but if you want to fry some up, just keep it simple with really hot peanut oil and salt, nothing fancy needed. Fried plantains would also be great with the Lizano® mayo, maybe we’ll give that a try this weekend…
This burger ends up in the crave-worthy category (I always know it’s a home run when my husband hovers as I’m making the photo burger in order to eat the sample after – which should reassure you that my photos are real burgers, not inedible creations that just look pretty). The seasoning of the burger reminds me of a burger cooked on a really well seasoned grill, this is complimented by the sweetness of the onion, the tangy mayo and the freshness of tomato and cabbage rounds out the experience. We served our stand by Chilean Carmenere but this would be equally good with a Malbec or a Shiraz – a nice big wine for a juicy and flavorful burger.
Costa Rican Burger
4 leaves of Napa cabbage
1.4 cup white wine vinegar
1 large onion sliced in half then cut in ¼ inch slices
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
1 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Lizano® Salsa
4 burger buns buttered and grilled lightly
1 tomato sliced
Lizano® Mayo (recipe below)
Trim the stems off the cabbage and put in a glass container with the vinegar. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before using. When you’re ready to use the cabbage, drain the vinegar and pat the cabbage dry.
Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet, then add onions and cook over high heat until lightly browned and translucent. Set aside until ready to use.
In a large bowl combine beef, salt and Lizano® Salsa until thoroughly mixed. Form into four patties. Grill in the same pan you cooked the onions (don’t clean it in between). On each bun place a leaf of cabbage then the cooked patty, tomato, onions and top with Lizano® Mayo.
½ cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Lizano® Salsa
1 Teaspoon lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
©Copyright 2011 Linda Monach