Beef it up for National Burger Month

America’s quintessential food of all seasons — the mighty burger that can be tricked out with more combinations than a SuperLotto ticket -- is being honored with its designated holiday in May.

Burger Beginnings

Burgers have seamlessly assimilated into American food culture, but actually originated in the lands of the Tartar, Mongol and Turkic tribes. These nomadics cleverly ground their tough Asian beef to make it more palatable (and prevent broken jaws!)

Eaten raw, this became the precursor to steak “tartar.” The ground beef concept was passed on to the Russian Tartars who in turn introduced it to the Germanics in the 14th century. The Germans “beefed it up” with their own regional condiments, making a popular dish among the lower classes in Hamburg, ergo the name “hamburger.”

Grass vs. Grain

Since cows are ruminants with stomachs comprised of four compartments, they are nature’s lawnmowers, naturally digesting cellulose, including hay, grass and cornstalks -- not grain.

According to Douglas Lindamood, owner of so Cal’s health-conscious SonRise Ranch, “More important than buying organic beef is to make sure the cows were grass-fed. Organic cows could still be grain-fed, that raises the acidic levels in their rumens (stomachs), producing an environment where dangerous, acid resistant E. coli can flourish.” We know all about that infamous foe when passed to a human. So where possible, buy grass-fed beef.

Beefless Beauties

For those who don’t do bovine, not to despair as all food groups have an equal opportunity to earn their grill marks. Choose the savory immune-boosting lamburger which pairs well with Mediterranean toppings such as feta, black olive tapenade and refreshing yogurt dill sauce.

Pollitarians can enjoy chicken or turkey burgers done all-American with grilled red onions, heirlooms and kicky barbecue sauce or tart cranberry mustard.

For pescavores, firm fish like mahi mahi or wild-caught salmon are best patty choices nicely topped with Asian accompaniments like daikon radishes and wasabi mayo. Move over soy, vegetarians’ choices include quinoa burgers with roasted peppers, wild mushroom patties or mixed veggie burgers packed with brown rice, barley, roasted beets and shiitakes that’s sweet, savory and divine.

Can’t Top That

While burgers are traditionally topped with mustard, ketchup, sliced onions, tomatoes, pickles and assorted melted cheeses, some regional toppings found include such hum-dingers as curry mayo and mango, peanut butter and bacon, foie gras, Beluga and chopped red onions, pulled barbecue pork, fried eggs and mac and cheese balls.

Burger Tools of the Trade

Burger meisters can perfect their craft with such state-of-the art gizmos as hickory-infused cedar planks, digital burger thermometers that register the doneness of meats including beef, lamb and turkey, steel-coated burger baskets that keep the guys intact on the grill, and patty presses that uniformly shape burgers while giving the option of stuffing them with such goodies as shredded cheeses and grilled veggies.

How Locals Do It

So Cal’s Burger Lounge is hosting a “Burger Love Tour” at their locations offering a “buy one burger, treat a friend to a free burger” deal, culminating in their newest location in Del Mar (Flower Hill Promenade) on National Burger Day (May 28). Choices include the grass-fed beef Lounge Burger, Free-Range Turkey, Organic Quinoa Veggie Burger or the seasonal grass-fed Lamb Burger dressed in Asadero Cheese, Jalapeno Relish and Tomatillo-Green Chile Mayo.

Also check out Beaumont’s Eatery (La Jolla) for a three-meat patty blend mixed with sun-dried tomatoes, topped with balsamic-glazed onions, feta and basil aioli.

Rancho Valencia’s Rancho Burger topped with house-cured pancetta, sun-dried tomato remoulade and black truffle aioli.

La Jolla’s Herringbone for an Albacore and Avocado Burger, and Fashion Valley’s True Food Kitchen for a Grass-fed Bison Burger dressed with umami, mushroom and mayo on a flax seed bun.

Sweet and Spicy Homemade Mustard


1/3 cup mustard seeds (brown and yellow)

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 shallot, minced

Pinch of cayenne pepper, white pepper, turmeric, allspice

1/2 teaspoon Sea salt

Method: Combine ingredients in a glass bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Process in blender until desired consistency is reached (some folks like it chunky, others smooth). Store in an airtight container for 3 weeks.

* For burger recipes or if you’d just like to beef about something, e-mail