Wednesday is Tasting Fair Day at Sun Harvest – a most delightful day. The latest theme was right up our alley: Cheese, Please! There was aged chevre, sage derby, Jarlsberg, crystalline aged gouda, Halloumi and several other tempting varieties.

Being a self-proclaimed cheese-a-holic [I keep a cheese diary], I’ve enjoyed Halloumi several times. He, on the other hand, was a newbie instantly captivated. We ate some last week with our Mediterranean antipasti meal, more tonight for supper on our pesto turkey burgers.

Straight from the mouth of a true burger aficionado: “These are the best burgers I have ever eaten!” I told you he was captivated… and I agree whole-heartedly. Well done us!

Sometimes turkey burgers turn out dry and crumbly. These were much the opposite. I don’t know if it was the pesto added to the burger meat, the fact that the patties rested in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before we grilled them, or a combination of the two, but these were the most tender and moist turkey burgers I’ve ever encountered. A thick slather of pesto on the bottom of a toasted buttery bolillo added a jolt of flavor and freshness, along with crisp slivers of red onion, browned Halloumi and fresh basil leaves.

Grilled peaches drizzled with a balsamic dressing and tumblers of Folie à deux Ménage à Trois California White accompanied the meal. The balsamic peaches a simply delicious complement; the wine disgustingly sweet [94 points, I think not]. Our incredible burgers would’ve been far better with a crisper, drier white or a couple of ice cold weissbiers.

Pesto and Halloumi Turkey Burgers [makes 4 burgers]

Printable recipe

We made our own pesto, but store-bought versions are equally as good and much less time-consuming.

For the Pesto Sauce:

2 c fresh basil leaves, very roughly torn; reserving a few whole leaves for topping burgers

1 garlic clove

1/2 c finely grated Romantina, Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

a good squeeze of fresh lemon juice, about 1/2 medium lemon

1/2 t salt

1/4 c pine nuts, very lightly toasted

2/3 c extra virgin olive oil, divided

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For the Burgers:

1 1/4 lbs ground turkey breast meat, chilled

1 1/4 T panko breadcrumbs

1 small shallot, finely chopped, about 1 T total

1 – 1 1/2 T pesto sauce

1/2 t salt

1/2 t freshly cracked black pepper

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To serve:

2 rolls, such as bolillo

4 slices Halloumi cheese, about 1/4″ thick

several thin slices red onion

To make the pesto, combine the garlic, most of the basil, Romantina or other grating cheese, salt and lemon juice in a food processor. Pulse a few times, add the pine nuts and pulse again. Drizzle in 2 T olive oil and pulse a few more times. Remove desired amount of pesto to add into turkey meat and set aside. Drizzle the remaining olive oil into the mixture while continuing to pulse until the pesto is smooth. Taste, and adjust if necessary with more salt or lemon juice.

For the burgers, gently mix all ingredients plus reserved pesto in a large bowl. Form mixture into four 1/2- to 3/4″-thick patties. Place on plate, cover and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before grilling [this helps the flavors meld and burgers firm up]. Bring slightly back to room temperature before cooking.

After burgers have been pulled out of the refrigerator, prepare a grill pan or barbecue at medium-high heat. Split the rolls horizontally and brush cut sides with olive oil; toast until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to plates.

Preheat the broiler to high.

Brush the top of each burger with olive oil. Place oiled side down on grill and cook 6 minutes. Brush top with olive oil and turn, grilling another 5-6 minutes, or until almost cooked through [they will continue cooking under the broiler]. Remove burgers from grill to a foil-lined baking sheet, and lay cheese slices atop each burger. Slide the burgers under the broiler, allowing the cheese to brown and bubble.

Place some pesto, then 1 burger on each bun bottom. Top each with a few of the remaining whole basil leaves and red onion slices. Cover with bun top. Serve with remaining sauce.

A squirrel bread original.

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Try this: Cut squares of foccacia bread, brush with olive oil and toast; serve burgers in foccacia ‘buns.’

And this: Replace the basil with other herbs [parsley, rosemary, tarragon], greens [arugula or spinach] or even sun-dried tomatoes or olives.

Or this: Use feta in lieu of the Halloumi, and sprinkle the top with crushed red chilli flakes before broiling.