Cajun Pork Burgers & Spinach Artichoke Pasta Salad

Cajun Pork Burgers

  • 3/4 lb andouille sausage, removed from casing
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped, OR 1 t dried thyme
  • 1 t cayenne pepper sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Special Sauce for Burgers

  • 1/2 cup chili sauce
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1/4 cup prepared sweet red pepper relish

Cut sausage into large chunks and place in a food processor. Grind sausage into crumbles and combine in a bowl with pork, vegetables, thyme, hot sauce, and a little salt and pepper. Form mixture into patties and cook 7 minutes on each side on an indoor electric grill preheated to high. To cook in a skillet, heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and cook burgers 6-7 minutes on each side. For outdoor grill, cook patties 6 inches from hot coals or over medium-high gas heat, 6 minutes on each side, covered.

Mix chili sauce, mayo, and sweet relish in a small bowl. Serve burgers on crusty rolls with special sauce, lettuce, and tomato.

Yield: 5 burgers [We got 6 big burgers and 1 teensy-tiny one.]

Spinach Artichoke Pasta Salad

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 T red wine vinegar
  • The juice of 1 small lemon
  • 6 oz baby spinach, chopped
  • 1 can (15 oz) artichoke hearts in water, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 lb ricotta salata cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup pitted black olives, such as Kalamata, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1 lb penne or other short pasta, cooked al dente, cooled, and well drained
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the first three dressing ingredients in the bottom of a serving bowl. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and toss until well combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste and serve.

Yield: 8 side servings (leftovers make a nice light lunch)

Both Recipes From Rachael Ray, 30-Minute Meals 2

Notes: The cookbook says that you can find Ricotta Salata in the specialty cheese case of your supermarket. I looked at the supermarket we normally go to with no luck. I called 3 other stores, with no luck. Some of the employees had no idea what I was talking about! I finally found the cheese at Whole Foods. We think that it would be easier to find farther north, rather than where we live. Also, Gray had just made pickled peppers with peppers from our garden, so we used that in the special sauce instead of red pepper relish.

Katie: Wow! What a knock out dinner tonight!!! First I made the special sauce to make sure the ingredients had time to marry. Then I mixed the burger ingredients together earlier today to let the flavors meld together, and I let the pasta salad “marinate” while we were cooking the burgers. I thought we had thyme in the pantry, but when it came time to add it to the mixture, we did NOT have any. I researched substitutes on the internet, and found that most people thought it was better to just not put anything in if you don’t have any thyme. So that’s what I did. Ours were still most delicious! The only other note I have is that you really don’t need that many onions, peppers, and celery in the burgers. It was really hard to get them to stay together and there were still some left in the bottom of the bowl when I got done. While Gray was grilling, more of them fell off, and the ceramic briquettes on the gas grill were covered with them when he got done. Other than that, yumm-o, as Rachael Ray would say!!

I picked these recipes because they were both things that I would not normally make. I don’t usually even like pasta salad, much less make one with that many ingredients. I explained about the search for the ricotta salata above, and I really think it was worth it. Go to the link, which really does a good job describing what it tastes like, to understand what kind of cheese it is. I’m just glad that I finally found some. As for the burgers, I would never think of putting andouille sausage in burgers. Well, that is why I’m just a home chef and not a famous one! Rachael Ray really knows what she is doing! It makes me want to make more of her recipes with things that I don’t normally eat!!

Gray:  I have to admit that I wasn’t very excited about this pork burger recipe, but now I can’t wait to make it again.  It was outstanding.  I wasn’t sure what to expect grilling the pork burgers, but they held together and did not shrink up a whole lot, while cooking fairly quickly.  I generally like pasta salad, and this is an excellent recipe that is different enough to make it exciting.

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