As you head outside to fire up the grill today, know that you are not alone.
According to the 23rd annual Weber GrillWatch Survey, a whopping 90 percent of American grill owners plan to fire up their backyard grill for Fourth of July cooking, a 9 percent jump from last year. The survey tracked responses from 1,000 grill owners throughout the United States; all respondents were 21 years of age or older and currently own a charcoal, gas or electric outdoor grill or smoker.
Kudos to you if you plan to try any of the smoked recipes highlighted in last week's Food section. However, burgers still reign as king of the backyard cookout, with hot dogs, steaks, brats and chicken following in the ranks.
If you want to do a little something extra for your burgers for the holiday, try these Bruschetta Burgers courtesy of Weber:
In a small bowl combine 1 chopped tomato, 2 tablespoons shredded parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, 1 clove finely minced garlic and 1 teaspoon each balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil.
Shape 1½ pounds ground beef into four patties about ½-inch thick and season both sides with 1 tablespoon Weber Gourmet Burger Seasoning (or your favorite meat/steak seasoning). Grill to desired doneness.
Lightly brush both sides of eight sourdough bread slices with olive oil and grill for 3 to 4 minutes, turning once, until bread is lightly toasted. Place burgers on bread; top with tomato mixture and additional slice of bread.
Make mine cheese, please: If it's a cheeseburger you crave but you're conscious of the fat, grab a pack of Sargento's Ultra Thin Slices.
Thinly cut from natural cheese, the slices contain 45 or fewer calories per slice with the same rich flavors you expect from Sargento. They're available at stores nationwide in Colby Jack, mild cheddar, provolone and Swiss.
Sargento also has teamed up with a handful of celebrity chefs, including Chicago's Al Sternweiler from Butcher and The Burger, to create America's Ultimate Cheeseburger.
Sternweiler's Drill Sargento Burger (topped with cheddar and Swiss as well as bacon, sauteed onion and Dijon mustard), faces online recipe competition from burgers from Milwaukee, Miami, New York and San Diego. You can view all the recipes and support chef Sternweiler by visiting the "America's Ultimate Cheeseburger" on Facebook at facebook.com/SargentoCheese.
Your vote counts: First lady Michelle Obama's Mama Kaye's White and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies are going head to head against Ann Romney's M&M's Cookies in Family Circle magazine's quadrennial cookie competition, and you can help decide the winner.
Family Circle's first bipartisan bake-off took place in 1992, when Hillary Clinton and Barbara Bush bumped spatulas over the importance of baking. Almost 20 years and five presidential election cycles later, the Family Circle Presidential Cookie Bake-Off has become a fun political tradition attracting more than 19 million readers to the polls.
Find the culinary candidates' recipes in Family Circle's August issue (on newsstands now), then vote online at www.familycircle.com/cookievote. Recipes and voting also are available through Family Circle's Facebook page.
Polls will remain open until noon Aug. 15. Readers can vote once per day.
Simple summer fare: Celebrated chef Keith Willis of SugarToad in Naperville will share recipes for Four Star Food at Home with a Simple Approach during a class Monday evening in St. Charles.
The class will be held 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, July 9, at The Wine Exchange, 1 W. Illinois St., in downtown St. Charles. Willis, who has worked with acclaimed chefs Charlie Trotter and Thomas Keller, will present several recipes including Wild Mushroom Risotto with shiitake and oyster mushrooms and Spiced Pork Medallion with roasted sweet potato, cinnamon-apple purée and apple cider vinegar and rosemary oil.
This Cooking with the Best Chefs class costs $25 per person or $40 for nonmembers. Annual memberships for Cooking with The Best Chefs cost $15 a person or $25 per family. Preregistration is required; after July 5, the price increases $10.
Bring a clipboard to class to make notes on the recipe sheets; samples and complimentary wine pairings will be offered.
Details and registration at bestchefs.com or by calling founder and host Bill Lavery at (224) 286-7441.
• Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at email@example.com or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend on Facebook.com/debpankey.dailyherald or follow her on Twitter@PankeysPlate.