NBA FIT Live Healthy Week: the Better Burger and Homemade Quick Pickles

Nba fit healthy recipe lunch chef candice kumai rotator

This week, Men’s Fitness is teaming up with the NBA to celebrate NBA FIT Live Healthy Week. While all-star athletes will be promoting fitness and healthy living in communities around the nation, we’re camping out in the kitchen. Each day, we’ll deliver a series of low-calorie, muscle-building, athlete-caliber recipes designed by world-class chefs, like Mario Batali, Candice Kumai, Marc Forgione, Bill Telepan, Ali Maffucci, and Roble Ali. 

Lunch: The Better Burger and Homemade Quick Pickles

My secret to a healthier, more crowd-pleasing burger? Juicy, sweet caramelized onions and mouthwatering pickles. Enjoy, friends.


For Quick Pickles:

  • 2 pickling cucumbers, such as Kirby, cut into 1⁄4-inch slices on a mandolin
  • 11⁄2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1⁄2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, slivered
  • 1 teaspoon dill seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed

For Burgers:

  • 1⁄2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1⁄4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, divided
  • 11⁄2 pounds 95% lean ground sirloin
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 brioche buns or potato rolls, split and toasted (see Tip)
  • 8 leaves Bibb lettuce
  • 1 ripe tomato, sliced


To Make Pickles:

  1. Place the cucumber slices in a colander set in the sink. Sprinkle them with the 11⁄2 teaspoons salt and stir to combine. Let stand for 20 minutes. Rinse, drain, and transfer the cucumbers to a large heat-proof bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, onion, garlic, dill, mustard seed, and cumin seed in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour the hot liquid over the cucumbers and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to bring to room temperature.

To Make Burgers:

  1. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until deep golden, about 40 minutes. Add the water and scrape up any browned bits. Cook until the liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes.
  2. Season the caramelized onion with 1 teaspoon of the sea salt, and keep warm. Meanwhile, season the sirloin generously with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Gently shape the sirloin into five 1-inch-thick patties.
  3. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the oil. Cook the burgers over moderately high heat until deep brown outside and medium-rare within, about 6 minutes per side.
  4. Transfer the burgers to the buns, top with the caramelized onion, and serve with lettuce, tomato, and a side of your homemade quick pickles.

Protein Power: 6 Ways to Eat Lean Steak>>>

Make it leaner: Enjoy an open-faced burger by leaving off the top bun and digging in with a knife or a fork. Or just lose the bun altogether and serve the burger on top of Bibb lettuce.

Serves: 5

Recipe adapted from Cook Yourself Sexy by Candice Kumai

More Recipes From NBA FIT Live Healthy Week:

Breakfast: Candice Kumai’s Sweet Potato Breakfast Burrito>>>

Dinner: Candice Kumai’s Easy-Peasy Peanut Noodles with Chicken>>>

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