A Patty Melt with your favorite salad is perfect for outdoor dining. Save room for the rhubarb dessert. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

Since the weather has warmed up a bit, I’ve been using the gas grill more often and I’m really enjoying it. My grill is positioned on the deck right outside the kitchen slider so it takes no extra effort to cook outside.

Patty Melts are my absolute favorite version of a burger. I don’t know if it’s really true, but it feels a bit healthier to sandwich the burger between thin slices of toasted rye bread rather than fluffy white buns. Sometimes I have an open-faced version and this makes me think it’s okay to layer on more cheese and an extra spoonful of browned onions.

I make up for that by skipping the fries and preparing a healthy side salad. The one in the photograph is a simple green salad with the addition of snappy pea pods, but I decided to share a tomato/pepper recipe, too. I want you to be ready when those big ripe tomatoes start showing up. I have also made this salad with tiny tomatoes and peppers layered with the greens in a glass bowl. It all depends on how you want to present this strikingly colorful side dish.

It’s always better to use fresh herbs in place of dried herbs when you have them on hand. You’ll just adjust the amount by using a tablespoon of fresh herbs for a teaspoon of dried. Use your nose, your taste buds and your common sense and you won’t go wrong.

Lastly, I would be completely remiss if I didn’t include the recipe for a rhubarb dessert. ‘Tis the season. One of my old Bowdoinham neighbors who helped me getting acclimated to Maine back in my first years here in the early 80s stopped by at the cove the other day. She brought me a huge bunch of fresh-picked rhubarb and a rhubarb plant so I can start my own patch.

Another friend gave me several hand-written recipe cards with all her rhubarb recipes, so expect to see more about rhubarb in the coming weeks.

Patty Melts

1 pound ground beef
1/4 teaspoon each thyme and oregano
2 teaspoons. Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
Sautéed onions
4 slices Swiss cheese
8 slices rye bread, buttered lightly on both sides

Prepare grill. In a bowl, combine seasonings and garlic with ground meat. Form mixture into four patties, about 3/4-inch thick.

Grill burgers 4-5 inches from medium heat for 12-15 minutes, turning once. Top with cheese and grill for 1 minute or until cheese is melted. Place bread slices off to the side of the grill for last 5 minutes of grilling time, turning once, grilling until toasted. Place patties on bread and top with onions for serving. Yield: 4 servings

Sautéed Onions

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 large onions, thinly sliced into rings
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme

Heat oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onions, stirring frequently until caramelized, turning heat to medium low if needed.

Tomato & Pepper Salad

2 large yellow or orange peppers, sliced into thin rings
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
3 cups baby greens
1/2 cup assorted olives, for garnish

Dressing

1/3 cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon tarragon
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Add tomatoes and peppers and toss. Cover and chill for at least one hour.

To serve, cover a platter with greens. Arrange marinated vegetables in rows on top of greens and sprinkle with feta and olives. Pour dressing into pitcher for serving at table. Yield: 4 servings

Rhubarb Squares

Crust

1 cup flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir in butter and press half the mixture into a buttered 9-inch square baking pan.

Filling

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon soft butter
1 beaten egg
2 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Combine all ingredients except rhubarb in a bowl. Place rhubarb on crust. Pour egg mixture over all. Top with remaining half of crust mixture and press down lightly. Bake for 20-25 minutes until browned and bubbly. Yield: 6 servings

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