A classic cheese on a classic burger -- Southern style.

No slab of American would suffice for Matt Lee and Ted Lee, Charleston-raised brothers who have made careers out of sharing the flavors of the South.

"A thick slab of melting cheese has always been our favorite addition to a burger," Matt said in an e-mail.

"But our cravings these days also run to snappier, spicy-sour sensations that temper the richness of the cheese-topped burger and speed us toward a second helping."

So they reached for that classic Southern food: pimiento cheese. Albeit, with an update.

"Our favorite new variation on pimiento cheese uses Swiss (instead of the traditional cheddar) and banana peppers (instead of roasted red peppers)," said Matt Lee, who with his brother wrote the recent "The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern."

"We add capers, chives and chili flakes to torque the flavor up to 11 and to reinforce the crumbly, relish-like texture of the spread," he said.

The result is a pleasantly piquant Southern take on the classic burger.

Makes 2 cups (enough for 16 burgers)

Start to finish: 10 minutes


10 ounces Swiss cheese, finely grated

12-ounce jar banana peppers, drained (1 tablespoon of the liquid reserved) and finely minced

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or scallions

2 tablespoons drained capers, rinsed

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Kosher salt, to taste


In a large bowl, combine the cheese, banana peppers, reserved banana pepper liquid, chives or scallions, capers, pepper flakes and black pepper. Use your hands to knead the mixture together until evenly blended.

Season with salt, then mix again. The relish can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrition information per 2 tablespoon serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 73 calories; 45 calories from fat; 5g fat (3g saturated; 0g trans fats); 16mg cholesterol; 2g carbohydrates; 5g protein; 1g fiber; 106mg sodium.

Servings: 4

Start to finish: 30 minutes


8 tablespoons cheese relish

1 pound ground beef

1 teaspoon canola oil

4 hamburger buns, lightly toasted

4 leaves iceberg lettuce, optional

1 onion, thinly sliced into rings, optional

Condiments, as desired


Divide the cheese into 4 balls, 2 tablespoons each. Flatten each ball into a thick patty. Set aside.

Form the ground beef into 4 balls and flatten into 3/4-inch-thick patties.

Heat a grill to high and brush the rack with the oil. Alternatively, heat a large skillet over high and add the oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Heat until the oil shimmers and begins to smoke.

Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the burgers for 3 minutes on each side. With a spatula, flip again and cook for another 1 1/2 minutes on the first side, then for another 1 1/2 minutes on the second side for medium-rare.

Top each burger with a patty of the cheese relish, cover the grill or pan, and cook for 1 minute.

Transfer the burgers to the buns and let rest for 2 minutes. Top each burger with lettuce, onion and condiments, as desired.

Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 416 calories; 175 calories from fat; 19g fat (8g saturated; 1g trans fats); 90mg cholesterol; 26g carbohydrates; 32g protein; 2g fiber; 390mg sodium.