Spice up your burgers with lamb
Use a leaner cut of lamb meat for these grilled burgers — it’ll be lower in saturated fat but still high in flavor. Then add caramelized onions, zucchini and a garlic yogurt sauce.
Beef might claim to be what's for dinner in America, but in the Middle East, that honor often goes to lamb. It's prepared in numerous ways, but my favorite is when the lamb is ground, spiced and grilled, then topped with yogurt sauce and tucked into a pita. And that's how we're rolling here.
The only problem with ground lamb is that the kind available at the supermarket is often quite fatty. Generally speaking, of course, fat is where the flavor is — and the moisture. But lamb fat is saturated fat, and it's best to keep our intake of saturated fats down. Fortunately, lamb is packed with flavor, meaning that even the leaner cuts deliver big taste. What about the missing juiciness? We've replaced it with vegetables.
The surest way to source lean ground lamb is to grind it yourself or put it in the hands of a professional. Not all markets boast an in-house butcher these days, but if yours does, choose a leaner cut of lamb — a part of the leg, for example — and have the store grind it for you. Of course, if you own a meat grinder or a stand mixer with a meat-grinding attachment, take the leaner cut home and grind away.
If neither of those options is open to you, you can "grind" your lamb using a food processor. I put grind in quotation marks because when you do it with a processor, it's more like chopping or shredding than grinding. Here's how it works: Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes and freeze them for 30 minutes. Freezing the meat helps it to "grind" more evenly and prevents the processor from overheating the lamb in the process. Put the meat in the processor in batches and pulse until it gets to the desired consistency. Be careful not to overdo it.
This burger remains super juicy thanks to onions and zucchini. We caramelize the onions to optimize their flavor, and grate, salt and drain the zucchini. The burger is then seasoned with garlic, oregano and lemon, though you're welcome to swap out the oregano for basil, dill, mint or rosemary.
If you're not a fan of lamb, this recipe is also dandy made with beef. You can grind your own beef using the methods described above. Whichever meat you choose, though, don't skip the garlic yogurt sauce. .
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GRILLED MIDDLE EASTERN LAMB BURGERS WITH GARLIC YOGURT SAUCE
1 medium zucchini (10 to 12 ounces)
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic, divided
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, divided
Ground black pepper
1 pound lean ground lamb
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
Olive oil cooking spray
4 pita bread halves
Grated carrots and chopped cucumbers, to serve
Use a food processor or box grater to coarsely grate the zucchini. Transfer the grated zucchini to a strainer. Toss the zucchini with ½ teaspoon of salt and let it drain over the sink for 15 minutes. When it is done draining, squeeze out the zucchini to get rid of as much liquid as possible, working with a small handful at a time.
While the zucchini is draining, in a large nonstick or stick-resistant skillet, heat the oil on medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes or until golden brown. Add the squeezed zucchini and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and let it cool to room temperature.
Heat a grill to medium.
Meanwhile, to make the sauce, combine the yogurt, ½ teaspoon of the garlic, 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
When the zucchini mixture has cooled, add the lamb, oregano, the remaining 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, the remaining 1 teaspoon of garlic, ¼ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper. Mix well, then shape into 4 patties, each about ½ inch thick. Spray the burgers lightly with olive oil cooking spray, then grill until medium-rare, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
Serve each burger in a pita half, then top with the garlic sauce, carrots and cucumber.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 500 calories (250 calories from fat, 50 percent of total calories); 28g fat (10g saturated, 0g trans fats); 110mg cholesterol; 26g carbohydrates; 3g fiber; 5g sugar; 35g protein; 640mg sodium.