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Lamb Burgers with the taste of a Gyro

Gyros, ubiquitous in NYC

A Gyro is a Greek dish of meat that’s been roasted on a vertical spit, folded into pita bread and then served with tomato, onion and tzatsiki sauce.  Gyros, pronounced “Heros”, are everywhere in New York City.  The website Yelp has a list of New York’s Gyro places that goes on for 100 pages.  There is a certain ‘mystery meat’ quality to a Gyro that can be a little off-putting but they are usually very inexpensive and if that doesn’t win you over, the intense flavor will win over your taste buds.  So when a recipe for Lamb Burgers, in a recent Saveur Magazine, promised the flavor of a Gyro in a Burger where you put the meat together yourself, it was a no-brainer.  And if you are a burger fan like me, you should add this one to your repertoire of summer grilling.

Grilling meat stacked on a skewer has ancient roots in Greece but it really took off in the 19th century.  Pieces of meat, usually pork, lamb and beef, are placed on a tall spit, which rotates in front of a source of heat.  If the meat is not fatty enough, strips of fat are added to the pile so that the roasting meat is always firm and crisp.  Soy and MSG  are also used to season the meat. Then it’s sliced off into thin crisp shavings.   The Lamb Burger recipe was adapted from the prominent Greek American chef, Michael Psilakis who own a restaurant called Anthos in New York City.  I am happy to report there is no soy nor MSG at all in the dish. Instead, the Chef has spiced the pork and lamb mixture with parsley, dill, cumin and garlic.   But it’s the toppings that really send you on the road to Greece with the tang of crumbled Feta cheese, arugula, olives and sun-dried tomatoes.   I discovered an herbed Feta at Trader Joe’s that added even more punch.  Here is the recipe:
Recipe for Lamb Burgers adapted from Michael Psilakis in Saveur Magazine
Makes 2 burgers. Takes under 30 minutes
2 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp. minced yellow onion
12 oz. ground lamb
4 oz. ground pork
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. each finely chopped parsley,
mint, and dill
1 tsp. dried Greek oregano
1⁄2 tsp. ground coriander
1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 scallion, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper,
to taste
1⁄3 cup crumbled feta cheese
10 leaves baby arugula
8 black olives in oil, drained, pitted,
and roughly chopped
8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
and roughly chopped
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 hamburger buns, toasted
1. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in an 8″ skillet over high heat. Add onions; cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Transfer onions to a plate; let cool. In a bowl, mix onions, lamb, pork, mustard, herbs, spices, garlic, scallions, and salt and pepper. 
2. Form meat into two 1″-thick patties; set aside.
3. Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or heat a gas grill to medium-high (or heat a tablespoon of canola oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat). Grill burgers, flipping once, until browned and cooked to desired doneness, about 10 minutes for medium rare. In a small bowl, combine feta, arugula, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes; toss with the remaining oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. 
4. Place each burger on the bottom half of a bun and top each with the vegetables and bun top.

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