|Spiced Lamb Burger Platter with Tzatziki and Sliced Tomatoes|
|Bon Appetit’s Grilled Spiced Lamb Burger|
Last summer, Bon Appetit’s Summer Grilling issue included a picture of a dish I found irresistible. Granted it took me a year to get to it but I was awfully glad I did. It was a lamb mixture that was stuffed into a Pita and then the whole thing was grilled. This caused a fair amount of consternation around our house because the meat is raw and only cooked once inside the Pita. But there was nothing to worry about. As promised, the lamb did cook completely and the pita became crispy as it did. No side dishes were suggested in the Bon Appetit article but it struck me as the perfect time to make some tzatziki, the garlicky cucumber and yogurt dip that hails from Greece. Given how much Greece is in the news this week, it was wonderful to think positive thoughts about the country while enjoying both the sweetness of lamb with its Greek accents and the cool freshness of the tzatziki. And wonder of wonders, Ina Garten provided me with a recipe that made tzatziki a whole lot easier to make than the last time I made the dish.
Ground lamb is one of the things you may have to buy at the butcher as it not found in many a meat case. But as I made this recipe, I wondered how it would taste made with either pork or ground turkey. Ground turkey is a sponge for all kinds of flavors so it would likely take on very much the same flavor profile. But the ground pork could likely hold its own. This is a really easy mixture to put together in very little time. The only stumbling block is having to split the pitas by cutting them along the seam without piercing the outside of the shell. It is actually not all that difficult if done slowly and cautiously. I cooked these two ways. The first time, I used a grill pan atop our gas stove. I’ve have had huge success cooking steaks this way. two ways. In this instance the grill was far too hot and, concerned about cooking the lamb all the way through, I overcooked the pita. The second time I made the dish, I brought out our Panini maker and voila! Flawlessly cooked meat and crispy Pita!
Ina Garten’s Tzatziki was a revelation. Initially, I unearthed an older Ina recipe that called for ‘draining’ both the yogurt and the cucumber overnight to rid them of their considerable water content. But in “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof” (Clarkson Potter 2012), Ina discovered that Greek-style yogurt and so-called “English” cucumbers, allowed you to skip that step. You do drain the cucumber—wringing the moisture out with your hands but the thick Greek yogurt needs no draining at all. Any leftover Tzatziki is a wonderful addition to a cheese plate, especially one that has Feta as one of its cheeses. You can even toast any pitas you have left over and serve them in lieu of crackers. Here are the recipes:
Recipe for Bon Appetit’s Spiced Lamb Burgers in Pita Bread
Makes 8 servings
2 1/2 pounds ground lamb, preferably shoulder
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teasoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for grilling
8 thick medium pita breads with pockets
1. Using a fork, mix lamb, onion, parsley, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup oil in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
2. Prepare grill for medium heat and oil grate. Or heat a panini maker like I did. Working one at a time, open each pita pocket by cutting along seam, halfway around perimeter. Spoon filling into pitas, spreading to edges. Close, pressing on filling to seal.
3. Grill pitas until filling is cooked through and bread is crisp, about 5 minutes per side.
Do ahead: Filling can be made 8 hours ahead. Keep chilled. Pita breads can be stuffed 1 hour ahead; cover and chill.
Recipe for Ina Garten’s Easy Tzatziki
Makes 8 servings
2 (7-ounce) containers Greek yogurt, such as Fage Total
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Grate the cucumber on a box grater on the largest grating side and squeeze it with your hands to remove most (but not all) of the liquid. Add the grated cucumber to the yogurt. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, vinegar, dill, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and combine. Taste for seasonings. Refrigerate until ready to serve.