Lamb Burger with Molten Goat Cheese Core Makes 4 burgers
We North Americans eat so much ground beef that we almost forget what beef tastes like. When you eat a lamb burger you actually taste the lamb and it makes for a deliciously different grilling experience. The goat cheese stuffing adds an orgiastic twist. Don’t forget to freeze the goat cheese!
For the tzatziki: 1 tsp | 5 mL ground cumin 1 cup | 250 mL plain Greek full-fat yogurt 1 Tbsp | 15 mL finely chopped fresh mint leaves 1/3 long English cucumber, finely grated
To finish the burgers: Mediterranean Herbed Butter (see recipe below) 2 large fresh rounds of pita bread fresh sliced tomatoes 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced 1 bunch fresh arugula, washed and dried
For the patties: 11/2 lb | 750 g ground lamb 2 Tbsp | 25 mL chopped fresh mint 1 tsp | 5 mL dried oregano 1/2 tsp | 2 mL kosher salt freshly ground black pepper to taste 3 oz | 75 g soft goat cheese (chèvre), frozen and sliced into 4 1/2-inch | 1 cm discs 2 Tbsp | 25 mL softened Mediterranean Herbed Butter (see recipe below) kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To make the tzatziki, dry-fry the ground cumin over medium heat for 30 seconds, or until it becomes fragrant and browns just slightly. Transfer the cumin from the hot pan into a bowl. Add the yogurt, mint, and cucumber, mix them together thoroughly, cover the tzatziki, and refrigerate it until it’s needed. Gently mix the lamb with the mint, oregano, salt, and a few grindings of pepper in a nonreactive bowl with your hands. Divide the meat into 4 equal portions and shape them into balls. Make a hole in each patty with your thumb and insert a disc of frozen goat cheese. Carefully seal the hole and shape the ball into a patty 3/4 inch | 2 cm thick, making sure to cover the cheese with the meat. Season the outside of the patties with salt and pepper. Lightly brush them with olive oil and grill them over medium direct heat for 4–5 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature is 160˚F | 71˚C. Take the burgers off the grill and spread a thin layer of the herbed butter on top of each one (if you don’t have any herbed butter, drizzle them with a little olive oil—just enough to make them glisten). Let them rest for 3–4 minutes. Just before you’re ready to serve them, toast the pitas on the grill for 10–15 seconds per side. Cut the pitas in half, open them up, and stuff the burgers inside. Dress them with the tomatoes, onion, arugula, and tzatziki.
Mediterranean Butter 4 Tbsp | 50 mL finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley 4 Tbsp | 50 mL finely chopped combination of fresh dill, basil, or mint (or any combination of fresh herbs—try chervil, tarragon, sage, rosemary, etc.) 1 lb | 500 g unsalted butter kosher salt to taste
Cut the butter into cubes and place them in a food processor. Add the flavoring ingredients and whiz the mixture until it’s thoroughly blended, stopping to scrape down the stuff that sticks to the sides of the food processor as needed. If you’re serving the butter right away with corn, or on a piece of grilled meat, just place it in a small bowl and serve it. If you want to store it, use a spatula to transfer the butter onto a sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap and shape it into a rough cylinder. Fold the wrap around the butter and shape it into an even tube about 11⁄2 inches | 4 cm in diameter. Twist the ends so the tube is sealed and tight, and fasten both ends with a twist-tie. Refrigerate or freeze the butter until you need it. To serve, slice off discs of it. Thaw it a while before dressing steaks or corn with it, or use it still frozen to stuff inside a burger.
Mimi’s Tabbouleh (Couscous Salad)
Makes 8 servings as a side
This recipe from my friend Michele Allaire uses instant couscous, which is moistened by all the juices that come out of the vegetables as they sit with the grain in the fridge. It is usually served as a side with lamb but can be an attractive alternative main course for a vegetarian guest. To “beef” it up, add blanched green beans, blanched carrots, and cooked chick peas.
1 package (about 10 oz | 300 g) instant couscous 4 green onions, thinly sliced 1 Tbsp | 15 mL red onion cut into 1/4-inch | 5 mm dice 1 cup | 250 mL long English cucumber cut into 1/4-inch | 5 mm dice 1/2 red or green bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch | 5 mm dice 1 cup | 250 mL fresh tomato cut into 1/4-inch | 5 mm dice 1 cup | 250 mL chopped fresh parsley 1 Tbsp | 15 mL finely chopped fresh mint 1 tsp | 5 mL kosher salt 1/2 tsp | 10 mL freshly ground black pepper 1 Tbsp | 15 mL ground cumin 4 Tbsp | 60 mL lemon juice 1 cup | 250 mL good-quality extra virgin olive oil
Pour the entire package of uncooked couscous into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, mix them together well, and let the tabbouleh sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Remove it from the fridge at least 1 hour before serving. Mix it again, taste it, and adjust the seasoning and oil to taste.