Lamb Burgers

In celebration of the long Fourth of July weekend, Kevin and I decided (albeit at the last minute) to make some good ol’ fashioned American hamburgers. I’m not sure if we went to the market at the exact twilight of ground meat outage and replenishment, but we somehow managed to go to a spot where they were completely out of ground beef, turkey, chicken, and bison.  Bison (our latest obsession; posts to come later) was what we really wanted for our burgers, but we somehow resigned to ground lamb. Not that anything is wrong with lamb, but it wasn’t exactly what eating at Murica’s birthday party is all about.

I found a recipe on Food & Wine and tailored it to serve the two of us, while also including a bit more zing by upping the herbs-to-meat ratio.  See the recipe as adapted below:

INGREDIENTS:

Lamb Burgers for two:

  • 3/4 lb ground lamb
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1 garlic glove, minced
  • 1/2 T mint, finely chopped
  • 1/2 T flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 T dill, finely chopped (pull leaves only, don’t use thick stems)
  • Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 2 whole wheat pita bread (or hamburger bun if you prefer)
  • 2-3 leaves romaine lettuce
  • 4 paper-thin onion slices

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium bowl, lightly knead the ground lamb with the onion, garlic, mint, parsley and 1 scant teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Shape the meat into patties about 1/2 inch thick, and transfer them to a plate lined with plastic wrap. Lightly brush the burgers with olive oil.

    Herbalicious Lamb Patties
    Herbalicious Lamb Patties
  2. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil on medium heat, and cook the lamb patties for about 6 minutes on each side. You can also grill the lamb burgers for about 12 minutes, turning once, for medium meat. I was worried about overcooking the lamb, so I stuck a meat thermometer into the patty and cooked til it hit about 140 degrees for medium rare. The patty will continue to cook another 5 degrees once you take it off the pan too.
  3. Set the burgers on the pita breads and top them with the lettuce, tomato, onion and a spoonful of Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce. Fold the pitas over the burgers and serve right away, passing the remaining yogurt sauce alongside.

    Lamb Burgers
    Lamb Burgers

In my opinion, you can’t really have a lamb burger with ketchup and mustard, so I looked up a recipe for tzatziki.  The recipe below is also adapted from Food & Wine.  The version I made was chunkier (I upped the cucumber), lessened the amount of yogurt, and added dill and lemon juice.  I had nonfat Fage plain greek yogurt, and it came out on the thicker side. I would recommend a regular, non-Greek yogurt to give it a more “sauce-y” consistency.  This made about 1/2 cup, which is probably more than enough for two people.  I wouldn’t recommend making too much in advantage and eating leftovers, because the lemon juice and salt will pickle the herbs and cucumber.  It’ll taste like a strange creamy dill pickle sauce (I learned the hard way).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Persian cucumber, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 1/3 C plain yogurt
  • 1/2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 T finely chopped mint
  • 1 t finely chopped dill
  • 2 lemon wedges’ worth of lemon juice
  • Finely ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out the seedy center of the cucumber. Dice the cucumber. Squeeze the excess liquid from the cucumber without mashing it (skip if using Greek yogurt).
  2. In a small bowl, using the back of a spoon, mash the garlic with the salt to a paste. Stir in the yogurt, olive oil, mint, dill, and lemon juice. Add the cucumber, season with pepper and serve.

Tzatziki
Tzatziki

We also “needed” a salty component for our burger, so I drummed up a sundried tomato tapenade.  The following will makes about 1/3 cup:  Place 6 pitted kalamata olives and 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes into a food processor and pulse to chop roughly. If you’re using dry sundried tomatoes (I used the ones from Trader Joe’s – my fav!), pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil while pulsing the food processor a few more times to combine.  All that being said, the thought of cleaning a food processor after all the chopping/cleaning I’d been doing that day was dreadful, so I chopped everything by hand and then whisked in the olive oil after.

Sundried Tomato Olive Tapenade
Sundried Tomato Olive Tapenade

And that my friends was our big fat Greek Fourth of July meal!  We celebrated 4th of July with Kevin’s mom over the weekend as well, and she made banh mi sandwiches for us and I cobbled together an Italian pasta salad to bring.  It really was a hodge podge of cuisines, but I guess that’s really what eating like an American is all about – celebrating a bit of everything!

Peaches and Cream Ice Cream Cake

Doing something to celebrate your significant other’s birthday is a bit like taking your car to the carwash.  The basic bronze package (e.g., birthday dinner and maybe dessert) is what you opt for most of time, while you “level-up” once in a while and get them the silver package (e.g., everything from the bronze package plus a gift and/or planning a get-together with their friends, etc.).  But on “milestone” birthdays, you splurge and treat your car (or boyfriend) to the platinum package, which is includes all of the above in addition to a surprise party and an exterior carnauba wax and polish.

In planning the birthday basketball tournament, I had to spin an intricate web of lies and to keep KJ from getting suspicious since I wanted it to be a surprise.  However, this meant pretending he was just getting the bronze package to deflect any suspicions while actually procuring the platinum in secrecy.

In the middle of the week, he gave me the Puss in Boots eyes and told me that the ONE thing he wanted for his birthday this year was a half-batch of the peanut butter cookies I had made a few weeks ago for a coworker’s birthday.  Obviously, I couldn’t A) say no to those eyes and B) tell him I was too busy making a surprise birthday cake and planning a surprise party.  So, on his actual birthday, I frantically cranked a full batch out in between work and servicing a bronze package a la dinner at Rustic Canyon to sample the “Best Gourmet Burger in LA”.  I put chocolate chips in the other half-batch for him to bring to his fantasy football draft, where the birthday cake would also be served.

Since he loves ice cream cake, I decided to try my hand at making the frozen treat.  I didn’t want to make any ordinary ice cream cake that one could buy from Baskin Robbins (i.e., Mint Chip Ice Cream with Chocolate Cake, etc.).  So, I thought I would take advantage of it being peach season and whip up a peaches and cream ice cream cake.

Chopped Fresh Peaches and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I made it upside down and in a 9” springform pan so I wouldn’t have to worry about prying the frozen concoction out of a normal pan.  The first layer was vanilla bean ice cream with chopped fresh peaches mixed in, and the middle layer was peach sorbet.

White Cake and Peach Sorbet

The final layer was a white cake.  The recipe I had made enough to fill a 13”x9” pan at about two inches thick.  I anticipated needing to cut it down to be 9″ round, and then cut it shorter to about an inch or so. However, the cake ended up being a little on the dryer side when it came out of the oven, so it crumbled when I tried to put it on top of the sorbet layer.  It didn’t taste dry, but it just wasn’t moist enough to stay together.

My Crumbling Cake Layer

Since it was already late on a work night and I couldn’t pick out all of the pieces from the softened sorbet, I instead ended up piecing everything together and pushing it down in hopes that it wouldn’t fall apart once it came out of the fridge.  Thankfully, it ended up working out because if the cake had actually been very moist, it would have gotten soggy and icy once frozen.  I wish the peach sorbet had been a bit brighter in color so that the layers would really pop when looking at the cake as a whole.

Ready for the Draft!

I picked up a cake box and the gold cake round at a specialty cooking store in Culver City, along with a couple of smaller baker’s boxes for the PB cookies and maybe a future project. Despite the sorbet layer being a bit light in color, I did really like the way the cake looked when sliced.

So Much Prettier When Sliced

Here’s the gallery!