Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta

If you think you don’t like lamb, I strongly encourage you to try these burgers. As you’re all well aware, I am not the BIGGEST carnivore around – I don’t particularly enjoy the flavor of meat by itself (you’ll never find me diving into a giant steak), so if I am endorsing a meat-based dish, you know it’s good. Lamb can be very, very game-y, and it takes a little bit of work to amp up the surrounding flavors in the dish to mellow out that game-y flavor… and these burgers are just a perfect mix of rich lamb, fresh vegetables and herbs, and cool, creamy tzatziki.

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta
serves 4-6

For the burgers:
1 lb ground lamb
3-4 large mint leaves, minced
2 tsp minced fresh dill
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 a shallot, minced
2 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
4 oz crumbled feta
1/2 T olive oil
1/2 T butter
tzatziki (recipe below)
pickled red onions (recipe below)
small hamburger buns, or bread of choice*

For the tzatziki:
1 cup 2% or full fat greek yogurt
2 persian cucumbers (or half an English cucumber)
2 cloves garlic, grated
12 mint leaves, minced
1 T minced dill
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper

For the onions:
1 large red onion, sliced into 1/4″ thick half moons
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T sugar
2 t kosher salt

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta

*I used some mini ciabatta rolls for these burgers (the kind you buy at Trader Joe’s, that are par-baked), and I thought they were PERFECT. You want a bun that is a little more rigid and crusty than a typical hamburger bun, since these are kind of sloppy burgers – that tougher exterior prevents everything from getting soggy and falling apart.

1.) Start by making your pickled onions. Add the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt to a small saucepan, and set over medium heat. Heat the mixture until it’s just about to simmer, and all the sugar and salt have dissolved.

Pickled Red Onions

2.) Meanwhile, put your onions into a jar, or other glass container. Pour the hot pickling liquid over top of the onions, until they’re completely covered. Allow them to sit for at least 30 minutes before using. If you’re not using them right away, allow them to cool for about an hour, then seal the jar and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to use them.

3.) While the onions pickle, make your tzatziki. Cut the cucumbers in half length-wise, and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds (even the “seedless” Persian or English cucumbers have some little, watery seeds, and I prefer to get rid of them to keep the tzatziki from getting too watery). Dice the cucumbers into a 1/4″ dice.

4.) In a mixing bowl, combine the Greek yogurt, diced cucumbers, mint, dill, grated garlic, lemon juice, and a large pinch each of kosher salt and pepper. Mix everything well, and set aside.

5.) Now, the burgers! In a large bowl, mix everything from the mint to the black pepper together. Add the ground lamb, and use your hands to work everything else into the meat, being careful not to over mix! Divide the lamb mixture into 6 equal portions, and shape them into patties.

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta

6.) Heat a large skillet (or griddle) over medium heat, and add the butter and olive oil to the pan. Once it’s good and hot, add your burgers – be sure not to crowd them, and cook them in two batches if needed. Cook for about 5 minutes on the first side, and 3-4 minutes on the second side (if you opted to make fewer than 6 patties from the mixture, you’ll want to bump up the cook time a bit).

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta

7.) While the burgers cook, toast your buns if you’d like. In another small bowl, mix the quartered cherry tomatoes and feta with a pinch of black pepper.

8.) Prepare to assemble your burgers. Personally, I HATE when my toppings are falling out all over the place – so, I tried a little trick with these burgers that I will definitely use again. Before toasting my buns, I pulled the excess bread out of the bottom half of the bun. This created a little little space to stuff my cherry tomato mixture, and greatly reduced the instance of escaped burger garnish. Your mileage may vary, but I suggest giving it a try.

9.) When the lamb burgers are cooked, it’s assembly time. Start with the bottom bun, and stuff the hollowed out space with the tomato and feta mixture. Top that with a burger, then a big spoonful of tzatziki, and then a little pile of pickled onions. On goes the top bun, and you’re ready to eat!

Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, and Feta

Now, you may be thinking – who the hell eats a 2.5oz burger?! Is this some sort of hipster “tiny food is so cute!” concoction? And to that, I say – TRUST ME. These burgers are RICH. Like, really, really rich. I thoroughly enjoyed every single bite of my burger, and I was totally content and full for many, many hours afterward. My personal opinion is that a regular-sized lamb burger (by which I mean 4-6 oz – I am not into the 12 ounce monster burgers some seem to favor) would be overwhelmingly rich, and leave you feeling like you have a rock in your stomach for the rest of the day.

Anyways, these burgers are insanely good. The lamb is definitely rich – but the acidic bite of the pickled onions and the tang from the tzatziki cut through the richness and balance it nicely. Add some salty feta and chewy ciabatta, and I might just slip into a food coma even TALKING about it.

Seriously, there is no need for a burger the size of a chevy,
Tina

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(P.S. Don’t you DARE throw out those extra pickled onions. Put them on EVERYTHING until they’re gone: sandwiches, salads, breakfast burritos, nachos… those things are culinary gold. I’d stop short of adding them to a bowl of ice cream… but don’t think I haven’t considered it.)

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

I really, really love crab cakes. My husband likes to laugh at me, because if we go to a restaurant with crab cakes on the menu? There is a 73% chance that that will be what I order. I just can’t help it! Crab is so delicious – and let’s be honest, the good stuff is mighty expensive at the grocery store. So, it’s not often that I buy crab to cook with… but I happened to have a small container of lump crab left over from a brunch gathering, and I knew I had to find a delicious way to use it up. It wasn’t enough for crab cakes, so I played my usual game of “what random items from my fridge can I use to make this into a meal?” I came up with artichoke hearts, heavy cream, and lemon, and this pasta dish was born!

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce
serves 4 as a main course (it’s RICH, so we had smaller portions than we might typically eat when we’re having pasta)

1 lb spaghetti
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
8 oz lump crab meat, picked over for shells
1 can artichoke hearts packed in water, rough-chopped
4 oz dry white wine
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
kosher salt and pepper
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 – 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
zest of one large lemon
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

1.) Set your pasta water to boil. In the meantime, heat a large pot over medium heat, and add the olive oil and butter. Once the pan is hot, add the artichokes; saute them for a few minutes, without stirring too much. You want the artichokes to caramelize at the edges and get some nice, golden brown color.

2.) Once the artichokes have started to caramelize, add the crab, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and a good pinch each of kosher salt and pepper. Stir everything to combine, and let it all cook together for a minute or so. (When the pasta water is ready, salt it well with a big handful of kosher salt, and then drop your spaghetti in!)

3.) Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and let it cook down until the liquid is reduced by half, a minute or two.

4.) Add the heavy cream and parmesan to the pan, and stir well. Once the sauce comes to a low boil, reduce the heat to a low simmer. Add another pinch each of kosher salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer away until the pasta is ready.

5.) When the pasta is just about ready, turn the heat on the sauce down to low, and add the lemon zest. Taste for seasoning; if it tastes a bit bland, add another pinch of salt and taste again. Also, you should notice the slightly nuttiness of the parmesan; if you don’t, throw in a little bit more!

6.) Add the hot pasta directly to the sauce, and toss to coat. Add a small ladle of the pasta water to the sauce, and toss again until everything is well combined.

7.) Portion the pasta in to bowls, top with some chopped parsley, and serve!

Crab and Artichoke Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

This pasta was a great way to enjoy some crab, without spending a million dollars. It had plenty of crab flavor, and the crab didn’t get overwhelmed by any of the other ingredients. The artichoke hearts added a nice meatiness to the pasta – and really, who can argue with a combination of heavy cream, lemon, and parmesan cheese?? Not me, that’s for sure.

I know you’re not supposed to mix seafood and cheese, but trust me, THIS WORKS,
Tina

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

I’ve always said: “Happiness is a warm, fluffy, buttermilk biscuit!”

Actually, that’s a lie – I’ve never said that before. But, I have felt that sentiment deep down in my heart for a very long time, and NOW I’m saying it… and I mean it! Seriously, a buttermilk biscuit is a beautiful, wonderful thing, especially when it’s fresh from the oven and slathered in butter. Part of the beauty of a buttermilk biscuit is that you can dress it up in millions of ways. Add cheese! Pop it on top of a chicken pot pie! Slice it in half and use it to sandwich a delicious piece of fried chicken!

(Stop drooling on your keyboard. It’s unsightly.)

ANYWAYS. When I was brainstorming some menu ideas for a wedding shower I was helping to throw, I knew I wanted to make a biscuit sandwich of some sort. A biscuit sandwich fulfills many of the requirements for food at a brunch: it’s dainty, it’s cute, it’s carb-y to soak up all the mimosas in your stomach. I wanted to add a couple other elements, too – something Italian (I met the bride while working in her dad’s Italian bakery nearly 20 years ago), something cheesy (please tell me I don’t need to explain the need for cheese?), and something to give it a real savory/spicy edge. Mission accomplished!

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)
makes about 16 petite sandwiches, with jam left over

For the jam:
1 pound strawberries, rinsed, hulled and quartered
1 cup brown sugar
2 T water
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (white, if you have it)
a healthy pinch of kosher salt

For the biscuits:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
generous 1/2 t kosher salt
3/4 t coarsely ground black pepper
8 T butter, super cold, and cut into cubes
2 oz gruyere cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk

For the sandwiches:
16 thin slices of prosciutto
arugula

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

1.) Start by getting your jam going on the stovetop. Add all the jam ingredients to a small sauce pan, stir well to combine, and set over medium heat. Let the mixture come up to a boil; turn the heat back just a bit (you don’t want it to be a hard boil, but you want more action than a simmer), and let the mixture cook down until it’s nice and thick. Keep an eye on it, and stir often, and it should take about 45 minutes.

2.) While the jam cooks, make your biscuit dough (and preheat your oven to 425°). In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, and black pepper. Using a pastry blender (or two knives, or your hands), cut the butter into the flour mixture, until there are still some bits of butter the size of small peas. (More thorough biscuit-dough-making directions are here.)

3.) Add the grated cheese to your flour/butter mixture, and use a fork to toss it all together until the cheese is evenly distributed. Then, drizzle the buttermilk around the bowl, and use the fork to lightly mix everything, until a shaggy dough starts to form.

4.) Lightly flour your countertop, and dump the dough out on to it. Working quickly, press the dough together into a lump, and then shape it into a square that’s about 3/4″ thick. Remember, the goal is to handle the dough as little as possible, so it doesn’t get overworked and it stays COLD!

5.) Cut the dough into 16 neat squares. (You can also cut traditional round biscuits out of the dough – I just find the rolling of scraps to be cumbersome, and the constant handling of those extra pieces can result in a tough biscuit. So, I go with squares.) Place the biscuits on to a parchment-lined baking sheet, about 2″ apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the biscuits have risen nicely, and are a light golden brown on top.

6.) While your biscuits bake, finish up your jam. Dependent on what kind of texture you want, you can do a few things: leave it as is (for a super-chunky jam); mash up the strawberries with a potato masher (for a finer, but still chunky, jam); or blend the jam with an immersion blender (or in a traditional blender, for a much smoother jam). Let the jam cool completely.

7.) When your biscuits are done baking, let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then move them to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

8.) Time to assemble the sandwiches! Gently slices the biscuits in half, and then spread jam on both sides of the biscuit. Layer on a piece of prosciutto, a small bunch of arugula, and then the top half of the biscuit. Serve at room temperature.

These sandwiches really have a lot of flavor going on – but it all ends up working really nicely together. The biscuits are nice and savory from the gruyere, and a little spicy, from the pepper. The prosciutto is smoky and salty, and pepperiness of the arugula complements the biscuit, and the strawberry balsamic jam adds just enough sweetness to round it all out. They’re rich and delicious, but small enough not to be too filling and heavy.

A couple items of note:

1.) You’ll have lots of jam left over. Use it on EVERYTHING – your morning toast, a slice of toasted baguette slathered in goat cheese, drizzled into your yogurt, eaten directly off a spoon. It will last for several weeks in the fridge.

2.) If you’re making these sandwiches for a party, make the biscuits ahead and freeze them. Once the biscuits are cut, lay them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and pop the baking sheet into the freezer. After 3 or 4 hours, when the outsides are completely firm, toss them all into a ziploc freezer bag, and keep them frozen until you’re ready to use them. Bake from frozen, but allow about 25 minutes for them to bake. (This is also a good idea if you just want to keep biscuits on hand for quick breakfasts or snacks – you can bake as many or as few at a time as you like.)

Gruyere and Black Pepper Biscuit Sandwiches (with Strawberry Balsamic Jam)

If you’re still feeling apprehensive about attempting homemade biscuits, just DO IT. It takes a little practice and finesse, but once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be so glad you tried it. You can do it!

A world of buttery, flaky, deliciousness awaits you,
Tina

Chimichurri

Have you ever had chimichurri? You may have had it and not known what it is… but it’s essentially an Argentinian pesto, that is typically parsley-based. As with an Italian pesto, you’ll often see slight variations – some are thicker in consistency, some are thinner, some are more finely minced, others are chunkier – but they’re all bright and herbacious and delicious, and a perfect accompaniment to any kind of protein you prefer.

Chimichurri

This summer, I’ve made chimichurri a handful of times, and it’s been great because it is a one-sauce solution to multiple different main courses. You guys know I’m not much of a steak person, but my husband IS – so, I can make up a batch of chimichurri, and we can grill his steak, and my shrimp (or chicken, or pork, or fish), and top both with the same sauce. It’s also great spooned over some roasted potatoes, and any traces left on your plate are best sopped up with a big chunk of bread.

Chimichurri
makes about 1.5 cups

about one cup of fresh parsley, lightly packed
juice of 2 lemons
zest of 1 lemon
4 cloves of garlic
1 generous tablespoon red wine vinegar
1-2 T honey or agave
large pinch each of kosher salt and pepper
olive oil

Chimichurri

If you want to make the chimichurri in your food processor, throw everything but the olive oil into the work bowl, and pulse until everything is chopped well. Stream the olive oil in while the machine runs, adding as much as you like to create your preferred consistency (I used about 1/3 cup, give or take).

If you don’t have (or don’t want to dirty) a food processor, you can absolutely make chimichurri by hand. Finely mince your parsley, and grate your garlic on a microplane grater; then add everything to a bowl and mix.

Taste the sauce for seasoning and acidity; if you had some really sour lemons, you might want to add a touch more honey or agave. On the other hand, if your lemons were on the sweeter side, or the agave you have on hand is extra sweet, you can add a splash more red wine vinegar. Resist the urge to add more garlic right off the bat, as it intensifies as it sits.

Chimichurri

You can make the chimichurri ahead of time – just throw it in a jar or other airtight container, and keep it in the fridge. The olive oil might solidify once it gets cold, so just remember to take it out of the fridge an hour or so before serving, so it has time to soften up. The sauce will keep, flavor-wise, for 3 or 4 days, but parsley does brown over time, so it looks less pretty. It’s great for parties or barbecues – as a main course OR an appetizer. Season your protein of choice with salt and pepper, grill or saute it (on or off a skewer), and serve with a bowl of chimichurri for dipping and spooning. Congratulations, you have officially won the potluck competition that only exists in your head!

Chimichurri

Chimichurri has been known to save even the most brutally overcooked of steaks,
Tina