Tag Archives: Mint

Lamb burgers with mint pesto and whipped feta

I’ve already discussed the life-changing burger bun I had in New Zealand. Now let’s talk about what was in it.

I’m not normally much of a burger girl. I’m not anti-burger, by any means–I’ll happily eat one if it’s what’s on offer–but for the most part it’s not high on my list of beloved foods. It takes a really spectacular burger to make me sit up and take notice. And this one did.

I’m basically reconstructing this from memory, but the flavors and sensations made a pretty deep impression. First there was that wonderful pumpkin bun, squishy and sweet and crunchy on top. Then there was the lamb itself, juicy and gamy and just salty enough. And then there were the condiments, smeared just out of sight under the lid: something minty, and something smooth with feta in it. The whole thing was topped off with a cluster of julienned carrot (and a slice of beet, which I immediately removed). Each bite had just the right amount of bready squish, a little carroty crunch, a little salty feta tang, a little grassy mintiness, and a morsel of earthy lamb. God, it was wonderful.

So, for Fourth of July week, what better way to blog than by recreating a burger I had in another British colony? And here it is: a juicy lamb patty, on a bun slathered with mint pesto and whipped feta dip, and topped with shards of carrot. It’s savory and salty and herby and sweet and crunchy, and I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite burger I’ve ever made. The ingredient list looks a little long and complex–you’re basically making two separate condiments from scratch. But because you can make both in the food processor, they come together in minutes, and each can be done several days or even a week ahead. (I normally make pesto by hand, with a knife, but all that lovely texture would be lost here. The machine is fine.)

Burger-cookery is a pretty personal thing, and I definitely have my preferences. For me, a 1/3 pound burger is the perfect size–not too big, not too small. I try not to compact or squeeze the meat too much as I’m shaping it, so that it’ll stay juicy and relatively light. I like to make the burgers just a tad larger than the circumference of the buns I’m using, because they shrink as they cook. And I season the outside of the burgers, rather than the inside, for no other reason than that it means I don’t have to dirty a mixing bowl.

Oh, and a note on the buns. I didn’t have time to make bread from scratch for these photos, so I bought some good-quality buns, and the burgers were just fine. They’ll taste great on pretty much any bun. But please, if you have the time and inclination, I beg you, do try making pumpkin buns for these burgers. They really elevate each other. They belong together. They sing.

lamb mint pesto whipped feta burger

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Eggs in spicy minted tomato sauce

There is nothing better than a perfectly cooked egg. Nothing. When the yolk quivers as the plate sets down, when you can dig in with the side of a fork and let loose a sticky marigold gush–not runny, not firm, but oozing like syrup–it’s high on my list of my favorite things. Poach the egg in a fragrant and spicy tomato sauce, and it’s even better.

I got the idea from Daisy, who blogged about this a few weeks ago. In form at least, her dish as well as mine resemble the Israeli dish shakshuka: a spicy, jumbled mess of tomatoes and swirled egg whites, with delicate yolk-peaks nestled on top. When you break into them, the richness of the yolks infuses and tames the tart spiciness of the sauce, mellowing the whole dish into something warm and exotic and primally comforting. It’s glorious.

My version includes mint, which is an ideal partner for tomato and spice. When I want an easy no-effort dinner, I take some storebought tomato soup and spike it with Sriracha and chopped mint leaves–it impresses people like you wouldn’t believe. In fact, you could very easily grab a bottle of tomato sauce, stir in some hot sauce and mint, poach your eggs in it and call it a day. I’ve included a little more of a recipe here, but it’s still not complicated; the mint is what makes it special.

As usual, this is a flexible little dish. I like a smoother sauce, so I left the onion, garlic and jalapeno whole and fished them out; if you want a chunkier sauce, you could dice or mince them and leave them in. You could add cumin or smoked paprika for a smoky backbone, or stir in olives or capers for brininess. You could render some bacon and use the fat to saute the aromatics. You could soft-scramble the eggs in the sauce instead of poaching them. You could crumble fresh feta cheese over the top (note to self: do this next time). And you can serve this over just about anything you like–I used tortellini in the photo, but any other pasta, or rice or couscous or quinoa or crusty toasted bread, would be terrific.

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Ah, summer

You know, if I were in a more articulate frame of mind, today would be a great day to exercise my eloquence-muscle and use this little blog o’ mine to sing the praises of seasonal summer cooking.

But today is also a rain-soaked Tuesday, and I’m a working stiff in every sense–sleep-deprived and body-sore and generally about as lucid as an owl full of schnapps. So here’s all the eloquence I can muster right now:

IT’S NECTARINE SEASON. FINALLY.

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Utter simplicity

You know what? It’s spring. The air is soft and downy, shot through with veins of light and blossom scent. The sky is bottomless blue, the kind of super-saturated color that makes my teeth ache (no, really). The market stalls are overflowing with bright clamoring produce, so fresh and blink-you’ll-miss-it-seasonal that it’s tempting to bring home bagfuls and just eat it, unadorned.

This is the season when I start to lose patience with fuss. In the winter, I’m perfectly content to hone my kitchen-sink cooking and practice all manner of fancy flourishes. But when the clouds break and the temperatures climb, I want something different altogether. I want fresh, and simple, and clean. I want to really taste spring in my food.

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Passover 2011–GRAAAAAIIIIIIINS

So apparently I’m 2-for-2 on delicious gluten-free Passover dishes that might not actually be kosher for Passover.  But nevermind that.  Let’s talk about quinoa.

I’ve been vowing for years to get more quinoa in my diet.  If all those breathless news articles are to be believed, it’s a new superfood.  It’s exotic–all the way from Peru!  It’s ancient–the Inca ate it!  It’s full of protein and wholesome whole-grain goodness!  What’s not to like!

I’ve been making tentative progress.  In college, I would mix red quinoa and ranch dressing into a bowl of mashed potatoes.  Somehow I managed to convince myself that the little extra protein boost from those little scarlet orbs canceled out the giant gummy forkfuls of potato I was stuffing into my face.  As I got more, um…sophisticated, I started encountering quinoa salads, pleasant little pops of grain swarming around beans and green vegetables and even tofu, overwhelming me with texture and freshness and wholesome earnest appeal.

But on its own, as a stand-in for less virtuous starches, quinoa was…lacking.  I’ve never been much a fan of food that pretends to be something it’s not, and when I was faced with tiny hardy orbs, heaped sheepishly in a bowl, almost apologetic for not being rice or couscous, I was understandably nonplussed.

Stand alone, I silently implored the quinoa.  Make something of yourself.  Don’t be shy.

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