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Returning to Summer

May 12, 2012

After a long hiatus due to school, moving, internet issues and whatnot, finally we’re back!

As I have recently moved, my kitchen is not quite set up the way I would prefer it to be, but on the positive side – now I have a barbecue!  After the years in the old apartment, where charcoal barbecues were banned, along with all propane ones bigger than a tiny tabletop thing, at the new apartment, I have my own balcony and my own charcoal grill.  Combine that with the end of the semester, the hassle of not even knowing where all my pots and pans are packed, and balmy-beautiful early California summer, and ta-da… it’s BBQ time!

Since my camera is also somewhere in the pile (to be deconstructed after finals), today I’ll just share a favorite recipe without pictures, which may get their own post, along with more smoky goodies at a later time.

The recipe to be shared here today is my Greek burgers.  Since the tzatziki sauce needs to be prepared a day ahead of time, and the meat can be mixed in, too, it’s a great dish to serve for backyard parties.

For the tzatziki sauce, use plain Greek style yogurt (like Zoi or Oikos).  If you can’t get your hands on the Greek style ones in plain, buy regular plain yogurt, and “drip it out.”  Just pop the contents of 2 small cups or half of a larger container into a double layer of cheesecloth, pull it together like a knapsack, and hang it over a bowl for 2-4 hours.  This short time without refrigeration, on normal room temperature, should not compromise the safety of the yogurt, but it will help remove the excess whey and make the “faux Greek” yogurt thicker and creamier.  If you save the whey dripping out from the package, it can be used as a protein and calcium booster to milkshakes, as a super-skim alternative to milk or buttermilk in some baked goods, and if you like the almost sour taste, it can even be a refreshing summer drink.

To mix with this yogurt, you will need almost an entire head of garlic.  Yes, no kidding – you will need 7-10 cloves of garlic, pressed, grated, or mashed in a mortar.  The last ingredient is an English cucumber, which you will need to grate on the fine side of a cheese grater.  Squeeze the juice out of the grated cucumbers (also a great addition to healthy smoothies), then mix them with the yogurt and the garlic.  Add some salt to taste, cover, and refrigerate for at least overnight, so the tastes can come together.

For the burger patties, the best meat is ground lamb – I usually use ground turkey, albeit that may be a little difficult to flip.  Instead of beef, consider trying pork – it’s a milder flavor that marries better with the various other ingredients used.  With 1 lb of meat, mix about a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, some parsley, black and white pepper, lots of oregano and rosemary, and a generous amount of garlic or garlic powder.  Be careful on the salt, as the next ingredient is 4 ounces of crumbled Feta cheese.  Last but not least, about a cup of whole black olives (just about a whole can), chopped to large-ish chunks.  Knead all the ingredients together, then form 4 patties of it.  If you need to refrigerate the patties before grilling, put a piece of wax paper between each, and you can stack them to take up less fridge space.

When the grill is good and hot – so that you can’t keep your hand just over the grill for more than 3 seconds – pop the burgers on.  Don’t flip them too often, as the cheese may make them fall apart during the first 10-15 minutes of cooking, before it melts completely.  Once they are nicely browned, with the chunks of Feta gooey inside the patties, serve them on hamburger buns, topped with tomato and red onion slices and the tzatziki sauce.  For a time-saving alternative (or to avoid cucumbers, if you don’t like them), you can also use ranch dressing as a topping.

Καλή όρεξη!  (Enjoy your meal!)

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