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Making lamb a little leaner for a healthier burger

  • Associated Press
  • Published Monday, June 16, 2014, at 12 a.m.

Photos

GRILLED MIDDLE EASTERN LAMB BURGERS WITH GARLIC SAUCE

Servings: 4

1 medium zucchini (10 to 12 ounces)

Kosher salt

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic, divided

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest, divided

Ground black pepper

1 pound lean ground lamb

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano

Olive oil cooking spray

4 pita bread halves

Grated carrots and chopped cucumbers, to serve

Use a food processor or box grater to coarsely grate the zucchini. Transfer the grated zucchini to a strainer. Toss the zucchini with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let it drain over the sink for 15 minutes. When it is done draining, working with a small handful at a time, squeeze out the zucchini to get rid of as much liquid as possible.

While the zucchini is draining, in a large nonstick or stick-resistant skillet, heat the oil over medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the squeezed zucchini and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and let it cool to room temperature.

Heat a grill to medium.

Meanwhile, to make the sauce combine the yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic, 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

When the zucchini mixture has cooled, add the lamb, oregano, the remaining 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, the remaining 1 teaspoon of garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Mix well, then shape into 4 patties, each about 1/2 inch thick. Spray the burgers lightly with olive oil cooking spray, then grill until medium-rare, 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Serve each burger in a pita half, topped with the garlic sauce, carrots and cucumber.

Nutrition information per serving: 500 calories; 250 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 28 g fat (10 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 110 mg cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 35 g protein; 640 mg sodium.

Beef may claim to be what’s for dinner in America, but in the Middle East that honor often goes to lamb. It’s prepared in innumerable ways, but my favorite is when the lamb is ground, spiced and grilled, then topped with some kind of yogurt sauce and finally tucked into a pita. And that’s how we’re rolling here.

The only problem with ground lamb is that the kind available at the supermarket often is quite fatty. Generally speaking, of course, fat is where the flavor is – and the moisture. But lamb fat is saturated fat and it’s best to keep our intake of saturated fats down. Happily, lamb is packed with flavor, which means that even the leaner cuts deliver big lamb taste. What about the missing juiciness? We’ve replaced it with vegetables.

This burger remains super juicy thanks to some onions and zucchini. We caramelize the onions to optimize their flavor, and grate, salt and drain the zucchini. I used to think zucchini were boring until I discovered this trick. The burger then is seasoned with garlic, oregano and lemon, though you’re welcome to swap out the oregano for basil, dill, mint or rosemary. Lamb pairs nicely with all of them.

And if you’re not a fan of lamb, this recipe also is dandy made with beef. Whichever, please don’t skip the garlic-yogurt sauce. It’s the perfect topping to a grilled burger on a summer day.

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