Cooking in Quarantine: Turkey Burgers, Tzatziki, and Tabbouleh

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I originally posted these recipes back in 2014 as part of a Greek Grill Fest. Now that we have the new grill and are still #stayinghome, I thought it was time for a reboot. The star of this meal imho, is the sidekick, Tabbouleh- though my son would drink the tzatziki sauce straight from the bowl.

Tabbouleh can actually be a main, as well as a delicious side for your grilling meal. It is a grain salad that makes the most of summer’s bounty from the garden. Ina Garten turned me on to this super side one Saturday morning while I binged Barefoot Contessa. I made some adjustments to her recipe that fit my family’s tastes, but you can find her original recipe here.

Tabbouleh

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bulghur wheat
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1 bunch)
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Place the bulghur in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.
  • Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.
  • Add the scallions, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes. Mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Add feta and toss to combine. You can serve it right away, but I prefer to refrigerate it for a few hours and let the flavors meld.

As Ina would say, How easy is that?

 

From 2014: In my usual lots of forethought way, I chose yesterday to to create a grilled Mediterranean feast. It was not until the sky opened up and began to pummel us with fat rain drops that I realized the issue with my plan. Did I check the weather? No. Did I have alternate plans? No. Did I have any other groceries in the house to adjust my menu? No. So up went the canopy and out came the charcoal.

Not to be deterred, I jumped right into prep. First, I went ahead and boiled some water and juiced a couple lemons to steep the bulgur wheat- the superstar of tabbouleh. Then I turned to the turkey burgers. I started making these about eight years ago when we first jumped on the “let’s try to eat healthier” bandwagon. The problem with ground turkey is the lean quality of the meat, though good for you, lends itself to dry burgers. My  solution is to pack it full of all manner of moisture-adding ingredients. Onion is always a good choice except sometimes they are a little sharp. I use shallot instead. I also mince up some garlic add a little panko (fancy Japanese breadcrumbs) and some homemade pesto.

My crop of basil this year has been outrageous and some of it went to a concoction I call Redneck Pesto. I use it in any recipe that calls for pesto and as a an added bonus, it makes a great dip. As I form the burger patties, I try to leave a small indention in the middle because the burgers tend to balloon up some as they grill. Then they go to the fridge for about 30 minutes to get all married together.

Greek Turkey Burgers (makes 10 burgers ’cause you will want leftovers)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs (fancy Japanese kind)
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 4 tablespoons pesto (can be homemade or store bought)
  • 2 1/4 lbs. ground turkey (I like a mix of light and dark meat for moisture factor)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced
  • dash of salt and pepper

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and be sure they are well combined. I usually form balls first and then hand form the burgers so I don’t overwork the meat.

***A note on the meat. Since we are starting to experience meat shortages as we ride out #Covid-19, you can sub about any meat- lamb, pork, beef…or you can go veggie! I have made these with chickpeas with great success!

  • Make sure to make that indention as you form them to help with the grilling. When they cook on the grill, they will pooch in the center and the indention alleviates that!
  • Chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes. Brush with olive oil before putting them on the grill. You want them to be fully cooked. Usually about 6 minutes on each side is good- depending on your grill type.
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See how they kind of are a bowl in center? That is what you are looking for!

As the burgers are chillin’, I make the tzatziki sauce. The wheat needs about 60 minutes to steep so I have plenty of time to turn my attention to other matters.

I am kind of a tzatziki snob. I hate going into restaurants, order a gyro and find the tzatziki is a sour cream, mint concoction that bears no resemblance to the traditional. Not that mine is completely traditional, but I believe in the traditions of draining your plain, Greek yogurt in a tea towel and squeezing every last bit of water of your still-chunky cucumbers. I have tried many variations of this recipe to try and find just the right texture and tanginess. I think the recipe below is as close to perfection for me. I can usually tell if it is right because my husband basically bathes everything in it and it is half gone by the end of dinner. The burgers and tzatziki were inspired by a recipe I saw in Cooking Light.

Tzatziki (this makes a large amount, be prepared with some pita chips)

Ingredients:

  • 1 container plain Greek yogurt ( I Iike the full fat variety)
  • 2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Peel, seed and chop cucumber. Put the cuke slices in a tea towel and give them a good squeeze to remove any extra moisture. This is a necessary step if you want the thicker texture that authentic tzatziki sauces have.
  • Combine the yogurt, cukes, garlic and cayenne in a food processor. Pulse a few times. DO NOT LIQUEFY!!!!! You want a chunky texture. Drizzle in the vinegar and olive oil and pulse a few more times until all ingredients are combined. Taste and add salt and pepper until yummy!

With the tzatziki firming up in the fridge, I was ready to brave the elements and get to the grill. There was of course a pit stop for a glass of wine because grilling requires a glass of wine or a beer. I have certain ones I like when we grill and tonight was Coppola’s Rosso. Kind of light, fruit-forward and approachable- like a good friend.

As I exited the back door, the rain was so strong I could not see beyond my canopy refuge. Water was threatening to come flooding in any moment. My grill was not to be undermined though, it was going full smoke and ready for burgers. I brushed a little olive oil on each side and slapped the burgers on the grill. I find that the olive oil helps keep the burgers from sticking and also creates a barrier to keep the moisture in the meat.

It was a little easier this go around since I am living in the Sunshine State! I also added the Broccoli & Brussel Sprouts Slaw to this meal, and it was a yummy addition.

Stay Safe and Cook On!

Other Posts in the Quarantine Series:

 

 

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