Friday, February 27, 2015

Mediterranean Cilantro & Mint Lamb Burger with Tahini Sauce

The recommendations for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released last week, with some surprises.  The advisory committee advocated for a primarily plant-based diet, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, but acknowledged eating meat in a thoughtful and sustainable way was in line with a healthy eating plan.  They also championed healthy fats (yay!), coffee (thank goodness!) and cautioned against added sugars (hooray!).    

I won’t go into a detailed analysis of the results here, but the report supports what we talk about here: eat real food, mostly plants, but a burger every now and then is absolutely okay.

When I’m craving a burger, more often than not, it’s a lamb burger.  For much of my life, I grew up on a farm, and while we raised both cattle and sheep, I’ve always preferred the lamb burger.  It’s so full of flavor, a small healthy portion is satisfying.   A 3-ounce serving of lamb has only about 175 calories and is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, niacin, zinc and selenium and a good source of iron and riboflavin.

This lamb burger is in homage to my husband’s Middle Eastern roots, and it reminds me of all the lamb kebabs we eat when we’re visiting his family in Israel.  The kebabs are always slathered in tahini and usually paired with an Israeli salad of tomatoes and chopped cucumber.  The combination of the rich-tasting lamb and the earthy tahini combined with the freshness of the tomatoes and cucumbers is nothing short of perfect.

I hope you enjoy this lamb burger with the people you love!  Pair it with a big green salad and maybe some fruit for dessert and know you’ll be doing your body good.   

Mediterranean Cilantro & Mint Lamb Burger with Tahini Sauce

Makes 4 burgers

½ cup tahini
1 garlic clove
½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Juice of one lemon (about ¼ cup)
¼ - 1/3 cup water
1 pound ground lamb
½ cup cilantro leaves, chopped
¼ cup mint leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
¼ teaspoon cardamom seed, toasted and ground
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
4 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered

First, make the tahini sauce.  Add the tahini paste to a bowl.  Place the garlic clove on your cutting board and pour the salt on top.  Using the side of a chef’s knife, smash the garlic and grind it with the salt until it turns into a paste.  Add the garlic with the salt to the tahini, along with the lemon juice and about ¼ cup of water.  Stir together with a fork until the tahini sauce is blended and becomes the consistency of honey.  Add more water, if needed.  Taste for lemon and salt and adjust, as desired.  Tahini sauce will keep in the refrigerator for one week.

Next, make the burgers.  Add the ground lamb to a large bowl with the chopped cilantro and mint, coriander, cumin, cardamom, red pepper flakes and sea salt.  Using your hands, gently incorporate the herbs and spices into the lamb.  Divide the lamb mixture into 4 equal servings and shape them into patties, making them a little larger than the side of your bun.  Use your thumb and press down in the middle of the patty, making an indentation.  This will keep the burgers level while they cook.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet or a cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Brush the bottom of the pan with the olive oil and then add the lamb burgers to the hot skillet.  Cook about 3 minutes per side for medium or 4 minutes per side for medium well. Remove from the heat and keep warm.

Finally, assemble the burgers.  Place a layer of cucumbers on the bottom of the toasted bun.  Top with the lamb burger and a heaping tablespoon of tahini sauce.  Place chopped tomatoes on top of the tahini sauce and then place the top bun over the tomatoes.


Disclaimer:  McKenzie and I are consulting dietitians for the Tri-Lamb Board.

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