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)
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
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. Make sure to make that indention as you form them to help with the grilling. 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.
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 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.
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
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. 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.
As the burgers started doing their thing, I came back in to prep the vegetables for the tabbouleh. I know there are different styles of tabbouleh, but I like a simple, straight-forward recipe. Mine finds its origins with Ina Garten. I love the Barefoot Contessa’s cookbooks; they are incredibly reliable. The following is a slight remix of hers. I rough chop hothouse cucumber, cherry tomatoes, scallions and Italian flat leaf parsley. Luckily, my tomatoes have been plentiful this season and I had lots of heirloom pear, as well as black cherry tomatoes to harvest. I don’t have a huge plot of land to plant a garden in, but I do have a large back deck that I populate with as many containers as I can fit. Once I have all the veggies prepped, I toss them in with the bulghur mixture and a heaping portion of feta cheese. The feta adds a pungency and saltiness to the tabbouleh that negates much need for seasoning. I still give it a taste to see if needs any pepper, additional salt or more lemon juice.
1 cup bulghur wheat
1 1/2 boiling water
2 fresh lemons, squeezed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 bunch scallions, rough chopped
1 cup feta
1 cup chopped Italian parsely
1 English cucumber, half-moon sliced
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 tsp. pepper
Combine bulghur wheat, boiling water, lemon juice, olive oil and salt in a large bowl. Stir ingredients and allow to sit at room temperature for 60 minutes. Once time has elapsed, add the rest of ingredients to bowl and toss all together. Check for seasoning needs- salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 60 minutes.
You will be happy you have leftovers- trust me!!