Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spring Lamb "Burgers"

For as far back as I can remember, one of my favorite dishes has been "lamb bandit style," a scrumptious stew that my mom makes from one of her well-worn cookbooks (I'm guessing it's Greek Cooking for the Gods but I could be wrong).  Last week, she tried a new variation of it using ground lamb instead of cubed.    That sounded excellent, but since I have a child who turns up his nose at stews but loves burgers, Renee and I made a few more variations that turn out scrumptious patties that can be burgers to kids and the perfect pita centerpiece for adults.  Add to this that it makes great use of the abundant mint that we both have in our gardens (and lawns, and driveways...), and there's really no reason to eat anything else for the rest of the spring.

Bandit Style Lamb "Burgers"

1 pound ground lamb
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 T lemon juice
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup plum wine, sherry, or marsala
1 T fresh chopped mint
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Mix together all of the ingredients with your hands and form into small patties.  Place in a large baking dish and bake, uncovered, at 375 for 15 minutes, then at 425 for 15 minutes.  In the first 15 minutes, they'll let out a large amount of liquid which they'll soak back up in the last 15 minutes.  If they're still liquidy at the end, let them sit on the counter for 10 more minutes and they'll keep soaking up liquid.

Serve on homemade pita.  We used a very slightly modified version of the second edition Joy of Cooking recipe:

Mix together:
3 cups white flour
1 1/2 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. active dry yeast

Then mix in:
2 T melted butter
1 1/4 cup room temperature water

Knead for 10 minutes.  Place in a well oiled bowl and let rise until doubled, 1-1 1/2 hours.  Punch down, divide into 8 balls and let rest on the counter about 20 minutes.  Heat oven to 450.  Turn a cookie sheet upside down and place two rolls on the two ends.  Roll each out to about an 8" diameter.  Bake 5-7 minutes.  These did not puff up perfectly so that you could open them like pitas, but they were the perfect size for folding in half around the lamb and add-ins, and they were delicious.

Set Lamb and bread on the table with:

1 cup chopped tomatoes


1 cup ribboned lettuce


1 cup whole fresh mint leaves

Yogurt Sauce

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 T garlic, minced
zest of 1 lemon
2 T fresh mint, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon juice

One of the treats we encourage by concocting local liqueurs is Dave's experimental cocktails.  These are perfect for sipping while you cook.  Since we had out the plum wine for the lamb patties, he came up with this perfectly simple offering, which he has yet to name (stay tuned):

2 oz rum or vodka
1 oz plum wine

shake with ice

serve in a chilled cocktail glass with a twist