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.
The surest way to source lean ground lamb is to grind it yourself or put it in the hands of a pro. Not all markets boast an in-house butcher these days, but if yours does, choose a leaner cut of lamb – a part of the leg, for example– and have the store grind it for you. Of course, if you own a meat grinder, or a stand mixer with a meat-grinding attachment, buy the leaner cut, bring it home, and grind away.
If neither of those options is open to you, you can “grind” your lamb using a food processor. I put grind in quotes, because when you do it with a processor it’s more like chopping or shredding than grinding. Anyway, here’s how it works: Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes and freeze them for 30 minutes. Freezing the meat helps it to “grind” more evenly and prevents the processor from overheating the lamb in the process. Put the meat in the processor in batches and pulse until it gets to the desired consistency. But be careful not to overdo it. You don’t want to turn the lamb into mush.
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. You can grind your own beef using the methods for lamb described above. Whichever, please don’t skip the garlic-yogurt sauce. It’s the perfect topping to a grilled burger on a summer day.