Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Why I don’t do Burgers

There are those of us who believe that has the best hamburger / cheeseburger in the world. And then there is the rest of the world, who are naturally all wrong.

So, when on rare occasions, that base inner urge for a burger strikes us, we know where to go. I don’t waste my time trying to recreate their offerings. Aside from the fact that I don’t have all the necessary equipment to really do it right, I just don’t fry things up in all that grease like that at home. No one would eat it – they would rather suffer hunger than consider ingesting something so ‘gross’. When we go to In-N-Out, all this is conveniently out of sight – more or less – and so out of mind.

Instead of trying to imitate, I look to take these ordinary tasting food items into an interesting direction. Here, it’s all about the wrapper and the cheese. Cheese can turn the ordinary into something special – some Gorgonzola melted on top a steak, Buffa Mozzarella melted on top of almost anything, the list goes on. And there are countless options for a wrapper – pita, tortillas, flat bread, even different types of lettuces or greens.

Today, I dressed up turkey with Feta cheese, Hummus spread, fresh tomatoes and some pea sprouts and packed into lightly toasted pita pockets for a quick, but very tasty dinner. A little spinach salad on the side – fresh lemon juice vinaigrette – and dinner is served.

Note – Hummus is very easy to make, as is Tahini Paste, but both are readily available already made at most supermarkets.

Turkey Pitas with Feta and Hummus

3 lbs fresh ground turkey
1 Tbsp Cumin
2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 cloves finely minced garlic
1 tsp salt
Olive Oil
½ cup chopped parsley
1 lb feta cheese - cut into 8-10 slices
1 cup Hummus (recipe follows)
2 ripe tomatoes
8 Pita pocket breads

Gently but thoroughly combine the turkey, cumin, cayenne, garlic and salt in a bowl. Form into 8-10 patties, placing a slice of the Feta cheese in the center of each patty, and ensuring the turkey completely covers the entire Feta slice. Flatten the patties slightly into disks (if they are too spherical, they may not cook through, and they will be impossible to get into the pockets) .

Heat Olive Oil in a large frying pan over moderate heat. Fry patties over medium heat, turning once when the first side is well browned. I cover the pan for the first side to ensure the meat is cooked through.

Warm the pita pockets in a 250ºF oven. Slice tomatoes into thick slices. Wash pea sprouts.

Cut the upper quarter from each pita pocket. Open the pockets gently. Slide one turkey patty into each pocket. Spread each patty generously with Hummus. Place one tomato slice and a bunch of pea sprouts on each patty. Enjoy!


2 cups canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), liquid reserved
2/3 cup tahini paste (see recipe below)
5 tablespoons olive oil , divided
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

In a food processor, puree the chickpeas, tahini, 3 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice and garlic until smooth, adding a little of the reserved liquid if the mixture seems too thick; it will be slightly grainy. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a shallow bowl or plate. Combine the paprika and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, drizzle the mixture over the top, and garnish with chopped parsley, if desired. Serve with pita bread triangles. Makes about 3 cups.

Tahini (Sesame Seed Paste)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup tepid water

Blend sesame seeds in a blender and grind until smooth. Add sesame oil, salt, and then slowly add 1/4 cup of water while blending. Blend until completely smooth.

Yield: 1/2 cup

Note: Sesame seeds turn rancid quickly, so make certain yours are fresh. Be sure to store them away from light and heat and use quickly.

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