Sunday, August 28, 2011

Recipe: something new -- lamb burgers!

Yes!  I said LAMB burgers, not hamburgers, which if you think about it are not really made from ham.  Hamburgers by most counts originated in Germany from...Hamburg.  But I digress!  Many months after I moved away from the neighborhood, I finally had the chance to return to the Santa Monica Farmer's market, which used to be a weekly staple for me.  One of the things I always appreciate when going there is that not only do local farmers bring their best fruits and veggies, but local meat producers show up also.  So you can get locally-raised, grassfed beef, or fruit-fed lamb, or organic pork without all the byproducts, fillers and hormones of commercially-raised meat.  They're better for you, and reduces the carbon footprint -- and you get a tasty, healthier end result! It's the whole point of the locavore movement.

Sadly, the realities of economics makes these products expensive since they're literally done on a small scale.  It currently prohibits them from becoming a bigger movement, but I encourage everyone try to support these small ranchers whenever you can, and when your budget allows -- by doing so, you will help support the producers, and make it more accessible to all down the line.  This time, I bought one pound of organic ground lamb on Saturday for $14.  While much pricier than ground beef, it made four burgers, and still cost less than it would have in a health food-type restaurant.  Also, I could control the ingredients for my particular food allergies, and got a delicious alternative to beef, pork and turkey, which are my usual mammalian/avian proteins.  The salsa was mellow and complemented the lamb nicely, I had to sub mango for the oranges, and upped the vinegar a bit to compensate for the lack of citrus.  This would make a nice alternatives to regular burgers if you had company too -- seems fancy!  And the flavors are a bit more sophisticated that just using ketchup and mustard.

Anyhow, if you get the chance to make these lamb burgers, please do!  These spices will probably work with beef, but they really are designed to complement the slightly more aggressive taste of lamb.  It might work with buffalo too.  Which is also offered at the market.  Here's the recipe.  Enjoy!

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Burgers with Beet, Red Onion and Orange Salsa

He may be executive chef at London's luxe Conservatory at The Lanesborough, but Paul Gayler knows a thing or two about American cuisine, too. In The Gourmet Burger, he rethinks the barbecue classic using premium and international ingredients. Here, he adds mildly spicy North African flavors.
Yield: Makes 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
2 beets, boiled, peeled, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 large orange, peel and pith cut away, flesh cut into 1/3-inch cubes
1 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped pitted green Greek olives

1 large shallot, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño chile, seeded, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 3/4 pounds ground lamb

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 large cracked-wheat hamburger buns, split horizontally
1 1/3 cups thinly sliced Bibb lettuce
For salsa:
Whisk first 3 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Mix in next 4 ingredients. Season salsa to taste with salt and pepper.
Do ahead: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

For burgers:
Stir shallot, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika, and cumin in large bowl to blend. Add lamb and mix gently to combine. Shape mixture into four 1/2-inch-thick patties. Arrange on small baking sheet.
Do ahead: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill.
Spray grill rack with nonstick spray and prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Grill buns, cut side down, until golden, about 2 minutes; transfer to work surface. Place lettuce and large spoonful of salsa on each bun bottom. Grill burgers until slightly charred and cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Place 1 burger on each bun. Top each with mayonnaise and bun top. Serve with remaining salsa.

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