Middle Eastern Lamburgers with Smoky Eggplant Spread and Tzatziki
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 medium cucumbers
1 teaspoon kosher salt for sprinkling
1 large clove garlic, squeezed through a press or minced extremely fine
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Pinch ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1-1/2 pounds small, narrow eggplant
Olive oil for brushing eggplant
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
1-1/2 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 pounds ground lamb
1/2 cup minced whole scallions, white and green parts (about 3 or 4 scallions)
4 large garlic cloves
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling burgers
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper, or 3/4 teaspoon sweet paprika mixed with 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Olive oil for oiling grill rack
6 whole wheat mini pitas, split completely open
Make the Tzatziki:
Note: *If using a yogurt other than the thick Greek style yogurt, it will need to be drained. Empty the yogurt into a strainer lined with cheesecloth and allow to drain for 1-1/2 hours.
Peel the cucumber and grate it on the large holes of a box grater. Place the shredded cucumber in a colander and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Let stand and drain for 30 minutes. Rinse the shredded cucumber well and squeeze very dry in a kitchen towel or several layers of paper toweling. Transfer the yogurt to a medium bowl and blend in the garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, cumin, salt and pepper. Add the cucumber and mix well. Chill. (Makes about 2 cups.)
Make the Smoky Eggplant Spread:
Preheat a grill very hot. Brush the whole eggplants lightly with olive oil and roast on the grill, turning with tongs, until the skin is completely charred. Place the eggplants in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside until cooled. Remove the charred skin from the eggplants and mash the flesh with a fork to a rough but uniform purÃ©e. Mix in the mayonnaise, onion, bell pepper, olive oil and dill and refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop and blend. Bring to room temperature before serving.(Makes about 2 cups.)
Make the Lamb burgers:
Use a stiff spatula or two butter knives to mix together the lamb, scallions, garlic, oil, herbs and seasonings until ingredients are evenly blendedâ€”do not overwork the meat. Form the lamb mixture into six equal patties. Lightly brush the burgers with olive oil and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Preheat a gas grill to medium-hot.
On a large piece of foil, make 2 side-by-side stacks of 3 pita breads each. Bring up the sides of the foil to enclose the bread and place the package on the warming rack of the grill while you grill the lamb burgers. If the grill doesnâ€™t have a warming rack, place the package at the outside edge of the grill rack until warmed through, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Oil the grill rack with olive oil. Grill the burgers, turning once, until nicely browned, about 3 minutes per side.
To serve: Place a burger on the bottom half of a whole wheat mini-pita, top with 1 tablespoon of the Smoky Eggplant Spread and 1 tablespoon of the Tzatziki, and top with the remaining pita half.
Makes 6 servings.