Yesterday, I kicked off my mini-burger bash with a recipe so good, it is destined to become an instant classic in my household. After such a resounding success, it was almost inevitable that today's attempt would at least be somewhat of a disappointment. For a protein, I chose lamb, because I've seen lamb burgers on television for ages now, and I was always curious about them. Since the grocery store put pretty much all ground meats on sale after the major grilling holiday of the Fourth had passed, I was able to score some reasonably-priced ground lamb, since it's primarily its usual expense that has kept me from trying lamb burgers up until now.
I selected a recipe that called for traditional Greek spices, such as oregano, marjoram, cinnamon, and garlic, but despite all the seasonings that went into it, the meat itself emerged strangely bland. Sure, it was juicy, and the lamb-y flavor came through, but the meat was so completely innocuous that the patty mostly served as a vehicle for consuming tzatziki sauce. Perhaps a larger number of condiments might have fixed the situation; after all, I didn't elect for any besides the sauce and some slices of raw onion. Slices of tomato and some crumbled feta may have livened things up some. Still, I wouldn't want to waste my money on another batch of lamb burgers to find out. Clearly, this is a meal that is better left to professional chefs.
On the other hand, at least my tzatziki sauce was a hit. I've been making the same recipe since I was in college, when I saw it on an episode of Good Eats where Alton Brown made gyros from scratch. I wasn't about to attempt that feat then or now, but I did have a pretty tasty Greek chicken recipe that was practically begging for a condiment at the time, and I gave Alton's recipe a try.
These were the days before Greek yogurt became a ubiquitous grocery store staple, and I remember straining regular plain yogurt through a cheese cloth to make this recipe happen. It was worth the effort then, and I still make it today (albeit with a lot less time and energy expenditure), whenever I make a dish with Mediterranean overtones. It's even good by itself on pitas as a snack, for those days when I want to relive my 2007 trip to Greece, where I had tzatziki as an appetizer at practically every meal. Seriously, give it a try!
adapted from Alton Brown
8 oz. Greek yogurt (I recommend Fage for this particular application)
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and finely grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
pinch of salt
Holding over the sink, squeeze the grated cucumber to remove as much excess liquid as possible. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the Greem yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.