Turkish Dinner Part 2: Lamb Burger Sliders + Yogurt Sauce

I’ve been meaning to send out this post for several months now, originally intended to follow closely on the heels of the Turkish Lentil Soup. Distractions in the realms of summer fruit, fish in packets, and life in general have arisen lately, but wait no more. Turkish Dinner Part 2 is here, in its full splendor.

The idea is to create a quick and hearty main course to accompany the soup. Originally conceived as a lamb burger slider intended to fit perfectly into a pita pocket and drizzled with a simple yogurt sauce, we ended up trying it with ground beef on account of Ava’s dislike of all things related to lamb (as least as of last week). For once, I’m grateful for a finicky kid palate because the beef version turned out to be almost as good, and I tend to keep ground beef in 1 pound packets stocked in the freezer. Why, you ask? Because the awesome grassfed beef producer at our farmers’ market sells them at a discounted price if you buy four packs. Which I do, and then appreciate having it on hand. But I digress..


Serves: 4-5 (4 adults)

Preparation time: 30 minutes

For burgers:

  1. 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb or beef (preferably grassfed)
  2. 1 small onion, minced
  3. 1 garlic clove, minced
  4. 3 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  5. 3 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  6. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  7. Whole wheat pita bread (ideally the small round version but anything goes)

In a medium bowl, lightly knead the ground lamb/beef with the onion, garlic, mint, parsley and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Mix gently but well.

Shape the meat into small sliders, 1/2 inch thick, and line them up on a cutting board.

In the meantime, pour 1-2 cups plain,whole milk yogurt into a serving bowl. Add any combination of the following, depending on preference and ingredient availability: 1 small garlic clove, finely chopped; 1/2 cup seedless cucumber, finely chopped; 1-2 tbsp fresh mint/parsley; several pinches of ground cumin and chili powder; salt and pepper.  This is intended to be a very flexible sauce. Salt and pepper alone will do the trick in a pinch.

Prepare either an outdoor or indoor grill, and grill the sliders for about 6-8 minutes to the desired doneness, turning once during cooking. Toast pita bread either on grill, in oven or in a toaster. At this point, you can either set 1-2 sliders on the pita bread or open the pita and stuff them inside (I prefer the latter). Drizzle with lots of yogurt sauce and serve. If your family is anything like mine, you will need LOTS of extra yogurt sauce.

I couldn’t help but also add padron peppers as a side dish to this dinner.If you haven’t already tried these, you should. They take about 5 minutes to prepare, no work other than washing is involved, and they are addictively delicious. And generally not spicy.

Quick sautéed padron peppers with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Yum!


Join the Hunger Challenge, September 11-17, 2011

September is national Hunger Action month. There are now more than 44.6 million people on food stamps in the US, the largest number in history. Joining many other like-minded organizations around the country, San Francisco/Marin Food Bank is inviting community members to take their Hunger Challenge next week, starting Sunday. The main goal of this effort is it to experience how challenging it is to eat healthfully on $4.92 per family member, per day (the amount granted to food stamp recipients). Our family is leaving town next week, but prior to our trip, we will be eating simple and inexpensive meals in honor of this Challenge.

As I contemplated our participation, brainstorming frugal recipes, figuring out the best approaches to stretching a meal, one thing became clear: this Challenge is really about more than exploring whether it is possible to create nourishing meals on a food stamp budget. There is also the question of whether those who rely on food stamps even have the time to allocate toward meal planning and preparation. For the working poor striving to makes ends meet, especially in outrageously expensive cities like my lovely San Francisco, time is as precious a resource as money. Earnings aren’t going far enough, so people take on more work to make ends meet. There seems to be a direct path between this reality, and the fast food restaurant. I will keep this at the forefront of my mind as I prepare food for my family next week.

With 15 million children living in poverty in the United States today, we clearly have an enormous problem to contend with. I encourage all of you to take this Hunger Challenge next week, even if it is just for a day. If nothing else, take the time to have a family conversation about hunger to generate awareness among all generations about the urgency of this issue.

For more context, check out the ABC News series “Hunger and Children in America”

Slow Food USA is also doing a $5 Challenge aiming to prove that a “slow food doesn’t have to cost more than fast food.”

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie Update

I must have made an accidental error the first time I made these cookies (I suspect a reduction in the amount of flour) because I’ve never been able to replicate in later attempts the chewy, gooey cookies with delicate crispy edges from that day. Instead, the original recipe left us with something akin to tasty biscuits. Passable, certainly, but delicious? Not in my book.

When I saw Ava and Jonah pulling out the mixer today in preparation for another cookie-making session, I decided it was time to tinker. I created a new recipe making fewer cookies (the earlier version created on overwhelming amount of batter but you can of course double this one) and resulting in the crispy/chewy combo we love.

You can find the amended recipe on the original post.

Let me know what you think!

Balsamic-Roasted Figs with Fresh Goat Cheese

Fruit is simply stunning this time of year, and in Northern California we are particularly blessed in this regard. But the fleeting and dramatic appearance of figs always captures my attention. This year, it was Talia who happened to spot the baskets of of dark purple mission figs at the market and requested a sample. One bite and she was sold. An unexpected and quite pleasant surprise.

On the way home, I had the brilliant idea of resurrecting our old dinner party favorite that lost its status around the time we became parents and stopped throwing adult dinner parties. Fast forward eight years, and it turns out that balsamic vinegar and goat cheese are still beloved in our house. I thought the girls would enjoy trying both on top of roasted figs, which make for an excellent appetizer, compliment to meat, or dessert.

Turns out, the challenge with figs is that like most fruit, their texture transforms upon baking. The softer, melty version was not appealing. The girls preferred raw. Oh, well. In my infinite maturity, I say is was worth a try – plus, that leaves more for me!


One basket of figs serves about 3-4. Extras are always appreciated since they disappear quickly.

Preheat oven (or toaster oven if an option) to 425°.

Wash and dry a basket or two of mission figs. Remove stems and slice the fruit in half, lengthwise. Line fog halves on a  baking sheet. Place teaspoon-sized dollops of fresh goat cheese (chevre) on top of fig halves, then generously drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until balsamic becomes syrup. Transfer to plates and serve. Or perhaps you’ll eat them right off the pan!