My dear friend Nahir claims she cannot cook. She loves food and can wax poetic about a new restaurant or a favorite culinary experience. In my experience, people who appreciate the time, labor and love that goes into good food tend to be good cooks themselves. They can't help it - even if they haven't learned technique or are nervous cooks they respect the food and the process of cooking. Upon being pressed on this point one evening over wine she finally conceded she can make two dishes: lamb burgers and paella. I was surprised that someone who purports to lack culinary talent would name those particular dishes so of course I immediately did what any good foodie friend would do and invited her to come over and host a dinner party at my apartment.
This dish was originally inspired by a friend of Nahir's from graduate school, who mentioned how she would make lamb burgers stuffed with feta. (Amazing how that simple conversation encouraged a non-cook to create an amazing dish!) Nahir went on to tell me she happened upon some lemon & oregano seasoned feta (which is sadly impossible to find now) one day in the grocery store and decided to try whipping up her own variation by mixing plain yogurt and the seasoned feta into the ground lamb. Like most of us, over time she experimented with different ingredients, adding red onions or garlic and parsley to provide a more lively flavor.
Try these for yourself - I think you'll agree with me that Nahir needs to hang up her self-deprecating hat and start admitting that is, in fact, quite a good cook!
Nahir's Lamb Burgers - Serves 6
2 lbs ground lamb
6 oz Greek yogurt (we used Fage 0% fat - change as desired)
6 oz crumbled feta cheese
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 c parsley, chopped
1/4 c mint, chopped
1/2 t salt (go easy on the salt since the feta is also salty)
1/2 T pepper
1 T dried oregano
Form into patties and grill to desired doneness (we went with medium) approximately 5 minutes per side.
Drizzle cooked burgers with lemon or serve lemon wedges on the side. We chose to let everyone build their own meal and served the burgers with whole wheat lavash bread, chopped tomatoes, sliced onion, extra feta, cucumber, lettuce, Kalamata olives and tabbouleh.
baklava and a selection of fruit: orange wedges with mint, pomegranate seeds and figs broiled with honey and orange zest.
I always say food tastes better when it's shared with friends. We had the added bonus of meeting some new people - a couple that Nahir knows. By everyone constructing their own meal we kept things informal and really had a great time getting to know each other. I cannot wait for our Spanish cooking night to try Nahir's paella!