Summer time means burger time. This is coming from someone who was a vegetarian for 8 years. It took a pork belly lettuce wrap at Momofuku Ssam, followed by a week on safari in Kruger where there was a LOT of game meat to be had, to make me convert, but what a happy conversion it was. My attitude at the time was: what if I never come back here—and I never get the chance to taste wildebeest, kudu or impala ever again? I had no idea at the time that I’d end up living in South Africa for a good long while, but I don’t regret the logic that led me to eat every piece of meat that was put on the braai during that week.
Early meat binge aside, I’ve toned it down since then. I do eat meat, but only when it’s going to be really exceptional (for the record, South African meat is always exceptional). For example, if I’m going to eat a burger, there’s got to be something special about it: great bread, interesting seasoning, or some unique toppings, with all the elements coming together in a tasty fusion that goes beyond a beef patty on a white roll. Something like this Greek-influenced burger recipe from Pig: King of the Southern Table. I tweaked it a bit by adding more mint and garlic, and used ground beef instead of the ground pork the original recipe calls for (couldn’t find pork, but I’m going to go for lamb the next time). The yogurt, as weird as it might seem in a burger, is really the magic touch. It keeps the meat moist (which is possibly my least favorite word in the English language, so if I’m using it you know it has to be true), not to mention allowing us consumers to buy leaner meat without any loss of flavor. Aside from adding some homemade tzatziki, I let the burger speak for itself and added a bit of crispy lettuce to a simply toasted bun.
Minted Greek Burgers
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground lean beef
1 small onion, minced
6 mint leaves, minced
1 cup plain yogurt (I used Fage 2%)
Combine all ingredients. Divide evenly into 4 patties. My, um, grillmaster and I use a gas grill that we heat up until it’s probably at least 500F. Cook on each side until meat is browned on the outside (and hopefully still deliciously pink on the inside).For the tzatziki: 1 cup Greek yogurt (Fage 2% again) ¼ English cucumber, finely diced ¼ cup fresh mint, minced salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients. If making ahead of time, add salt just before serving so the cucumbers don’t secrete too much water and turn the tzatziki into watery soup.