It was a pretty awesome place to live, considering I was as obsessed with food back then as I am now. We’d drop into Athens bakery for wax-paper lined boxes of honey-soaked loukomades dusted with cinnamon and flaky phyllo pies stuffed with spinach and cheese. The local butcher served up thin slices of gyros meat, redolent with oregano and garlic, for our make-your-own gyros nights at home. And many a family celebration took place at Omonia, our favourite of the many Greek restaurants in the neighbourhood, where we’d feast on enormous plates of grilled souvlaki with lemony roasted potatoes and mountains of fluffy rice. (Sadly, Omonia’s gone downhill quite a bit in the past few years… but the loukomades at Athens are still to die for)
I guess you could say that we’re old childhood friends, Greek food and I, so it’s only natural that spinach and feta and dill should find their way into my cooking as often as they do.
Of course, there isn’t much about these burgers that’s authentically Greek, aside from a mixture of flavours that are as quintessentially Greek as white-washed stucco and Agean-blue skies. So, lest an army of little Greek yia-yias come knocking down my door to tar and feather me for my abuse of their culture, let’s call them “Mediterranean” instead, shall we?
Whatever you want to call them, we continue along a Greek… errr… Mediterranean vein by wrapping everything up in a soft, warm pita with thin slices of fresh cucumber, a handful of baby spinach and a slathering of tangy yogurt. Eat them right away, still piping hot from the pan, or let the patties cool off and stuff them into a picnic basket (along with the rest of the ingredients, individually packaged) for a delicious al fresco meal.
Because they’re so chock-full of vegetables, these patties are rather delicate and have a tendency to fall apart if manhandled. You’re best off pan-frying or broiling, and flipping them just once. Otherwise you’ll just end up with Mediterranean Turkey Crumbles, and that’s no fun.
Mediterranean Turkey Burgers
1 lb ground turkey
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped spinach
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
The Other Stuff:
4 flatbread-style pitas, toasted
Baby spinach leaves
Yogurt Sauce (see below)
In a large mixing bowl, combine turkey, egg and breadcrumbs. Mix until mostly incorporated, then add the remaining patty ingredients and gently mix until thoroughly combined. Shape the mixture into eight equal-sized patties, each about 3/4″ thick.
Pan-fry the patties over medium-high heat in a large non-stick skillet, cooking for about 10 minutes and turning over only once halfway through the cooking time.
To serve, place two patties on each of the toasted pitas, and allow your guests to top each one off as they please (I’m a cucumber and spinach and yogurt kinda girl, personally).
1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt*
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a small serving bowl, then cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
* Note: If you can’t find Greek-style yogurt, you can make your own. Spoon 1 1/2 cups of good-quality plain yogurt in a cheesecloth-lined strainer and set over a large bowl. Let stand for 2-3 hours, at which point you should have approximately 1 cup of thickened yogurt. (You can also make a really lovely yogurt “cheese” using this method, by allowing the yogurt to strain overnight, until it’s almost as thick as a soft cream cheese)