Grilled ground meat patties are a constant on the world’s barbecue trail. The type of meat varies from region to region. Greek grill masters use ground lamb instead of beef, as do those in the Balkans, Asia Minor, the Middle East, and central Asia. These lamb burgers buzz with Greek flavors—garlic, oregano, and mint. A refreshing tzatziki—yogurt cucumber dip—is the sauce. To complete the Greek theme, the burgers are served on pita bread instead of buns.
In keeping with the widespread popularity of the lamb burger, I offer an equally widespread and popular condiment—a garlic-cucumber yogurt sauce known as tzatziki in Greece, cajik in Turkey, and raita in India. For the best results, use whole-milk yogurt. If you can’t find it in the supermarket, it’s available at natural foods stores or Middle Eastern or Greek grocery stores.
- 1½ pounds ground lamb
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, or 2 teaspoons dried mint
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Greek)
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea), or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 4 pita breads
- 4 rinsed romaine lettuce leaves
- 4 paper-thin slices red onion (optional)
- 1 medium-size cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 medium-size ripe tomato, thinly sliced
- 1 medium-size cucumber
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea), or more to taste
- 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, or 1 teaspoon dried mint
- Freshly ground black pepper
For the Lamb Burgers:
1. Place the ground lamb, chopped onion, garlic, mint, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl and stir with a wooden spoon to mix. Wet your hands with cold water and divide the mixture in 4 equal portions. Working quickly and with a light touch, pat each portion into a thick patty. Place the patties on a plate lined with plastic wrap and refrigerate, covered, until ready to grill.
2. Grill the lamb burgers, following the instructions for any of the grills in the box at right, until cooked through. See Notes for doneness tests. Remove the burgers and cover to keep warm. Leave the grill on.
3. Place the pita breads on the hot grill, and, lowering the temperature and working in batches, if necessary, grill until toasted, about 1 minute on a contact grill; 1 minute per side on any of the other indoor grills.
4. Cut a slit in each pita. Place a lettuce leaf inside, followed by a burger, an onion slice, if using, some cucumber and tomato slices, and a generous dollop of yogurt sauce. Serve at once.
Yogurt Cucumber Sauce:
1. Peel the cucumber and cut it in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds with a melon baller or spoon. Coarsely grate the cucumber.
2. Place the garlic and salt in a mixing bowl and mash to a paste with the back of a spoon. Stir in the grated cucumber, yogurt, olive oil, and mint. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, if necessary, and pepper to taste; the sauce should be highly seasoned.