Grilled Lamb Feta Burgers are made even more flavorful with a lightened rémoulade sauce that substitutes Greek yogurt and olive oil for mayonnaise. Recipes below.
I remember feeling all grown up and adventurous the first time I ate feta cheese. Of course, I was in college at the time, and just about everything that didn’t make me feel idiotic, overwhelmed and scared made me feel grown up and adventurous.
If anything, my first experience with feta made me feel all of those things at once. This cheese didn’t come wrapped in individual slices, and it was decidedly not what was, to my then culinarily naive ears, comfortingly called ‘American.’ Most daunting of all, you couldn’t find it in the supermarket (at least not the ones of my college days). When a friend announced she was going to try a recipe that required the exotic substance, I was assigned the challenge of finding some.
I found it, of course, in a bustling, olive-filled Greek deli, the kind of place food lovers happily seek out and cherish when they find it. At the time, though, this cheerful, noisy place only underscored my white-bread upbringing and utter lack of any culinary sophistication whatever. Still, I managed to escape unscathed with a nice square chunk of feta in hand and a peek into a new to me world.
Feta has long since lost its adventurous quality to me, but not its appeal. What was once a glamorous alien flavor to me is now dependably tangy, briny and mild. It’s also one of the oldest cheeses around. Some place its origin during the Byzantine Empire; others claim Homer wrote of it in the 8th century BC. The traditional Greek curd cheese is made of sheep or goat milk (although outside of Greece, some of it is now made with pasteurized cow milk) and aged in brine.
In addition to more traditional uses, feta has been finding its way into burgers for some time. So when I decided to grill some lamb burgers for the Memorial Day weekend, adding Greek cheese to a meat much favored by Grecian cooks was a given.
Rémoulade is a versatile sauce invented by the French. By adding different herbs and flavorings, its big flavor can be adapted to complement a whole host of meats, seafood and even vegetables. Traditionally, its base is mayonnaise, lots of it. The lively taste of rémoulade appealed to me for these burgers—the half cup of mayonnaise many recipes called for did not. Since I was going with Greek ingredients already, I decided to swap a mix of olive oil and nonfat Greek yogurt for the mayo. They worked just fine, thank you.
Grilled Lamb Feta Burgers with Light Rémoulade
1/3 cup minced parsley
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon capers, minced
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 pound ground lamb
generous 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 burger buns or rolls
Prepare the rémoulade. Combine the first six ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. The parsley, garlic and capers should be minced as finely as possible. You can use a mini food processor to make the rémoulade, but a good sharp knife and a little patience will do a beautiful job. Cover with plastic and store in the fridge. Can be made a day ahead—make at least a few hours ahead to let the flavors combine.
Make the burgers. Prepare or preheat your grill. Mix ground lamb and crumbled feta in a bowl until just combined. Handle the meat as little and as gently as possible, or your burgers will be tough. Form into 4 patties. Season on both sides with salt (use a light hand—the feta and remoulade will provide plenty of flavor) and a generous grinding of pepper.
When the grill is ready, brush it with oil and quickly grill the buns cut side down for a minute or so. Transfer buns to a plate. Grill the lamb feta burgers for about 4 minutes per side, turning once (or to desired doneness—grilling is an inexact science, at least as practiced by me). If you get flare ups, gently move burgers away from flames. Transfer burgers to a plate and tent with foil. Let them rest for about 5 minutes as you prepare buns. Spread 1/4 of the rémoulade on the bottom half of each bun. Top with burger and bun and serve.