I’ve been dreaming of these Greek lamb burgers with mint tzatziki sauce for almost a year.
I can’t believe that this time last year I was porpoising in the Aegean sea, eating my weight in lemony potatoes and Greek salad, and stalking rich shipping magnates to see where they were having dinner after exiting their yachts.
Last June, when I was traveling solo on Spetses Island, I had also just started experimenting with some challenges for The Wellness Project. I was deep into the book proposal process, and had hoped to finish in time for my vacation. But alas, that deadline came and went, leaving me with plenty of time to ponder my ideas while wandering the white walled towns of Greece.
One thing I was paying particular attention to was drinking my weight in water every day. At that point, I had yet to obtain my super chic charcoal water bottle, and was tracking my progress through the Moro app. Since the country’s septic system still hadn’t been modernized to accommodate toilet paper, I had very little faith in my ability to drink the tap water. So at the beginning of my four night stay, I loaded up on bottled water from the grocery store.
About halfway through the trip, after experiencing some disconcerting stomach issues, I took a closer look at the bottle and discovered that I had accidentally purchased “lady water.” I had thought that some of the writing was Greek lettering, but in fact it was just the listing of elements like calcium and magnesium in a jazzy Trojan font. Ever since, I’ve been a lot more careful in foreign countries to not let my subconscious fall prey to pink packaging in the water aisle.
My second experiment involved landscaping. Sadly, I ended up cutting this chapter from the book, and as a result, did not bring you any hair experiments this month on the blog as promised. So you’ll have to settle for this anecdote from my travels.
First off, when I showed Charlie the running list of wellness sprints, he asked me kindly to do all the ones involving hair while I was out of town. So while in Greece, I decided to go on my shaving hiatus and do a “reset” of my mane by not washing it for a week.
It was a very greasy stay in Greece, to say the least. And I can’t say that my hair looked much better during or after. But it did make that first wafting scent of shampoo in the shower all the more glorious at the end.
Luckily, my eating experiments in Greece were a lot more successful than my wellness ones. I ate a ton of Fage for breakfast everyday with luscious honey, and even though the brand’s spokesperson has now been revealed as a dirty dirty cheat, I still think it’s the best Greek yogurt your money can buy in the States. I also ate mounds of it in tzatziki pretty much every other time of day.
Since the Fourth is right around the corner, I thought I would channel some of my Greek food nostalgia into a lamb burger recipe for your holiday grilling pleasures.
Lamb has such an amazing funky flavor, you hardly need much more than some garlic, lemon zest and fresh mint to make your patties pop. These same ingredients then do double duty in the tzatziki topping, which gives your charred, juicy burgers a nice cooling crunch. The sauce also tastes great on these lamb skewers, and pretty much anything else.
Hopefully you’ll be able to porpoise in some sea somewhere, even if it’s not the Aegean. But if you want to bring some of those amazing Greek flavors to your patriotic American table, where we can all freely enjoy the tap water, I highly recommend these burgers. You can serve them alongside this Greek potato salad and these tomatoes for good measure.
With health and hedonism,
Greek Lamb Burgers with Mint Tzatziki Sauce
For the tzatziki:
- 1 small cucumber peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
- ¼ cup tightly packed mint leaves
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup full fat Greek yogurt
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground lamb, garlic, shallot, lemon zest, mint, salt, and cumin. With clean hands, fold together the meat mixture until the other ingredients are well distributed. Try not to overly break up the meat. Divide into 4 balls and form into 2-inch thick patties. You want them to be more round than flat.
- Set a large heavy bottomed skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat. Add a very thin layer of oil, just enough to grease the bottom of the pan. Cook the burgers until nicely browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Remove to a plate to rest and tent with foil.
- Meanwhile, combine the cucumber, mint, garlic, lemon juice, Greek yogurt and salt in a small food processor and pulse until the mixture is smooth, but with some coarse bits of cucumber. Transfer to a serving bowl.
- Serve the lamb burgers on the toasted buns and top with a spoonful of tzatziki and some baby arugula or herb leaves.