Editor's note: Philadelphia food writers Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond drop by each week with Meat Lite, which celebrates meat in moderation. Meat Lite was inspired by their book, Almost Meatless.
This weekend, right in the middle of sipping a cold beer and fantasizing about a lamb burger, my pal, chef and author, Robin Asbell, tweeted about the baked falafel burgers she was making. Just like that, the lamb burger in my mind's eye became this week's Meat Lite recipe.
Falafel, of course, is a vegetarian darling for its protein richness, flavor, and texture. Stuffed into a pita, the crispy outside and creamy, spice-infused inside makes for a sandwich that rivals even the heftiest hoagie. As is, falafel is a favorite. But a touch of lamb marbled through the mixture adds a new dimension. Plus, lamb is popular in Middle-Eastern cuisine making it a natural partner for these fellow indigenous ingredients.
Falafel recipes often call for flour or bread crumbs as a binder. Instead, I substituted cooked bulgur wheat (a nod to Robin's book, The New Whole Grains Cookbook for extra flavor, texture, and fiber.
If you're cooking for mixed company, split the mixture to exclude meat from some of it before patting into patties.
- Yield:makes four 7-ounce burgers, but you can create smaller slider-sized burgers for mini pita pockets, or on flatbread cut into rounds
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup bulgur wheat
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 15-ounce can)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
- 1 large garlic clove, minced and pressed to a paste
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 whole scallion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces ground lamb
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 pita or flatbread
- 1/2 large cucumber, sliced thin
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta
- 1 cup mixed greens
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepot. Add the bulgur wheat, cover the pot, reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, an additional 2 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and let cool slightly.
Put the chickpeas, cumin, coriander, cilantro, garlic paste, egg, scallion, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cooled bulgur wheat. Pulse the mixture about 25 to 30 times, until a chunky paste forms. Scoop the mixture back into the large mixing bowl.
Crumble the ground lamb on top of the chickpea mixture. Using your hands or a rubber spatula, gently combine the lamb with the mixture. Form into four 7-ounce patties, about 1/2-inch thick.
Coat a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of the oil and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the patties (do this in batches if your pan isn't large enough to fit all at once) and cook for 3 minutes. Flip over and cook 3 minutes more. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 5 to 7 minutes.
Stuff into pita and top with cucumber and feta. Toss the mixed greens with the remaining olive oil and add to the burgers. Alternatively, serve the burgers open-faced on warm flatbread with the fixings piled on top.