Goat Cheese Stuffed Lamb Burger
Dear friends in degustation,
I must apologize for my long absence. A huge project and some distant travels have left me with little time to write, and a profound ache to get back to the page and into the hot summer kitchen. I have been bursting at the seams with summer recipes to share and juggling a million dreams for outdoor parties and themed events. Fairy Garden Party? Tropical Tiki Lounge? My culinary cravings are leaning towards pineapple rum drinks and Pad Thai Spring rolls. There are so many friends I want to cook for and with, as we stretch towards the sultry solstice. It is in the summer especially that I feel a frenzy to eat up every sweet moment outside, of course in good company, on the grass, lazing over a bowl of pasta salad or peach sangria. There is no reason to believe that I can fit it all in one summer, but that won't stop me trying. Now my life is a brief summer, golden and yielding, charged with invitations, only and ever about the intimacy of long conversations in that particular dark before darkness.
I am an accomplished daydreamer with a celebrated history of staring off into the distance and into sunbeams.These past weeks of slipping into different realities, uncanny occurrences and travels alike, have me marveling at how our thoughts and plans materialize. There were so many things that I didn't think that I could accomplish in the last few weeks, but I did. What a wonder. We creatures of creation can find our thoughts turned into a solid-something so quickly.
I was pretty astonished when I learned that I would be in a show on the cooking channel a few months ago. After jumping up and down in disbelief, I put up a big fuss about how I never looked good in pictures so "how could I look okay on camera?!" Imagine being concerned about stuff like that when wonderful people have been nice enough to ask you to cook for them. When someone asks you to share the thing that you love to do, it pretty much is the best gift ever.
What was even more astonishing to me was that I managed to cook through and survive that whole day of filming.(As soon as I know more about the air date I will post it, should you care to take a gander!) Sherri Shepherd, the host of the show, was one of the warmest people I have ever met. She put me at ease with her genuine interest in the stories of the chef's she met. We laughed and we made biscuits, life is swell. All my seedling insecurities flourished into action, the meal was served and the people fed. Alleluia, Hurrah. Paradoxically, my thoughts touched earth when I stopped thinking. Our hands translate the final vision, but then I suppose, crafting is a special kind of thought as well.
Until you start to cook, a menu is just a collection of ingredients and flavorful fragments. It is an empty skillet and the promise of an unseen guest. How do you make it meal? What I learned while shooting Holy and Hungry with a real-live film crew, is that I just had to charge ahead and cook. Cook and the rest will follow. Dig in with your hands and your heart and dance over the trembling beneath. Be prepared to be flexible about the details that didn’t make it out of the dream. Our designs jump out of us, but in doing so they claim their own life. When I used to bring my poetry to readings, I was always so delighted at the different interpretations the listeners would bring back to me. It was no longer just my poem, but a campfire for all sorts of visitors and ceremonies.
Cooking is the speediest and most satisfying way I know to put my dreams out on the table. To make the sublime more tactile. It has also taught me a little more about why we make art and what it might mean. As a mode of self-expression, our work can say all sorts of things about our individual experience, but I think we are often inspired to create because of our encounter with the collective universe. Whether it be homemade pasta or a piece of pottery, art as an act of thankfulness allows us to celebrate wonder. Humans might disagree to what or whom our thankfulness should go, but we can acknowledge those moments of beauty that stir up a desire to THANK something, and outwardly express a bubbling inner gratitude. Cooking for people enables me to say thank you for their existence (an amazing and wonder-full occurrence) and to taste the deep gratitude that comes along with being a participant in new and ongoing life.
Cook is a community title, and I am so very thankful to the community who comes to eat. There were also so many folks who helped me before and on the day of the shoot, without them the project would not have been as joyful or successful. I like too many cooks in the kitchen, it's cozier.
There was a number of years in which I stayed away from hamburgers. They seemed to me an indulgence that I couldn't afford. Then I moved to Brooklyn and worked for a restaurant that had "the best burger in in Brooklyn", according to me. And they do have the best burger, at least in the neighborhood. Working there taught me that burgers don't have to be bad for you. Burgers are also, from time to time, the best tasting thing in the whole entire world. As mostly a veg eater, I can also attest to the legitimacy of a good veggie burger craving. So this lamb burger is not as delicious as the beef babe at Lot 2, but it is stuffed with goat cheese and partnered with zucchini fries. I try.
Goat Cheesed Stuffed Lamb Burger
1lb good quality ground lamb
1 clove garlic, minced
1 fistful of mint, chopped
1 teaspoon Raz el Hanout
1/2 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 log goat cheese cut into rounds
salt and pepper
Knob of butter and slosh of oil for frying
1. Since we are going to put a lot of loving on top of our burgers, I like to keep it relatively simple. Lamb can speak for itself. Place the ground lamb in a mixing bowl and add chopped garlic, spices, mint, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, and egg. Mix these into the meat with a spoon or with your hands until everything is incorporated. Set out a piece of parchment paper or wax paper on your work surface. Take a heaping tablespoon of the lamb mixture in you hand and form into a ball. Press the ball flat onto your surface with your palm. Prepare another ball and flatten. Place the round of goat cheese in the middle of the bottom layer and then cover with the top layer. Press down, making sure that the sides are sealed. Repeat to make remaining patties. I was able to make 4 larger burgers.
2. Warm up your skillet, medium to high heat, with butter and olive oil. My grandfather cooked his hamburgers in butter and he was so right, as usual. Place burgers two at a time in skillet and cook until a deep golden brown on the outside. Flip and address the other side of things. Flip the burgers one last time and top with cheddar cheese. Cover your skillet with a lid until cheese is ooey and gooey (warning: technical jargon). Place the finished burgers onto a sheet tray and place in a warm oven until all your fixings are assembled.
From top to Bottom:
Australian or other aged cheddar cheese
Pita bread, cut into rounds and slightly toasted with olive oil in the oven. ( I used the yummy Naan from Whole Foods!)
1-2 zucchinis, thinly sliced into frie-like shape
1/2 cup parmesan
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup oregano, chopped
1 lemon, zested and juice reserved
1. Cut your zucchini. Whisk the two eggs together in a bowl large enough to dip some fries into and add a pinch of salt. Place the breadcrumbs and parmesan and a tablespoon of oregano into a large bowl. Prepare a sheet pan with tinfoil and non-stick spray, a brush of olive oil will do too. Submerge a handful of zucchini slivers in egg and then transfer to breadcrumb bowl. Toss in panko and then place on the tinfoil sheet. Repeat, adding more crumbs to bowl if needed. Try to avoid making the breadcrumb mixture to wet or it will clump up. Cover the breaded zucchini with a generous amount of olive oil and roast at 475 degrees. When the fries come out of the oven, sprinkle with more salt, oregano, and a squeeze of lemon and some zest. Yum! These fries were inspired by our recent visit to a delicious San Fran spot, Souvla. Their Greek fries and grilled meats are transporting. Check it out! Also, drink this meal with "Summer Water".
A Big P. S,
I am moving to Australia with my love. Grits to Grace has the biggest, most delicious adventure ever! Come with me on the inter webs, see what I see, and cook up in a whole new country. More to report on that soon. Before then, we have some serious summer to live. Cheers!