Why not take a break from the classic hamburger? Ground lamb makes a great substitute, even if sprinkled only with salt and pepper, or a little chopped parsley and garlic. For this menu, lamb patties are spiced with cumin, coriander, black pepper, cinnamon, mint and cilantro. They are inspired by kofta, the dish of seasoned spiced ground meat found throughout the Middle East and beyond. This larger, burgerlike format works well on home grills.
Folded into a warm pita bread, doused with a kicked-up tahini sauce and topped with fried onions, these may not be standard cookout fare, but everyone loves them.
Lamb burger with Fried onions and Tahini-yogurt sauce
Ingredients for the burgers:
• 2 pounds ground lamb
• Kosher salt and black pepper
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
• 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions, white and green parts
• 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
• 2 tablespoons mint, chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (from 2 garlic cloves)
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
• 1 large onion, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
• Pita or other flatbread, for serving (optional)
Ingredients for the sauce:
• 3 tablespoons tahini
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 medium lemon)
• 2 large garlic cloves, finely grated
• Pinch of ground cayenne
• 1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk yogurt
• Kosher salt
Put lamb in a medium bowl. Add 1 teaspoon salt, some black pepper, the cumin, coriander, oregano, cinnamon, scallions, cilantro, mint and garlic. Mix well with wet hands, kneading the mixture to distribute seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour so the seasoning penetrates.
(Alternatively, season meat and refrigerate overnight.)
Make the sauce: Put tahini, lemon juice, garlic and cayenne in a small bowl. Stir well to dissolve the tahini. Then stir in yogurt, and mix well. Taste and add salt, as desired.
Heat olive oil in a wide skillet over medium-high. When oil is wavy, add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they are crisp and well browned, edging toward burned, about 10-12 minutes. Lower heat if browning too quickly. Add a little more oil if pan looks dry. Season lightly with salt. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
Light a charcoal grill for a medium hot bed of coals. (Alternatively, use a medium-hot gas or electric grill, a cast-iron pan or griddle, or a broiler.)
With wet hands, knead lamb mixture once more, then form into 4 (8-ounce) oval patties (or 6 5-ounce patties), about 1-inch thick. Set aside until the fire is ready. Place the grill about 1 inch from the coals.
Cook patties about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare at 130 degrees. After flipping, cook until red juices appear on the top of the patties. For medium, cook longer at 140 degrees, about 5 minutes per side.
In either case, let them rest on a warm plate for 5 minutes before serving to keep in juices. They will continue cooking a bit as they rest.
Top each burger with fried onions. Serve with tahini-yogurt sauce and warm pita, if desired.
Total time: 1 1/2 hours, serves 4-6.