Kitchen Shrink: Summer burgers go beyond the beef

This summer, grilling gurus are dishing up an equal opportunity for all food groups to earn their grill marks. Everything from appetizers to desserts is being thrown on the barbie. Meat, move over. A smorgasbord of fruits and vegetables from papayas and pineapples to leafy greens and gourds - even pizzas, cakes and brownies - is hitting the grills. But the hottest trends are ethnic themes and putting beef out to pasture.

Lamb burgers are the new hamburgers this season, going Greek-style stuffed in a pita pocket and topped with feta cheese, black olives and a refreshing yogurt cucumber sauce. The turkey burger can be done all-American with caramelized red onions, beefsteak tomatoes and kicky barbecue sauce served between a crusty onion bun, or the chicken burger can be dressed with a tropical Hawaiian glaze and a grilled pineapple ring.

I give my salmon burger an Asian twist by topping with scallions, daikon radishes, wasabi mayo and sandwiching it between a sesame bun. Crab cakes are complemented with a Mediterranean roasted red pepper drizzle. Vegans can grill a Portobello Italian style with a splash of virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, accessorized with arugula and fresh buffalo mozzarella on a ciabatta roll.

My fave happens to be a basic salt-of-the-earth vegetable patty solidly packed with brown rice, barley, roasted peppers, red onions, mushrooms and beets.

I’m serving a side order of cardinal burger commandments for safe and fun summer eating:

  • Dress the burger, not the bun, to avoid the soggy factor.
  • Condiments should be applied in an appropriate order starting with wet ones such as mustard, followed with chunky ones such as tomatoes and caramelized onions. Easy with the mayo, as it is not hot weather-forgiving.
  • Toss the utensils - use your mitts, along with paper plates and napkins.
  • Hot foods should be kept hot and cold ones cold to avoid food contamination.
  • Chill any leftovers in airtight containers immediately after the shindig is over.

Spicy Greek-Style Lamb Burgers

  • 1 pound of ground New Zealand or Australian lamb
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
  • 4 pita bread rounds
  • 4 ounces of crumbled feta cheese
  • Sliced black olives
  • Yogurt cucumber sauce for garnish
In a large bowl, mix the lamb with the herbs, spices, oil, vinegar and garlic. Shape into 4 patties. Brush the grill or grill pan with grapeseed oil and cook for about 5 minutes each side or until done. Serve lamb burgers in pita pockets and garnish with feta cheese, black olives and yogurt sauce.

Mediterranean Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Ingredients for the sauce:
  • 2 red peppers, grilled or roasted and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Ingredients for the crab cakes:

  • 1 pound of flaked crab meat, fresh or canned, shells removed (wild caught)
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped finely
  • 2 teaspoons of freshly chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons of Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard powder
  • 1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup of butter (or grapeseed oil if cholesterol-conscious)
  • Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste

To prepare the sauce, combine the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
For the crab cakes, combine the cilantro, red pepper, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl. Blend in the crab meat. Fold into the crab mixture the egg, mayonnaise, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice. Shape into 6 or 8 cakes or patties. Melt the butter in a frying pan and saute the crab cakes on both sides over low heat till cooked through. Drizzle with the roasted pepper sauce.

The Kitchen Shrink’s Veggie Burger A-Go-Go

  • 3/4 cup of brown rice (cooked)
  • 3/4 cup of barley (cooked)
  • 1/4 cup of shredded fresh beets
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1/2 sweet red pepper, diced
  • 8 ounces of fresh mushrooms, wild or white button, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped herbs (thyme, rosemary, your choice)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of spicy mustard
  • A few drops of Tabasco sauce
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons of olive or grapeseed oil
  • Salt, black pepper and cayenne to taste
  • Panko breadcrumbs

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and saute the beets, onion, pepper, mushrooms, herbs and garlic until tender. Combine the rice and barley with the sauteed vegetables and mix well. Blend the eggs and sauces into the mixture until the texture is firm and holds together. Add salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Form into patties, adding breadcrumbs for desired texture.
Brush a layer of grapeseed oil on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake the veggie burgers at 400 degrees F until crisp, turning only once. Garnish with arugula or micro greens, heirloom tomatoes and the bun of your choice, toasted and slathered with rosemary garlic mayo.