Tzatziki sauce is seriously one of my favorite things in life. Not sauces… not condiments… things! Whats not to love about a refreshing mixture of cucumber, garlic and fresh herbs folded in to luscious Greek yogurt with a touch of olive oil thrown in for good measure? The best part about tzatziki is that its incredibly cheap and easy to make — so much so that I can’t in good conscience advise anyone to ever buy store-made stuff. I promise you that nothing you buy in a store will taste as fresh and delicious as what you can put together at home in 10 minutes.
The best part is that you can really adjust it to your taste by varying the types of herbs you use and the amounts of all the ingredients. It goes by many names, but this sauce is served throughout Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and parts of the Middle East — in every one of these places you will find a dozen variations of it… and they are all delicious.
Since I love tzatziki so much I’m always looking for what to serve it with. Given its Mediterranean /Middle Eastern origins, its no surprise that it happens to be perfect with lamb. Last weekend I decided to set out a little bit of a “make your own burger” station and I thought lamb burgers would be absolutely perfect. Since I was going for a Mediterranean feel to the meal, I decided to incorporate minced olives, garlic, parsley and oregano into the meat patties to have them absolutely bursting with flavor. You could also throw some sun-dried tomatoes into the mix and even have a little piece of feta cheese in the middle of each burger — just go with what sounds delicious.
Lamb is a surprisingly great meat to make burgers with since it has a pretty great balance of fat and a nice assertive flavor to stand up to any toppings you can think of. Some grocery stores sell pre-packaged ground lamb, but if yours doesn’t, all you have to do is buy a lovely cheap cut of stew lamb meat and ask your butcher to grind it for you.
- For the Lamb Burgers:
- 2 pounds of ground lamb
- 1 cup of pitted green olives
- ½ large onion, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup of parsley, packed
- 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons of cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons of paprika
- 1 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Vegetable oil
- For the Tzatziki sauce
- 2 cups of Greek yogurt, preferably full fat
- 1 medium sized cucumber
- 2 cloves of garlic, very finely minced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons of chopped dill (optional)
- 2 tablespoons of chopped mint (optional)
- To Serve:
- Warm pita bread
- Thinly sliced red onion
- Sliced cucumber
- Sliced tomato
- Place the olives, parsley, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, paprika and, salt, pepper, and olive oil into a food processor and pulse for 15-30 seconds until the mixture has formed a coarse paste. Mix the olive mixture with the ground lamb, trying to incorporate it evenly without over working the meat. Form the lamb into patties that are around 3-4 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick.
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, place the patties into the pan and cook for 3 minutes on each side. Depending on the size of your patties, this should give you medium cooked burgers. You can break apart one patty to check--- if you would like them cooked further you can cook for an additional minute on each side, or place the patties into a 325 degree oven for an additional 6-8 minutes
- For the tzatziki sauce: Grate the cucumber along the medium sized grates on a box grater. Squeeze out as much of the excess liquid as you can from the grated cucumber. Using a spoon, mix the cucumber with the yogurt, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice salt and pepper and herbs. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Serve the lamb burgers with warm pieces of soft pita bread and slices of cucumber, onion and tomato. Serve the tzatziki sauce on the side.