Grilled Turkey Kofta Burgers with Harissa Yogurt Sauce
My roommate was in LA for work this week, so when he got home late last night, we had an extra-long pillow talk sesh to debrief. Logan had all kinds of exciting things to share, but the clear highlight was that he sat next to Ice Cube on his flight back to NYC.
Not gonna lie, I didn’t believe him at first because Logan is the dude that cried celebrity spotting. He regularly grabs my arm in public and shrieks, “LOOK! It’s [insert celeb]!” The person he’s referring to occasionally resembles said celebrity, but more often than not, he’s just messing with me/hoping I’ll lose my shit in public. (I came very close to crying the day he said, “LOOK! BEYONCÉ!!”) However, Logan assured me that he was for real this time. He actually did sit next to the rapper/entertainment mogul, and they “are boys now.” Especially since “Cube” crushed a heady burger and six White Russians in-flight. (He’s basically Logan’s spirit animal.)
*Note to self: Send Cube’s people an advanced copy of The Dude Diet.
When I asked Logan what he talked about with his boy, he said they didn’t get to chat too much because Cube was busy jamming to his music for most of the trip (I was secretly disappointed that Logan didn’t watch Straight Outta Compton as a conversation starter), but he did casually ask when NWA was going to do a reunion tour. Apparently that’s not happening because “it’s all about Dre these days.”
Logan nodded knowingly. Dre is a real piece of work.
Anyhoo, once Logan finished his Ice Cube report, it was my turn to share the highlights of my week. He didn’t think I’d be able to top the Cube experience, but I made these Grilled Turkey Kofta Burgers with Harissa Yogurt Sauce on Wednesday and they were life-changing. So…
Let’s break these bad boys down, shall we? In case you’re not familiar, kofta is a traditional Middle Eastern/Indian dish that involves warmly spiced ground meat. It’s usually formed into balls or cylinders and then grilled (often on a skewer), fried, baked or roasted. I’ve taken some serious liberties with authentic kofta here, but all the best-loved flavors of the dish are present and accounted for. (Fresh herbs! Garlic! Warming spices!) I also added a generous amount of feta cheese into the mix because I like to party. Once grilled to juicy perfection, these fully loaded patties are nestled in a warm pita bun with plenty of fresh veggies and a magical harissa yogurt sauce that’s equal parts fiery and cooling. (I used store-bought Mina Harissa for my sauce, which I love, but if you want to make your own, Ali can show you the way.) It’s summer burger magic.
What I love most about these kofta burgers is that they’re super quick and incredibly versatile. I have a turkey burger fetish, which is why I went with ground turkey here, but the recipe would also be great with ground chicken, lamb, or beef. (Or a combo of ground meats.) One quick note on the meat though—do NOT use 99% lean ground turkey. I know some of you like to keep things super tight, but you need a little bit of fat to keep these burgers juicy, so chickity-check yo self before you wreck yo self and use 93% lean.
As you can see, I served my burgers on fancy pita “buns.” To make these, I just cut each pita in half, then trimmed the sides of each half so that I had two square(ish) pitas. (I saved the trimmings to make pita chips.) This technique is awesome, but it’s obviously optional. You can always serve your burgers in a pita pocket, on your favorite burger bun, lettuce wrapped, or over salad. As Ice Cube once said, “Be yourself, playa.”
Oh, and when it comes to rounding out your meal, I highly recommend roasted potato wedges (dip them in the extra yogurt sauce!), salad, and ice cold beer.
Happy weekending, friends! Peace out.
Grilled Turkey Kofta Burgers with Harissa Yogurt Sauce: (Serves 4)
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup grated (or finely minced) yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
2 garlic cloves, grated or finely minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1/8-¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
For the yogurt sauce:
¾ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon green harissa
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
For serving: (optional)
4 whole wheat pita
1½ cups finely chopped hearts of romaine
¼ English cucumber, very thinly sliced
1-2 plum tomatoes, sliced into rounds
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
Preparing your Grilled Turkey Kofta Burgers with Harissa Yogurt Sauce:
-In a medium mixing bowl, combine the feta, onion, garlic, parsley, mint, and spices.
-Add the turkey and gently mix until all of the ingredients are combined. (I recommend using your hands for this, but a fork will also do if you’re squeamish.)
-Gently form the turkey mixture into four patties, approximately ¾-inch thick. Using your thumb, make a small indent in the center of each patty. (This will keep your burgers from puffing up into turkey footballs on the grill.)
-Pre-heat a lightly oiled grill (or grill pan) over medium heat.
-While the grill is heating, whip up the harissa yogurt sauce. Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and season with salt to taste. Briefly set aside.
-Place the burgers on the hot grill, thumbprint side down, and cook for 5-6 minutes per side until cooked through.
-Warm your pitas in the microwave (10-15 seconds should do it) or directly on the grill.
-Time to build your burgers! Spread a dollop of yogurt sauce on the bottom half of each pita “bun.” Top each with a small handful of romaine and a burger.
-Garnish with cucumber, tomato and red onion, and finish with extra yogurt sauce. Sandwich everything together, and serve immediately.
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