A round of turkey burgers disappears faster than a batch of cookies in my kitchen, I guess. Yeah, even if it's just me eating.
What is it, though, about grilling burgers that elicits this otherwise unfamiliar masculine feeling? Is it the thick patty of meat I'm handling (lol)? Is it the idea of grilling said meat patty? Orrrrr... is it ironically the fact that I'm avoiding the task of learning how to operate the grill conveniently placed outside my apartment in favor of cooking in my vast-iron skillet?
The skillet, might I add, is my preferred method not because it's my only method (haha) but because 1) I adore that black hunk of pure power and 2) it's cooking abilities are endless, so why NOT use it to make the best burgers I've ever made?? Oh, and the bread, but we'll get there soon. Patience.
I tested these when I was with my parents during my spring break because they lovvvvve turkey burgers and they also lovvvvve when I make them dinner, so I did. Dad walked in while I was working everything together (the turkey meat, spices, almond meal, zucchini, etc) together with my hands and wanted to make sure I didn't "over-work" the meat. Girls, just imagine that coming out of your Dad's mouth. Take a second to giggle, then erase it from memory. Anyway, the first round was "ehh" - could have used more flavor and a little more binding to yield a thicker burger, in my opinion.
Two days later, I headed back up to school, so I can only hope my parents ate the leftovers (I would've, regardless of taste - no food will be wasted).
Since burgers are relatively straight-forward if you've made them a few times before, modifications were simple and easy to execute. My next item to tackle was the bun situation. Buying a pack of twelve hamburger buns for myself for one recipe seemed like too much. I love buns (big buns, and I cannot lie) and I rarely ask for burgers "protein style" when I'm eating out, but when it's just me... again, "ehh".
After a little back-and-forth between investing in the buns and not, the bakery - THE bakery - down the street (which sounds so clichè and I'm okay with that) conveniently popped into mind, with their fluffy, hearty, baked-fresh-daily loaves and all.
Skillet. Butter. Bread.
And that's how it happened. And that's how it probably always will happen. As the thick slice of hearty 6-grain bread crisped up in the skillet, I glanced at the toaster resting on the counter beside the stove and chuckled. No need for you, you broken little toaster (only one side works, which doubles the time required for the simplest meal of all-time).
Now for the tahini - I used it because I have two jars on hand. If you don't, that's okay. I personally think the modern-day home-cook should always have some tahini in the pantry, so either take 10 minutes for a quick trip to the grocery store because tahini. is. worth. it. or sub another dressing, sauce, condiment, etc. I didn't add cheese because I didn't have any, but I probably would've if I did, so make your choice there based on what's available to you.
If this looks like a simple meal, then I've achieved my goal for this recipe. Warmer weather, the smell of blooming flowers and (finally) green hills, and longer days (plus, the thought of just 10 weeks between me + the end of the school year) are all bringing about a longing for summer, and that's what this meal represents to me. My parents and I love grilling and keeping dinner simple, most of the time at least. Veggies + starch + protein - each boasting its own unique flavor, yet all three working in harmony to satisfy whatever it is we crave.
Keep it this simple, or elevate it to your liking with more spices, different vegetables/mixes of greens, an actual burger bun (but still grill it/skillet it because that step is a must), or what have you.
Either way, get in the kitchen and enjoy yourself.
Makes 6 burgers
for the burgers:
1 lb. ground turkey (85% lean)
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves
1/3 cup almond meal*
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. paprika
A pinch each of sea salt and pepper for each patty
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Red onion, thinly sliced
6 slices whole-grain bread
Oil, for the skillet
for the tahini dressing:
1/4-1/3 cup tahini**
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1-2 tbsp. warm filtered water
2 tsp. garlic powder
A pinch of sea salt, to taste
- In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the shredded zucchini, shallot, garlic, almond meal, and spices (not the salt and pepper). Add the ground turkey and mix with your hands until just combined (as Dad says, "don't over-work the meat").
- Form into 6 balls just larger than a golfball and flatten each into a patty so that the inside is slightly thinner than the edges to ensure even cooking throughout. Cover and refrigerate 30-60 minutes.
- Prepare the tahini dressing while waiting by whisking all the ingredients together in a jar or small glass bowl. Set aside.
- Heat a large cast-iron skillet (nonstick skillet or grill will also work) over medium heat and coat with oil. Season with salt and pepper just before placing them in the skillet to cook. Place 2-3 patties in the skillet at a time and cook 4-5 minutes on one side, then flip and cook 4-5 minutes on the other. Remove from heat and set aside.
- If needed, add a touch more oil to the skillet and place 2-3 slices of whole-grain bread in the skillet. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side, but keep an eye on it because cook times will vary depending on the thickness of the slice and how crispy you'd like it. Remove from heat when finished.
- Assemble the plates by creating a bed of mixed greens, and then adding red onion, a slice of bread and a turkey burger to each. Drizzle with tahini dressing, and sprinkle crushed red pepper flakes and fresh chopped cilantro on top. Serve immediately.
* If you want a thinner dressing, use 1/4 cup. For a thicker dressing, use 1/3 cup.
** I used leftover almond meal from earlier in the week when I made homemade almond milk, so mine was less finely ground than the typical store-bought version. The difference could alter the result a bit, so keep this in mind while making the burgers. If the meat mixture feels too sticky and wet, add a bit more almond meal until patties form neatly.