Foothill gourmet: Go Greek

By From page B2 | February 10, 2014

Donna BrownA welcome gift from friends of ground turkey combined with ground venison was the inspiration for a delightful Greek repast. I knew I wanted distinctive burgers since this gift deserved star treatment. The final easily prepared meal included the entrée, Greek burgers with creamy pesto dressing. I created artichoke-kalamata pilaf for a delicious accompaniment.

First I researched basic Greek recipes featuring ground meat. I found a perfect Greek meatball recipe but wanted minimal preparation so, instead of preparing meatballs, I envisioned Greek burgers with a garnish of Donna’s original pesto cream dressing.

Since my husband enjoys rice and to finish the dinner with a Greek theme, I created an artichoke-kalamata pilaf.

Both the Greek burgers and pilaf required minimal preparation and were exceptional. I’m planning to prepare both recipes frequently for family and guests.

The quick option: Prepare a cherished standard recipe for burgers. Add the fast pesto cream dressing (recipe follows) for a flavorful garnish. It’s a win-win combination. If you don’t have an easy burger recipe or want to prepare a burger with Greek flavors, follow the recipe I used.

Shopping list for preparing Greek burgers — Purchase or have on hand the following: 1 pound ground meat, 1 medium onion, 1 garlic clove, 2 slices bread, fresh parsley, salt, black pepper and Greek seasoning. Greek seasoning can be purchased in the McCormick spice rack at the market.

Burger preparation: Grate the onion over a bowl to catch the juice. Mince the garlic clove. Soak the slices of bread in water or the onion juices for a few minutes and squeeze out excess liquid. Combine ground meat, onion, garlic, bread, 1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon Greek seasoning, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Form into four patties and place on a greased baking pan and bake for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees.

If you want to make meatballs, scoop out small teaspoons of the mixture and form into approximately 24 balls. Fry in hot oil until crisp and browned or cook as directed above for the burgers.

Fast creamy pesto dressing: Adding pesto to a purchased dressing creates a Mediterranean flavor. Add 2-3 tablespoons pesto to a purchased creamy dressing; ranch or buttermilk dressings are excellent choices. I don’t recommend Roquefort dressing as the stronger flavor of Roquefort cheese could overpower pesto. Pesto is available in bottles or jars in the gourmet section of the supermarket or you can make it from scratch.

Donna’s original pesto cream dressing: I created this creamy pesto dressing several years ago when we had a larger garden. We had pesto permanently residing in our refrigerator. Stir into 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons pesto. Thin dressing to desired consistency with milk and add 2 tablespoons chopped, fresh chives.

Artichoke, kalamata pilaf: Have on hand the following ingredients: 1 can artichoke hearts, 1 medium onion, 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, 10-12 pitted Kalamata olives, 2 cups chicken broth, 1 cup long grain white or brown rice and 2 to 4 ounces feta cheese.

Preparation: Cut artichoke hearts into smaller chunks, slice kalamata olives and crumble the feta cheese. Medium dice onion and sauté with parsley in olive oil. Add 2 cups chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup raw rice.

Cook white or brown long grain rice according to package directions until tender. I used brown rice because my family prefers it. When rice is cooked, stir in sliced artichoke hearts and olives. Warm 5-10 more minutes until all ingredients are heated through. Lightly sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on each serving. Makes 4-5 servings.

Donna Brown

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