Lamb Burgers with Sweet Pepper Relish
Can you believe Labor Day is already upon us? I feel like this summer has flown by the fastest of any I can remember…it might be because we’ve been so busy thinking about and preparing for some major “life stuff” — baby to come, building a house — or it might be because our June was such a wash (literally) of cool, rainy weather.
Honestly, though, I can’t wait for fall. It’s my favorite season! And as if on cue, as soon as the calendar flipped to 9/1, the weather cooled back down to 70 degrees, sunny, crisp and dry. The nights are chilly and brisk and just smell like fall is knocking on the door. LOVE it.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Labor Day cometh. Which means one last “official” weekend of grilling (even though I don’t really see any reason to stop grilling, even in the dead of winter – barring a blizzard, of course!) This summer we’ve been wild about these lamb burgers with sweet pepper relish, and I figured I should probably share them with you (finally!) before summer sings its sweet swan song.
Two years ago, B and I vacationed out in Colorado, spending time in Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park. On the top of my list of restaurants to visit in Boulder was The Kitchen, a casual bistro serving seasonal, locally sourced, delicious food (they also are quite environmentally conscious, powering their whole restaurant with wind and recycling or reusing almost 100% of their discards.) If you read Jen’s blog Use Real Butter, you’ve no doubt seen some of her posts about “Community Night” at the The Kitchen, full of delicious food served family-style, which always make me wish I didn’t live halfway across the country.
Anyhow, when B and I were in Boulder we had lunch at The Kitchen, and he ordered a lamb burger that was made with locally-raised lamb, served on a homemade brioche-style bun with a pepper relish. Unbelievably, that was my first time ever tasting a lamb burger — I had always harbored this somewhat unfounded attitude that I wasn’t a fan of lamb, probably because the one time I’d previously tried it was in a really bad version of lamb vindaloo at a bad Indian restaurant in college — but this burger was like a revelation to me. The lamb was so much more flavorful than a beef burger, and the sweet and tangy pepper relish was a perfect accompaniment to the stronger flavor of lamb.
So this summer, bolstered by my newfound love of making homemade hamburger buns, I set out to recreate a version of that burger. I found a few recipes on epicurious to use as inspiration, flavoring the lamb burgers with mint, garlic, shallot, paprika and cumin (sooo delicious.) Equally delicious is the sweet pepper relish I make to accompany them: colored bell peppers are cooked down in cider vinegar with sugar, mustard seeds, an apple and some raisins. The resulting relish is sweet, tart, tangy, and worth doubling — the relish is great on grilled sausages, too!
I didn’t show it in this picture, but I love to top these burgers with soft crumbles of feta. There’s a farm near Ithaca — Side Hill Acres — that makes delicious goat’s milk feta, with a consistency closer to fresh, soft chevre than dry, crumbly sheep’s milk feta. I love it.
But feta or not, these burgers bring back memories for us, and they’ll continue to stay on our grilling rotation for years to come.
Lamb Burgers with Sweet Pepper Relish
Adapted from Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines
For the burgers:
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 3/4 pounds ground lamb
For the relish:
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
2 orange or red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup raisins
1 apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
burger buns (whatever you like, or you can go whole hog and make your own!)
feta cheese, crumbled (optional – and if you do use this, I like a softer, creamy kind of feta if you can find it.)
Make the burgers:
Stir shallot, mint, garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika, and cumin in large bowl to blend. Add lamb and mix gently to combine. Shape mixture into four 1/2-inch-thick patties. (You can make these ahead and chill them.)
Make the relish:
Bring vinegar and sugar to a boil in a 2-quart nonreactive heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil, uncovered, 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and simmer briskly, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until peppers and apple are tender, about 25 minutes.
Grill burgers (or pan-fry them, whatever you like.) Serve each burger on a bun topped with the sweet pepper relish and a crumbling of feta cheese.