Zucchini Lamb Burgers with Celery Slaw

I had grown up knowing that the all American cheese burger was an irreplaceable trademark of summer. Over the last 20-30 years, I’ve seen (and/or created) burgers that are made from so much more than the all beef patty with cheese. There are burgers made of pork, lamb and even salmon; burgers topped with bacon jam, pimento cheese, whiskey sauces or even peanut butter. The wonderful thing now is that if you can dream it (and are willing to experiment), a burger can be whatever you want it to be…even a little healthy, like this burger.

This Lamb and Zucchini Burger with Celery Slaw walked into our life a few years back and we are quite pleased. There is a light gaminess to the lamb mixed with Mediterranean flavors that surprise you with every bite. The shredded zucchini is a great addition bringing moisture to the burger, as lamb is a lean meat.

We have made this burger a few times in the last few years. It pairs well with roasted baby red potatoes or can be a full meal on its own. This meal usually comes out when I’m in the mood for a burger, for something different or when I want something that lends itself more on the healthier side. There is truth about what you eat effects how you feel. This burger is one that because of the lean of the burger and the light tangy freshness of the slaw, it fills me up and is quite satisfying without any lingering too full to move feeling that I can get from a traditional burger.

I will not pretend to be the healthiest person in the world, or even as healthy as I want to be at times. But I do think of nutrition often – weekly when meal planning and while I’m making dinners and what I choose when I eat out. Nutrition and the phrase ‘eating the rainbow’ has been with me my whole life (although – it left a little in my 20’s).

I’ve mentioned before that my dad grew the most amazing home garden and from that my mom would can veggies that would last the year, make homemade pickles, and of course, both mom and dad would use the fresh produce in the weekly meals. Eating out was not a prevalent thing growing up for us – saved for special occasions with larger family get togethers or celebrations.

To this day, I can picture that amazing garden, the rows of corn, lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, zucchini and squash, peas, snap peas, beans, watermelon, strawberries, asparagus, blueberries, and so much more. Us kids would run thru the garden after playing for hours outside, hose off some carrots or peas (and maybe spray each other with the hose), have a quick bite and then run off for more adventure.

I do my best with my townhouse herb and veggie box at our house each year, but there is a picturesque vision in my head of what my life could be like with a garden even a quarter of the size of my dads when we were growing up. On the flip side, I do know the great amount of work my dad put into this garden and the time commitment it was to develop food from seed in the greenhouse and cover the plants early in the season when they were not strong with tarps and milk containers with the bottoms cut off – protecting them from inclement weather, like freezes or hail. I am realistic enough to know that it would be difficult for me to maintain that with all other commitments in my life right now. So, I am very content to love my herb/lettuce/veggie box and our participation in a CSA for the last few years. Looking forward to the first pick up soon as I write this – cannot wait to see what’s in the first box.

The herb box is overflowing this year. We have butter lettuce, rosemary, cilantro, some of the biggest bunch of parsley leaves I have ever seen, basil, thai basil, mint, chives, thyme, prism kale, siam tomatoes and trying some banana peppers. This herb box is loving life this year (as you can see below). This picture will be part of the inspiration for lunches and dinners all week – what is growing so much it needs trimming and that will be the start of whatever we cook next. I can see that the kale and butter lettuce are in full ploof (I know that’s not a word) so there will be definite salads and the cilantro is almost 3 ft tall – bring on some flavorful foods, as cilantro is great for mexican, asian, indian – ok, great for all foods.

This looks like the green abyss with the giant lilac behind the herb box. Back Row: Kale, Mint, Basil, Thai Basil, 3ft tall Cilantro, Rosemary. Front Row: Siam Tomatoes, Parsley, Thyme, Chives, Butter Lettuce, Banana Peppers.

If anyone is wondering, my dad still has his garden, but the focus is much smaller. He does a small amount of veggies and no longer any rows of corn, but his blueberry garden is amazing. He has cross pollinated a few different varieties, has somewhere over 10 different varietals, and some of them grow to be close to quarter size in diameter. So amazingly juicy and bright. Blueberries are a brain food, so why not put a lot of love into those. Oh, and the greenhouse now has lemon, lime and Avocado trees. In Wisconsin?! How is that possible?!

Parsley leaves the size of half dollars.

One thing I haven’t talked about in this recipe is the celery slaw, which is just as important as the burger itself in this recipe. The base feels like your best homemade vinagrette with fresh juice, herbs, shallots and vinegar, but the direction takes a turn when you celebrate celery in this way by making it the focal point of the slaw, instead of a cabbage. I’ve heard many chefs and foodie tv shows talk about how under-rated celery is over the last few years. If it is under-rated, this recipe makes it the star. The moisture in the burger with the zucchini needs a crunchy and crisp counterbalance and this zippy celery slaw is the answer. Add on top some juicy golden raisins and brightness from the orange and this slaw would be great not only on this burger, but a topper for a pan seared or grilled fish fillet as well.

I’m happy that our burger world has been expanded with dishes like this. As always, as I write this, I’m looking forward to making this recipe again and again. I hope you enjoy as much as we have.

Zucchini-Lamb Burgers with Celery Slaw

Burger Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbls finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Zest of 1/2 orange
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 Tbls Olive Oil

Slaw Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbls red wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced (about 1-2 Tbls)
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 celery stalks, thinly sliced, plus 1/2 cup torn celery leaves
  • 1 cup torn flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh mint
  • 2 Tbls golden rasins

Preparation:

Prep all of the ingredients by zesting the orange before juicing it, chopping / mincing / grating all the celery, mint, shallot, zucchini, parsley, etc. You will have everything in place to throw it together.

Make the slaw by first whisking together red wine vinegar, shallot, oregano, juice from the orange, salt and pepper, in a medium bowl. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking continuously, until emulsified. Add the celery, parsley, mint, and golden raisins, toss to combine and set aside to rest.

For the burgers – combine lamb, zucchini, scallions, mint, cumin, salt, orange zest, and pepper in a large bowl. Gently mix together until encorporated. Wet your hands and divide into four 1 inch patties.

Heat olive oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. when it shimmers, add the burger patties. Do not over crowd the pan and work in batches if necessary. Cook for 5-6 minutes, then flip and cook for another 5 minutes on the second side for medium-well.

Remove the burgers from the pan and set aside for 3-4 minutes. Top each with a heaping spoonful of the slaw and serve.

Happy Burgering!!!

**Recipe from Well+Good cookbook, recipe from Daphne Oz.

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