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Leftovers! Some folks love them, others happily scrape them into the trash. Me, I’m on the love team. Leftovers speak to me. I’d always rather start a meal with a fridge full of tasty bits of this and that than have to confront a blank canvas of raw ingredients. This recipe tackles one particular challenge: how to repurpose leftover cooked chops, steaks, or roasts.
The answer? Turn them into burgers. “Wait a minute,” you say. “They’ve already been cooked once. Won’t they be dry as dust if you turn them into burgers and cook them again?” Nope, not if you combine the leftover meat with some moist ingredients, such as the spinach and feta cheese listed here.
For Spinach and Feta Burgers with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, start with 12 ounces of cooked meat — pork, beef or lamb — trimmed of excess fat and any sinew. Cut the meat into cubes roughly 1 inch per side, then pulse in a food processor to chop it to burger consistency. (Be careful not to leave your finger on the pulse button for too long; you don’t want to end up with baby food.) Add the moist ingredients, along with an egg and a bit of panko to bind it all up. If you’re no fan of spinach and feta, you can substitute other cooked (and finely chopped) vegetables and/or cheese.
If you have time, make the burgers early in the day and chill them for a few hours before cooking. This will help them to hold their shape. If you don’t have the time, don’t worry. Just take care to turn them gently as they cook.
One last note: The sauce is a wonderful complement, but you’re welcome to lose it if it doesn’t appeal to you. The burgers are plenty tasty without it.
This recipe’s true miracle is transforming a mere 12 ounces of meat into six full dinner portions, allowing you to save money as well as food. And the new dish is so different from the original that no one will pipe up to say, “What, leftovers again!?” Spinach and Feta Burgers with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Start to finish: 50 minutes (30 hands on)
For the sauce:
A 6-inch piece of English cucumber (the long, thin kind)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
For the burgers:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
5 ounces baby spinach
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes, optional
1 large egg
12 ounces trimmed cooked lamb or pork chop meat or cooked steak, or leftover roast meat
3 ounces coarsely crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
6 pita halves
Shredded romaine lettuce and sliced tomatoes for garnish
Make the sauce: Peel, halve lengthwise and seed the cucumber. Coarsely shred it and in a medium bowl toss it with a pinch of salt. Let the cucumber stand for 10 minutes and then add the yogurt, garlic, additional salt to taste; stir well.
In a large nonstick skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add the spinach and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the garlic and hot pepper flakes, if using, and cook, stirring, until all of the spinach is wilted, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a shallow bowl and cool to room temperature in the refrigerator. Wipe out and reserve the skillet.
In a food processor, process the egg until it is lightly beaten. Cut the lamb into 1-inch pieces and add it to the food processor. Pulse 6 to 8 times or until the meat is chopped into medium-fine pieces. Add the feta, cooled spinach mixture and 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs and pulse two or three times or until just mixed.
Shape the mixture into six burgers. Spread out the remaining bread crumbs in a soup or pie plate. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in the reserved large skillet over medium heat until hot. Dip the burgers into the crumbs to coat them lightly on all sides; shake off any excess crumbs. Add the burgers to the skillet and cook until golden and heated through, about 3 minutes a side.
Transfer the burgers to the pita halves and spoon some of the sauce over each burger. Garnish with the lettuce and tomatoes. Makes 6 servings.