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Iraqi Lamb Burgers With Mint Pesto

A burger infused with Middle Eastern spices — mint, cinnamon and allspice — and with added pine nuts is a nice break from a traditional American hamburger.

(Note: When the Forward tested this recipe, we made 8 patties instead of 6, and cooked them longer than the recipe indicates — about 5 minutes per side.)

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For the Pesto

3 cups packed fresh mint leaves
1¼ cups olive oil 1 to 2 teaspoons honey 4 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

For the Burger

6 tablespoons pine nuts
2 pounds ground lamb
½ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
2–3 teaspoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup ice water
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs or matzo meal
6 pitas (or hamburger buns)

1) To make the pesto, combine all the ingredients in a food processor and purée. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

2) In a small pan over medium-low heat, toast the pine nuts, watching carefully and stirring, until lightly colored, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

3) To make the burgers, preheat the broiler or lightly oil a grill pan. In a medium bowl, combine the pine nuts, lamb, parsley, mint, onion, salt, allspice and cinnamon. Knead well by hand, squeezing the meat through your fingers. Add the ice water and continue mixing by hand. Add the breadcrumbs and knead well again until the meat is very soft and all the ingredients are well blended, about 3 minutes.

4) Shape the meat into 6 2½-inch patties (see cooking note at the top) by rolling it between your palms into 1- to 1½-inch-diameter balls, and then flatten them.

5) Transfer the patties to a broiling pan and broil, turning once, until brown and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes per side. (See note.) Alternatively, grill over high heat for 2 to 4 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and set on a serving plate.

6) Before serving, warm the pitas (or buns) in foil in a 300˚ F oven for a few minutes. Serve the burgers with the pita and mint pesto.

Recipe from “The Community Table: Recipes & Stories From the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan and Beyond” (Grand Central Life & Style, 2015)with Katja Goldman, Judy Bernstein Bunzl and Lisa Rotmil, courtesy of JCC Manhattan.


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