When swimsuit weather arrives, many people want a lighter alternative to beef burgers, but in some households veggie burgers just won't do.

Turkey burgers are an obvious choice and are often on the menu of a new friend of mine, Allan Aaron Katz, whom I met at the oatmeal bin at a farmer's market. By changing his way of eating, he has accomplished a veritable miracle - losing more than 36 kg. in six months.

If turkey or chicken burgers don't taste meaty enough, make patties from a mixture of meats. Terry Blonder Golson, author of 1,000 Lowfat Recipes, often mixes equal parts lean ground beef with ground turkey to make her burgers; the stronger beef flavor dominates the burger's taste. For her Greek burger, she mixes turkey with lamb. Her formulas for giving richer flavor to turkey meat remind me of the Israeli method of flavoring shwarma by placing lamb fat above the turkey meat in the vertical rotisserie.

To contribute flavor, texture and nutrients to a burger, you can add chopped vegetables, either raw or cooked. Golson adds chopped mushrooms and onions for mushroom beef burger. Ronald L. McDonald, author of The Complete Hamburger, mixes ground beef with chopped onion and celery and diced cooked potatoes, carrots and green peppers for his "garden patty." For his Beijing duck burger, he mixes cooled sauteed garlic, hot peppers and chopped leeks with ground duck meat, and serves the grilled burger in a toasted bun with sweet and sour sauce.

Chickpeas are a favorite addition of mine. I came up with this idea by chance, when I was preparing Shabbat meatballs in the Persian style known as gundi, made of ground meat mixed with pureed canned chickpeas. Gundi are usually cooked in soup, but I sautéed some of the mixture and it made delicious burgers.

To dress up burgers, be creative with seasonings and toppings and offer additional accompaniments besides the usual ketchup, mustard and pickles. Standard American hamburgers are generally seasoned only with salt and pepper but other spices, especially cumin, garlic and coriander, give a lift to poultry patties. All sorts of sauces, from tehina to teriyaki, can add interest to your burgers.

Ronald L. McDonald's royal Monte Carlo burger is flavored with sautéed onions and topped with olive-oil-sautéed tomatoes and fried garlic slivers. His peanut-butter flavored burger is designed to appeal to children. To make pecan burgers, he adds the chopped nuts and a bit of honey to the burger. He gives a burger Mexican flair by seasoning the meat with chili powder and topping the cooked patties with mashed canned beans heated with chopped olives. These variations work with chicken and turkey burgers too.

Steven Pratt, author of Superfoods Rx, gives another good reason to make burgers from turkey. He considers turkey breast one of "14 foods that will change your life" and recommends three or four small turkey servings (of 85 gr. to 115 gr.) a week. "Skinless turkey is one of, if not the leanest meat protein source on the planet... turkey offers a rich array of nutrients" that are heart healthy.

To make burgers, he prefers a mixture of ground turkey breast and thigh meat and notes that turkey's lean meat "needs oil and egg whites to keep it moist and flour for binding." For 350 gr. ground turkey he adds 11/2 teaspoons canola oil, two egg whites and one tablespoon whole-wheat flour, then boosts the nutrition with a tablespoon of ground flaxseeds, as well as minced shallots and fresh parsley for flavor. He serves the burgers in whole-grain buns spread with Dijon mustard, adds romaine leaves, tomato slices, thin red onion slices and avocado wedges to each, and accompanies them by ketchup or chunky salsa (Mexican style fresh hot sauce).

SPICY CHICKEN BURGERS WITH PINE NUTS

Ground coriander and cumin, in addition to the pine nuts, give these burgers a Middle Eastern flavor. Serve them in hamburger rolls, pita or onion rolls, with green or red s'hug (which you can buy at the market) or a quick fresh salsa; to make it, see Note below.

• 4 garlic cloves, minced

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

• 2 tsp. ground coriander

• 1 tsp. ground cumin

• 1/4 cup pine nuts

• 570 gr. to 600 gr. ground chicken (22/3 to 3

cups)

Mix garlic with salt, pepper, coriander and cumin. Add spice mixture and pine nuts to chicken and mix lightly to blend. Shape in 4 or 5 patties.

Lightly oil broiler rack and position it about 10 cm. from heat sources; or prepare grill with rack about 15 cm. above glowing coals. Broil or grill patties, turning once, about 7 or 8 minutes, or until they are springy when pressed. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Quick Salsa: Mix 350 gr. chopped tomatoes, 2 chopped green onions, 1/3 cup chopped fresh coriander, salt to taste and either 1 minced fresh red or green hot pepper or hot pepper sauce to taste.

TURKEY MUSHROOM BURGERS

A mushroom-topped burger has become a classic American favorite in many of the finer hamburger eateries. This leaner version can either be sauteed, as in this recipe, or brushed lightly with oil and broiled 3 or 4 minutes per side. If you like, add tomato slices and thin red onion rings to each sandwich, and avocado slices or a little tehina. Serve with ketchup, barbecue sauce, s'hug or salsa.

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 1/2 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

• 1/2 tsp. paprika

• 570 gr. to 600 gr. ground turkey or chicken (22/3 to 3

cups)

• 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil or olive oil

• 170 gr. to 225 gr. mushrooms, sliced

• Light mayonnaise or Dijon-style mustard (optional)

• 4 onion or hamburger rolls, split, lightly toasted

• Romaine or other lettuce leaves

Mix garlic with salt, pepper and paprika. Add spice mixture to turkey and mix lightly to blend. Shape mixture in 4 patties.

Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add burgers and sauté over medium heat about 3 minutes on each side or until they are springy when pressed. Remove from skillet and keep warm. Add mushrooms to skillet, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and sauté over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.

Spread mayonnaise on toasted rolls if desired. Top with lettuce leaves, then with burgers, and spoon mushrooms on top. Set top half of roll on the sandwich at an angle. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Safe use of ground meat

• Use uncooked poultry within 1 or 2 days of purchase.

• Wash your hands with soap and hot water before and after handling ground meat. Don't reuse any packaging materials. Use soap and hot water to wash utensils and surfaces that have come into contact with the raw meat. Don't put cooked burgers on the same platter that held the raw patties.

• The recommended internal temperature for cooking ground poultry is 74º.

• After cooking, refrigerate leftovers immediately. Separate into small portions for fast, safe cooling.

Faye Levy is the author of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home, Feast from the Mideast and Faye Levy's International Chicken Cookbook.



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