Are Burgers the Perfect Food?

Burgers are the ideal dish: The price/quality ratio is wonderful, the fat content is easy to control, and they cook quickly and easily. They can be made from a variety of meats and spices. They can be kept in the freezer in convenient packages. The variations are endless. In our house, we consider burgers an almost-perfect meal.

A few burger tips: It's best to mix the seasonings and flavorings lightly into the meat with a fork, keeping the mixture light and loose. If you're handy with the food processor, this controlled mixing can be done with a few quick on/off turns of the motor. Do not overprocess.

When shaping burgers, four ounces of meat is the generally recommended amount for healthy eating. Gently shape each burger into compact three-quarter-inch-thick rounds so that the mixture isn't too dense but will hold together on the grill. When fat is at a minimum, it's important to grill the first side until it's browned and firm, which will keep the burger from falling apart when it's turned. Use a wide spatula. A medium-high fire is ideal: It should be hot enough to sear the outside of the burger without cooking it too quickly.

Horseradish and beef are rarely combined in a burger. If you have fresh horseradish, grind it fine and add it to taste. Here, Dakota Lean ground beef is the meat of choice; it's lean and hormone-free. Each burger contains about 100 calories, about 2 grams fat and 50 milligrams cholesterol. (Dakota Lean Meats are available at Trader Joe's.) Serve with potato salad or baked beans and coleslaw dressed with a vinaigrette.

HORSERADISH DAKOTA LEAN BEEFBURGERS

1 pound lean ground beef, preferably Dakota Lean

1 large egg white

2 tablespoons catsup

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon drained prepared horseradish

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Barbecue sauce

Combine ground beef, egg white, catsup, horseradish, mustard and salt in bowl. Mix with fork. Season to taste with pepper. Or combine ingredients in food processor, pulse on and off few times until mixed. Keep mixture light.

Gently shape mixture into 4 equal burgers. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours, or up to 6 hours to allow burgers to become firmer.

Cook over medium-hot grill until very well-cooked on 1 side. Carefully turn and grill to desired doneness. Serve immediately with barbecue sauce on side. Makes 4 burgers.

A large handful of mint leaves is chopped into ground lean lamb with sweet onion and seasonings to make this great burger. Warmed mint jelly makes a nice sauce; the burgers are also good with jalepeno jelly. Serve them with new potatoes sauteed in butter and generously sprinkled with fresh dill and a large Greek salad. Serve warm Pita bread on the side.

LEE'S LAMBURGERS

1 pound lean ground stewing lamb

6 ounces onion, finely chopped

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

Combine lamb, onion, mint and salt in mixing bowl. Season to taste with pepper. Or combine ingredients in food processor, pulse on and off few times until mixed. Keep mixture light.

Gently shape mixture into 4 equal burgers. (Can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap.)

Cook over medium-hot grill until cooked on 1 side. Turn and grill to desired doneness. Serve immediately. Makes 4 burgers.

These Asian-inspired turkey burgers are deliciously juicy--providing you don't overcook them.

ASIAN TURKEYBURGERS

1 pound ground turkey meat

3/4 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar

Hoisin sauce

2/3 cup thinly sliced green onions

Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

Several drops hot pepper sauce

Combine turkey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, green onions, salt and hot pepper sauce in bowl. Mix with fork.

Gently shape mixture into 4 equal burgers. (Can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap.)

Cook over medium-hot grill until cooked on 1 side. Turn and grill until cooked through but still juicy. Serve immediately with hoisin sauce on side. Makes 4 burgers.

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