Remember how I told you that I’d give you another thing you could use your Greek dressing with? It’s these very small turkey burgers.
And don’t worry, you’re not seeing things: those burgers are green, because they’re made with a combination of spinach and turkey. Does that sound weird? Maybe, but they’re really good and actually pretty healthy for you: they come from everyone’s favorite Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook, It’s All Good. You know I love this cookbook too, almost as much as I love cookies.
Food perceptions and individual diet choices have been on my mind recently; I couldn’t really tell you why. Sometimes I get caught up in food documentaries and news reports and op-eds and all the other things swirling at me from the internets and it gets a little jumbled in my brain. Dana at Whisks & Words recently wrote a great piece for Food Riot regarding food documentaries with the glorious title “Everything I Eat is Wrong: Food Shockumentary Fall-Out,” which – if you get all messed up inside when you see a “call to action” food doc – you should read, and then read again. I read it again this morning, in fact. In my own life, I find these documentaries largely helpful with a side of frustrating: out of nowhere, I find myself questioning my own belief system regarding the food I feed myself and my family, and wondering if I’m slowly killing all of us, and frankly, people? It’s ridiculous of me to do so. Because I’m a smart person, an adult even, and I know food backwards and forwards. The choices I make are not uneducated, ignorant choices, nor are they based on reduced income, dietary restrictions, or limited access. The choices I make are mine.
Am I Vegan? No. Paleo? No. Do I eat gluten? Yes. Do I eat sugar? Yes. Do I eat meat? Yes, although only occasionally, but it’s not borne so much from a belief but rather based on that I tend to enjoy vegetables quite a bit, and making them is my strong suit; meat preparation is not. Am I responsible when I buy meat to make sure I’m choosing a responsibly raised product? Yes. Do I buy exclusively organic? No, but I’d say that’s increasing by degrees, and I do buy certain key items organic-only. Have I eaten fast food in the past 5 years? Yes, I have, but probably a handful of times, and much less since I stopped working at an office and started working from home.
I don’t fall into any specific category. I make sprinkle cakes and kale salads and gluten-free cookies and these spinach-filled turkey burgers and I apologize for none of it. I don’t hate gluten and I’m not offended by sugar; I stand in awe of those of you with food allergies and sensitivities because I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have to abstain from whole genres of food and have zero choice in the matter. I like whole foods more than fake foods, protein more than carbs, good carbs better than bad carbs, eat eggs almost every day, and haven’t had a Dorito or Cheez Poof in probably a decade. For me, I think moderation and paying attention is key to my overall health. Here’s the thing: no one is perfect. Everyone could do better with eating. If you’re Paleo or Vegan or eat zero carbs and all protein (I don’t know if that has a title), I’m cool with that. You do what’s best for you. I don’t think I’m doing it wrong because I eat a cookie, or drive a car, or shop at places other than farmers’ markets. Because you know what’s not key to overall health? Stress. More specifically, stressing over other people’s opinions. Could I do better? Yes. But I’m not doing it wrong, and that’s sometimes how I feel after watching an “eye-opening, informative” food documentary. I’ve been feeling like that. Do you ever feel like that? It’s funny how even as adults we can turn right back into our 17-year-old, insecure little selves. Don’t get me wrong: bottom line, I think there’s an incredible amount of value in having the knowledge which comes from these sources, but I suppose the glaring downside I see to many of them is the ability to overwhelm and frustrate people into inaction by making it seem like it’s all or nothing with food.
I’ll give you an example: a few months back, I saw on Facebook that a friend had decided to really change her eating habits for medical and health reasons. She was so amped about it, and really did her homework on the matter; just completely full-spead-ahead in terms of her new food journey. She asked for advice on where to find a bunch of different grains and organic things, started frequenting the farmers market near her, and began the process of learning how to cook nutritious foods. Her enthusiasm was contagious; it was wonderful to see how good she felt and how confident she was getting with her choices until people started to nitpick. All the sudden, she was “silly” for buying this product because this product was better, and how dare she think she was healthy if she was still eating gluten because everyone knows that’s horrible, and how stupid she was for having a muffin because obviously that cancelled out her month of clean eating entirely. Many of these people referenced the most recent food doc they had watched.
As you can imagine, she was really discouraged. It made her want to quit caring entirely. She didn’t, and I’m so proud of her because she stuck to it regardless of what people said, and she’s managed to not let the naysayers or the “that’s not good enough” people get her down. Had she been a different person, I think all that pressure and negative backlash would have caused her to just not care anymore; to throw up her hands and say “fine: I’m not doing it right.” She didn’t, but you have to wonder how many people out there just silently give up based lots of free-flowing information but a shortage of understanding, patience, and non-judgemental help.
SO THESE GREEN BURGERS…*embarassed face*
All kidding aside, they’re pretty great: proof positive that a few herbs and some scallions go a long way to making turkey burgers more interesting. The spinach, in my opinion, is less about flavor and more about getting some good stuff in there, so I relate it to sneaking avocado into your kids’ smoothies (guilty! Don’t tell the Wee One); it’s there, but it’s not going to change anything in more than a very subtle way except, in this case, the color. With any turkey burger (except these, which need nothing and are incredibly delicious when left simple), toppings are encouraged to some degree, so I’ve topped this one with more spinach, a little cucumber-slice action, and yes, my favorite greek dressing. It just pairs so well with these burgers, and it’s thick enough to stand in for any other burger sauce. In the book, there’s a very simple sauce you can make involving yogurt, cumin, cucumber and a few other things, but I’m partial to my greek dressing, and I think you will be too. And you have some leftover from that quinoa and arugula salad, right?
Perfect. I’ll leave you to it then.
Burgers adapted from It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great by Gwyneth Paltrow. Haters gonna hate.
Mediterranean Turkey + Spinach Mini Burgers
Makes 8-10 burgers*
- 3-4 big handfuls baby spinach plus more for serving on top
- 3-4 small shallots, chopped
- 2 small garlic cloves, smashed
- 3 teaspoons dried oregano
- 10 large basil leaves
- zest of 1 lemon (if you can, peel it in strips with a knife versus a zester for more flavor)
- pinch or two red pepper flake
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground turkey (you pick the fat content here: i used a 93%-7% ground turkey)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small english cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 recipe Greek Dressing, recipe found here
- small buns or bread for serving (they’re also pretty great inside pita pockets)
*it goes without saying, but you can make these as regular size burgers as well. Simply divide the mixture into four equal parts and shape into patties. Makes 4.
Make those burgers:
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the spinach a couple handfuls at a time, until it has all broken down into smaller chunks (Goal: make it smaller so the other ingredients have room to move). Add the shallots, garlic, oregano, basil, red pepper flake, lemon zest, salt and pepper to the bowl and pulse until finely chopped, scraping down the sides as needed with a rubber spatula.
Place the ground turkey into a large bowl. Pour the spinach mixture in on top of the turkey, and use your hands or a spatula to work everything together until everything is evenly distributed. Using 2-ounce ice cream scoop (or something around that size, or just eye it up), scoop out the mixture and form into small patties. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for an hour (or overnight) to blend the flavors.
Heat a grill, grill pan, or skillet to medium-high heat. Brush the burgers with olive oil on both sides and cook until firm to the touch and nicely browned, turning once, 5-6 minutes per side (although please use your powers of sight here versus timing to know when they are done). Transfer to a plate covered in foil to keep warm if you’re working in batches.
Assemble those burgers:
To serve, place each on a bun/in a pita and top with slices of cucumber, some baby spinach, and a nice dose of greek dressing.