Chicken-Spinach Burgers with Feta & Tzatziki

These Greek-inspired chicken burgers were juicy and flavor-packed. They were relatively healthy too! We ate them on Memorial Day with corn and potato salad on the side. Delicious.

This recipe was loosely adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Sue Li. I used freshly ground chicken thighs, added feta, and modified the proportions and method. The original recipe notes that in order to keep the burgers moist, it is important that the meat isn’t packed too tightly. I think that the exorbitant amount of spinach also kept the burgers moist.

Yield: 7 to 8 burgers

For the Burgers:

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (can substitute ground turkey)
  • 4 cups baby spinach, long and/or thick stems removed, chiffonade
  • 4 large or 6 small scallions, thinly sliced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped, finely grated, or pushed through a garlic press
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled (about 5-6 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 T panko breadcrumbs
  • vegetable oil and/or cooking oil spray, for grill
  • 8 potato rolls, split, lightly toasted (if desired), for serving
  • sliced red onion, tomato, and/or avocado, for topping, as desired
  • tzatziki sauce, for topping (see below)

For the Tzatziki:

  • 1/2 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • dash cumin
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1/4 cup grated English cucumber, squeezed dry (I used the small holes of a box grater)
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used the juice of half of a Meyer lemon)
  • fresh dill or parsley, minced, to taste

To Make the Burger Patties:

  1. Using a meat grinder fitted with the medium disc, grind 1 1/2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. (Alternatively use 1 1/2 pounds of pre-ground chicken or turkey.) Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cut spinach, scallions, garlic, crumbled feta, cumin, salt, pepper, egg and panko. Using a fork, mix to combine.
  3. Add the ground meat; mix gently with a fork until just combined.
  4. Form into 7 to 8 patties, about 1/2-inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you make the sauce.

To Make the Tzatziki:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients with a large pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Refrigerate so that the flavors can develop while the burgers are cooked.
  3. Taste and adjust the seasoning, as desired. Additional lemon juice can also be added.

To Finish & Serve:

  1. Coat the grill grates with vegetable oil and preheat on medium to medium-high heat.
  2. Remove the meat from the refrigerator to bring the burger patties to room temperature. To prevent sticking, coat the burgers with vegetable oil or vegetable oil spray.
  3. Cook the burgers until lightly browned on both sides and until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, about 5 minutes per side.
  4. Serve the patties on rolls topped with tzatziki and sliced red onions, tomatoes, and/or avocado, as desired.

Note: Burger patties can be formed 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before cooking.

Spinach Manicotti

I have shared my love for manicotti in the past– stemming from wonderful memories of enjoying it with my college roommate’s large Italian family on Easter Sunday.

I have made many versions of spinach manicotti, usually filling store-bought manicotti noodles. Using no-boil lasagna noodles instead was a great “less-hassle” shortcut. They were also chosen to mimic the texture of fresh pasta. It was absolutely true! I will never buy manicotti noodles again. 😉

This recipe was adapted from America’s Test Kitchen. I replaced one cup of ricotta cheese with an equivalent amount of chopped, steamed spinach seasoned with freshly grated nutmeg. I also used whole milk ricotta instead of part-skim, part-skim mozzarella instead of whole milk mozzarella, coarse salt instead of table salt, and modified the method. Fabulous.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Tomato Sauce:

  • 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, optional
  • coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

For the Filling & Pasta:

  • 6 oz baby spinach
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese (can substitute part-skim ricotta)
  • 4 ounces (about 2 cups) grated Parmesan cheese, divided (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 8 ounces (about 2 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese (I used part-skim mozzarella)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 16 no-boil lasagna noodles (I used Trader Joe’s)
  1. Steam the baby spinach until wilted. (I did this on the stove top.)
  2. Let the spinach cool slightly, then use a potato ricer to remove excess liquid. Coarsely chop. (You should have about 1 cup.) Season with salt and freshly ground nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees, preferably on convection.
  4. Make the Sauce: Pulse 1 can tomatoes with their juice in food processor until coarsely chopped, 3 or 4 pulses. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining can tomatoes.
  5. Heat oil, garlic, and pepper flakes (if using) in large saucepan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes.
  7. Stir in basil; adjust seasoning with salt. Set aside.
  8. Make the Filling: Combine the chopped spinach, ricotta, 1 cup Parmesan, mozzarella, eggs, salt, pepper, and herbs in medium bowl; set aside.
  9. To Assemble: Pour 1 inch boiling water into 13 by 9-inch broiler-safe baking dish, then add noodles one at a time. (I used a pyrex dish.) Let noodles soak until pliable, about 5 to 6 minutes, separating noodles with tip of sharp knife to prevent sticking.
  10. Remove noodles from water and place in single layer on clean kitchen towels. Do not use paper towels because the noodles may stick. (I used flour sack towels.)
  11. If using the same dish to bake the manicotti, drain the water and dry the dish. (I used a ceramic baking dish to bake the manicotti instead of using the pyrex dish.)
  12. Place the preferred baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Spread bottom of baking dish evenly with 1 1/2 cups sauce.
  13. Using a large cookie scoop or a soup spoon, spread 3 to 4 tablespoons of the spinach-cheese filling mixture evenly onto bottom three-quarters of each noodle (with short side facing you), leaving top quarter of noodle exposed.
  14. Roll into tube shape and arrange in baking dish seam side down.
  15. Top evenly with remaining sauce, making certain that pasta is completely covered. (It seems like a lot of liquid but it’s necessary for the no-boil noodles to cook properly.)
  16. To Bake: Cover manicotti with aluminum foil. Bake until bubbling, about 40 minutes, then remove foil.
  17. Remove baking dish, adjust oven rack to uppermost position (about 6 inches from heating element).
  18. Sprinkle manicotti evenly with remaining 1 cup Parmesan. Return to the oven on the adjusted oven rack; bake for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.
  19. Set the oven to broil.
  20. Broil until cheese is lightly brown or spotty brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Cool 15 minutes, then serve.

Note: The manicotti can be prepared through step 15, covered with a sheet of parchment paper, wrapped in aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. (If frozen, thaw the manicotti in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.) To bake, remove the parchment, replace the aluminum foil, and increase baking time to 1 to 1 1/4 hours.

Smitten Kitchen’s Creamed Spinach

This was a belated side dish to add onto my husband’s celebratory birthday meal. We love drawn out celebrations. 😉 (We also wanted to spread out our indulgences!)

This classic recipe was adapted from Smitten Kitchen.com; I modified the proportions and method. I may add shallots instead of yellow onion next time. It was fabulously rich and delicious.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds fresh baby spinach or regular spinach, tough stems discarded (I used baby spinach)
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk and/or heavy cream (I used 1 cup whole milk & 3/4 cup heavy cream)
  • 1/2 of a large onion or 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  1. Wash your spinach well but no need to spin or pat it dry.
  2. Place spinach in a large pot over high heat. (I used a pasta pot without the insert.) Cook, covered, with just the water clinging to leaves, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 to 4 minutes for baby spinach and 4 to 6 minutes for regular spinach.
  3. Press or squeeze out the excess liquid any number of ways, either by using a potato ricer (my favorite method), wringing it out in cheesecloth, putting it in a mesh strainer and pressing the moisture out with a spatula or large spoon or letting it cool long enough to grab small handfuls and squeezing them to remove as much water as possible.
  4. Coarsely chop the wrung-out spinach.
  5. Wipe out large pot so you can use it again. (I actually used a medium saucepan instead.)
  6. Heat milk or cream in a measuring cup in the microwave or in a small saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until warm. Keep warm. (If using the microwave, heat the mixture immediately before using.)
  7. Meanwhile, cook onion and garlic in butter in your wiped-out large pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about six minutes.
  8. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, about three minutes.
  9. Add warm milk or cream in a slow stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, and simmer, whisking, until thickened, three to four minutes.
  10. Stir in nutmeg, chopped spinach, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until heated through.

Do ahead: Creamed spinach can be made one day ahead and chilled, covered then reheated over moderately low heat until hot. However, it really tastes best eaten immediately.

Herby Polenta with Corn, Eggs, & Feta

This is another wonderful one-pot vegetarian baked egg casserole that can be served any time of day. The title of the New York Times article about it was, “Polenta That You’ll Never Need to Stir: Baking a classic in a sea of eggs and cheese gives it complexity.” Irresistible. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yotam Ottolenghi. I used my special grits from Charleston, South Carolina instead of polenta. I also increased the amount of garlic, reduced the red pepper flakes, and kept the corn kernels whole. I loved all of the brightness from the combination of fresh herbs. Delicious!

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

  • 9 ounces (255 g) frozen corn kernels (about 2 cups), defrosted
  • 6 to 7 ounces (~200 g) baby spinach (about 10 lightly packed cups), roughly torn or sliced
  • 1 cup (150 g) coarse cornmeal (grits or polenta)
  • 1 packed cup (50 g) finely grated Parmesan (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 5 scallions, thinly sliced, 2 T reserved for garnish
  • 1/4 cup (20 g) roughly chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 T finely chopped and reserved for garnish
  • 3 T roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 T roughly chopped fresh dill
  • 8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups (530 ml) whole milk
  • 2 cups (475 ml) chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 3 T (40 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 5 ounces (140 g) Greek feta, roughly crumbled (about 1 cup)
  • 8 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red-pepper flakes, plus more for garnish
  • warm naan, pita, or crusty bread, for serving
  1. Heat the oven to 375°F/200°C, preferably on convection.
  2. If desired, add the corn to a food processor and pulse once or twice, just until roughly chopped. (I opted to leave the kernels whole.)
  3. In a large bowl, combine the corn, spinach, cornmeal, Parmesan, scallions, 1/4 cup cilantro, parsley, dill, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and a good grind of pepper; stir to combine.
  4. Transfer this mixture to a large, deep, oven-proof skillet, then add the milk, stock and butter, stirring gently to mix through. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  5. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and give everything a good whisk.
  6. Return to the oven and bake until the cornmeal is cooked through and the mixture has thickened, about 20 minutes. Give the polenta another good whisk — it should be quite smooth and not completely set — then stir in half the feta.
  7. Increase the oven temperature to 425°F/220°C, preferably on convection.
  8. Use a dinner spoon to make 8 shallow wells in the polenta. Crack an egg into each well and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining feta all over, and bake until the egg whites are cooked and the yolks are still runny, 10 to 15 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, combine the reserved scallions and cilantro in a bowl with the oil. Spoon this mixture all over the polenta and eggs and sprinkle with the red-pepper flakes, if desired. Serve directly from the pan.

Lemony Spinach Soup with Farro

It is hard to relay deliciousness when looking at a bowl of “green!” This healthy soup was beyond delicious. Similar to the soup in my last post, this soup also gets its creaminess from puréed potatoes. I also loved that it was loaded with greens and herbs and also incorporated farro (one of my favorites) as a bonus.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used a combination of olive oil and butter, homemade turkey stock, and Trader Joe’s 10-minute farro. I also left the potato peels intact and increased the amount of garlic. Yum!

Yield: 6 servings

  • 4 T unsalted butter or olive oil (I used 3 T butter & 1 T olive oil)
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 rosemary or thyme branches
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound tiny potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces (unpeeled)
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock (I used homemade turkey stock)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt or fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup farro (I used Trader Joe’s 10 minute farro)
  • 1 pound baby spinach (about 20 cups)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems (or use dill)
  • 1 cup parsley leaves and tender stems
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more for serving
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for serving
  • flaky sea salt, for serving
  • Aleppo, Urfa, Turkish or other red-pepper flakes, for serving
  • grated Parmesan or pecorino, optional, for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  1. Melt the butter and/or heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.
  2. Stir in the leeks and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic, thyme/rosemary and bay leaves; cook 1 minute more.
  4. Stir in the potatoes, stock, 2 cups water, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, partly covered, until vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add farro and cook according to the timing on the package until just tender, about 20 to 30 minutes. Drain.
  6. Discard thyme/rosemary branches and bay leaves from the soup pot.
  7. Add spinach, cilantro and parsley, and simmer uncovered until very soft, 5 to 8 minutes.
  8. Using an immersion blender, purée soup until smooth. (Alternatively, you can purée the soup in batches in a blender or food processor.)
  9. If necessary, adjust the consistency. If the soup is too thick, add a little water. If it’s too thin, let it simmer uncovered for another few minutes to thicken.
  10. Stir in lemon juice and more salt to taste.
  11. Stir in farro.
  12. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil, a few drops of lemon juice, flaky salt, red-pepper flakes and a little grated cheese, as desired.

Spicy Red Lentil Stew with Coconut Milk & Spinach

This Indian stew was fast to prepare, loaded with spices and flavor, and was absolutely fabulous. What a combination! If that wasn’t enough, it was also a hearty vegetarian dish with a little bit of heat. All my favorites.

This recipe is from Milk Street: The New Home Cooking by Christopher Kimball. It is a simplified version of a classic Goan dish. I increased the amount of onion and served the stew with warm naan and chopped grape tomatoes on the side as an optional garnish.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 T coconut or peanut oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • kosher salt
  • 3 tsp finely grated fresh ginger, divided
  • 2 tsp yellow or brown mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp freshly ground fennel seeds
  • 3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 13.5 to 14 oz can coconut milk
  • 1 cup split red lentils, rinsed
  • 6 oz (about 6 cups) baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • juice of 1/2 to 1 lime
  • unsweetened coconut flakes, for garnish, optional
  • chopped tomatoes, for garnish, optional
  1. In a large saucepan over medium to medium-high, combine the onion, oil, garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.
  2. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and are just beginning to color, 7 to 9 minutes.
  3. Stir in 2 teaspoons of the grated ginger, the mustard seed, turmeric, coriander, fennel, and red pepper flakes.
  4. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Add the water, coconut milk, and lentils, then bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the lentils have broken down, about 30 to 40 minutes.
  7. Uncover and stir in the spinach; return to a simmer.
  8. Off the heat, add the remaining 1 teaspoon of grated ginger and the lime juice.
  9. Season with salt to taste.
  10. Serve, garnished with coconut flakes and chopped tomatoes, as desired.

Roasted Carrots with Chimichurri

In addition to serving the Voltaggio brother’s cornbread stuffing last Thanksgiving, I also served this savory-sweet roasted carrot dish from Bryan Voltaggio’s cookbook. I loved that the sauce incorporated the carrot greens and that additional greens were used as a garnish.

The recipe was adapted from Home: Recipes to Cook With Family and Friends by Bryan Voltaggio. I used rainbow carrots and modified the proportions in the sauce. I also found the sauce too coarse to pass through a fine mesh sieve. (I often skip that step anyway!) 😉 It is interesting that his technique is to cut the carrots into bite-sized pieces after they are cooked.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

For the Roasted Carrots:

  • 2 1/3 lbs (1 kg, about 13 medium carrots) carrots (I used rainbow carrots)
  • 2 T (28g) olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp (1.5g) cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (3g) ground peppercorns, preferably Szechuan
  • 3/4 tsp (4.5g) fine sea salt

For the Chimichurri Sauce:

  • 1.8 to 2 oz carrot greens
  • 2 oz (56g) baby spinach or flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 2 1/2 T (35g) olive oil
  • 1 T (14g) red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp (3g) fine sea salt
  • small carrot greens, for garnish

To Roast the Carrots:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, preferably on convection.
  2. Peel and trim the carrots.
  3. Set a large skillet with a lid over high heat and add the olive oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the carrots and cook, stirring, until they are golden brown and caramelized.
  4. Add the cinnamon, peppercorns, and salt; stir to blend.
  5. Cover and transfer to the oven to cook for 35 minutes, or until the carrots are completely tender.

To Make the Chimichurri Sauce:

  1. Set a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Prepare an ice bath.
  3. Blanch the carrot greens for 2 to 3 minutes and transfer to the ice bath.
  4. Blanch the baby spinach (or parsley) for 1 minutes and transfer to the ice bath.
  5. Once cool, squeeze out the spinach and carrot greens and put in a blender. (I used a Vitamix.)
  6. Add the garlic, oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and purée until smooth. Set aside.

To Finish the Dish:

  1. Remove the carrots from the oven, cut into bite-sized pieces, and transfer to a serving bowl.
  2. Spoon some of the Chimichurri Sauce over the carrots and garnish with small carrot greens.
  3. Serve family-style with reserved sauce on the side.

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