Avocado-Chicken Burgers

The only drawback of these flavor-packed chicken burgers is that they have to be pan-cooked in order to keep their shape because they are very moist. Worth the mess!

The original recipe notes that the ginger, garlic, cilantro and scallions incorporated into the burger makes them similar to a dumpling filling. They were fresh and light.

I loved the soy-lime mayonnaise sauce and loads of toppings. I served them with a generous amount of sauce, and jalapeño and avocado slices on potato rolls. There were so many toppings that we forgot to add lettuce! I may even try them topped with arugula next time.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Yasmin Fahr. I used freshly ground chicken thigh meat and froze the formed burgers for 20 minutes prior to cooking. We ate them with pickles and chips.

Yield: Serves 4

freezer for 20 min before cooking

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp soy sauce or fish sauce
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  •  Kosher salt
  • 1 packed cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup mashed, ripe Hass avocado (from about 1/2 avocado; slice the other half for serving)
  • 2 scallions, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, grated, minced, or pushed through a garlic press
  • 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, grated or minced (about 2 tsp)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 pound ground chicken, preferably dark meat (I used freshly ground chicken thighs)
  • 2 T neutral oil, such as canola oil, or ghee
  • potato, brioche, or other burger buns, lightly toasted, as desired
  •  butter lettuce or other tender lettuce, for serving, or arugula
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced, for serving, optional

To Make the Sauce:

  1. In a small serving bowl, combine the mayonnaise and soy sauce.
  2. Season with the juice of 1 lime wedge and salt as needed.

To Make the Burgers:

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, use a fork to mash and thoroughly combine the chopped cilantro, mashed avocado (see Tip), scallions, garlic, ginger, red-pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of the soy-lime mayonnaise sauce.
  2. Add the chicken and gently combine. Form into 4 large balls.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze for 20 minutes to help maintain the shape while cooking.
  4. Heat a large (12-inch) cast-iron or heavy skillet over medium heat until very hot, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.
  5. Add the neutral oil or ghee, then add the chicken meatballs, spacing them out in the pan. (We cooked 2 at a time.)
  6. Use a metal spatula to press them until they form 1/2-inch-thick patties.
  7. Cook without moving for 3 1/2 to 4 minutes, until a deep golden crust has formed and they easily release from the pan.
  8. Flip the patties using the spatula and cook until done with a nice crust on the other side, about 3 minutes more. If the patties need more time, cover the pan and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to avoid scorching.
  9. Squeeze a lime wedge over the patties and serve sandwiched between the buns topped with lettuce, a healthy slathering of sauce, avocado slices, jalapeño slices if using, and cilantro sprigs, if desired.
  10. Serve with the remaining lime wedges and mayonnaise on the side.

Tip: Resist the urge to add more than 1/4 cup mashed avocado to the ground chicken, as the burgers will get too soft and fall apart during cooking.

Lemony Greek Meatball Soup (Youvarlakia Avgolemono)

My mom and I absolutely love Greek avgolemono soup. Recently, I made this meatball version when she was visiting. Springtime in a bowl! Light, bright and fresh.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I used homemade stock and modified the method.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1 pound ground chicken, ground turkey, or beef, very cold
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh dill or parsley, plus more for garnish, divided
  • 1/2 cup grated yellow onion (from about 1 small onion)
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot (from about 1 carrot)
  • 1/4 cup uncooked long-grain rice, such as Basmati or Carolina, well rinsed and drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated, pushed through a garlic press, or minced
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 6 cups chicken stock (I used 4 cups homemade turkey stock + 2 cups chicken stock)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
  • freshly grated nutmeg, for serving, optional
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine ground chicken, 1/4 cup dill, onion, carrot, rice, garlic, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Gently mix with your hands until well combined.
  2. Gently form the mixture into 24 to 30 meatballs, each about 1 1/4 inches in diameter, placing them on a plate or baking pan. (I used a cookie scoop to evenly ration the meat mixture.)
  3. Cover and chill for at least 20 minutes or up to 24 hours. This helps the meatballs keep their shape while cooking.
  4. In a large pot, bring stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium and use a slotted spoon to carefully add meatballs to the pot. The broth should cover the tops of the meatballs by about 1/2 inch. If not, add a little water. Simmer gently, adjusting the heat so the broth doesn’t boil, until meatballs are cooked through and rice is tender, 25 to 35 minutes. (You can break open a meatball to test it.) Remove pot from heat.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs and lemon juice until just mixed. Slowly add a ladle of warm broth to egg-lemon mixture, whisking constantly. Whisk in another two ladles of broth to temper the egg mixture.
  6. Slowly drizzle the egg-lemon mixture back into the pot with the meatballs, stirring gently so you don’t break apart the meatballs.
  7. Return the pot to medium-low heat until it just starts to simmer. (Wait for a bubble or two to appear, but don’t let the pot boil.) The broth should be silky.
  8. Remove from heat, stir in remaining 1/2 cup dill. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. (It may need quite a bit of salt if you are starting with unsalted broth.)
  9. Garnish with nutmeg, if you like, and dill, and serve.

Weeknight Ragù

This comfort food dish was very well-received in my house. Everyone in my family was fighting over the leftovers! It was easy, full-flavored, and absolutely delicious.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Chris Morocco. I modified the proportions and substituted sour cream for the heavy cream. I also adjusted the consistency of the finished dish with pasta cooking water. Great.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 6 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 3/4 lbs ground pork, turkey, beef, or chicken, preferably dark meat
  • kosher salt
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3 Calabrian chiles in oil, finely chopped, or 1 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 7 T double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 7 T sour cream or heavy cream
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lbs (20 to 24 oz) rigatoni, gemelli or other short pasta
  • 2 oz Parmesan, finely grated, plus more for serving (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • basil leaves, for serving
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium to medium-high.
  2. Add ground meat in 12–14 pieces (patties), spacing evenly, and season with salt.
  3. Let cook, undisturbed, until deeply browned underneath, about 3 minutes.
  4. Turn over and cook until deeply browned on opposite side, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. (It won’t be cooked through.)
  5. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to pot over medium heat.
  6. Cook onion, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 5 minutes.
  7. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add chiles/red pepper flakes and tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until paste is slightly darkened in color, about 3 minutes.
  9. Return meat to the pot and break up into small pieces.
  10. Add sour cream/heavy cream and 2 1/4 cups water.
  11. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat, and simmer gently until liquid is reduced by one third and flavors have come together, 15–20 minutes.
  12. Season ragù with salt and pepper.
  13. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups pasta cooking liquid.
  14. Add pasta to ragù along with 1 cup pasta cooking liquid and Parmesan.
  15. Cook, stirring and adding more pasta cooking liquid if needed, until sauce coats pasta, about 2 minutes.
  16. Transfer to a serving dish or individual bowls. Garnish with basil and reserved Parmesan. Serve.

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.

Sheet-Pan Chicken Meatballs with Charred Broccoli

Baked Chicken & Spinach Meatballs

Everyone loves meatballs- right? These were a healthyish version packed with cilantro and spinach. We ate them over rice topped with dollops of garlicky Greek yogurt sauce with roasted cauliflower on the side. Yum.

My husband was gifted a meat grinder for Christmas. 🙂 This was the first time he used it, grinding chicken thighs for these full-flavored meatballs. He plans to make burgers with blended meats next. Fancy!

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I prepared the seasoned meat about 6 hours ahead of time but it can even sit overnight in the refrigerator so that the meat absorbs the seasoning. I baked the meatballs (in the same oven as the roasted cauliflower) and used red pepper flakes instead of a serrano chile. I also added a yogurt sauce for serving. Fantastic.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 pound spinach, washed
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (I used 5 freshly ground chicken thighs- medium grind)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used the zest from 1/2 lemon)
  • pinch of ground cayenne
  • pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds (I crushed them using a mortar and pestle)
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish
  • 1 serrano chile, with seeds, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup soft fresh bread crumbs, from about 4 slices of crustless sandwich bread (I used 3 slices of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Pane, crusts removed, pulsed in a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, half-and-half, milk, or ricotta cheese
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for the baking sheet
  • lemon wedges, for serving
  • cooked rice, for serving (I served the meatballs over white Basmati rice)
  • yogurt sauce (or store-bought tzatziki), for serving (see below)

For the Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • pinch of ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated or pressed through a garlic press
  • fresh dill, cilantro or parsley, finely minced, to taste
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Blanch the spinach: Plunge leaves a handful at a time into a pot of boiling water. Leave just long enough to wilt, about 30 seconds, scoop out with a spider or slotted spoon and drain in a colander and cool under running water. Repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
  2. Remove and squeeze wilted leaves into a ball. I used a potato ricer and squeezed out the excess liquid in batches.
  3. Using a large knife, roughly chop spinach on a cutting board — you should have about 2 cups.
  4. Squeeze into a ball again to remove excess water. (This may be done several hours or up to a day in advance and refrigerated.) Again, I used a potato ricer and removed the excess liquid in batches.
  5. If freshly grinding the chicken, grind into a large bowl using the medium grinding disc.
  6. Combine the ground chicken, salt, pepper, lemon zest, cayenne, nutmeg, fennel seeds, cinnamon, spinach, cilantro, chile (or red pepper flakes), egg, bread crumbs and cream in a large bowl. Using your clean hands, knead everything together, mixing well. Leave to absorb seasoning for 15 minutes or overnight. (I refrigerated it for about 6 hours.)
  7. Make the sauce: Combine all of the ingredients and refrigerate for flavors to develop.
  8. Test for seasoning: Take a small amount and flatten into a thin patty. Quickly cook in a small skillet, about 1 minute per side. Taste, then adjust the mixture’s seasoning if necessary.
  9. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees, preferably on convection roast.
  10. Using a large ice cream scoop or spoon, form 19 to 24 rough balls and place on a large plate. (The mixture will be soft.)
  11. Using a brush, coat a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil.
  12. Lightly form the meatballs and position them on the prepared baking sheet. Along the long side of the pan, I placed them in rows of 5. (I had 19 meatballs.)
  13. Bake meatballs until well browned underneath, about 15 minutes. Using a stiff metal spatula, pry up and turn over meatballs (they may want to stick a bit). Bake until browned on second side and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of each one registers at least 160°, about 4 to 5 minutes more.
  14. Serve over rice garnished with chopped cilantro, if desired. Serve with sauce (or tzatziki) and lemon wedges.

Kofta Sandwiches with Tomatoes & Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

These sandwiches are a great weeknight dinner. Using ground turkey or chicken instead of beef, lamb or pork makes them a little bit lighter as well.

After seeing sandwiches served in taco racks at NYC’s Chelsea Market, I used taco racks to assemble these messy sandwiches. Genius! 😉

This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. I used ground turkey instead of ground chicken and added lemon juice, garlic, and herbs to the sauce.

Yield: Serves 4

  • 1.25 pounds ground turkey or chicken
  • 1/2 white onion, diced small
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley and cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced large (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 1/2 a lemon, more to taste
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 to 4 T minced fresh dill
  • 2 T vegetable oil
  • 2 handfuls of grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise or 2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 4 small naan or pitas, warmed
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint or cilantro, for serving
  • sliced or chopped red onion, for serving, optional
  1. In a large bowl, combine ground meat, diced onion, chopped parsley/cilantro, cumin and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Mix until well combined.
  2. Using your hands, form mixture into 8 oval patties.
  3. In a medium bowl, toss together cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, and dill; season with salt and pepper. Add additional lemon juice, if desired.
  4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium to medium-high. Cook patties until browned on all sides and cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes. (I cooked the meatballs until the internal temperature reached 165 degrees.)
  5. Divide patties and tomatoes among warm naan or pitas. (I assembled the sandwiches in taco racks.)
  6. Top with cucumber-yogurt sauce and mint or cilantro. Top with red onion, if desired.
  7. Fold to enclose (if not using taco racks) and serve.

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