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Cook | Lamb Burger with Grilled Fennel and Fennel Seed Yogurt

Cheryl Sternman RuleComment
Mediterranean-Style Lamb Burger with Grilled Fennel and Fennel Seed Yogurt 

Mediterranean-Style Lamb Burger with Grilled Fennel and Fennel Seed Yogurt 

To support the site, Team Yogurt will occasionally partner with companies whose products or services tie in with our mission to celebrate yogurt. We're picky, forthright, and transparent about these sponsored partnerships. Below is a post and recipe I developed for the Tri-Lamb Group, which is collaborating with Weber Grills on a summer grilling promotion. We hope you agree that lamb + yogurt go beautifully together.  ~Cheryl


I've written a lot about trying to expand horizons when it comes to yogurt in the United States. Not just in Yogurt Culture, but in an article I penned for the Washington Post and in evangelizing for yogurt's versatility across social media. My goal is to get folks to embrace yogurt as an infinitely adaptable food, one that's as at home with olive oil and spices as it is with berries and honey. And the message is finally catching on.

For kosher-keeping Jews, pairing yogurt with meat is a non-starter, but for many omnivores, the marriage makes sense. Yogurt tenderizes tougher meat cuts, adds moisture and creaminess, and can replace (or bolster) your favorite condiments like mayo, mustard, or ketchup.

In the Mediterranean, lamb and yogurt pair frequently: You'll often find these foods together on Greek and Turkish tables, sometimes in the same dish, other times presented side-by-side. Nutritionally, they've each got merits, too. Yogurt offers calcium, probiotics, protein, and a host of other nutrients (B vitamins, vitamin D, potassium, and more). Lamb offers protein (almost 50% of your daily needs), vitamin B12, niacin, zinc, selenium, iron, and riboflavin, plus essential omega-3 fatty acids. For meat eaters, lamb is a nice change from beef, even if you eat meat only occasionally.

For this burger recipe, I looked to fennel to bring the lamb and yogurt together, grilling slices of the licorice-y bulb until charred and crisp-tender, and whizzing up a toasted fennel seed salt to flavor the yogurt. Lamb + yogurt + fennel is a Mediterranean power triad. I hope you'll enjoy this combo in whatever sunny spot you call home. 

Recipe for Mediterranean-Style Lamb Burger with Grilled Fennel and Fennel Seed Yogurt 

These are big burgers, so I recommend a tender bun with a bit of squish. Word to the wise: Have napkins nearby.

Makes 4 servings

2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1-3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1-1/2 pounds ground lamb
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Olive oil spray 
1 fennel bulb, fronds lopped off and discarded
½ cup Greek yogurt (preferably whole milk or 2%)
4 soft burger buns
1 large tomato, thick-sliced
4 big leaves green-leaf lettuce or romaine

In a small, dry skillet, toast the fennel seeds over medium heat, shaking the skillet occasionally, until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder. Cool briefly, then add the salt. Grind until powdery. Transfer fennel-salt to a small bowl.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium to medium-high heat (about 450°F). Scrape the grates clean with a stainless steel brush. On one side, place a grilling basket or perforated grill pan. (I use this one.) Preheat the grill for 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, place the lamb, black pepper, and 2 teaspoons of the fennel-salt in a medium bowl. Use a fork to combine gently but thoroughly. Divide into 4 equal portions and form ¾-inch thick patties. Using your fingers, create a wide, shallow indentation in the top of each burger to promote even cooking. Coat both sides lightly with olive oil spray.

Halve the fennel bulb and remove the hard core. Cut into thick slices. Transfer to a small bowl. Coat with olive oil spray and toss with ½ teaspoon of the fennel-salt.

Stir the Greek yogurt into the fennel salt that remains, combining thoroughly.

Place the burgers directly on the grates and the sliced fennel in the grill basket or on the perforated pan. Grill both the burgers and the fennel for about 4 minutes per side, flipping once, until the lamb’s internal temperature reaches 160°F and the fennel is well-marked and crisp-tender. During the last minute, grill the buns cut-sides down.

To assemble: Spread 1 tablespoon fennel-salt yogurt onto cut-sides of each bun. Top with a burger, a lettuce leaf, a tomato slice, and the grilled fennel. Close the bun and serve immediately.

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Photograph, Words + Recipe © Cheryl Sternman Rule