News & Politics

“My Summer Favorites”

In the July Best of Washington issue, local chefs shared their favorite ideas for back-yard barbecues. Here are a few of their recipes.

Stuffed Feta, Pine Nut, and Spinach Burger
From Mark Bucher, owner of BGR the Burger Joint (Alexandria, Arlington, Bethesda, DC)

Makes 4 burgers

2 pounds ground beef, preferably an 80/20 lean-to-fat blend
1 cup frozen thawed spinach, drained
½ cup crumbled feta
¼ cup toasted pine nuts (toast dry over medium heat in a heavy sauté pan until light brown; be careful not to burn them)
4 large hamburger buns (Bucher likes the Big Marty brand)
Kosher salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Divide meat into eight equal sections. Form balls, and salt and pepper each generously.

To make burgers, flatten two of the balls into patties. In the middle of one of the patties, spoon 2 tablespoons spinach and 1 tablespoon feta, then sprinkle about 8 pine nuts on them. Place second flattened patty on top and seal around the edges, making sure there are no gaps. Repeat with remaining balls. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Grill to desired doneness—for example, four minutes a side for medium rare. Let burgers rest after they’ve cooked for 3 minutes, then place on a bun and serve.

Smoked Burgers With Smoked Cheddar and Red-Wine-Marinated Grilled Onions

From Tracy O’Grady, executive chef and co-owner at Willow in Arlington

Serves 4

2 red onions, thinly sliced in rings
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Kosher salt to taste
Cracked black pepper to taste
2 pounds Polyface Farm ground beef formed into 8 4-ounce patties
8 ounces (8 slices) sliced Ilchester applewood-smoked cheddar cheese
4 3½-ounce potato buns, split in half and toasted
Wood-smoke packet (soak wood chips in water overnight, then wrap in aluminum foil and poke 15 holes in top and bottom)

Marinate red onions with red-wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, salt, and pepper about one hour before grilling. Heat grill and put the onions over hot heat, cooking 5 to 7 minutes and leaving some bite to the onions. Reserve.

Place foil-wrapped wood-smoke packet on hot charcoal. Cover grill and wait 5 to 10 minutes until foil packet starts to release smoke. Place burgers on the grill. Cover grill and cook for 4 minutes; flip burgers and cook another 4 minutes for medium rare (cooking time will vary with different grills). Place a slice of cheese on each burger and stack two burgers one on top of the other. (O’Grady prefers to make thinner burgers and then double them up because thicker patties would have to be cooked longer—and hence would be prone to charring.) Once the cheese has begun to melt, remove double burgers from the grill and tuck into toasted buns. Top with grilled onions.

Lamb Burgers With Lemon-Mint-Yogurt Chutney on Pita
From Vikram Sunderam, chef at DC’s Rasika

Serves 8

For burgers:

2 pounds ground leg of lamb (Sunderam uses diced leg of lamb and runs the meat and other burger ingredients through a meat grinder)
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced Thai green chili
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red chili powder
½ cup chopped cilantro
¼ cup chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon garam masala powder
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt


8 quail eggs simmered in boiling water for five minutes and peeled
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 pita breads cut in half

For mint-and-yogurt chutney:

1 cup cilantro
½ cup mint leaves
4 Thai green chilies, seeds removed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt
Salt to taste

Make chutney by mixing cilantro, mint, green chilies, cumin seed, garlic, and lemon juice to a fine paste in a food processor, adding water as needed for desired consistency. Whisk in yogurt; add salt to taste and refrigerate.

Combine all burger ingredients. Mix well and refrigerate for 60 minutes. Divide into eight portions. Stuff each portion with a cooked quail egg and form a burger gently around the egg. Grill burgers to desired doneness. Warm pita on both sides on the grill. Stuff burgers into pita, add sliced red onions, and serve with mint-and-yogurt chutney. 

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