Memorial Day Weekend 2011 - where is this year going? Mother Nature seems to be taking her cues from National holidays this year ushering in the sweltering summer heat just in time for the "unofficial start of summer". Personally, I'd be thrilled with 4 more weeks of spring, but I decided to play along with summer's early arrival and head down the shore yesterday to celebrate one of my oldest and dearest friend's birthdays.
At 10:30 a.m. Jimmy and I donned our bathing suits for the first time this season, packed up the car with beach chairs, towels and sunscreen and hit the road. What should have been less than a 2 hour drive delivered us shore front at roughly 2pm. Anxious to hit the beach, we quickly found parking and were on the beach in no time. After an inaugural dip (only ankle deep) in the icy Atlantic, I lathered up with sunscreen and settled in. Even though it was in the high 80's, there was a cool breeze coming off the ocean and before long I was snoozing on the warm sand. I awoke a couple hours later hungry from the heat and ready to hit the shops and restaurants. Upon first examination, I didn't appear to be burned but a closer look revealed that my right arm, and only the outer side of my right arm was lobster red. Ugh! Note to self: apply sunscreen before sun exposure - and yes, hanging your arm out the passenger window on a 31/2 hr drive is sun exposure! As I brushed the sand from my body I noticed I was getting kind of itchy and discovered quite a few welts on my legs and one HUGE one on my forehead. I initially dismissed them as mosquito bites but when the swelling on my forehead became such that it appeared as if I got conked with a baseball bat and the itching turned to a dull stinging sensation I knew these were no normal mosquitoes (I later found out that I'd been bitten by horseflies - ew!). Not insect bites nor sunburn were quelling my appetite though so Jimmy and I headed for a quick bite to eat at a local greasy spoon before heading farther south to Atlantic City to continue the birthday festivities. We returned home around midnight (after doubling my gambling budget on the slot machines - woo hoo!), and after a quick shower and a liberal application of aloe I was more than happy to fall into bed for the night. I awoke this morning in a bit of a sunburn haze, happy to have the day off from work and happier yet to be inside in the air conditioning.
Did you know that this weekend is not only Memorial Day, but also another National "holiday"? It's National Burger Weekend! As if we didn't already have enough of a reason to fire up the grill and celebrate! Usually the thought of an unctuous burger dripping with melty cheese and thick slices of bacon is my food porn, but after the damage I did at the beach yesterday (What? Can you blame me? I'm sorry, but strolling down the Boardwalk munching on carrot sticks is not nearly as refreshing as a twisty cone or freshly squeezed lemonade!) a greasy burger is the last thing I want. But, I'd been kicking around an idea for a lightened up Greek inspired burger with a refreshing Tzaziki sauce for a while now and what better excuse to give it a shot than National Burger Weekend?!
8oz fat free Greek yogurt
1 small cucumber peeled, seeded and grated
1 clove garlic, grated or very finely minced
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
Per 1/4 cup
Cal: 18 Fat: 0g Carb: 2g Protein: 3g Fiber: 0g
Strain the yogurt using a coffee filter and a metal strainer for 3-4 hours to remove the excess liquid. Peel the cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and using the tip of a spoon, scoop out all of the seeds and grate. Sprinkle the grated cucumber with a little salt to help draw out the liquids and then strain it in a small strainer to remove the excess liquid. You may want to press the cucumber against the strainer with the back of a spoon or squeeze it with your hands to make sure to remove as much of the liquid as possible.
Once the yogurt and cucumber have finished straining - and don't skip that step or your Tzatziki won't have the desired thickness to it - mix together yogurt, cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, dill and mint. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.
1 lb 93 % lean ground beef
2 tsp Greek seasoning blend (if you can't find it in stores, I've included a recipe below)
4 oz reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled
3 tbsp Tzatziki sauce, plus extra for serving
1/2 tsp salt
pinch ground black pepper
Cal: 251 Fat: 12g Carb: 1g Protein: 30g Fiber: 0g
**Nutritional information is for the burger only. Bun and toppings will alter nutritional info.**
In the interest of keeping calories down, I used Arnold Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins (adds an additional 100 cal, 1g fat, 22g carbs, 5g protein and 5g fiber) - low cal, lots of fiber and even though they're thin, they can stand up to a burger!
In a large bowl, combine ground beef, Tzatziki sauce, feta and Greek seasoning blend.
Mix well with your hands. Form into 4 equal sized patties.
Slide your burgers onto the hottest part of the grill to get a nice sear. Grill for about 4-5 minutes until you see juices starting to collect on the top of your burger (this means they are cooking through the middle).
Flip the burgers once and cook on that side for about 1-2 minutes shorter than it took for the juices to collect the first time. So if you grilled for 5 minutes on the first side, grill for 3-4 on the second. Flip the burgers only the one time and never, I repeat never flatten or smush your burger - you might as well pick it up and squeeze out all those awesome juices with your hand.
Once your burgers are done cooking, remove from the heat and let them rest for 5 min.
Then, pile a bun full of your favorite toppings, and a little more Tzatziki sauce, and enjoy!
Greek Seasoning Blend
1 1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp mint
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp dried minced onion
1/2 tsp dried minced garlic
Makes about 5 teaspoons. Store in an airtight container in a dry place and it will keep for approximately 6 months.