Monday, May 25, 2009

Daydream-Worthy Mediterranean Turkey Burger Pitas

I think most of us have a favorite daydream; a mental mini-holiday we take when we feel the need to escape the doldrums and demands of real life. Maybe you dream of lying on a beach with the clear blue waters delivering a perfect breeze to the shore, a personal servant delivering you frothy pina coladas and reading to you from your favorite book. Maybe you imagine a romantic dinner in a vaguely Latin foreign country and being fed by a man who looks like Gael Garcia Bernal, but is way taller and totally into you.

When I daydream, I picture waking up to an endless expanse of daylight, a long summer day stretched out in front of me, and no obligation but to cook transcendental meals that magically taste amazing but are simultaneously (miraculously) good for me. There is no pressure, no time restraints, no rush, because there are no jobs in fantasies. In my day dream, I spend sweet hours creating luxurious meals, adding a dash of this and a dash of that as I dance around the kitchen in a golden slant of sunlight.

But here, in the waking life, there are jobs. Demanding jobs. And I happen to have one that gets me home long after dark five nights a week.

So outside of the daydream, most nights there are time restraints and other obligations, not to mention the fact that when you're walking into the kitchen after a long and exhausting day, a complicated dinner and subsequent dishes could be enough to push you over the edge into a permanent and involuntary mental vacation.

Here at Culinerapy, I don't bother to tell you about the limp turkey sandwiches I often slap together for dinner, or the scrambled eggs and toast I make when I'm hungry and too tired to do more. What I want to share with you here are recipes that can brighten a mood, save a day gone wrong, or make a good day better -- recipes that are comforting and invigorating at the same time. This is a place bring my culinary daydreams to life.

However, on rare occasion, a weeknight meal surpasses its station and enters daydream territory. Which is exactly what happened with these Mediterranean Turkey Burger Pitas, which, just like in my fantasy, taste like a dream and won't make your ass bigger.

(If this picture looks a mess, forgive me my haste; I wanted to EAT this, not photograph it.)

These took me exactly 9 minutes to prepare, about twelve minutes on the grill, and dirtied only two bowls. But the reason I'm telling you about them is because they are so good that Paul and I were licking our plates and our fingers while making really embarrassing and slightly inappropriate moaning and grunting sounds.

I say that qualifies it for fantasy food.

The burgers themselves are filled with feta cheese, onion, garlic and pesto, which smells so good when it grills you'll be glad you made them before you even take a bite.

But the pièce de résistance for me was the cucumber and yogurt sauce, called a tzatziki, which is so cool and creamy, I might pour it on everything I eat for the rest of the summer. (Good for dipping veggies in, too.) The sauce took only two minutes to make, and is gloriously simple: just diced cucumber, Greek yogurt, and a little S & P.

This is the stuff dreams are made of, available to you right smack in the middle of a real-life busy week. Which is, after all, usually when you need the fantasy most.

Mediterranean Turkey Burger Pitas
Adapted from Cooking Light

For Burgers:
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon minced red onion
2 tablespoons commercial pesto
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground turkey breast
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups arugula, or your favorite kind of lettuce
2 (6-inch) whole-wheat pitas, grilled and halved

For Sauce:

1/2 cup low-fat plain greek yogurt
1/3 cucumber, peeled and seeded (the kind that come in the plastic wrapper are best)
Freshly ground black pepper


Combine first 8 ingredients in a bowl; mix until combined. Divide mixture into 4 portions, shaping each into a 1/2-inch-thick oval patty (the shape should fit into a pita half).

Heat grill or a nonstick grill pan to medium-high heat. If using a non-stick grill pan, coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to grill; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done.

While the patties are cooking, make the tzatziki sauce: Combine 1/2 cup plain low-fat, Greek-style yogurt; 1/4 cup finely chopped seeded cucumber; 1/4 teaspoon salt; and 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper.

Place 1 patty and 1/2 cup lettuce in each pita half, with a healthy dollop of the tzatziki sauce.


  1. yum yum... I will be making this next week for sure. I am also a "tzatziki" addict. Seriously, I could drink that stuff. I make it similar to yours, but I add some fresh dill to it. Try'll like it:)

  2. Delicious! I'll have to try these. I'm always looking for quick weeknight dinners. Have you read Laurie Colwin's cooking books? She has a description of a vacation in Minorca that sounds just like the fantasy you describe.

  3. This looks like a lovely recipe! I'm addicted to tzatziki also. My Greek host family mother used to make the best! Hers was unusual though because she added finely shreaded carrots and lots of garlic (so it's a little hot). I often add a dash of white wine vinegar too.
    I've found the brand name Belefonte to be very good for the yogurt. It's very creamy without the high cost of "real" Greek yogurt.
    Happy Cooking!

  4. OK. I've made these twice already because it is now my husband (and mine) new favorite dish! Thanks and I keep looking forward to the next recipe you are going to post! Triple YUM!!!

  5. These burgers were amazing!!! Super fast and easy, i expected the turkey to be dry but these were moist and delicious!! The tzatziki sauce was the best part, make extra because it will be gone quick!

  6. I made these for my wife tonight and she called me a closet Gourmet. Awesome. Only question was did you mean red pepper in the sauce? It says black pepper in the ingredients and red in the directions. Have to say I liked the small kick.

  7. I use this recipe at least once a month. This is such an easy and delicious meal and makes for great leftovers for lunch. Thanks for sharing!!!!