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posted: 6/12/2013 6:00 AM

Turkey burgers really can be juicy and flavorful

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  • Sara Moulton blends spinach, oregano and feta into ground meat to give her turkey burgers a Greek flare.

      Sara Moulton blends spinach, oregano and feta into ground meat to give her turkey burgers a Greek flare.
    Associated Press

  • Sara Moulton blends spinach, oregano and feta into ground meat to give her turkey burgers a Greek flare.

      Sara Moulton blends spinach, oregano and feta into ground meat to give her turkey burgers a Greek flare.
    Associated Press

 
By Sara Moulton
Associated Press

Summertime is burger time. And it's so easy to throw a few beef patties on the grill. Not much is required in the way of embellishment, yet they have a big happiness return.

What's the magic ingredient? Fat, of course. Beef burgers are high in fat, which guarantees flavor and juiciness. And because fat enhances flavor, it also makes anything else you put in or on the burger taste better, too.

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Heartbreakingly, as you decrease the fat content in a burger, its flavor tends to go bye-bye, too. This is a real problem if you want to dig into a delicious burger and still want the blood to continue sailing through your arteries. The solution? Turkey.

I know. I know. You've tried turkey burgers and it was like eating wet cardboard. Hah! But you haven't tried my turkey burgers.

Let's start with the basic ingredient -- ground turkey. While researching this recipe, I discovered that the labels on ground turkey can be quite confusing. You'd figure that a package labeled "lean" would mean what it says. Weirdly, it turns out that the calories and fat in a 4-ounce portion of "lean" ground turkey can range from 120 calories with 1 percent fat to 160 calories with 12 percent fat (which is as rich as a lean beef burger). As always, it's best to read labels and not rely on words such as "lean" or "white meat" when looking for healthy choices.

Or, better yet, grind your own turkey. Start by buying a small package of turkey tenderloins, the flap of meat that lies just under the breast. As little as a 1 pounds of turkey tenderloins can be ground to produce six burgers. Cut the tenderloins into 1-inch cubes and freeze them for 30 minutes. Pop them in a food processor and pulse until they achieve a medium-grind consistency.

Now we come to the crucial part of the recipe, the part I call Turkey Helper. The blandest and driest of white meats, turkey cries out for flavor and moisture. Happily, any number of vegetables can answer this call, including sauteed onions, bell peppers or mushrooms, shredded raw Napa cabbage, or carrots.

But I wanted to give these burgers the Greek treatment, so I moistened them with spinach, garlic and onions, then seasoned them with crumbled feta and fresh oregano. A staple of Greek cuisine, the goat or sheep milk cheese called feta is so packed with flavor and saltiness that a little goes a long way. And if you're not a fan of oregano, you can swap in dill or basil instead.

In search of a simpatico sauce, I built one out of pepperoncini. Also known as Tuscan pickled peppers, pepperoninci are the little green hot peppers that have spiced up every Greek salad you've ever eaten. They're briny, too, which is why I added some of their pickling liquid to the yogurt-mayo base.

This creamy sauce comprises the last splash of our Turkey Helper. Nobody in my house cries "Where's the beef?" when we pull these burgers off the grill.

• Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."

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