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sunday dinner: harissa lamb burgers with feta and spice-roasted carrot fries.

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Oh hey, summerrrrrrrr. OK. While it’s technically not summer yet, it certainly feels like it here in old Brooklyn, with the sun shining down and the breezes blowing and the neighborhood buzzing with sounds of laughter and BBQs.

We’ve got another week or so until the official day, but in the meantime, I’m acting like it’s the real deal because why not. The most enjoyable part of a New York summer is when it’s not actually summer yet. Once you flip the switch on the official season it’s all hot days and still air and humidity that suffocates. I’ll take my 80-degree, cloudless, breezy days and I’ll use ’em good.

And today being one of those days, I’m cooking burgers. Fancy burgers. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good classic American burger with American cheese and American bacon and American LTPO. But sometimes, I want something spicier and just a little bit different, and for me, these lamb burgers are just the ticket. The meat is tender and delicious with flavors of red onion and mint, and the addition of fresh pickles, feta and harissa as toppings bring them to a whole other level. Add a side of spice roasted carrot fries and you’re in for a treat. The inspiration for these burgers came from my first delivery of Blue Apron, which is quickly becoming one of my new favorite things. Similar to Plated, which I’ve talked about on the old blog before, but so far the recipes from BA have been much more successful than their competitor. Time will tell who wins the ‘meals delivered to your door ready to cook’ race, but for now, I’m sticking with Blue Apron.

I had the luxury of having all the below ingredients delivered to me in the correct quantities, so you may have to play with the portions a bit when making this on your own, but no matter how you work it, it will lead to a delicious pre-summer feast.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Harissa Lamb Burgers with Feta and Roasted Carrot Fries (adapted from Blue Apron, serves 2)

10 ounces ground lamb (you can substitute ground beef or a mixture of beef and lamb if you’re not a serious lamb fan)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red onion, ½ cut into rings, ½ finely chopped
1 small bunch mint, roughly chopped
¼ cup breadcrumbs

olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

2 ounces feta cheese, either sliced or crumbled
2 tablespoons harissa paste (you can substitute sriracha or spicy mustard if you can’t find harissa)
fresh sliced pickles (you can make these or buy your favorite kind and slice them)
small handful of arugula
2 whole wheat burger buns

Spice-Roasted Carrot Fries

1 pound carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin

First things first, preheat the oven to 475 degrees so we can get our carrot fries on. Cut the carrots into matchstick-like pieces (you can do this by trimming the ends off the carrots, cut them in half width-wise, then cut each half into quarters length-wise). Spread them out on a baking sheet and season with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and cumin. Drizzle with a touch of olive oil and mix to fully coat them in the spice mixture.

Take the onion rings that you cut from one half of your red onion and place them along side the carrots on the baking sheet. Season with a bit of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Place the sheet on the middle rack of your oven once fully pre-heated, and cook for approximately 18-20 minutes, stirring the carrots once half way, until browned and sizzling. Turn off oven once cooked and leave them inside so they stay warm.

Now to the lamb. Place your ground lamb in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the minced garlic, the chopped red onion and the chopped mint and mix to combine (this is best done with your hands, so get in there). Then, pour about half of the breadcrumbs over the meat mixture and mix to incorporate. You may not need all of the breadcrumbs; if the meat doesn’t look wet after adding in the first half, you should be fine. If you need more, add them in tablespoon increments until the meat no longer sticks to the bowl. Once fully mixed, take your meat and form two patties of equal size. Place the patties on a plate and set aside.

In a sauté pan over medium-high heat, add two tablespoons of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the burger patties and cook, occasionally pressing down on the patties with a spatula, approximately 4-5 minutes per side. Try not to move ’em around too much; once they’re nice and brown on one side, flip them over and leave them be.

When the burgers are fully cooked, remove from the pan back to the plate and set aside. Add the buns to the pan, cut side down, and toast for 2 minutes until golden and crisp.

Now to prep the deliciousness. Take the harissa paste and spread it on each of the bottom halves of the burger buns and top with the fresh pickle slices. Place a burger patty on top, then add the sliced/crumbled feta. Top the feta with the roasted onion rings, then add a bit of arugula. Top with the other burger bun and you’re set to go. Take the carrot fries out of the oven and divide equally between the two plates. Demolish immediately.

This meal is best served with a crisp, cold beer sitting barefoot on your patio watching the light of day fade behind the hills (or skyscrapers, in my case). It’ll feel like summer, but just a bit different. And we all know different is good.

Yum. Enjoy!

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