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Balkan Burger with Ajvar Mayonnaise & Bulgarian Salad

A burger that perfectly captures the flavors of the Balkans. It starts with a beef and bulghur burger flavored with a smoky paprika that is very characteristic of the region; the delicious burger is topped with a Bulgarian salad served on potato buns with an Ajvar Mayonnaise (ajvar is an eggplant and pepper relish specific to the region).


1/2 cup prepared ajvar (an eggplant & pepper relish)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup tomatoes, diced
2/3 cup English cucumber, diced
2/3 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
4 ounces Bulgarian feta cheese (Sirene), crumbled (if unavailable, substitute regular feta cheese)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh savory leaves, finely chopped (if unavailable, substitute 1 1/2 teaspoons dried savory)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 cup bulghur wheat, soaked in 1/2 cup warm water for 30 minutes
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
6 potato buns, split


Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

To make Ajvar Mayonnaise, in a small mixing bowl combine ajvar and mayonnaise; mix until well combined. Refrigerate until serving.

To make Balkan Salad, in a medium mixing bowl combine tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic, feta, savory, and olive oil. Mix well to combine.

To make the patties, combine the beef, bulghur wheat, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties to fit the buns.

Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, just until done, about 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. During the last few minutes of cooking, place the buns, cut side down, on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly.

To assemble the burgers, place a generous amount of Ajvar Mayonnaise on the cut sides of the buns. On each bun bottom, place a patty and an equal amount of Bulgarian Salad. Add the bun tops and serve.


If you really want to experience the great tastes of the Balkans, pick this burger!