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Lebanese Za’atar Burgers with Muhammara & Grilled Halloumi

This burger includes some of the "greatest hits" of Lebanese cuisine. Za’atar is the most popular seasoning in Lebanon and is used on just about anything (it consists of dried herbs such as thyme and marjoram as well as sesame seeds and sumac). Muhammara is a delicious spicy red pepper dip. Fattoush Salad is a staple at every Lebanese meal. And Halloumi cheese is a wonderfully unique Middle-Eastern cheese that can be grilled. By combining all of these great foods into one burger, I have really captured Lebanese lightning in a burger (or a bottle… of wine)!

Ingredients 

Muhammara (Red Pepper Dip):
1 1/3 cup chopped roasted red peppers (jarred), drained
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (can substitute 1 tablespoon honey)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Bottom of 1 hamburger bun, lightly toasted, and chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Fattoush Salad:
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground sumac (if available)
1 1/2 cups "diced" romaine lettuce (cut into approximately same size pieces as cucumber)
3/4 cup diced English cucumber
1/2 cup diced tomatoes (seeds removed)
1/4 cup finely minced onion
2 cups chopped (into approximately 1-inch chunks) store-bought plain pita chips

Grilled Halloumi:
6 ounces Halloumi Cheese, cut into 6 slices
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Patties:
2 pounds ground chuck
1/4 cup finely minced onion
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 tablespoon ground sumac (if available)
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves (can substitute oregano)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack
6 potato hamburger buns, split

Instructions 

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

To make Muhammara, in the bowl of a food processor combine red peppers, walnuts, pomegranate molasses, garlic, toasted bun, lemon juice, cayenne, and olive oil; puree. Set aside.

To make Fattoush Salad, in a medium mixing bowl combine olive oil, lemon juice, mint, and sumac; whisk until well combined. Add in romaine, cucumber, tomatoes, and onion; toss well to coat. Just before serving, drain excess liquid and mix in pita chips.

To make Grilled Halloumi, brush halloumi with olive oil. Place slices on grill over medium-high heat and cook for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove from grill.

To make the patties, combine the beef, onion, garlic, sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, marjoram, cumin, allspice, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Handling the mixture 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 to 5 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, spread a generous amount of Muhammara over the cut sides of the buns. On each bun bottom, place a patty, a slice of Grilled Halloumi, and a generous portion of Fattoush Salad. Add buns tops and serve.

Makes 6 burgers.