RECIPES: Recipe Details

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Naan But the Best Burgers, or India-inspired Burgers with Red Lentil Dal and Fresh Spinach, Tomato and Cucumber Chutney

A wide-eyed American, I was whisked away to India when I was 9 years old, and my life has never been the same! So I wanted to make a burger that would serve as a tribute to both countries. Here’s the result: A Hollywood mix of the foods Americans love best from India -- a turmeric-scented dal, two chutneys, and a curried beef and lamb patty on our favorite Indian grilled bread-- cooked in the oldest and newest of both American and Indian styles -- on the backyard grill!

Ingredients 

1 t. cumin seeds
8 oz plain yogurt
1 medium tomato
1 small cucumber
8 oz. chopped baby spinach
2 T. chopped cilantro
1 t. salt
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
ground black pepper to taste
1 c. red lentils
3 c. water
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 slice fresh ginger, 1 inch square and 1/8 inch thick
1 T. chopped cilantro
1 t. ground turmeric
1/8 t. cayenne
1 t. salt
1 T. lemon juice
1 1/2 pounds ground chuck
1/2 pound ground lamb
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1 T. curry powder
1 t. ground coriander
1 t. ground cumin
1 fresh Serrano chili, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 piece of fresh ginger, about 1 inch square, peeled and minced
6 scallions, peeled and minced
3 T. lemon juice
vegetable oil for brushing on the grill
6 Naan breads (see Comments)
1/2 c. Major Grey's chutney

Instructions 

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

2. While the grill is heating, toast the cumin seeds in a small heavy pan on the grill rack, 2 to 3 minutes or until they are fragrant and darkening. Transfer to a mortar and pestle, or to a board with a rolling pin and grind the toasted seeds to a powder.

3. To make the fresh chutney,in a medium bowl, stir yogurt until smooth. Chop tomato and cucumber finely, and add to the bowl along with chopped spinach, cilantro, salt, cayenne and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

4. To make the red lentil dal, clean and wash the lentils thoroughly. In a heavy-bottomed fireproof saucepan , combine lentils with 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Remove the froth that comes to the top and then add garlic, ginger, cilantro, turmeric, cayenne, salt and lemon juice. Cover the pot, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, move the pan to the side of the grill (where a steady simmer can be maintained) and cook gently for up to 1/2 hour. When the dal is cooked, ithe lentils will have disappeared and the dal will be thicker than pea soup, but thinner than cooked cereal. Keep it warm while preparing the patties.

5. To make the patties, combine chuck and ground lamb in a large bowl with salt, pepper, curry powder, coriander, cumin, Serrano chili, garlic, ginger, scallions and lemon juice. Handling as little as possible to avoid compacting the meat, mix these ingredients well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form the portions into patties.

6. When the grill is ready and the lentil dal is cooked, brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover and cook, turning just once, until they are cooked to preference, 5 to 7 minutes per side for medium. During the last few minutes of cooking, place the naan breads on the outer edges of the rack to toast lightly.

7. To assemble the burgers, fold the naan breads in half and cut them on the folds. Spread Major Grey’s chutney thinly on the bottom bread, and top this with a couple of tablespoons or more of the lentil dal, a patty and a generous amount of the fresh spinach, tomato and cucumber chutney. Add the naan bread tops and serve.

Comments 

Although this recipe seems to have a lot of ingredients, most of them -- in true Indian fashion -- are spices and herbs, and the individual components actually go together very quickly. And Naan bread, once only available in Indian restaurants or our own kitchens, has just recently become widely available in the bread sections of major supermarkets.