Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers with Gwyneth Paltrow

I’m a total fanatic for celebrity diets. I never met an Oprah fad I didn’t like. Slap an endorsement on your program and I am, like, in.

Three statements I have never before uttered in my entire life. So color me surprised that I actually like Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest cookbook.

Look, despite the fact that I never post anything even remotely healthy here at Pies & Puggles, I really do eat well. I just never post about the healthy stuff because seriously? Way more fun to write about cinnamon roll bundt cakes than my latest grilled chicken non-recipe.

What I’m getting at is that eating properly isn’t that much of a mystery. Avoid high fat and high sugar foods. Eat lots of vegetables and lean proteins. Don’t drink soda and limit alcohol. Nutritional basics that are sufficient for the majority of the human population, despite the fact that most of us ignore them.

So I’ve never understood fad diets or celebrity endorsed plans. I was never tempted when Kirsty Alley or Jennifer Hudson did Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. Or when Tommy Lasorda pimped for Slimfast. This is why falling in love with a cookbook by freaking Gwyneth Paltrow surprised the heck out of me.

The book is It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great (affiliate link), written in conjunction with Julia Turshen, who is a professional chef to the stars. And yes, it’s a bit odd in spots. Apparently Paltrow’s family has a bunch of food allergies/sensitivities so this book is pretty heavy on the no dairy, gluten free, etc. I just ignored the really weird parts and substituted things like regular Greek yogurt for goat milk yogurt. Whatevs.

Otherwise, this cookbook is pretty great. The flavors are exotic, making your standard turkey burger into a Middle Eastern masterpiece or grilled chicken into Korean chicken tacos (for you DC locals, a la TaKorean). I’ve tried six recipes from the book and they’ve all been unbelievably delicious.

Now, I do have a few caveats. If you’re a picky eater, if you’re averse to searching out some slightly off-kilter ingredients, if you live somewhere that doesn’t have a decent international food store or if you need every meal you make to be finished in 30 minutes or less, you might not love this book as much as I do.

But if you like food that is adventurous and maybe a bit of a production? Yeah, here’s your new girlfriend.

Middle Easter Turkey Burgers with Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce + NY Street Vendor Salad*
lightly adapted from It’s All Good: Delicious, Easy Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great
Makes 4 burgers plus enough sauce and dressing to kill a cat

Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and finely diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
Leaves from 2 springs of mint, finely sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt

NY Street Vendor Salad
1 large head of romaine lettuce
1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced or shaved on a mandoline
Yogurt-Tahini Dressing (below)

Yogurt-Tahini Dressing
2 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 small garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon course sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 shallots, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 small cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons dried oregano crushed with your fingertips
8 large basil leaves
3 handfuls baby spinach
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon course sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground turkey
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 whole wheat English muffins (optional)

1. For the cucumber-yogurt sauce: Mix all the yogurt sauce ingredients in a bowl until blended, then stash in the refrigerator while you make the salad.

2. For the salad: In a large bowl combine the lettuce, tomatoes cucumber and onion. The book has you dress the salad, but with two of us eating, I preferred to keep the dressing on the side and save the remainder for leftovers. Nobody likes soggy leftover salad.

3. For the dressing: Whisk the tahini and water together until completely smooth. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Stash in the fridge while you make the burgers.

4. For the burgers: Blitz the shallots, garlic, oregano, basil, spinach, lemon zest, salt and pepper together in a food processor until finely chopped.

5. Place the mixture in a large bowl along with the turkey and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Form the mixture into 4 patties.

6. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the burgers with the olive oil and cook until firm to the touch and nicely browned, 7 to 8 minutes per side. Serve with yogurt sauce and salad. If you’re not into bunless burgers, serve on whole wheat English muffins.

* The reason I’ve basically provided an entire menu here is that the yogurt sauce for the burgers uses half a cucumber and so does the salad. Also, the burgers use lemon zest and the tahini dressing uses lemon juice so making them together keeps you from having half a cucumber and a skinless lemon laying around in your fridge. You’re welcome.

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