It used to be, come summer, backyard grills would fire up with typical, standard beef burgers. But the way Natalie Lasch sees it, there are plenty more choices for patties between the bun. Take a hint from those famous Chick-fil-A cows and eat more chicken. Not to mention turkey, beans, soy and a range of other cookout options.
"People are becoming more progressive and their tastes are getting more eclectic," said Lasch, chef and recipe creator for Dinner A'Fare, a meal assembly store with a location at The Avenue Webb Gin. "We're becoming more willing to try new things, and mesh different flavors and values from different cultures."
A desire for leaner meals, too, has helped push the trend of alternative burgers on the dinner table. While some fat is needed to bind burgers together, Lasch said, ground white meats, seafood and vegetable-based burgers work just as well as beef and offer fewer calories and grease stains.
Hit the ground or sea
At the Dinner A'Fare, a Greek-flavored turkey burger, with spinach, feta cheese and garlic blended into the ground meat, as well as a Southwest chicken burger, with green peppers and Monterey jack cheese as patty toppers, have been top sellers with customers.
"Those both went over really well," she said. "I think it worked to show people that there are a lot of fun things you can do to spice up the plain burger."
Recently, Lasch has seen a rise in seafood-based burgers. Salmon and tuna burgers are hot choices, and crab-cake patties, eaten between a baguette bun, sound more gourmet, but are still family-friendly fare.
Using regional ingredients, like buffalo and venison, is an option slowly weaving into the culinary scene. The South has been off to a slower cooking start, though more recently, "we are becoming more interested in venturing out and trying new things," she said.
"With the more gamier meats like (venison and buffalo), so much is based on your
geography and what you grew up on," she said. "Buffalo and venison make fine substitutes for beef, but in our area, it has been slower to catch on. We are beginning to see turkey and chicken utilized more, and also fish, like tuna, and vegetables."
No meat, please
Crafting burgers for non-meat eaters is simple and easy, Lasch said. Light and grill-able frozen patties, such as the Amy's California burger - made from a blend of grains, organic vegetables, mushrooms and walnuts - are ideal for cookouts. Black bean patties, such as the black bean chipotle patty from Gardenburger, are equally suitable, she said.
Grilled vegetables marinated in balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a blend of spices are also a treat for meatless burgers, Lasch said. Try grilling out vegetables such as portobello mushrooms, bell peppers and squash "to create one of my favorite, delicious meals," she said.
Hidden secret revealed
The hidden secret to a tricked-out patty, be it beef or bean, is in the toppings, Lasch said. Whipping together mayonnaise with spices, pesto or garlic sauce can create a new twist on an old taste. Adding salsa, spinach or roasted veggies to a burger, or mixing toppings such as blue cheese or spiced corn into the patty before it's grilled, can take standard flavors to a higher level.
"The real trick is in the toppings and seasoning mixes," she said. "You don't necessarily have to have a different meat or main protein item to have a different flavor profile in your burger. You can add items like salsa, garlic aioli, pesto mayonnaise or olive tapenade. Just be adventurous, experiment and see what you can come up with by using your imagination."
6 4-ounce filets of salmon
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons for grill seasoning
Marinate the filets in the items listed above. Then grill or bake until flaky. Add to your choice of bun and add a wasabi-mayonnaise (purchased at grocery store) and additional lettuce and tomato.
Source: Natalie Lasch, The Dinner A'Fare
Grilled Portobello Burger
1 yellow bell pepper
4 tomato slices
1⁄3 cup green onions
large resealable food storage bag
2 teaspoons roasted garlic
2 teaspoons Montreal steak seasoning
1⁄2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 portobello mushroom caps
4 French hamburger rolls
Butter-flavored vegetable cooking spray
2 slices mozzarella cheese
4 bibb lettuce leaves
Preheat grill. Wash all vegetables. Remove mushroom stems, if needed. Slice pepper in half and remove seeds. Slice into 1⁄2-inch strips. Slice off stem end of tomato. Cut tomato into 4 slices. Dice green onion into 1⁄4-inch pieces, including up to 1⁄2 of green section. Place the following in food storage bag: garlic, steak seasoning, liquid smoke, soy sauce and olive oil; shake to mix. Add mushrooms, peppers and onions and shake to coat. Marinate for 5 minutes, turning occasionally.
Cut rolls in half. Spray grill with cooking spray and lay bread flat on grill. Close lid and grill for 1 minute. Remove rolls from grill and place on serving plates. Place peppers on grill, close lid and grill for 2 minutes. While peppers are grilling, cut cheese in half. Remove peppers from grill and place on rolls. Lay cheese slice on top of peppers.
Place mushrooms on grill, gill cap side up. Pour half marinade over mushrooms. Close lid and grill for 2 minutes. Turn mushrooms over and pour remaining marinade over mushrooms. Grill for an additional 2 minutes. Remove mushrooms from grill and place on top of cheese. Place one lettuce leaf on top of each sandwich. Top with other half of roll. Serve.
Spicy Turkey Burgers
2 pounds lean ground turkey
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger root
2 fresh green chile peppers, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
1⁄2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground dry mustard
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Dash Worcestershire sauce
Preheat the grill to high heat. In a bowl, mix the ground turkey, garlic, ginger, chile peppers, red onion, cilantro, salt, soy sauce, black pepper, paprika, mustard, cumin and Worcestershire sauce. Form the mixture into 8 burger patties. Lightly oil the grill grate. Place turkey burgers on the grill, and cook 5 to 10 minutes per side, until well done.