Grilling a chubby patty that's truly lean

BURGER LITE

June 30, 1993|By Susan Stuck | Susan Stuck,Contributing Writer

A summer without hamburgers is like a summer without sunshine. But at 30 grams of fat per serving, the big, juicy backyard hamburger needs some attention if it is going to be reconciled with health concerns. Here are a few ways to relieve the burger of some of that fat.

The first step is to buy lean meat. Choose ground beef labeled 90 percent lean or better. Alternatively, as a guarantee of low fat content as well as the freshness of ground meat, you can buy a lean cut of meat -- the top, eye or bottom round are lean beef cuts -- and ask the butcher to trim and grind it for you.

Combining meat with grains or beans is the next step in lowering the proportion of fat in burgers. This is not a compromise, as the grains are an integral part of the recipes' flavors. Grilling or broiling instead of pan-frying burgers further reduces the fat content.

Burgers, low-fat ones in particular, are tastier when seasonings are mixed in before cooking. The recipes that follow explore a range of flavors and go beyond beef as a burger base. When shaping the patties, handle the mixture as little and as lightly as possible -- a loosely packed burger is a juicier burger -- and don't press down on them while cooking.

Beef burgers with caramelized onions

Serves 4

1/3 cup bulgur

2 teaspoons olive oil

4 cups sliced onions (4 medium)

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

3/4 pound lean ground beef

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 hamburger buns, split and toasted

lettuce for garnish

In a small bowl, combine bulgur with 1/2 cup warm water; let stand for 30 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and the bulgur is tender. Meanwhile, in a large, non-stick skillet, heat oil over low heat. Add onions and sugar; saute until the onions are very tender and golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup water and the vinegar. Season with salt and keep warm.

Prepare a grill or preheat the broiler. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the plumped bulgur, beef, tomato paste, parsley, salt and pepper; mix thoroughly but lightly. Shape into four 3/4 -inch-thick patties. Grill or broil on a lightly oiled rack until cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Place the patties on buns, top with the caramelized onions and garnish with lettuce.

417 calories per serving: 23 g protein, 15 g fat, 47 g carbohydrate; 359 mg sodium; 54 mg cholesterol

Chickpea burgers

Serves 4

4 teaspoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons vegetable oil, preferably canola oil

1/2 cup chopped scallions (4 scallions)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup cooked brown rice

2/3 cup wheat germ

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 1/2 -inch-thick slices tomato

4 6-inch pita breads

non-fat plain yogurt for garnish

spinach leaves for garnish

Heat a small skillet over low heat. Add sesame seeds and toast, stirring almost constantly, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add coriander and cumin; cook, stirring until fragrant, 10 to 20 seconds longer. Turn onto a plate and cool. Grind with a mortar and pestle or in a spice mill and set aside. Add oil to the skillet and heat over medium heat. Add scallions and garlic; saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

Prepare a grill or preheat broiler. In a medium-sized bowl, mash chickpeas coarsely with potato masher. Stir in rice, 1/3 cup wheat germ, lemon juice, salt, pepper, the reserved sesame seed-spice mixture and the scallion-garlic mixture; mix well. Shape into four 3/4 -inch-thick patties. In a shallow dish, dredge the patties in the remaining 1/3 cup wheat germ, pressing the wheat germ firmly onto the patties.

Grill or broil the patties and tomato slices on a lightly oiled rack until browned and heated through, about 3 minutes per side. Tuck the patties into pitas; garnish with yogurt and spinach.

380 calories per serving: 16 g protein, 9 g fat, 63 g carbohydrate; 527 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol.

Chili burgers

Serves 4

1 teaspoon vegetable oil, preferably canola oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 cup cooked black beans

3/4 pound lean ground beef

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 Kaiser rolls, split and toasted

tomato salsa for garnish

shredded lettuce for garnish

In a small, non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute until light golden, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, jalapenos and cumin; saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes longer. (If the mixture becomes too dry, add 1 tablespoon water.) Transfer the mixture to a medium-sized bowl.

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