The last week has been a hectic one for a couple of reasons and as such has called for some quick, no-frills, family meals. Having made more than my fair share of saucy tomato-based dishes the last month (many of which I have yet to post), the night before found me wanting to use the ground beef I’d defrosted to make a fresh, simple and flavorful dish without employing even a tinge of chopped tomatoes, strained tomatoes, tomato paste or the like. After mentioning my ground beef “dilemma” to Peter of Kalofagas
that evening, he quickly started sounding off some ideas–all of which were tempting, some with tomato (ugh!) and some without. And then he said, “What about biftekia gemista?” And I thought, “Why not?”
So here’s my take on biftekia gemista (Oh, sorry! That would be Greek for “stuffed bur
gers” or beef patties, if you will). I often make biftekia simply using lots of fresh parsley, oregano, eggs, breadcrumbs and onion in the ground beef mixture; forming it into patties; and baking those in the oven surrounded with some thinly sliced potatoes tossed in olive oil and oregano. But having some fresh cilantro on hand, I omitted the oregano; and instead of the usual breadcrumbs or plain bread soaked in milk, I added some trahanas
to give these moist biftekia an entirely new dimension of flavor. In addition, I didn’t use an egg in the mixture as it was moist enough–just stuffed small cubes of two Greek cheeses (feta and kasseri) into the center of each patty and gave the burgers a good sear in a hot grill pan before placing them in the oven to finish off the cooking.
I served these biftekia with some sauteed spinach and a warm potato salad (as opposed to oven roasted potatoes or fries) and we had a fresh tasting, quick and healthy meal on our table in just minutes.
Biftekia Gemista–Stuffed Beef “Burgers”
Makes 12 patties
1.5 pounds ground beef
1 scallion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1/2 a small-medium onion, grated
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup trahanas
4 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Feta, roughly “cubed”
Kasseri, also cut into small cubes
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Add the trahanas to a small bowl and pour the milk over (use a bit more milk if all the trahanas isn’t moistened by the 4 tablespoons). Set aside.
Combine the beef with the scallions, onion, parsley, cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and the trahanas soaked in milk. Mix briefly with hands to incorporate and place in the refrigerator until your grill pan is heated through.
Heat a stovetop grill pan, or a large skillet, over high heat. Begin forming the beef mixture into patties. Holding a patty flat in the palm of your hand, press a small cube of feta and kasseri down into the center, then begin to pinch the beef up around the cheese to seal it in. Pat the beef to even it out and place in the heated grill pan to brown each side well (about 3 to 5 minutes per side). Once the biftekia are well browned, place the grill pan in the heated oven and cook the biftekia another 10 minutes.
Serve hot with a warm potato salad and some sauteed spinach.
Warm Potato Salad
6 medium-sized potatoes, washed, peeled, quartered and boiled until tender
1 lime, juiced
1/2 lemon, juiced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
3 scallions, chopped
Whisk together the lime juice, lemon juice, salt and pepper and slowly add the oil in a steady stream. While the potatoes are still warm, pour the dressing over and let stand for a few minutes. Sprinkle with the scallions and some finely chopped parsley or cilantro and serve still warm or at room temperature.