It seems our food culture today allows little room for middle ground, leaving the impression that you have to choose between Team Meat and Team Meatless. But that all-or-nothing notion is more about zeitgeist than it is about science.
While you can certainly eat healthfully and get all the nutrients you need without red meat, you can include it if you are smart about it. One strategy is to go with smaller portions than, say, the 8-ounce burgers or 12-ounce steaks you might ordinarily cook up and fill that extra space on your plate with vegetables and/or whole grains.
The accompanying recipe is a supremely tasty example of how satisfying that tactic can be. In it, whole-grain bulgur wheat, cumin, garlic and herbs are mixed with lean ground lamb to form flavor-packed, Middle-Eastern-style meat patties that are chargrilled and served with a lemony three-herb sauce. Besides adding a wonderful texture and earthy, nutty taste to the rich lamb, the bulgur provides whole-grain nutrition and volume, so the relatively modest amount of meat has a satisfying presence on the plate.
Served drizzled with the sauce, and perhaps alongside a heap of simply grilled vegetables or a large salad, these lamb patties are a compelling way to enjoy meat in healthful balance.
Grilled lamb and bulgur patties with herb sauce
Here, whole-grain bulgur wheat, plus cumin, garlic and herbs, are mixed with lean ground lamb to form flavor-packed, Middle-Eastern-style meat patties, which are served with a lemony three-herb sauce.
Besides adding a wonderful texture and earthy, nutty taste to the rich lamb, the bulgur also provides whole-grain nutrition and volume, so the sensible portion of meat has a healthfully satisfying presence on the plate.
You could cook these in a grill pan on the stovetop as well.
⅓ cup bulgur wheat (medium-coarse grind)
2 medium cloves garlic
1 large shallot (2 ounces)
1½ cups lightly packed fresh parsley leaves, plus more for garnish
½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
12 ounces lean ground lamb
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons water
Cook the bulgur according to the directions on the package and allow to cool slightly.
Prepare the grill for direct heat: If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them on the grill. For a medium-hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand 6 inches above the coals for 6 or 7 seconds. Close the lid and open the vents about a quarter of the way. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames.
Pulse the garlic in a mini food processor. Add the shallots; pulse until they are chopped as well. Add the parsley, cilantro and basil; pulse 10 to 15 times, until they are chopped yet still have some texture.
Transfer half the herb mixture to a mixing bowl (leaving the other half in the food processor). Add the ground lamb, cooked bulgur, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper to the mixing bowl. Use your clean hands to blend well and then form eight oblong patties of equal size.
Add the lemon juice and zest and the remaining ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper to the herb mixture in the food processor; pulse to incorporate, then, with the motor running, drizzle in the oil and as much of the water as you need, depending on how thick you want the sauce. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Place the patties on the grill; close the lid and cook for about 3 minutes per side (for medium), until grill marks have formed.
To serve, spoon some sauce onto each plate then top with the lamb patties. Garnish with parsley.
Makes 4 servings (8 patties). Nutrition per serving: 270 calories, 20 grams protein, 14 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams fat, 4 grams saturated fat, 55 milligrams cholesterol, 380 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 1 gram sugar.