the insufficiently sauced burger

lamb burger at Lola

We recently stopped by Lola for lunch, on our way to see Pina at the Seattle Cinerama (which was amazing, by the way). We’d been to Lola for breakfast before, plus a late night run for doughnuts and grappa, but never for lunch, and I had to try the lamb burger. Because I always have to try the lamb burger.

It was disappointing. Not the lamb patty itself, which was cooked just the way I asked, or the bun, which was very nearly perfect, but the adornments, which I feel are the most important thing. They need to be interesting, but also messy and squishable so everything melds together into the sandwich. In this case there was nothing wrong with the lettuce, the grilled onion, the fabulous pickled vegetables, or the “Lola ketchup” which tasted like red pepper puree – but the vegetables were too firm to squish and didn’t fit on the burger, the ketchup was far better used as a dip for the (amazing) polenta fries, and there was no other sauce or cheese whatsoever. This is a pet peeve of mine about burgers in my home town, which never have any sauce on them and need to be ordered with a side of mayo just to get them properly drippy. Burgers should not be easy to eat neatly. I ended up borrowing a spoonful of tzatziki sauce from my husband’s plate of squid kebabs.

squid kebab

I was envious of the squid kebabs. Perfectly cooked, coated with chermoula sauce and accompanied by Greek salad and pita bread, they were some of the best squid I’ve eaten. I know what I’m getting next time we go there.

squid kebab

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pastitsio

pastitsio

It’s a good thing I like this dish, because we made a huge pan of it last Sunday and I’m still eating it for lunch. We probably should have invited about eight people over to dinner when we first made it, although I’m not quite tired of it yet. It’s awfully good.

pastitsiomy morning walk

Pastitsio, if you haven’t heard of it, is the Greek answer to lasagna. Details differ, but the basic formula is hollow pasta (preferably bucatini, which we can’t get, but other shapes work) layered with spiced tomato meat sauce and an egg-enriched white sauce which forms a custardy topping. The textures are fabulous, creamy and chewy all at once, and the cool custard complements the meaty tomato flavors. It’s a bit of work to put together, but well worth the effort if you have a long Sunday afternoon to spare. And now that autumn is here and standing over a hot stove is actually a pleasant activity, why not?

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hortopita

dinner

For our end-of-summer party this year, we let ourselves be inspired by the latest issue of Saveur and made food with a Greek or Mediterranean slant: dolmades, tzatziki, tabouli, grilled flank steak, lemon chicken, grilled eggplant dip, hummus, and so on. For a while we were considering pastitsio (sort of a Greek lasagna), but decided on a greens-filled phyllo pie instead. I thought this would be spanakopita, the classic buttery spinach-feta pie, but then I discovered hortopita.

red chard

purslane

Hortopita is like spanakopita, but better. It uses any sort of greens mixture (horta in Greek) plus scallions and fragrant herbs, and instead of butter you brush the phyllo with olive oil, making it much less rich. I ended up making this twice this week – the one I made for the party disappeared almost instantly, and since there was phyllo left over I figured I’d just make us another one.

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