Democracy Is Delicious

An international twist on the classic Independence Day cookout.

My favorite burger isn’t American.

There, I’ve said it.

My go-to burger is a Greek lamb burger that I first tasted while gazing at the Parthenon of the famous Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Granted, anything you ate while that was in your sights was likely to taste better, but this was a truly delicious burger.

So when I’m thinking of what to grill for Independence Day, it’s actually appropriate that I’m thinking Greek, since Ancient Greece was the birthplace of modern democracy.

The word “democracy” first appeared in Greek political and philosophical writings during classical antiquity. The word comes from the Greek dêmos, or “common people,” and krátos for “strength” or “power,” and the first democracy was created in Athens in 508–507 BCE.

But let’s get back to the burger.

Most Greek beef recipes rely on a staple of herbs and spices to give them the classic Mediterranean flavor. You’ll find parsley, mint, and oregano blended with a combination of juicy ground lamb and beef, along with a topping of fresh tomato slices and feta cheese, two of the ingredients in an Authentic Greek Salad. I’m a fan of adding some fresh cucumber slices to mine, too, along with a hearty dollop of Tzatziki Sauce.

And just as they did on their first visit to Greece six years ago, our boys still love piling crispy French fries on theirs. Or would that make them Greek fries?

This week’s subscriber exclusives: I don’t know that I’ve ever had a meal in Greece that didn’t include fresh fruit for dessert. You rarely order it; it’s just a generous gesture on the part of most restaurant owners. In fact, there’s a word for the ancient Greek concept of hospitality: xenia (ξενία). It translates as “guest friendship,” and most Greeks feel hospitality is their moral obligation. Which leads me to Grilled Watermelon and Feta with Mint. It can be dessert or a side dish or a salad or whatever else you need it to be. It’s that hospitable.

Flavorful rice with toasted pine nuts and Greek-seasoned ground beef are folded inside preserved grape leaves and steamed to perfection in Greek Dolmades. You can also substitute ground turkey for the beef or swap the meat for raisins to make a classic vegetarian version. Dolmades make delicious hors d’oeuvres or a hearty entrée — it all depends on how many you eat.


Greek Lamb Burgers

Most Greek beef recipes rely on a staple of herbs and spices to give them the classic Mediterranean flavor. In these amazing burgers, you’ll find parsley, mint, and oregano blended with a combination of juicy ground lamb and beef, along with a topping of fresh tomato slices and feta cheese, two of the ingredients in an Authentic Greek Salad. I’m a fan of adding some fresh cucumber slices to mine, too, along with a hearty dollop of Tzatziki Sauce.

Serve these hamburger patties in toasted pita pockets or between slices of grilled flatbread.

1 pound ground lamb
1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, minced
1 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and freshly-ground black pepper

In a large bowl, add all ingredients and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours to allow flavors to combine.

Preheat your grill to medium. Form the meat mixture into patties approximately 3/4” to 1” thick and 3” to 4” in diameter. Cook for approximately four minutes on each side, or until the burgers are browned on the outside and a quick-read food thermometer registers 160°F at the center of each. Serve immediately. Makes six to eight servings.


For $5 a month, you can get an additional weekly issue of Around the World in 80 Plates that includes bonus recipes not available to the public.

This week’s subscriber exclusives:

  • Grilled Watermelon with Feta and Mint: Juicy watermelon, made sweeter on the grill. Salty feta, made creamier on the grill. And fresh mint to brighten everything to a crescendo. All you need are a few easy techniques to master this amazing dish that can be a dessert or a side dish or a salad or whatever else you need it to be.

  • Greek Dolmades: Flavorful rice with toasted pine nuts and Greek-seasoned ground beef are folded inside preserved grape leaves and steamed to perfection in this traditional dish. You can also substitute ground turkey for the beef or swap the meat for raisins to make a classic vegetarian version. Dolmades make delicious hors d’oeuvres or a hearty entrée — it all depends on how many you eat.