Merguez Burgers with Cucumber Dressing from Caroline Wright’s Twenty Dollar Twenty Minute Meals

Listen to the interview.

A rising culinary star, Caroline Wright, has developed a way of cooking that is at once simple enough for kitchen newbies and sophisticated enough for the seasoned gourmand. And the title issues up a bold promise: get a fresh, inventive, easy meal on the table for $20 or less, in 20 minutes or less.  It’s Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals. 

Caroline  is a food writer, editor, recipe developer and tester, food stylist, and photographer who works for COOKING LIGHT, REAL SIMPLE, EVERY DAY WITH RACHAEL RAY, WOMEN’S DAY, and Oxmoor House, among others. Her Twenty-Dollar, Twenty-Minute Meals column appears weekly on Food52.com. A former food editor at MARTHA STEWART’S EVERYDAY FOOD, she is a graduate of the prestigious Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne. Caroline lives with her husband and son in Dallas, Texas.

She shared her recipe for Merguez Burgers plus 20 great cooking tips.

1.Smell your olive oil before using it—if it smells like anything other than olives, it won’t taste good.

2.Store cheese wrapped in parchment or waxed paper, not plastic wrap—cheese that comes into direct contact with plastic wrap goes bad faster and can taste gross.

3. Play around with reasonable ingredient swaps, like one summer green for another to wilt in a skillet, for variation. Unsure? Another tip: make friends with your produce guy.

4. Put a damp dishcloth or paper towel under your cutting board to keep it from sliding around while you chop.

5. Read your recipe from beginning to end before you begin to cook.

6. Clean while you cook. It keeps your kitchen from looking like a total disaster at the end, but also it keeps the integrity of your flavors and foods intact. (A cut apple that tastes like garlic isn’t worth it.)

7. If you own only one knife, make it a chef’s knife and keep it sharp.

8. Always keep salad greens and homemade dressing in your fridge for an impromptu side or second course.

9. Buy one each of the following, seeking out the best you can afford: olive oil, sea salt, and chocolate. They are invaluable in finishing up a great meal.

10. Don’t store your spices next to your stovetop—keep them in a cool, out-of-the-way spot so they keep their flavor. (Though toss them before you move to your next apartment, please.)

11. Look at and listen to what you’re cooking—the best flavors come from paying attention and knowing when a dish or component is done. (If you’re the forgetful type, use a timer.)

12. Make inactive time in a recipe work for you. While you boil water for pasta or preheat the oven, move on to the next step.

13. Make grocery lists to avoid picking up stuff you don’t need.

14. Gather all the ingredients and equipment you need for a recipe before you begin to cook.

15. Group ingredients together according to when they are used to save time and dishes. (For example, if onions and garlic are added to the skillet at the same time, keep them in the same bowl.)

16. Use your freezer. It is the best place to store both leftovers and ingredients for a new meal—it’s where my homemade pizza dough and marinara sauce live, alongside portions of soup or partial loaves of bread.

17. Crack eggs into a separate bowl before combining them with other ingredients. If you get a stray fragment of shell in your eggs, use another piece of shell to scoop it out.

18. Buy a cast-iron skillet. They are satisfying to cook with, cheaper than other similarly heavy cookware, last forever (they make great family heirlooms!), and sear the best steak.

19. Season dishes with salt and pepper as you cook. Most dishes like more seasoning, not less. Taste your food along the way to check the seasoning.

20. Ask your friends to bring the wine (always works for me!).

Directions

Preheat a grill to medium-high heat or a grill pan over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, place 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, ½ teaspoon coriander seeds, and ½ teaspoon cumin seeds in a mortar and crush with a pestle.
In a medium bowl, combine the spices with 1 pound ground lamb, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon harissa paste (or 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon paprika), 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper. Oil the grill grate or pan. Form the spiced meat into four 11/2-inch thick patties and grill, turning once, until charred and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium doneness.
While the burgers are cooking, combine 3 sliced Kirby cucumbers, ¼ cup Greek yogurt, and 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the burgers on rolls topped with the cucumber dressing.
or top with:
tahini + lemon juice + roasted red peppers + mint


What's Needed:

 

2 teaspoons fennel seeds
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 pound ground lamb
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon harissa paste (or 1 teaspoon chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon paprika)
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper.
3 sliced Kirby cucumbers
¼ cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
rolls

or top with:
tahini + lemon juice + roasted red peppers + mint

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