For my first recipe, I wanted to make the cornerstone of the Assyrian meal at my house: the Assyrian Hamburger. It is flavorful, juicy, and unlike any other kofta you’ll find in the Middle East.
We began to eat them as appetizers at my house, which is how I’m plating them here. They’re not particularly big – a pound of ground beef makes about 6 patties, so you could have 1 or 2 without filling up before the meal.
We started this tradition of burgers as appetizers because they rarely made it to the table! My father grills them outside and all the men stand around drinking and talking together. My cousin Ron would always stand right by my father, steal hamburgers as they came off the grill, and pop them straight into his mouth. Whoever said, “let the meat rest” clearly was not talking about Assyrian Hamburgers. As the men began to catch on to Ron’s discovery they all began to partake, so when my father brought them back into the house 1/3 would be missing. My mother tried to scold them and force them to wait until dinner, but once she tasted one for herself she realized Ron’s genius. Now she makes extra burgers specifically for everyone to eat right off the grill. Come rain or shine, hot or cold, snow or hail, you will always see my entire family hovered around the grill, waiting for the Assyrian Hamburgers.
They are served with Jalalee, which is a raw onion salad. Don’t be scared of it – the onion is diced small enough so that it’s not overwhelming like those gross slabs of raw onions at steakhouses. And the succulence and juiciness of the burger cuts through the acidity of the onion. Perfection.
My mother always makes them the day before and lets them sit in the fridge to allow the flavors to gel. They also freeze beautifully, so always make the full recipe.
3 lbs ground chuck
2 tbl season salt
Salt and pepper to taste
2 small to medium onions, finely chopped
1 bunch chopped cilantro
1/2 as much chopped dill
1 white onion, diced
½ cup dill, chopped
½ cup cilantro, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
To make the burgers, use a food processor to finely chop the onions. Then mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with your hands until completely incorporated.
Form the hamburgers into small hot dog shapes. You should get about 5 to 6 per pound. You can cook them immediately if you wish, but it’s better to leave them overnight in the fridge if possible. You can also freeze them for up to 6 months.
To make the Jalalee, toss all the chopped vegetables in a bowl until mixed. That’s it!
Preheat your grill to 350 degrees. Grill burgers for about 3 minutes on each side until medium rare. 4 minutes per side will be closer to medium.
Serve hot with Jalalee.