On the Grill: Healthy Burger Dinner

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After the indulgences of summer (ice cream! Barbecues! Cocktails!) and the High Holidays (matzah ball soup! Challah! Bagels! Whitefish salad! Honey cake!), many of us feel the need to reduce.

With that in mind, I crafted this lower-carb but still delicious grilled dinner. If burgers without the bun seem just wrong, you can shape these any way you want. They are basically a riff on kofta kebabs, so feel free to form them into links on skewers if that helps you sacrifice bun. And if you are slender as a skewer yourself, then serve these in pitas and live it up.

Many Mediterranean restaurants serve these with tzatziki, which is a yogurt-based sauce. For kosher diners, toum, aioli, horseradish sauce or any favorite condiment are suitable workarounds.


We now are moving to the in-between season where fall veggies are emerging while we are still enjoying the last of summer produce. This menu attempts to straddle the seasons while using the best of both.

And, for the record, I recognize that sweet potatoes are most definitely a carb, but they are a natural, wholesome, unprocessed carb that pack a lot of good nutrients and are supremely satisfying.

Kofta-style Burgers

Serves four

These are quite versatile: You can use the ground meat of your choice, and swap different herbs or flavors to suit your crowd. This version has a Greek feel with the dill and onion, but you could go in any direction. I added some breadcrumbs to bind the mixture together, but if you are being strictly low-/no-carb, this can be eliminated.

  • 1 pound ground beef, lamb, turkey or chicken
  • ¼ cup fresh dill, chopped finely
  • ⅓ cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup broth, water, wine or beer
  • ¼ cup seasoned bread crumbs
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Lots of fresh cracked pepper

Mix all ingredients well. Using an electric mixer ensures even distribution of flavors and textures.

Form the mixture into patties; I kept mine on the small side, about ⅓ cup of the meat for each one.

Heat a well-oiled grill to high, and carefully place the patties on it. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes then flip. Repeat for another 3 minutes. Turn the heat off, or push the burgers to the outer edges of the grill and cover for one minute to let them rest. Serve immediately.

Sweetest Sweet Potatoes

Serves four

Using the microwave is a clever shortcut, and finishing these on the grill adds plenty of sweet, caramelized smoky flavor. Start these before you cook the burgers, and time it so both dishes finish at the same time. The sweet potatoes are not time-sensitive; they can stay on the grill longer than indicated below; they will just get softer and sweeter.

  • 4 small or 2 large sweet potatoes

Rinse and prick the sweet potatoes. Place them on a microwave-safe plate and cook for 5-8 minutes, rotating once, until done and soft through the middle.

Wrap the sweet potatoes in foil, and cook them on a medium-hot grill for about 20 minutes.

Remove, unwrap, slice in half and serve.

Summer-Fall Salad

Serves four

This salad showcases the best of summer and early fall. Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are still available, while fall carrots, beets and cabbage are arriving at local markets.

  • 1 head lettuce
  • 1 large tomato, chopped (or 1 pint cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • ½ bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 small raw beets, peeled and sliced
  • 3 carrots, shaved
  • ¼ head cabbage, chopped

Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Place all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Place all the dressing ingredients in a blender and puree until creamy. Toss it over the salad and serve.

Grilled Peaches

Serves four

Late season peaches — or freestones — are ideal for this recipe because the pit removes easily. And if the fruit’s texture is less than ideal this time of year, roasting them on the grill makes that a nonissue.

These can be cooked at the same time as the sweet potatoes and set aside until needed for dessert. Top them with crushed nuts, sorbet or cookie crumbs. If your meal is dairy or pareve, serve with ice cream or a mild, fresh, creamy cheese such as mascarpone, ricotta or chevre.

  • 4 ripe peaches, halved and pitted
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted margarine or butter
  • A few drips of your favorite liquor: rum, bourbon, brandy, Kahlua, etc.

Place each peach half on a square of heavy-duty foil (or a double thickness of standard foil) and spritz with lemon juice.

Melt butter or margarine and mix it with the sugar and liquor. Pour this mixture equally over each peach, allowing it to pool in the middle.

Wrap the peaches up, sealing each packet at the top, and roast on a medium-high grill for about 15 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

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