Mediterranean Chicken Burgers

During college, I wrote a long essay about the concept of home — about my childhood home, and the various places I’d lived throughout my life (Italy, Lewisburg) and how I defined “being home.” I mused about missing home, about four walls not being enough to call a place home, exactly, and about the people that had made each place I’d lived special. I was lonely in Italy, lonely in Lewisburg, and less lonely in Boston. During my high school years north of Seattle, all I wanted to do was move away from Washington to prove that I could, to learn how to be on my own in a world that cared nothing about that I thought.

Now, though, I’m back in Seattle. I never could have predicted this. And yet, I keep telling people: I’m home. I walk down the street and I say to myself: I’m home. I don’t mean that I’m back living where I once did, although that’s true. I mean that city this feels, to me, like the home I was looking for all along. This place is sunny and rainy and I know it because I grew up here. I understand how to talk to people, when to make eye contact and when to avoid it, where to turn off the freeway to get good burgers, and which neighborhoods to avoid. I know which ferries take you where and I understand that putting on rain boots would label me as the tourist I don’t want to be. I know the places that have been around for forever, and I’m shocked by the newness of certain buildings and people and companies. I know this place, its customs, its traditions, its assumptions, its flaws. I’ve never moved to a place where things have been known by me — before this, the intrigue was always about discovery, struggle, and challenge. For me, Boston and Italy and Pennsylvania are marked by how I overcame loneliness and struggle, not by their ease.

But now? Now I’m in a place that’s full of ease, where I’m not trying to prove that I can survive, where I’m not trying to figure out if I’m home or not, where I’m not confused by the public transportation or the weather or the way people talk. I’m just here. I’m just home. My people are here — the ones who’ve known me since I was 5, who saw me through my awkward years, who stayed friends with me when I wore head gear to class, when I liked the wrong boys and tried out strange diets. I know this place and I am known in this place and suddenly, without trying to prove things, I feel more settled than I have in years, than I have ever.

As I planned for this move, I thought coming back here might feel like a cop-out, like I’d given up on my wandering soul and decided to tie myself to a place that I’d always promised to never come back to. I know now that moving back here is putting the puzzle pieces back together, and that I couldn’t have loved this place again if I hadn’t gone somewhere else.

Home is an idea, I think. It’s not a building. It’s not even people. It’s the feeling that you can rest, without trying to be too much or too little, and just be.

Mediterranean Chicken Burgers

Serves 4
  • 1 pound ground chicken (or ground turkey)
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (or crumbled pita chips, if you’re like me and forgot to buy breadcrumbs)
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 3 fresh basil leaves, minced, or 1 t dried basil
  • 1/2 t thyme, chopped fresh or dried
  • 1/2 t rosemary, chopped fresh or dried
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 avocado, mashed
  • 2-4 oz goat cheese
  • balsamic onion jam
  • hamburger buns
  • condiments: ketchup, dijon mustard, arugula, etc.

In a bowl, combine ground chicken, egg, breadcrumbs, red onion, garlic, basil, thyme, rosemary and salt and pepper. Stir to combine. The mixture should be pretty wet and sticky. If it’s not, add a splash of milk. If it seems impossibly goopy, add a few more breadcrumbs.

Form the mixture into 4 patties and put them on a plate in the fridge, covered, to chill for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mash your avocado and add the goat cheese to the avocado with a sprinkle of salt. Stir to combine.

You can cook these burgers on an outdoor grill, or on a cast iron skillet inside. Be sure to cover the pan with a lid for about 5 minutes so the burgers cook through, and check for doneness frequently by sticking a small knife into the side of the patty. When you don’t see pink, they’re done. (Ground chicken has less fat than beef, so it can dry out if you overcook it.)

Assemble the burgers, piling the avocado goat cheese smash on top of the patty, then topping the smash with a second pile of onion jam. Add your favorite condiments and enjoy!

For the beer battered onion rings you see in the picture, I simply used the leftover batter from these fish tacos. I sliced an onion into 3/4 inch thick rings, then dipped the rings into the batter and fried them on the stovetop, following the same directions that you see in the taco post. They were delicious.


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