Early herb inspires return to the grill

Chicken takes the place of beef in this chicken, spinach and chive burger.
Jarrad Henderson/Detroit Free Press/MCT
Story by Susan M. Selasky
(Detroit Free Press/MCT)
Sun, May 22, 2011
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The unofficial start of the grilling season is a few weeks away. We know people grill year-round, but May is deemed National Barbecue Month by the National Barbecue Association. And something happens to cooks once the warm weather hits. They start polishing that burger flipper and waving those tongs around.

What got me thinking about grilling was seeing the chives that popped up weeks ago in a corner of my garden. It was a welcome sign to put this year’s gray, yucky winter behind.

I kicked around some ideas and thought of doing burgers — but not the big, juicy beef variety that are a staple of the grilling season.

I wanted to ease into things with the lighter option of a ground chicken burger with hints of those fresh chives for a little wow factor. Chopped fresh chives have a mild onion taste and give the ground chicken a flavor boost. You can use chives raw or cooked. They’re a good match for so many foods, including baked potatoes and potato salads. You also can add them to egg dishes, casseroles and soups. You can mix raw chives and other herbs with softened butter, which is great for corn on the cob and other vegetables.

The easiest way to cut chives is to snip them with scissors.

And ground chicken breast is a welcome change from ground turkey for burgers. It’s also a great source of lean protein when you’re looking to cut calories and fat . Ground chicken breast has only about 100 calories for 4 ounces and less than 1 gram of fat.

When buying ground poultry, pay attention to labels. If the package is labeled simply “ground chicken” — and not “ground chicken breast” — it will have more fat. A 4-ounce raw portion of ground chicken can have 9 grams of fat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t have a standard for the amount of fat that ground poultry can have, according to its Web site. But the USDA does note that ground poultry includes “all components,” such as skin and fat as well as muscle.

To be considered very lean, ground poultry has to be 97 percent or more fat-free. Some labels will state this.

Keep in mind that chicken or turkey burgers can dry out quickly, so mix in other ingredients to add moisture. For today’s chicken burgers, I used a little honey Dijon mustard for a sweet yet tangy note.

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CHICKEN CHIVE AND SPINACH BURGERS

Makes: 4 / Preparation time: 15 minutes / Total time: 35 minutes

You can grill, broil or pan-fry these burgers.

  • 2 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • 16 ounces ground chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons honey Dijon mustard
  • 1 small bunch fresh chives, snipped (about 1/3 cup snipped)
  • 1 teaspoon Morton’s Nature’s Seasons Seasoning Blend (or favorite all-purpose seasoning)
  • 1/4 cup panko (or regular) bread crumbs

FOR SERVING

  • 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
  • Lettuce, cheese slices, tomato slices
  • 4 thin sandwich buns such as Aunt Millie’s 90-calorie Slimwiches

Preheat or prepare the grill. Rinse the spinach leaves. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach leaves with water still clinging to the leaves. Saute the spinach until wilted.

In a bowl, combine the ground chicken, honey Dijon, cooked spinach, chives, seasoning blend and bread crumbs. Mix well. Shape into 4 patties about 1/2-inch thick.

Oil the grill grates and grill the burgers about 6-8 minutes per side or until thoroughly cooked. An instant-read thermometer should register 165 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard and chives.

To assemble burgers, toast the buns, if desired. Spread a dollop of the mayonnaise mixture on the inside of each bun. Place lettuce on the bottom. Top with the burger, cheese slice and tomato. Place the other bun half on top and serve.

393 calories (24 percent from fat ), 10 grams fat (4 grams sat. fat ), 35 grams carbohydrates, 37 grams protein, 894 mg sodium, 84 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber.

Chicken, Chives, Food, recipes
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