It’s a Sunday in July, and the sun is beating down upon the hordes of hungry people eager to get their brunch on. This could be a scene from any one of Portland’s multifarious brunch destinations strewn about the city, but I’m at Rossi Farms by the Portland airport. And I’m petting a goat.
I’ve ventured to the fringes of this great food city for the seventh-annual Country Brunch, just one of the many events happening at Portland Monthly’s three-day Cowabunga food festival that celebrates everything worth devouring in our locally grown scene. At Country Brunch, the urban-rural culinary connection runs deep, with some of Portland’s top brunch spots such as Besaw’s and La Moule dishing up brilliant farm-to-fork bites. As no proper brunch is complete without libations, several different restaurants poured their own version of “breakfast in a glass” at the event’s Bloody Mary Smackdown. But as I sat on the steps of Rossi Farm’s faux wild-west church, enjoying the live twang of Portland’s own The Junebugs and watching attendees devour their machaca breakfast tacos, I noticed a gathering over at the Children’s Stage. Chef Antoinette Rossman, formerly of Tasty n Sons and a current chef at Bible Club, was on-hand to demonstrate how to make Greek burger bites with tzatziki dipping sauce.
“The Portland food scene is all about flavor adventures and the eater can be picky, but our kids are even pickier,” Chef Rossman explained with a wink. Rossman was bubbly and approachable, with deep purple in her hair to match her chef’s apron. She then went on to explain how her own 18-month-old daughter loves hamburgers, so she came up with this healthier—and more adventurous—version of the all-American go-to. “This recipe is fast, the flavors are fun, and your kids can even help you make it,” Rossman said, picking up her whisk. “Plus, people already have most ingredients in their fridge.”
To start, Rossman whisked up a couple eggs with a few teaspoons of oregano, garlic and onion powders. Then she added a pound of Laura’s 92% Lean Ground Beef, which is all-natural with no added hormones or antibiotics. “When it comes to beef, leaner is healthier and easier on the stomach,” Rossman explained. She then added panko crumbs and crumbled feta cheese into the bowl and started portioning the meat into meatballs with an ice cream scoop. “This is where your kids can help,” she winked again.
Next, Rossman went to work on the tzatziki sauce. I watched as she grated a cucumber directly onto a paper towel, then squeezed the bundle into a tight ball to force all the moisture out. “You don’t want any liquid because it’ll water down the dip,” she explained. She chopped a handful of parsley and mint and stirred them into a bowl of Greek yogurt along with the cucumber, a touch of garlic and lemon juice, and salt to taste. I could smell the fresh herbs from my second-row bench and I was all too happy when the chef reached behind her for a tray of pre-cooked meatballs and starting placing them onto paper plates. She added a dollop of the fragrant sauce to each and passed them out to the audience. I dipped my finger into the tzatziki and it was bright and tart, perfect for the hot afternoon. I could easily imagine it drizzled over grilled peaches or a simple tomato salad. Next, I tasted the meatball. Moist, tender, and with the surprise tang of feta. The perfect complement to yet another Bloody Mary.
Greek Burger Bites with Tzatziki Sauce
Created by Chef Antoinette Rossman
1 pound Laura’s 92% Lean Ground Beef
1 tsp oregano flake or 1/2 tsp minced fresh oregano
1 tsp garlic powder or 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced parsley
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/3 cup crumbled feta
mint for garnish
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cucumber grated or thinly sliced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp chopped mint
salt to taste
To make the meatballs: Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all herbs, seasonings, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and both eggs in a bowl. Whisk together until blended. Add ground beef and mix until fully incorporated. Be careful not to over-mix so your meat doesn’t become tough. Add panko and feta. Gently mix. With a small scoop, scoop individual meatballs onto a sheet tray lined with foil and cooking spray. Pour remaining olive oil into hands and roll meatballs into perfect rounds. Replace on sheet tray and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or 375 convection for 11 minutes. Temp meatballs to 165 degrees. Serve over tzatziki with a mint garnish, or in pita bread with Greek veggies.
To make the tzatziki: Grate cucumbers on a large grater and squeeze out excess water in a paper towel (reserve for later). Combine cucumber with all other ingredients. Add cucumber water to thin to your desired consistency. Salt to taste. Chill until served.