May It Please the Palate: "Who is Peggy Lampman?"

By Nick Roumel

If you know the Back Alley Gourmet in Ann Arbor, it was founded by Peggy Lampman, who ran it for 20 years before selling. Still a lively and prolific food writer, Peggy maintains her web site ( with its lovingly tested recipes – even one for repurposing an old BBQ grill into an outdoor bar.

Peggy also appreciates a good lawyer. She’s donating, to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 10% of the proceeds from her first book, Simmer and Smoke; A Culinary Tale. Peggy describes this as “a smoldering novel weaving two women together in a landscape of organic farms, underground dinners and shadowy borders.” That’s my kind of mosaic.

I admire Peggy’s ability to approach a recipe in the same way, fitting ingredients together carefully, until they “click” to form a cohesive and delicious whole. An example is a recent gem from her blog for Lamb Burger Sliders.

Now I always thought of a slider as a three-bite burger; turns out that was too limiting. Peggy decrees it the perfect metaphor for our busy, multi-tasking lifestyles – to be able to eat with one hand while keeping the other busy, on one’s smart phone, drinking a brew, or driving (hopefully not simultaneously).

There recipe is a modern take on the simple combination of lamb and tzatziki, crowned by a mildly sweet King’s Hawaiian roll. Who’d have thought?

Lamb Burger Sliders with Beetroot Relish and Tzatziki

2 pounds ground lamb
1 pound of ground beef (chuck makes the juiciest burger)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2-1 cup chopped mint
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 heaping teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
16, 2-inch slider rolls (King’s Hawaiian)
1 recipe for beetroot relish (see below)
1 recipe for tzatziki (see below)

1. Gently knead the lamb, beef, garlic, mint, cardamom (if using), salt and pepper together. (Cook a small bit of the batch, taste, and adjust seasonings to palate.) Divide and form into 16 patties.

2. Oil grill grates, and heat gas or charcoal grill to medium-high. Grill the burgers for 3 minutes. Flip, and cook for 3 minutes longer for medium-rare, or until desired level of doneness. Grill the buns until lightly toasted, if desired.

3. Spread one side of bun with relish and the other side with tzatziki. (Recipes follow.) Place burgers in buns and serve.

Beetroot Relish

3-4 medium-sized red beets
1/2 medium-sized red onion
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar

1. Trim, peel and grate beets. Remove outer skin of onion. With a box grater, grate beets and onion.

2. Whisk together oil, vinegar and sugar. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir grated beets and onion into vinaigrette. (May be made several days in advance.)

1 large cucumber, peeled, cut lengthwise, seeded, then cut into small (1/4-inch) dice
2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs (dill or mint, or combination of both)
1 scant teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup plain, strained, Greek-styled yogurt (I use Fage 2 percent)

1. Place diced cucumbers on paper towels or in a fine mesh sieve; lightly sprinkle with kosher salt. Let drain 15-30 minutes, pressing into towels or sieve with spoon to release excess moisture.

2. Combine cucumbers with herbs, garlic and yogurt; season to taste with kosher salt, if needed, and freshly ground pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Thanks, Peggy, for joining me in May It Please the Palate!

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard, and Walker PC, a firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment and civil right litigation. He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for “Current” magazine in Ann Arbor.
He occasionally updates his blog at