Meals on the bbq are summertime musts, insists award-winning Chef Kim Katz Alvarez, who has been preparing heart-healthy turkey burgers for her kids, Emma and Alejandro since they were toddlers.
“My kids are grown now, but one of their childhood favorites is turkey burgers on the grill topped with their favorite fixings,” says the Philadelphia-based restauranteur, now the chef at Zallie Family Markets.
In fact, Emma and Alex now whip up this family favorite for Kim and their dad, Chef Edgar Alvarez, who is the executive chef at the Black Sheep Pub on Rittenhouse Square in downtown Philly.
Scroll down for the recipe and to learn more about Kim — who is my sister, and upon request, will make this dish when my family shows up for dinner.
Until next Monday: Make your meals this week a family affair! — Hope Katz Gibbs, founder and president, Inkandescent® Inc. Inkandescent.us
Heart-Healthy Turkey Burgers
By award-winning Chef Kim Katz Alvarez, Philadelphia PA
What you’ll need:
1 lb. ground turkey
2 T. Dijon mustard
6 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 onion — chop 1 t. of it to put into the patties; caramelize the rest to top the burger
1 t. chopped garlic
1. Gently mix ingredients into ground turkey, but don’t mush it up too much!
2. Form into patties, and pop on the grill.
Note: To make a perfect turkey burger that’s not too dry / not too wet inside, let the bottom get a little crusty brown before flipping. And only flip once! “You don’t want to mess around with your turkey burgers. Just put them on the grill and let them cook,” advises Chef Kim. “Then top with some savory options.” (See below)
3. Remove from pan and place atop toasted sesame or whole wheat bun — or get creative and slip it inside a grilled pita.
4. Top with your favorite condiments (lettuce, tomatoes, spicy red onion) — or try some of our favorite gourmet topping ideas.
For fun: Shape the burgers into hearts and cut the buns to match. Your kids will love this special touch.
- A slathering of Gruyère — A fabulous topping for these lean burgers is a layer of Gruyère cheese, one of the most famous Swiss cheeses. It is made from cow’s milk and has a nutty, slightly sweet taste with complex musty and mushroomy notes.
- Caramelized onions — Slice the rest of the onion into 1/4-inch wide rings and saute in butter or a combo of butter/oil in a skillet. Add a pinch of sugar and cook slowly until onions are caramel in color (about 20-30 minutes). If you’d like to get fancy, add a splash of vinegar at the end to spice up the dish and deglaze the pan.
- Pesto mayonnaise — Although it’s always fun to make fresh pesto (2 cups fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts, 3 minced garlic cloves, salt, and pepper — pulse in a food processor, slowly adding the oil) it’s just as easy to buy a pint of fresh pesto from the grocery store. Mix 1 T. with 2 T. of your favorite mayo, and slather on the burger.
About Chef Kim Katz Alvarez
Cooking caught the attention of Chef Kim Alvarez at age 7, when her mother enrolled her in a department store class. Within a few years, she was reading culinary magazines and adding unusual ingredients to her mother’s grocery list. Chef Kim’s love of culinary arts hasn’t faded, and she counts herself lucky to pour her passion into Zallie Family Markets. She leads the hard-working Culinary Team that runs the Catering Departments and Prepared Foods sections of Zallie Family Markets in Chews Landing, Glassboro, Knorr Street, Laurel Hill, Lawnside, Medford, Sicklerville, West Berlin, West Deptford, and Williamstown.
“The ultimate thrill for us is to try something new and see guests snapping it up,” she said. “It’s awesome to know we made a hit.” Chef Kim’s cooking skills were heavily influenced by her Jewish background, even before she graduated from the restaurant management program at Syracuse University and the two-year chef program at the Culinary Institute of America. She married Edgar Alvarez, who is Guatemalan and also a chef, and began incorporating Latin flavors into her repertoire.
During her career that’s spanned 30-plus years, Chef Kim has worked in California restaurants and food markets, and was second-in-command at The Striped Bass and head chef at Beaujolais in Philadelphia. Those experiences developed her skills in serving fish a zillion ways and perfecting the art of French cuisine. She and Edgar also owned and operated a Latin American restaurant in Mount Airy.
“I have learned how to prepare four-star meals, and I have mastered what it means to truly take care of your guests,” Chef Kim said. “But I also understand how to guide and nurture other chefs, and how to put a great meal on the table with whatever time and ingredients are available.”
For Zallie’s Fresh Kitchen, she appreciates working side-by-side with other chefs in a supportive and friendly environment. She coaches them to try different seasonings, create new combinations, and encourages them to use their individual talents. Surrounded by fresh ingredients that fill our stores, Chef Kim is grateful that Zallie’s Fresh Kitchen’s culinary staff doesn’t rely on frozen meal components – they knead yeasty dough, slice fresh vegetables, and fire-grill meats just like dedicated home cooks.
“We really enjoy developing recipes and doing the actual kitchen work from start to finish,” she said. “Our food has a homemade feel because of all that work.”
Chef Kim is also a mom to two young adults who love cooking, so she understands the stress-relieving joy of picking up prepared foods that are equal parts delicious and high-quality. At home, this self-confessed Sriracha sauce lover admits the kitchen can be a bustling place where there might be more chefs than necessary. Family meals often take place while everyone is standing up, tasting and adjusting on the fly, and talking throughout the process.
Like Zallie’s Fresh Kitchen, it’s a hub of creativity and collaboration that produces more than mere food. “Eating should be an experience of the palate, best enjoyed with people,” according to Chef Kim. “The Zallie Family Markets Culinary Team works together to give you that experience.”
Chef Kim’s kitchen at home has the usual staples, plus:
- Mushroom-flavored soy sauce that imparts an earthy flavor
- Jerk spice to add a hot, spicy, uniquely Jamaican seasoning
- Coconut milk, a dairy alternative that serves up body and richness
- Badia Everything Bagel Seasoning to be sprinkled on eggs, kale, and so much more