Opa! Lamb Sliders

September 1, 2010 (PRESS RELEASE)

Chef Kari Karch of Athena in Chicago suggests making her delicious and easy Opa! Sliders. They are mini lamb burgers with olive tapenade and lemon and garlic aioli. You can make them on the grill pan on the stove. You can team them up with Greek nachos and Mediterranean Orzo Pasta salad. She shares the recipes with us, so you can make them at home.

You can also let Chef Kari do the cooking at Athena, in Chicago's Greektown, 212 S. Halsted St. For reservations, call (312) 655-0000 or visit http://www.athenarestaurantchicago.com/. As long as the weather cooperates, you can enjoy lunch or dinner on the outdoor patio, decorated with fountains and columns inspired by ancient Greece. The patio has been rated as Chicago's best outdoor dining by the Zagat survey.


  • 1 1/2 Lb. Ground lamb
  • 1 small onion-diced
  • 1 garlic clove-minced
  • 1 Tbs. parsley, 1 tsp mint-both chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 lb pitted Kalamata olives
  • 2oz. capers, rinsed and drained
  • 2 anchovy filets-rinsed and patted dry
  • 2 garlic gloves
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbs parsley
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 c Greek extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 small dinner rolls or Hawaiian bread rolls
  • 2 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, torn into medium size pieces
  • 1/2 cup good quality feta cheese, crumbled
  • Lemon Garlic Aioli (recipe below)

Make the burgers:

Place the ground lamb, onion, minced garlic, parsley, mint, salt, and pepper in a bowl and lightly toss. Form 12 small patties (about 2" round each). Set aside. Make the olive tapenade by placing the next 10 ingredients into a food processor and pulsing. Slowly drizzle olive oil in to a paste-like consistency is achieved. Can be refrigerated up to a week. Make Lemon garlic aioli and place in refrigerator until ready to use. Heat an indoor grill pan to medium-high heat. Brush with oil to prevent sticking. Cook burgers for 2 mins. a side. Leaving the middle slightly pink. Cut the dinner rolls in half and spread olive tapenade on bottom of bun. Then top with the lettuce, burger, tomato, and sprinkle the feta cheese. Drizzle with the lemon garlic aioli and top off bun. Serve.

Lemon Garlic Aioli

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt/pepper
  • 1/2 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients into a processor and turn on. Slowly stream in olive oil until a mayonnaise consistency appears. Chill.


  • 1 package pita bread
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 lb ground lamb
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2-1 cup beef stock, enough to moisten
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2-1 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 vine-ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup peppercini, seeded and chopped, or pepperoncini rings
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves


1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Slice the pita bread into triangular wedges and arrange on a sheet tray. Coat with olive oil and season with cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. Toast in the oven until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes.

3. Place a large skillet over medium heat and add two tablespoons of the oil. Once hot, add the garlic and onion. Saute until veggies are soft about 10 minutes.

4. Add the ground lamb, the cinnamon, the paprika, dried oregano, and the red pepper flakes. Break up the lamb with the back of a wooden spoon as it browns, about 6-8 minutes. Cook stirring occasionally for about four minutes. Add 1/4 cup of beef stock to keep moist (adding more if needed) and cook for about 5 minutes more. Stir in the fresh oregano.

5. Top each pita chip with a little of the ground lamb mixture. Sprinkle both cheeses over the top, taking care to cover each chip with cheese.

6. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the chips are crispy.

7. Meanwhile, make the salsa: combine the tomatoes and olives in a small bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the vinegars. Stir to combine.

8. Remove the nachos from the oven and top with the salsa, peppercinis, and fresh parsley. Enjoy immediately.

Mediterranean Orzo Pasta

  • 1 lb. orzo pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 lb. good quality Greek feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 large red pepper, medium dice
  • 1/4 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Place the pasta in salted boiling water according to package directions, drain. Place all ingredients into a large bowl and toss. Taste for seasoning, serve.

Can be left out at room temperature for up to 3 hours

About Athena Restaurant:

Located at the heart of down town Chicago, our restaurant was established in 1997 and ever since is providing its customers with excellent quality Greek Cuisine. In an effort to guide our patrons through a journey full of flavors, Athena Restaurant has become the medium between the Ancient Greek Tradition and the Modern Western World.

Our restaurant is dedicated to the city of Athens, capital of Greece, which carries the longest history from any other city in the world for at least 4 millenniums. This is the city that gave birth to democracy, and set the foundations of the Western Civilization.

Explore this journey from the ancient to the modern tradition in our multi-elevated indoor space decorated in a traditional way with objects from all over Greece. Feel the warmth of the place and enjoy your dining experience next to one of our two fireplaces, or relax under the candle lights. Even share your best moments with friends by booking your parties at one of our private rooms that can accommodate up to 100 persons.

For the hot summer nights, enjoy your lunch or dinner in our beautiful outdoor patio, which was continuously rated as Chicago's best outdoor dining by the Zagat survey. Decorated with fountains and columns derived from the ancient architecture, our well designed patio was created to provide you with the actual experience of the ancient city of Athens. With the Chicago's skyline view lying in front of you, look at the modern Acropolis while enjoying our fresh, daily prepared meals.

About Chef Kari Karch A native Texan, Kari was born in San Antonio and was moved around the world at quite an early age. Her father was a First Master Sergeant in the Army and was lucky enough to live in such beautiful places such as Austria and Germany. Her culinary interests started peaking early in childhood since she was being introduced to such worldly food phenomena.

In 1990, her family settled in Bolingbrook, IL to which she refers to Chicago as her home since most of her family resides there. Having worked in the restaurant industry since the age of nineteen, Kari thought she would further her education by attending culinary school at The Illinois Institute of Art. She graduated with honors and decided to start her own catering company called Kiss the Cook Catering. Teaching demonstration cooking courses and having a love to speak in public, it was only natural for Kari to further her passion as the consulting chef for Athena restaurant in Greektown. She has appeared on multiple cooking segments for the Kenmore Live Studio demonstrating her culinary techniques such as how to make Miso and Sake glazed Chilean sea bass with wasabi Risotto.

Kari recently did a culinary battle with Ty Pennington from the ABC Home Makeover Show using appliances such as an iron and a dishwasher to cook up a delectable feast. She also has worked with Sprouts Preschool Academy and Share our Strength for their launch party featuring Melissa D' Arabian from the Next Food Network Star. Currently, Kari has been asked by Kenmore to join their team as the events director and in house chef, where she gets to demonstrate her culinary skills on a regular basis and emcee the live in-studio shows. Her involvement in the community and foodie world is an evolving effort to educate children and adults in healthy eating habits.

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