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Get creative with veggie burgers

The unofficial start of summer passed last weekend, which means grilling season has begun, at least it has here in the Northeast.

A juicy hamburger, a perfectly cooked steak, ribs, BBQ chicken or grilled hot dogs come to mind most often when one thinks of grilling or barbecue. However, if you have guests who are vegetarian or vegan, these menu items simply won’t do. A mass-produced packaged veggie burger is what most of us think is all that’s available to serve them.

With plant-based diets on the rise, we need to be creative in what to offer at a barbecue get-together. There are freshly made options available at the ready food counter at markets, and there is a bounty of delectable recipes to prepare at home.

As I have been trying to incorporate more vegetables in my diet, when dining out, trying chef-driven innovative varieties of veggie burgers is part of the fun. Those that don’t make the mark are when the restaurant purchases them ready-made and frozen. The times I have really enjoyed one, the chef put creative thought into the dish.

I am always on the lookout for tasty recipes for veggie burgers. When I saw the front cover of “Veggie Burgers Every Which Way: Fresh, Flavorful & Healthy Plant-Based Burgers” by Lucas Volger (2023, The Experiment, $25.95), I got hungry looking at the beautiful and hearty burger.

What also caught my attention was the back cover that says, “Veggie burgers for veggie lovers and curious carnivores alike.”

In his preface the author writes, “I’ve never been very excited about a veggie burger that tastes like meat. My perspective in this book was, and continues to be, that veggie burgers should be creative expressions of vegetables.”

Interestingly, the vegans I know are not interested nor excited about Beyond or Impossible burgers because they, too, aren’t looking for the texture and taste of  meat. On the other hand, there are carnivores that choose to go meatless every so often and replace a meat burger with something that closely replicates it.

Once considered a hippie food … where did the creation begin? As with most food items or dishes, there are a few claims as to its founding. There’s one that was mentioned several times in my research.

It was in London in 1982 when Gregory Sams, a nutritionist, invented the first commercially made veggie burger he called VegeBurger. It was a dry mix packet. Fast-forward several decades, and the humble veggie burger has been elevated.

Volger’s book, with unique, delicious recipes tailored to a variety of diets (over half are vegan and/or gluten free), will excite each palate and suit every craving at this summer’s barbecues. The book is all-encompassing, with chapters on bean and grain burgers; vegetable burgers; tofu, seitan and TVP burgers; burger buns; sides; salads and fries; condiments and toppings. Volger also shares his universally fail-safe cooking methods.

Quinoa, Red Bean, and Walnut Burgers. Cooking with the pomegranate sesame sauce creates a tart and nutty glaze on the burger makes it unique. (Photo by Evi Abeler)
Quinoa, Red Bean, and Walnut Burgers. Cooking with the pomegranate sesame sauce creates a tart and nutty glaze on the burger makes it unique. (Photo by Evi Abeler)

So, move over freezer patties and faux meats and welcome Baked Falafel Burgers (recipe below); Spicy Peanut and Carrot Burgers (recipe below); Quinoa, Red Bean and Walnut Burgers (recipe at  https://bit.ly/3Vipgo4); Sesame Sweet Potato and Cabbage Burgers; Corn Burgers With Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese; Tofu and Chard Burgers; and Tortilla-Crusted Stuffed Portobello Burgers.

Baked Falafel Burgers. You'll be amazed at how vibrant the flavors are, how the parsley and lemon shine through. (Photo by Evi Abeler)
Baked Falafel Burgers. You’ll be amazed at how vibrant the flavors are, how the parsley and lemon shine through. (Photo by Evi Abeler)

Baked Falafel Burgers

Vegan, gluten free

Makes four 4-inch burgers

The headnote says: “In this falafel method, the chickpeas are soaked overnight but not cooked. (If we were deep-frying the burgers rather than baking them, this would be the traditional falafel method.) Store-bought falafel mixes — many of which are wonderful — use ground, unsoaked dried beans, but I find that the soaking makes for a significantly less dense, more tender falafel. The mixture is a bit more delicate than other burgers in this book, but you’ll be amazed at how vibrant the flavors are, how the parsley and lemon shine through. Serve with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce, Tahini Yogurt Sauce or plain tahini along with a squirt of sriracha, as a nod to the street food that fed me throughout my college years. Unfortunately, cooked chickpeas will not work in this recipe; there will be too much liquid and the burgers will fall apart as they cook.”

Ingredients:

1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed thoroughly

1 onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves

½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Zest of 1 lemon plus juice of ½

1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds

½ teaspoon baking soda (GF)

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon chickpea or all-purpose flour, if needed

Olive oil, for greasing

Directions:

Cover the chickpeas with 4 to 5 inches of water in a bowl and let stand for 24 hours. Drain thoroughly. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, lemon zest and juice, cumin, baking soda, salt, pepper and cayenne in a food processor. Pulse until coarsely combined. If the mixture is struggling to come together, add a bit of water, but no more than 2 tablespoons. (The burgers will fall apart when cooking if there’s too much liquid.) If water is added, stir in the chickpea flour. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 6 patties, about 1/3 cup each. It will be a fairly wet dough.

Liberally oil a baking sheet. Transfer the patties to the baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping them once halfway through, until golden and firm. Serve warm.

Spicy Peanut and Carrot Burgers. Peanut butter and a few fragrant aromatics serve to amplify and enhance the carrot, making this another one of those veggie burgers that's all about the vegetables. (Photo by Christina Heaston)
Spicy Peanut and Carrot Burgers. Peanut butter and a few fragrant aromatics serve to amplify and enhance the carrot, making this another one of those veggie burgers that’s all about the vegetables. (Photo by Christina Heaston)

Spicy Peanut and Carrot Burgers

Makes four 6-inch burgers

The headnote says: “This recipe helped me realize that coarsely shredding hardy vegetables, like carrots, is the secret to creating a vegetable-centric veggie burger — it preserves more of a vegetable’s texture than, say, roasting and puréeing it, and moreover it gives an interesting and varied texture to the finished burger. Peanut butter and a few fragrant aromatics serve to amplify and enhance the carrot, making this another one of those veggie burgers that’s all about the vegetables. A natural peanut butter will deliver a clean peanut flavor, whereas a processed one that has added sugar will be kind of cloying here. I love these paired with a zesty cabbage slaw or some shredded cabbage that’s tossed with a bit of salt and lime juice.”

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 scallions, green and white parts, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

1 serrano chile pepper, finely chopped (and seeded, if desired)

4 cups grated carrots (about 8 medium carrots)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground coriander

¾ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 egg

2 tablespoons natural peanut butter

Zest of 1 lime and juice of ½

¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro

½ cup panko or coarse bread crumbs

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, lidded sauté pan over medium heat. Add the scallions and cook until they just begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and chile and stir for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in the carrots, salt, coriander, turmeric, and cinnamon. Cover and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the carrots are soft but not mushy.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, peanut butter, lime zest and juice. Stir in the carrot mixture and the cilantro. Fold in the panko. Let stand for about 10 minutes, so the panko soaks up some of the moisture. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 4 patties, about 1/3 cup each.

To cook, warm a wide skillet over medium heat, then add the remaining oil. Add as many burgers as will fit comfortably without crowding the pan (usually 3 burgers will fit into a 10-inch, and cook until browned and crisped on the bottom, 5 to 7 minutes, then flip and repeat on the other side. The burgers will firm up a bit as they cook, and further once they’re removed from the heat and have cooled slightly. Serve warm.

Watermelon and Citrus Salad. Make this salad when watermelon is at its peak, sugar-sweet and juicy. (Photo by Evi Abeler)
Watermelon and Citrus Salad. Make this salad when watermelon is at its peak, sugar-sweet and juicy. (Photo by Evi Abeler)

Watermelon and Citrus Salad

Vegan, gluten free

Makes 4 servings

The headnote says: “Make this salad when watermelon is at its peak, sugar-sweet and juicy. I prefer basil to the fresh mint typically used in watermelon salad, but feel free to use mint instead.”

Ingredients:

Vinaigrette:

¼ cup fresh orange juice

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar

Mustard

1 shallot, sliced into rings

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper

Directions:

To make the vinaigrette, combine the orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt and pepper in a small bowl or jar. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Salad:

2 oranges

6 cups watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes

¾ cup thinly sliced fresh basil

½ cup toasted sliced or slivered almonds

½ cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Olive oil, for drizzling

Directions:

Slice off the top and bottom ends of the oranges and place the flat bottom on a cutting board. With a sharp chef ’s knife, cut off the peel in strips all the way around the orange, following the curve of the fruit. Slice the oranges into ¼-inch-thick rounds.

Arrange the watermelon and orange over a platter, then drizzle with the vinaigrette. Just before serving, garnish with the basil, almonds and feta cheese, if using, and drizzle with olive oil.

Recipes from “Veggie Burgers Every Which Way, Second Edition: Fresh, Flavorful, and Healthy Plant-Based Burgers — Plus Toppings, Sides, Buns, and More” by Lukas Volger, 2010, 2023. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available everywhere books are sold. Website: theexperimentpublishing.com.

Stephen Fries is professor emeritus and former coordinator of the Hospitality Management Programs at Gateway Community College in New Haven, Conn. He has been a food and culinary travel columnist for the past 16 years and is co-founder of and host of “Worth Tasting,” a culinary walking tour of downtown New Haven. He is a board member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Email him at Stephen@stephenfries.com. For more, go to stephenfries.com.


Source: Berkshire mont

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