April 25, 2012

The Great (Veggie Burger) Hunt

I am a woman obsessed. On an endless quest for the perfect veggie burger, and not the store bought kind either.  My teenage years spent as a vegetarian ruined those for me.  Plus, let's not kid ourselves, they're a rather processed food.

I don't want a veggie burger that's trying to be anything like meat.  No offense to regular burgers out there - because I love those too - it's just that I don't see the point of not eating meat but still wishing that it's replacement was vaguely meaty.  My ideal veggie burger would be free of the sog factor and not one bit mushy. It would retain it's ability to stand up to a good bun.  It would be a big vegetable party in my mouth.  

If I had any intelligence my quest would have stopped here.  I would have just put the search on permanent sabbatical and called it a day.  No really, those beet burgers are out of control delicious (if a bit labor intensive) and I would happily eat them forever.  But no.  I still give into the draw of each new veggie burger recipe I come across, hoping and praying that this next one will be "the one".  Alas, most are not and I'm left disappointed.

This burger though, it has great potential.  It's got the flavor down and it's not too fussy to make.  Black beans and quinoa are a great pair.  The beans kinda glue the patty together and the nutty flavor of the quinoa makes for a hearty flavor.  Studded throughout with bits of roasted red pepper and cilantro and enhanced with earthy spiced like cumin and paprika, this veggie burger was about this close to perfect.  Where it falls short is in the texture department.  It still mushes out the sides of the bun, it still crumbles if not perfectly balanced when stacked with ingredients.

However, I'm fairly confident that this is a correctable problem.  Adding a few eggs to the mixture before chilling would probably go a long way towards helping this patty retain a sturdy shape.  (I was hoping the addition of panko crumbs and the chilling before cooking would be the golden ticket, but you know, live and learn.)  I kept the preparation pretty standard - lettuce, tomato, red onion, mayonnaise and a good bun - and I'd recommend the same to you.  There's already a lot going on in there, no need to pile much more on.

And if you try them with eggs?  Please report back.  The weather is warming up and I see the need for veggie burgers in my life greatly increasing.

Quinoa and Black Bean Burgers

There are two parts here I know you'll be tempted to skip, but please don't.   The first is chilling the mixture in the fridge for about an hour.  The second is finishing them off in the oven.  The thing about veggie burgers is that they tend to be a little too moist and squishy in the center and that time in the fridge help the panko crumbs suck up excess moisture and the extra 20 minutes in the oven helps them firm up. That being said, mine still wanted very badly to crumble and fall apart (but not nearly as bas as when I didn't bake them!), so I think the addition of 2 or so eggs to the mixture would have really helped.

8 veggie burgers

1- 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 roasted red bell pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1.4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed

In a medium sized pan heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Sautee shallots just until translucent (1-2 minutes), then add garlic and sautee about 30 seconds more. Toss in the roasted red bell pepper and turn off the heat.

Next, in a food processor, add the beans, sauteed shallot mixture, cumin, smoked paprika, and good pinch of salt and pepper. Pulse until just combined. Add the cooked quinoa and cilantro and again pulse until combined and cilantro has been chopped up a bit. Remove to bowl, add panko crumbs and stir. Let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Form mixtures into palm-sized or slightly larger burger patties, you should get about 8.

Heat remaining oil in the same pan you cooked the shallots in. Sear each patty for about 3-4 minutes on each side until nice and browned. Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake for an additional 20 minutes.

Assemble as you like and eat!

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