Yet another veggie burger landed on my dinner table last night. I am on a quest to make the perfect veggie burger, one which is not soggy, cardboard-y, bland or otherwise inedible. I am not trying to approximate meat – I never liked burgers much – but, when we do grill at my house, I would like to be able to serve a vegetarian option (mainly for me) which is not the tired Portobello mushroom.
Good veggie burgers are elusive. Good veggie burgers that pack a lot of protein even more so.
I began giving it some thoughts a few weeks ago, when I had a very good one at a food truck – I tried to guess at all the ingredients in it but it is not so easy to do with food that is essentially ground. I liked that it was not only tasty but had a bit of a crunch on the outside, unlike the frozen ones (I tried most of them) that end up being too moist even when grilled.
Most veggie burgers will hinge around a pulse or a grain, mostly a combination of the two, with spices and a binding agent of some sort. The black bean burger I first made was too dry. The grain only burger was verging on cardboard. That is when I started looking for recipes that tried less to replicate an actual meat burger and yet were not just a fried patty. While I love all sorts of fritters, it was not what I was after.
I dedicated myself to making a burger per week, consulting various vegetarian and vegan recipe books/sites. I nearly hit a home run with a cheese and breadcrumbs version but, as tasty as it was, I wasn’t sure it deserved the burger moniker.
The winning recipe, which is also gluten-free, turned out to be Sasha Wilkins’, from her Friends Food Family cookbook. I followed it nearly to a t, adjusting some ingredients’ proportions and omitting the scallions I didn’t have. Quinoa, which can be found in most veggie burgers, is paired with cauliflower and Parmesan: the quinoa provides the protein, the cauliflower does not add any too much moisture and Parmesan makes most dishes better.
RECIPE – Yields 4 burgers
1/2 C quinoa (white or red or a combination of both 80g)
1/4 head of cauliflower florets
1/3 C Parmesan, grated (25g)
Zest of one small lemon
1/2 C Chickpea flour (or regular flour if you are not worried about keeping it gluten-free)
a generous tablespoon of parsley, chopped
- Rinse the quinoa under cold water and cook it in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain and let cool (don’t skip the rinsing step or the quinoa will taste bitter).
- Put the cauliflower in a food processor and zap it until it’s crumbs size (Sasha calls it rubble) and place it in a large bowl with the Parmesan, parsley, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
- Add the cooled quinoa, salt again, and mix. Add the eggs and mix with your hands. It will be a very wet mixture.
- Place the flour in a separate bowl. Wet your hands and form four patties, dip them in the flour and place on a plate. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Heat a generous amount of vegetable oil in a pan and, when hot, add two patties (not more, or the oil temperature will drop too much). Cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side, until golden brown.
Serve with all your favorite burger trimmings.