Veggie Burgers Worth Lighting the Grill For
As my mother-in-law always says, there’s nothing like a good burger. Especially in late summertime, when the evenings are long and warm, and you can smell the charcoal smoke drifting through the neighborhood while you collect the burger fixings from the garden. Or even if you’re just slicing up a tomato you bought from the store. Perfection.
We vegetarians deserve wonderful burgers too – something better than the pre-made offerings in cardboard boxes that you can find in the freezer section of the grocery store. Something savory, meaty without imitating meat, and substantial enough to hold up on the grill and make a filling meal.
These are those burgers. I can’t take credit for the original recipe, which comes from the good, meticulous people at Cook’s Illustrated. My adaptation is a simpler (though no less tasty) version, and I’ve converted the recipe to vegan and gluten-free, as well as including a much more foolproof way to cook the burgers on the grill and not have them fall apart.
These burgers are nutritionally well-balanced and are high in protein and fiber. It’s worth noting that you can use this recipe template for veggie burgers made with other ingredients, too – a bean, a grain, aromatic vegetables like onions and mushrooms for flavor, a nut, and breadcrumbs, adjusting the amounts you use depending on the moisture content of the ingredients. I’ll offer some of the variations I’ve made on this theme in later posts.
Although this recipe is something of a time sink, and will have you washing more than a few dishes by the end, the burgers freeze perfectly, so you’ll have several quick and easy meals to show for your investment. Before the summer ends (it’s all too quick, isn’t it?) make these burgers, and enjoy.
1 cup brown lentils
1 cup quinoa
¼ cup olive oil, divided
2 yellow onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup raw hazelnuts, cashews, or walnuts
2 cups whole-grain breadcrumbs (I use Trader Joe’s brown rice bread)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a sheet pan, toast nuts until they are fragrant and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Once they have cooled, process them in a food processor until they are finely ground, but not so long that they become nut butter! Place the ground nuts in a large mixing bowl.
2. In a covered medium saucepan, bring lentils to a boil with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Drain any remaining water and add to the mixing bowl.
3. In another covered medium saucepan, bring quinoa to a boil with a scant 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Lower the heat and simmer until the quinoa is tender and all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Add to the mixing bowl with the lentils.
4. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the yellow onions and a pinch of salt. Sauté, stirring occasionally and lowering heat as needed to avoid scorching onions, until the onions are soft and a deep reddish brown. Add garlic and continue to cook until the garlic is softened. Add the onions and garlic to the mixing bowl.
5. Using the same skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Toss the mushrooms in the hot oil to coat and sauté, stirring occasionally. The mushrooms will release their moisture; allow the liquid to evaporate. When the mushrooms are dry and lightly browned, add them to the mixing bowl.
6. Mix all of the ingredients together well. Add mixture to the bowl of a food processor (in batches if your food processor is too small), and process until the mixture is coarsely and evenly ground; do not mix for so long that it becomes a completely undifferentiated paste. Return mixture to the mixing bowl.
7. Stir in breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Make sure the breadcrumbs are evenly distributed (use your hands! It’s fun!) The mixture will be a little sticky but not wet. Shape into 10-12 patties depending on your size preference and cook according to one of the following methods.
Baking: Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush the burgers with olive oil on both sides and place on a sheet pan. Place the pan in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until the bottoms of the burgers are browned, and then flip. Bake for about 10 minutes more or until the second sides of the burgers is browned. Serve.
Grilling: The secret to successful grilling of homemade veggie burgers is freezing the burgers beforehand. The burgers needn’t be totally frozen—about 40 minutes in the freezer should do it. If you have pre-frozen the burgers, take them out of the freezer for 15 minutes or so, just so they are not rock hard, before you grill them.
You’ll want one layer of hot briquettes on the bottom of the grill. Brush the burgers with olive oil and grill for a few minutes on each side, until you’ve got good grill marks and the burgers have browned a bit (one of the benefits of meatless burgers is that there is no worry about whether the burgers are cooked all the way through or not.) Serve with all the fixings!