Meatless Meals: Homemade Veggie Burgers

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Photo By Miki Duisterhof and Patrick Tregenza, Courtesy Workman Publishing
Full of super-healthy ingredients like walnuts, bulgur, and pinto beans, and flavored with Middle Eastern spices, these veggie burger patties have good texture and a dynamic taste.

The following is an excerpt from The Earthbound Cook: 250 Recipes for Delicious Food and a Healthy Planet by Myra Goodman (Workman Publishing, 2010). The excerpt is part of chapter 5: Vegetarian Entrées.

Homemade Veggie Burgers
Makes 6 burger patties; serves 4 to 6

If your mission is to eat more meatless meals, this recipe is a very good starting point. These veggie burgers are bold and satisfying, with a surprisingly complex flavor. Full of super-healthy ingredients like walnuts, bulgur, and pinto beans, and flavored with Middle Eastern spices, the patties have good texture and a dynamic taste. The egg whites can be eliminated if you wish: The mixture will taste the same but the texture of the burger will be a bit heavier. The burger patties do need to be refrigerated until they are completely chilled before cooking, for at least 4 hours, so be sure to plan accordingly.

I enjoy these with a side of Yogurt Sauce with Red Onion and Cucumber. You can sandwich the burger and sauce in a whole wheat pita, or serve the burgers on whole wheat buns with lettuce, tomatoes, and red onion slices.

1/2 cup bulgur wheat
1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
1 1/2 cups walnut pieces 
2 large garlic cloves, peeled 1 cup (packed) fresh cilantro leaves
2 cups cooked pinto beans, rinsed and drained if canned
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons canola oil
Yogurt Sauce with Red Onion and Cucumber (recipe follows), for serving (optional)

1. Place the bulgur, 1 cup water, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the water has been absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Let the bulgur cool for 10 minutes.

2. Place the walnuts, garlic, and cilantro in a food processor and process until the mixture is roughly chopped. Add the bulgur, pinto beans, soy sauce, cumin, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, and cayenne pepper, and process until the mixture is finely chopped.

3. Add the egg whites and process again until combined.

4. Refrigerate the mixture, covered, until it is completely cold, at least 4 hours or as long as overnight.

5. Form the mixture into 6 patties, each about 3 1/2 inches in diameter (about 1/2 cup per patty).

6. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet, preferably cast-iron, over medium to medium-high heat. Add the burgers and cook until they are browned and crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. (Do not crowd the pan; cook in two batches if necessary.) Carefully turn the patties over and cook on the other side until browned and heated through, about 5 minutes. 

7. Serve the burgers hot, with Yogurt Sauce with Red Onion and Cucumber on the side if desired.

Yogurt Sauce with Red Onion and Cucumber
Makes about 2 cups

I enjoy this chunky sauce all by itself, but it goes especially well with our Homemade Veggie Burgers. The smoky flavor of grilled red onion is distinctive, and the tahini-mint dressing, which relies on yogurt rather than oil for its creaminess, mellows the piquancy of the capers. If you are in a hurry, skip the grilling step and just use raw red onion–the sauce will still taste great. Use any leftover sauce on grilled or smoked salmon.

1 red onion, cut into 1-inch-thick rounds
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced 
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1. If you will be grilling the onion, preheat a grill to medium-high.

2. Brush the onion slices with some of the olive oil, and season them lightly with salt and pepper. Grill them over medium-high heat (or cook them on a cast-iron grill pan on the stovetop), turning them once, until the slices are tender, about 10 minutes.

3. When the onion slices are cool enough to handle, chop them into 1/2-inch dice and place them in a bowl. Add the cucumber and capers, and stir to blend.

4. To make the sauce, combine the yogurt, the remaining olive oil, and the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and cumin in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Stir in the mint, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Add half of the sauce to the onion mixture, stirring to coat. Then add more dressing if desired. Serve immediately, or refrigerate the sauce, covered, for up to 5 days. 

Grilling Green

Backyard grilling is a wonderful way to cook food, but some methods take more of a toll on the environment than others. The manufacturing of most charcoal produces CO2 and polluting residues, and when charcoal is burned it releases carbon monoxide, soot, and other particulates. Lighter fluid contains volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and releases toxins into the environment known as “ground-level ozone.” Natural gas and propane grills are a much cleaner choice. If you do use charcoal, choose lump charcoal (which comes mostly from tree and lumber scraps and is minimally processed) over compressed and extruded briquettes. And skip the lighter fluid; you can use a charcoal chimney or electric charcoal starter instead.

Read the original article, “Meatless Meals: Easy, Healthy Vegetarian Recipes.”

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