A good vegetarian burger is to me what a perfect glass of wine is to a sommelier. Which is to say I take it quite seriously. One thing I have learned, after years of being extremely picky with my meat-substitutes, is that one does not order a black bean burger with a side salad unless you are in a trendy city, where the people have impeccable taste for good food; and even then, it can be hit or miss. If you serve me a thick bun with an even thicker burger - mushy, dense and bland - and beside it you showcase a salad that has come out of a bag, with a few crusty carrots and a bit of radicchio, I am calling Gordon Ramsay. Not because I am a spoiled brat, but because I know how easy it is to put together a wonderful veggie burger, with ingredients that aren't too hard to come buy. I am in no way trying to recreate a burger similar to this. That would be impossible. But I do like to think that I can create something with beans. Something crunchy. and appetizing, and full of flavor. Also, crisps.... I can do that. And today, because I am feeling extra ambitious, I will even make a little tangy sauce to go with it. And maybe, just maybe, after I eat this burger, I might get started on the the mountain of laundry and shave my legs. Just maybe.
It all started with this falafel recipe, which I turned into a burger, and honestly, we can't be sure that I won't eventually turn it into Tofurkey or pot roast, but for now, I am content. It was with this falafel recipe that I came to an important realization: I will never use canned chickpeas again. Dry chickpeas soaked overnight are the way to go. They plump up while soaking, and become crispy and crunchy in recipes. Canned chickpeas, to me, are soft and mushy. This isn't to say that you should entirely convert to dry beans, because there is a bit of planning involved, at least a day, but you should give it a go at least once. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by their superior quality, taste and texture. I am aware that some of you may like the taste of canned chickpeas, and I have probably dug myself a big hole with my bold statements about the dry variety, but I am well set in my convictions. You could also probably serve me hummus with canned chickpeas and I wouldn't noticed the difference, but if you made these burgers with canned chickpeas, I could tell. I'm extremely texture sensitive.
When I became a vegetarian, I had difficulty giving up two things - chicken fingers and burgers. I still miss chicken fingers, probably because they never really tasted like chicken to me, and I've never found a good vegetarian substitute, but burgers, I'm over. I'm now quite content sitting down to a veggie burger rather than a beef burger (unless I'm in a small town and then I'll order pasta), and I'll probably never look back. If I'm going to an all-American style diner on Sunday afternoon after a baseball game to reconnect with my long-lost father (like in the movies), I want my veggie burger to have the same consistency and texture as a beef burger. Savory, juicy and tender, topped with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, ketchup and mustard, a side of onion rings and a malt shake please. But, if I'm ordering a veggie burger made with beans or lentils, I prefer it with a little extra flare. A nice tangy sauce, maybe some arugula, onions - fancy, non-traditional burger toppings.
I chose to dress this burger with fancy, non-traditional toppings. I made a tangy dressing with a hodge-podge of ingredients from the fridge. I added a little mayo, ketchup, fancy mustard, garlic, capers, lemon, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce. Honestly, everything I had in the fridge, I added to this sauce. It came out tangy and savory, a great balance of flavors. I layered my burger with some pepper jack cheese, a little red onion, and arugula. Arugula, to me, is as good a condiment as ketchup, and I sprinkle it on practically all of my meals.
I had already used 2 cups of oil for frying the burgers, and I figured it would be such a waste to dump it after so little use, so I got out the mandoline and sliced up a potato real fine. I made some crisps to accompany this burger, which was a pretty good choice. The two go hand in hand.
makes 7 burgers
notes: these burgers can easily be made ahead of time. Make and shape into patties, cover with plastic wrap and then place in the fridge until you are ready to fry. Dry chickpeas are much harder to work with than canned, but dry chickpeas will give the burgers a nice crunch. Shape the burgers and try not to fiddle with them too much. Also, it will be tricky to get them large and flat, as they will likely fall apart. A nice 1 inch patty is desirable to hold its shape.
1 3/4 cups dry chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 garlic clove
3 tbsp chives, chopped
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp flour
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
tangy sauce (see recipe below)
sliced red onion
sliced pepper jack cheese
Soak the chickpeas in cold water overnight.
When you are ready to prepare the burger, drain the water and rinse. Place half of the chickpeas into a food processor and pulse for 10 seconds until they have broken down into smaller pieces. Place into a large bowl and set to the side.
Place the remaining chickpeas into the food processor with the garlic, chives, baking soda, mustard powder, salt, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, and Tabasco sauce. Mix until you have a paste.
Place into the bowl with the small chickpea pieces, and combine with a spoon.
Add the sesame seeds and combine. Add the beaten egg and combine. Finally, add 3 tbsp of flour and combine. Once the mixture if fully combined, scoop a 1/2 cup into your hands and squeeze into a ball. Flatten into a patty, and lay onto a baking sheet. Continue in the same manner until you have 7 patties. Place the tray into the fridge for 15 minutes.
While the burgers are chilling, heat 2 cups of vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok on medium heat for 10 - 15 minutes. To test if the oil is ready, gently flick a small drop of water into the oil. If the oil pops, then it is hot enough to fry. With a spatula, gently place the patties in the oil, no more than 4 at a time. Fry for 1 - 2 minutes on each side, or until the burger has turned brown. Remove from the oil and place onto a paper towel to soak up any extra oil.
Turn the oven to broil. Slice the buns in half and toast, open side up. Place a piece of pepper jack cheese onto half of each bun and melt. Remove from the oven. Place the burger onto the cheese. Add some tangy sauce, red onion and arugula.
Burgers can stored in the fridge in an airtight container for a couple of days, although they are much better eaten hot out of the oil.
TANGY SAUCE RECIPE (print)
makes 1 cup
1/2 cup mayo
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp whole grain mustard
2 tbsp ketchup
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove
1 tsp capers
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
Place all of the ingredients into a food processor, or combine using a hand blender, until smooth. Place into a jar, and store in the fridge. The sauce tastes best, when it has had a chance to sit overnight.
HOMEMADE CRISPS RECIPE (print)
serves 4 as a side
notes: homemade crisps are best eaten right out of the frier. They tend to get soggy the longer they sit.
1 large russet potato, washed
4 cups ice cold water
salt as desired
1 -2 cups vegetable oil for frying
With a mandoline, slice the potato on the 1/8 inch setting. It is very hard to get the thin slices using a knife. If you do not have a mandoline, you can try using a food processor with the blade. The thinner the potato slice, the crispier the chip will be.
Place the potato slices into a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes to remove some starch. Rince the potatoes and place onto a paper towel to soak up the water.
Heat 1 - 2 cups of vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok to 350ºF, or medium - high heat. To test if the oil is ready, gently flick a small drop of water into the oil. If the oil pops, then it is hot enough to fry. Place a few chips at a time into the oil and fry for a couple of minutes on each side until light brown.
Remove them from the oil and place onto paper towels to remove any extra oil. Pat dry and sprinkle with salt.