No-meat burger doesn't disappoint
It's easy to take issue with veggie burgers. They have gotten better as demand for meatless options has increased, but many are still dry, bland or mushy disks that contain precious little evidence of what makes them what they are: vegetables.
That's frustrating for someone like me who has been moving away from meat eating for a year or two, primarily because of health and environmental concerns (and long before I heard the term "pink slime"). As I soldiered on in my hunt for a good veggie burger, I decided at last to bring it all home. If I want to control what's in it, I figured I've got to make it myself.
It turns out that good veggie burgers aren't all that easy to master. Start with some ingredients you think might do the trick: hearty vegetables such as beans and mushrooms; spices and herbs; maybe some nuts and grains.
But if you don't also include the right stuff to bind it all, patties can fall apart as soon as they hit the pan. When you put in plenty of sticky binder — sweet potato, say, plus some flour and maybe, if you're not vegan, an egg or two — you realize only after you've cooked one that the inside has about as much texture as bean dip.
Mark Bucher was in such a state when he was developing recipes for BGR the Burger Joint, a chain that started in Bethesda, Md., in 2008. It has three locations in Florida, including 12913 N Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.
He was going for a texture "like a loosely packed ground-beef burger," which led him to a combination of brown rice and whole black beans, flavored with barbecue sauce and molasses.
The binder was elusive until he remembered Gimme Lean, a brand of soy products meant to emulate ground beef or sausage. The recipe contains a eureka moment. He discovered that after the patties are mixed and formed, oven time firms them up, holds them together and keeps the interior from getting mushy.
Cook what you need and freeze the rest.
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BGR Veggie Burgers
1 small (6-ounce) sweet potato
2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked black beans, homemade or no-salt-added canned, rinsed and drained
¼ cup dark molasses
¼ cup barbecue sauce of your choice, plus more for glazing if desired
2 tablespoons honey
1 (14-ounce) package soy protein, such as Gimme Lean beef-style
Kosher or sea salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
12 hamburger buns
Condiments and accompaniments of your choice
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Use a fork or sharp knife to prick the potato in several places. Place it on a piece of aluminum foil and bake until the potato is tender and can be easily squeezed, 40 to 60 minutes. (Alternatively, to speed up the process, the pricked potato can be microwaved on HIGH for 1 minute, then transferred to the oven and baked until tender, 20 to 35 minutes.) Let the potato cool, then squeeze out the flesh into a large bowl and discard the skin.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Add the brown rice, black beans, molasses, barbecue sauce and honey to the bowl, and stir to thoroughly combine. Pull off small pieces of the soy protein, add it to the bowl and mash it up as you mix it in. Taste, and add salt if needed.
Spray 2 large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray. Form the vegetable mixture into 12 patties, about 5 inches across and ½ inch thick, placing them on the baking sheets.
Bake the patties until they feel firm to the touch and are just barely browning on the edges, about 25 minutes. Let them cool to room temperature.
Pour the vegetable oil into a large skillet. When the oil starts to shimmer, carefully add as many patties as you intend to eat, working in batches if necessary and being careful not to overcrowd them. Fry them until crisp and browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer them to a cooling rack set over a plate, and blot them dry on top with paper towels.
Brush with more barbecue sauce before serving, if desired.
Makes 12 servings.
Nutritional information per burger (without bun and condiments): 180 calories, 6g protein, 28g carbohydrates, 5g fat (1g saturated fat), 0mg cholesterol, 290mg sodium, 3g dietary fiber, 8g sugar.