My favorite non-recipe
Cooking is one of the best ways to make something wonderful from a bunch of different things. Inspired by the ever-rising price of frozen veggie burgers, a couple years ago I set out to come up with an inexpensive recipe to make at home. I read several recipes, combined ideas from each and created what’s basically a non-recipe for veggie burgers.
Why is it non-recipe? Because you can pretty much toss in whatever you want to “burgerize” as long as you aim for a consistency similar to ground meat. Only two ingredients are guaranteed to be used each time I make veggie burgers: one egg and a 15-ounce can of drained beans. Of course, those might be kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans – basically whatever is handy – and I could always use an egg substitute.
Here are the ingredients for today’s batch:
Start out by roughly processing whatever vegetables you want to use. This time I have a tablespoon or two each of red pepper, tomato, and onion; one small carrot cut into chunks (minus a chunk or two I tossed to Doggie Lily), and approximately the same amount of raw cauliflower. Zucchini and turnip are great additions, but I didn’t have either on hand. Sometimes I add a pinch of jalapeños or even a handful of walnuts. One of these days I might throw in a few water chestnuts just to see what happens.
Add the rinsed and drained beans along with the egg and your grains.
Again, use whatever you like. This time I used slightly less than a cup of leftover brown rice (cooked with garlic, red pepper flakes, and fresh ginger – the ginger slices were removed after the rice was cooked), maybe three-quarters of a cup of uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats, and a bit of cornmeal. I’d love to try leftover quinoa sometime. BTW – had the rice not already been flavored, I would have added a little garlic and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Season it with a bit of salt and pepper and whatever flavorings you like. My secret ingredient – Liquid Smoke – probably isn’t very healthy, but lends a subtle grilled-over-an-open-fire flavor.
Process everything a minute or two until it starts to resemble ground meat. Finding the right consistency can be tricky the first couple times you make veggie burgers. If it’s too wet, your burgers will be a bit squishy. More often than not, the mixture will be slightly wet, but no worries. If you have some instant “mashed potato” flakes, mix in a tablespoon or two of dry potato flakes and let it sit a couple minutes so the flakes can absorb any excess liquid. If you don’t have potato flakes try adding a pinch more oatmeal, cornmeal or even breadcrumbs.
(It doesn’t happen often, but if you think your mixture is too dry, add a few drops of olive oil.)
At this point I like to put everything in a mixing bowl so I can see if there are any large chunks of veggies I might want to remove. Cover and refrigerate about 30 minutes.
Next, it’s time to shape the burgers. Running your hands under cold water for a second before touching the mixture will help keep it from sticking to your hands. Make the burgers as large or small as you like, just remember that unlike actual meat, they won’t shrink during cooking. I usually get 6-8 burgers per batch, but it depends on how many grains and veggies I throw in. Refrigerate the burgers for another 20 minutes or so.
Now it’s time to cook. The easiest way is on a griddle pan or large frying pan. (Sometime I’d love to try making these on my sister-in-law’s ginormous cast-iron skillet!) Pre-heat the griddle/skillet over medium-high heat for one minute, then lightly brush the pan with cooking oil. Heat one more minute before adding the burgers. Cook five minutes – don’t even touch them unless you think they might be burning – then flip.
Cook another five minutes and serve with whatever condiments you prefer.
Leftovers freeze really well. Wrap individually and pop them into a zip-bag. I try to have some on hand at all times since they’re the closest thing I ever have to frozen foods.