I love that you can go to the grocery store here and get some of the nicest steaks for $5/lb (or so…) or go to a restaurant and gorge yourself on steak and sweetbreads and choripan (oh the choripan…) for under $50 as we did last sunday. The meat is delicious and inexpensive and really a treat. But my heart and body can only take so much red meat. Since we’ve been here, and because I’m taking a little sabbatical, let’s say, from the daily grind of a 9-5 job and academic life, I’ve had more time on my hands and have been cooking a lot more. Part of what I’ve enjoyed about this is the creativity of the whole thing. Thinking of meals that are healthy but flavorful and delicious using the ingredients that we have around. I’ve never made veggie burgers before and I’m not really a big fan of the frozen Boca Burgers, but I have have had some veggie burgers that I dig very much. A lot of times our go-to veggie meal is rice and quinoa with some kind of stir fried veggies – carrots, onions, garlic, and swiss chard or collard greens. This is actually a pretty tasty meal (I know sounds crazy, but you can pair this with any kind of sauce you have on hand and it’s pretty tasty). But, lately, I’ve been wanting something savory and satisfying so I thought I would try my hand at whipping up some veggie burgers.
I based my recipe on this one and added a bit of extras. They actually turned out much better than I hoped for – really tasty and very satisfying. And a little bonus is that because quinoa is a complete protein, they are a meat substitute.
Tools you’ll need:
- Large pot
- Large bowl with ice water
- Food processor
- Large pan
- Slotted spoon
- 2 – 19 oz cans of chickpeas
- 1/2 dry quinoa (2 cups cooked)
- 3 cups baby spinach
- 1 carrot
- 1 red pepper
- 1 red onion
- 3/4 cup basil
- 3-6 cloves garlic (I love garlic so I put in more)
- 3 tsp ground cumin
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
1. Cook your quinoa. I don’t have a picture of this, but just get some quinoa (it could be red or white, I used white because that’s what we have) and follow the directions on the box/bag. You really can cook quinoa just like rice.
2. Blanch the spinach. To blanch spinach (or any leafy green) you toss it in boiling water until it just begins to cook and then drop it straight into ice water to stop the cooking process.
As your water is coming to a boil, set up your ice water and colander. It’s important to have this set up before you toss the spinach in the boiling water because you have to work quickly and put the spinach directly into the ice water from the boiling water or else the spinach will get icky.
You can see I kind of have it going in batches. You really only want the spinach to be in the boiling water for like 15-30 seconds.
So: Boiling water, ice water, then to the colander to drain. The green part is wilted but the stem still has some snap in it. I pressed the spinach down gently to get as much water out as possible.
Set the spinach aside on a paper towel to drain a bit more.
3. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. This one is pretty self explanatory. Drain the juice from the can(s) and rinse the chickpeas off with water. Done.
4. Purée the chickpeas. Put the chickpeas in your food processor and pulse until the chickpeas are broken up. You dont want it to be totally broken down and mushy (like hummus). There will still be chunks in there. If you don’t have a food processor you can use a fork and mash them up.
5. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add the cooked quinoa.
6. Shred the carrot. Using a vegetable peeler. I actually shredded half the length of the carrot and then the other half so that the strips wouldn’t be too long and would fit in the future patty without much trouble.
8. Go meatloaf style and combine everything. Using your hands, mix together: chickpeas, quinoa, carrots, bell peppers, onions, garlic, basil, spinach, eggs, cumin, and bread crumbs. I know, your fingers will get kind of gross looking and some people may shy away from getting their hands in with raw egg, but really this is the only way to make sure everything is evenly mixed. And plus, what’s cooking without getting your hands a little dirty? (I clearly could not take a picture of this step as my hands were covered in veggie burger goodness and I’m certainly not going to get that all over our beautiful new camera.)
9. Form your patty. Gather your veggies and form into a patty. Try to tuck/pat down any protruding carrots or spinach. Also, you want them thick enough that they are “meaty” but not too thick that they don’t cook all the way through. I made mine a little smaller than a burger by forming a ball a little smaller than a baseball and then patting down gently until they were about 3/4″ or so thick. You can make 12-16 patties based on how big/small your burger is.
10. Cook ’em up! Heat up some oil in a pan. You should have enough oil to come 1/4-1/3 of the way up the burger. Place the burger gently in the pan and try not to touch it. If part of it comes apart, gently and carefully put it back (beware of hot oil. it hurts. i know.), but, like meat, you really dont want to move them until you’re ready to flip if you can help it. Cook on one side until it is browned and is nice and crispy.
Then, gently (which seems to be the key word in this step) turn them over. I used a spatula to get under it and then a fork as a supporting brace on the other side to flip them over. Cook on the other side until browned and crispy. The crispiness will hold the burger together.
When finished, remove from pan and place on a plate with a couple layers of paper towels. Salt and pepper while hot.
Tip: How do you know that your oil is hot enough? Take the end of a wooden spoon (or something else wooden) and place into the oil to rest gently on the bottom of the pan. If tiny bubbles start to form around the wood, then your oil is ready! I think I learned this from Martha Stewart or someone years ago…
11. Enjoy! You can eat these in a lot of different ways. We have here: Whole grain bread, spicy mustard, olive oil mayo, avocado, basil. spinach, red cabbage. The shredded red cabbage, I must say, was a really great addition. It’s not too bitter and is so super crunchy it gives it a great texture. We at them as a sandwich and then put them over a salad of the same ingredients with this cilantro-lime vinaigrette. It’s really awesome and I highly recommend you make it. (I also used it as a marinade with some homemade chicken fingers I made recently. So tasty.)
Bonus! I recommend making the full recipe because they freeze really well. Cook them all and allow the left overs to cool. Then individually wrap them in saran wrap and put in a ziplock freezer bag. When you’re having a craving, defrost the patties you want. Heat the oven to about 375-400, unwrap the burgers, and heat in the oven on a cookie sheet or roasting pan (covered in aluminum) uncovered for about 15-20 minutes or whenever they seem done. They may be sizzling a little bit.