While not a vegetarian, I wouldn’t mind eating more non-meat foods. From time to time I’ve tried commercial veggie burgers and found them lacking. Now, the expectation isn’t that they taste like a real burger (and bar burgers tend to be the best), but rather that they taste good in their own way and can stand on their own when placed in a burger bun. Of the few veggie burgers I’ve tried, most have little or no flavor. Trader Joe’s Vegetable Masala Burgers have a pretty interesting taste, but I still end up eating the pieces off the plate with a fork. So here goes, round one of put up or shut up.
As noted above, I didn’t take very good notes while partaking in this experiment. But the pictures are helping to fill in the gaps in the memory. Everything from here on out is approximate, but close enough. All the ingredients were things I had at the time. Not a lot of preplanning went on.
about 5 medium carrots
about 5 celery stalks
about 8 Napa cabbage leaves
about 1 and 3/4 cups Progresso Italian bread crumbs
1 small onion
about 5 cloves of garlic
6 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons olive oil (this is a different 6 than the 6 above)
1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base
3 tablespoons dried parsley
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
a touch of salt
a touch of ground pepper
Cut the vegetables into small enough pieces to work in a food processor. That would be about 1 inch pieces for my mini processor (see link for picture and a good salsa recipe). Process the vegetables (Napa, carrots, celery, garlic, onion) to a “course ground” look, something like you’d find in cole slaw (see picture below). On my mini processor it took several batches of vegetable processing to chop all the ingredients.
Mix the coarse vegetables with the oregano, cumin, basil, parsley, salt, pepper in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the bread crumbs.
Add the roux to the vegetable/bread crumb mix. Add in up to 6 tablespoons of oil. Get your hands in there and mix away.
Form the mixture into relatively thin patties, about 1/2 inch thick. Place a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil in a hot frying pan. Fry on each side until browned. Aim for a bit of burnt “crust” on each side. It won’t hurt anything (see notes).
Hoped for results
I hoped for a burger that tasted good, was moist, had some texture, didn’t fall apart while cooking and held together in a bun.
The imperfect theory
The postulate (now that’s a six-dollar word) was that the roux and the bread crumbs would help bind everything together so it wouldn’t fall apart while cooking or eating. It was also hoped that the roux would hold oil in the mixture to keep everything feeling and tasting moist. For flavor, hardly any bread based product has more flavor, or a better flavor, than Progresso Italian bread crumbs. The dried herbs and spices added even more flavor to the mix. The additional oil added at the end was also to keep things moist.
The actual results
If nothing else, these take a good picture.
While forming the patties, the mixture actually feels close to ground beef. At first I formed a thicker patty, but found it to be close but a little too fragile. The thinner patty seems to work better. Higher heat helps to brown the outside while firming up the burger. In fact a bit of “burning” on the outside seems to help both the texture and flavor. The burger flips over without breaking. However, plan for only one flip. Two flips may be two too many. If you don’t squeeze the bun very much, the burger holds together pretty well while eating. Using a harder bun than the typical soft hamburger bun could help better protect the burger. The burger stayed moist. How about the taste? This is no wimpy burger. There’s plenty of flavor with every bite and enough to hold its own against the bun and added condiments. The texture is still softer than a meat burger. A meat texture is going to be difficult to recreate. These can also be frozen. However you’ll need some wax paper or something similar to keep them from sticking together. Thawing is a little tricky, but you’ll figure it out.
The first test in round two will be to see if they hold up to the barbecue grill. Next we’ll try to vary the ingredients with a little less added oil at the end and maybe some additional binders. We’ll also try some precooking to firm up the middle a little more.
If we never get around to round two, these veggie burgers are still a step up from most that can be purchased. See what you think.