It's summer time, and this season always seems to conjure up appetites for a good old bbq and all the foods that go with it. Whenever I go to a bbq, one of two things happen; either I'm expected to have my fill of sides, or someone slaps a pre-bought veggie burger on the grill for me.
I am extremely picky about my veggie burgers. I don't like the ones that have huge chunks of carrots and peas in them. They tend to taste like salty mush and contribute nothing to a sandwich. I absolutely love a good Griller (MorningStar Farm), partially because I think the taste is delicious and distinctive and partially because a Griller can physically hold its own in a sandwich. However, Grillers have dairy in them, which presents a whole host of problems at a kosher bbq where the grill is meat. Also, I'm trying to stay away from such heavily processed foods and from dairy these days, so sadly I've said goodbye to my favorite veggie burger.
Usually, I suggest grilling up a portabello mushroom for me instead. These large mushrooms are the right size for a hamburger bun, have a delightfully chewy texture, and can be marinated to pure deliciousness with a touch of balsamic vinegar, oil, and garlic. But sometimes, I want a "meaty," toothsome burger that I can literally sink my teeth into. I want it to hold its shape and its flavor when I put it in a sandwich, and I want all the protein my carnivorous friends and family are getting from their burgers.
So, I set off in search of a veggie burger recipe. I almost immediately came upon this gem from Mark Bittman. I immediately knew that I had found my recipe. I love how simple this recipe is (though I kicked the spicing up a bit), and I love how it's made of beans and oats, creating a full protein. I added a cornmeal crust to my burgers so that I could get a nice crunch on the outside without using too much oil (the cornmeal also helps a lot when shaping the burgers). One batch can either be split into four solid veggie burgers for any non-meat eater to enjoy at a bbq, or it can be split into smaller patties to serve as a side dish for any meal.
I whipped up a tangy sauce/relish with caramelized onions, mustard, and balsamic vinegar. The tangy flavors are nicely offset by the creamy taste of the white beans in these burgers. And I added just a bit of heat to my burgers to make them more distinctive in a sandwich. These will definitely be my go-to veggie burgers from now on.
Bean Burgers with Caramelized Onion Sauce
Adapted from Mark Bittman
Serves 4 as burgers, 6-8 as side dish patties
2 cups white beans (1 can), drained
3/4 cups old fashioned oats (not the instant kind)
1 small onion
2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like heat)
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/3 cup course ground corn meal
Olive oil for the pan
3 large onions, quartered and thinly sliced
2 tsp olive oil
2 tbs Dijon mustard
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat up the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium-low heat, then add the onions. These will take a while to caramelize, so start with them before you do anything else. Let them cook down for the next 20-30 minutes. If they start getting too brown, turn down the heat and/or cover the sauce pan for a few minutes to collect more liquid.
2. Combine the beans, oats, spices, and small onion in a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth and uniform, stopping to scrape down the sides ever so often. Feel free to taste the spicing and adjust as desired during this process.
3. Place the cornmeal in a shallow bowl. Take a large scoop of the bean-oat mixture and plop it down in the cornmeal. This will help you as you shape the patties or burgers by hand. Make sure both sides get a dusting of cornmeal, and place any formed patties or burgers aside.
4. Heat up a large grill pan or skillet on medium-high heat and add olive oil to coat the bottom when hot. I find it easiest to use a non-stick pan or skillet, which allows me to use less oil. Place the patties or burgers in the pan and let them get nice and golden brown before flipping it over, about 4 minutes. Once you've flipped your burgers or patties, you might have to add some more olive oil to the pan.
5. While the burgers are grilling, and once the onions have caramelized, mix in the thyme leaves (removed from the stems) and the balsamic vinegar. Let it cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the vinegar has reduced a bit. Then add the mustard and let cook for another minute before removing the pan from heat.
6. Serve your burgers or patties warm, cold, or room temperature, topped with the caramelized onion sauce at whatever temperature you want.