I’m on a mission to create the perfect veggie burger. The challenge is complex: it must have bold flavor, be nourishing, organic and appetizing. Texture is important, too. It can’t be excessively mushy or crumble when cooked.
I scoured the pantry and fridge for ingredients that could be mashed together and molded into patties. Bowlfuls of spicy black beans, Mediterranean chickpeas, and mushrooms with lentils were just a few combinations. My potato masher hadn’t seen this much action since Thanksgiving dinner. Towards the end I even enlisted the help of the food processor. For hours, in temperatures topping 100 degrees, I scooped, shaped and flipped dozens of burgers, experiencing first-hand the grueling job of a line cook. The winning combination was a nutritious mix of short grain brown rice, quinoa and French green lentils. There’s quite a bit of prep involved, so if you’re short on time, cook these in advance. Grated raw beets add an earthy flavor and vibrant red color. Cremini mushrooms and caramelized onions keep the burger dense and moist and chia seed gel holds it all together. These burgers brown up nicely as a result of the natural sugar in the beets, and taste best when refrigerated overnight, then grilled to infuse a bit of smokiness. Top with an herb and garlic soy mayo, slices of heirloom tomato and serve on whole grain buns. Now that the challenge is over and my freezer is stocked with veggie burgers, this line cook is resigning. And I’m sending the potato masher on a well-deserved sabbatical to the seldom-used-utensil drawer.