19 March 2012

in search of the perfect (vegan) burger.

perfecting the vegan burger has been one of the most difficult kitchen tasks i've taken on.  this, however, is probably my own fault as i may have a tendency to set my expectations too high.  basically i'm looking for a patty that i can mass produce that includes a variety of fresh veggies, seeds, nuts, beans, and a grain; a burger that is delicious on its own and able to take on a variety of seasonings; they need to stay together enough to eventually be grilled; and also hold up to freezing.  i started this process last summer and planned to continue working on it until i had it figured out, but mother nature has been working against me.

the first step of my journey.

during the growing season most of what i consume is fresh, organic, local produce - a majority of which i am lucky enough to harvest myself.  what i do not pick from my small garden is grown friends, family members, and other local farmers who i've become familiar with.  i frequent the farmers markets for special treats (jams, pickled items, and more exotic produce) and am a member of a local csa which keeps my crisper full the standard fare (zucchini, onions, greens, tomatoes, squash, and herbs).  the sheer amount of foods available forces me to become a cooking (and gardening) machine.  by mid-july they are the only activities that i find myself doing during what little 'free' time i have.

unfortunately my interest in food diminishes greatly throughout fall and is nonexistent for most of winter.  once i run out of frozen tomatoes, my supply squash, and what little canned goods i acquired i generally stop caring about what i eat.  my focus shifts from being satisfied (with taste and nutrition) to feeling full (of mostly carbs and calories).  needless to say, i stopped trying to figure out a burger about mid-september.  however, spring is once again here and i will back to having access to fresh food, therefore it is important for me to find creative ways to preserve it to help balance my diet from season to season.

so, not only do i want these burgers to be healthy and delicious, i also want to be able to make a huge batch, then break it down into smaller portions, season them differently; and then cook, package, and freeze them separately.  bulk production will allow me to stock up on food for the winter, being able to have a base that tastes good on its own, but also can take on other flavors (curry or taco seasonings anyone?) will help to keep tastes varied and me interested in eating them. as added bonuses it will also save me time and finally give me something quick and easy to bring to barbeques and camping trips throughout the summer!

the process is pretty involved and time consuming therefore i have them far less often than i would like.  by the time the rice and beans are cooked, veggies are processed, 'batter' is made, and patties are baked you've dedicated about three hours to making them.  i often find myself wanting to eat one but don't have the time or energy, they are not something you want to throw together after a long day of work - for me they are definitely a day off project.  

the basic parts are: a grain, a pulse, mixed veggies, seasoning, and a binder.  what i've found works best so far are wild rice, lentils, corn, carrots, celery, garlic, and a paste made of broth/veg juice and flour and nut/seed meal. 

one night this week i made rice and beans as a side dish and made extra to turn into burgers the next day.  i put aside about a cup or so of the mixture.  it was equal parts lentils and thai red rice cooked in two parts liquid water with salt, garlic, and some dried herbs.  (i find that lentils and rice can be cooked together and because of this they are my legume of choice.)

the next day,when i was ready to make them, i shredded a carrot, stalk of celery, and three cloves of garlic.  then i picked the pulp up and squeezed the juice out, if you don't want to squeeze it by hand, use a strainer and the back of a wooden spoon to press it.  i added the pulp to a large bowl with the lentils and rice and set the liquid aside for my binder.  then, to the rice, beans and veggies i added in some chopped green onion (the white parts only), about 1/2 cup frozen sweet corn, and a paste made from five sundried tomatoes (rehydrated and blended with the hot water i used to soften them).

then i added 3/4 cup water and the veggie juice (about 1/4 cup) to a saucepan and heated it over medium until it started to steam.  i added about a 1/2 cup ground oats and 1/4 cup chopped seeds (hemp, pepitas, sunseeds, and flax - you could probably use nuts if you like).  i stirred them together until it looked like porridge or thick batter.  i added this to the veggies, rice, and beans; mixed it all up; and popped it into the fridge to cool and set a little.  while i allowed that to cool i preheated the oven to 350 degrees.

about a half hour later i took the mixture out of the fridge, washed my hands, and covered them lightly in oil.  i divided the mix into five equal parts and made them into patties.  i placed them onto my pizza stone and then put them into the oven.  i baked them for about a half hour and then turned them and put them back in for fifteen or twenty minutes.

overall i was really satisfied with this batch.  so far it has been the only one to hold up to cooking.  i believe that they would reheat well on the grill or in a frying pan (they are even good cold).  last night i topped them with roasted onions and served them with home cut fries and roasted green beans.  i probably ate more than i needed but since it was made from fresh, whole foods i don't have to feel guilty (a much better feeling than when i realized i've eaten an entire box of rice mac 'n cheese).

i will continue to work on improving this process and eventually post the recipe with detailed step-by-step instructions and photos.  in the meantime i am going to enjoy experimenting and testing out different veggie and seasoning combinations.

1 comment:

  1. Yay! I'm so happy they turned out for you! :) Try old fashioned oats for a different texture. :D