This Fourth of July, make a meatless ‘burger’ that vegetarians will love

This Independence Day, there’s good news for vegans and vegetarians lining up at the grill for a tasty burger.

With the popularity of vegetarian cooking on the rise, folks have finally figured out how to use binders and spices, food processors and molds to create delicious vegetable patties that are crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and packed with flavor. And they don’t crumble before you can even take a bite.

As for those microwavable hockey pucks? They’re languishing at the back of the freezer, where they belong. We’ve gone from the Dark Ages of veggie burger to the Golden Age in one, happy bite

For backyard parties, you may also want to detour around the aptly named Impossible Burger, which attempts to appeal to meat lovers by imitating meat.

But since it can never surpass the real thing - served at every restaurant and hamburger joint in town - why would anyone settle for the second string?

This summer, we’re recommending a real veggie burger that proudly embraces the healthy nuts, whole grains and fresh vegetables, tucked neatly between its whole-wheat bun and homemade pickles.

With a real veggie burger, you don’t have to worry about weird ingredients, like soy protein isolate, and there’s nothing “fake” about it. It’s everything we love about a beef burger - without the beef.

Chef Matteo Silverman of Chalk Hill Cookery developed a special veggie patty made with quinoa and almonds for folks who want to grill up a true-blue version this Fourth of July.

It’s a variation on the brown rice and sunflower seed patty he serves at the Sebastopol Farmers Market on Sundays and the Healdsburg Plaza on Tuesdays in the summer.

Like Chef Brooks Headley’s Superiority Burger, served at its namesake vegetarian cafe in New York’s East Village, the quinoa and nuts lay down a steady bassline while the spices and herbs belt out the high notes.

“People line up for hours to snag his burger,” Dan Nosowitz wrote of the Superiority Burger in Modern Farmer.

“And not because it tastes like beef; it’s because it’s delicious.”

Silverman, a vegan chef who studied at the Natural Gourmet Culinary Institute in New York, is also quite particular about his veggie patties, striving for a texture that is firm yet moist, with each bite enlivened by fresh herbs and spices.

“It has to have a good chew to it and good moisture - not too dry and not falling apart,” he said. “And it has to have good flavor.”

To help ratchet up the umami, the chef sweats a mirepoix of carrot, onion and celery, then adds in smoked paprika and chipotle powder, salt and pepper, fresh thyme and rosemary, and mixes in the cooked quinoa.

Then grinds up the almonds, and adds the quinoa mixture to the processor, running it until it comes together to form a loose ball.

To form the veggie patties, Silverman uses an ice cream scoop to measure out each patty, then presses the balls flat with a spatula so they cook evenly.

“A ring mold works fine or one of those burger presses too,” he said.

He either sears the patties in a cast-iron pan, or bakes them off in the oven. “At this point, you can hold them for a later date,” he said.

If you’ve held them in the fridge, Silverman suggests finishing the burgers on the grill on a non-stick grill mat, such as the one made by Cuisinart.

“Just heat them to order,” he said. “The patty is already cooked.”

For condiments, simply grill up some onions, slice some tomatoes and lettuce and add your favorite condiments.

For bread, Silverman makes his own Onion Chia Flatbread, available at Community Market in Sebastopol, but as a substitute, he suggests a good-quality, whole-wheat bun, toasted on the grill.

As a side dish, he suggests serving an array of homemade fermented products such as pickled garlic, dill pickles and dill pickled carrots.

The pickles are crisp and refreshing, just like the white wines we chose for our suggested veggie burger wine pairings (See story on Page D2).

If vino with veggie burgers isn’t your thing, you can always quench your thirst with some refreshing ciders of craft beers.

“Pick up some fresh corn, watermelon and a six-pack of beer,” Silverman said. “You’re ready to go.”


The following recipes are from Matteo Silverman of Chalk Hill Cookery. Beet powder is available at health food stores and spice markets.

Almond Quinoa Burger

Makes 4 burgers

1 tablespoon olive oil or 1/4 cup water

1/2 onion, diced

1/2 cup carrot, diced

1/4 cup celery, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon chipotle powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon beet powder

2 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced

2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

11/2 cups cooked white quinoa

11/2 cups unsalted almonds, lightly toasted

Heat olive oil or water over medium heat. Sweat onions, carrot and celery until soft (about 5 to 7 minutes.)

Add garlic, paprika and chipotle powder. Cook for one minute, until fragrant. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Stir in beet powder, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Cook for 30 seconds.

Add quinoa and stir to combine. Remove from heat. In a food processor, grind the almonds into powder.

Add the cooled quinoa mixture to the food processor and grind until the mixture begins to come together in a ball.

Adjust seasoning, if necessary. Form into four patties.

Bake burgers at 350 degrees on a parchment-lined sheet pan for 10 to 15 minutes on one side. Gently flip over burgers and bake an additional 5 to 7 minutes.

Alternately, sear the burgers in a non-stick pan with a touch of olive or avocado oil, until golden brown on both sides. (To hold, let cool, wrap separately and store in the fridge for a week or in the freezer indefinitely.

To reheat, throw on a grill mat on the grill until warm.)

Serve on your favorite bread or bun, with condiments such as the Miso Mustard and sides such as Dill Pickled Carrots (recipes below.)

Miso Mustard

Makes 1 quart

For mustard:

1 cup yellow or brown mustard seed

1 cup raw apple cider vinegar

1 cup filtered water

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup chickpea miso (or white, red, black)

Place first four ingredients in a sterilized, quart-sized Mason jar. Stir well to combine. Leave, covered, at room temperature for 3 days. (This helps remove the bitterness from the seeds.)

After day 3, blend the mixture in your blender to your desired texture, grainy or smooth.

Pour the prepared mustard into a bowl, add the miso and whisk well to thoroughly combine. Keeps up to a year in the fridge.

Dill-Pickled Carrots

Makes 1 quart

1 quart brine (3 tablespoons pink Himalayan salt in 1 quart water)

1 pound rainbow carrots, scrubbed and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

8 cloves garlic

2 bay leaves

1 ounce fresh dill

1 teaspoon coriander seed

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 dried chile pepper

- Pinch chile flakes

2 grape leaves or 1 cabbage leaf

Sterilize the Mason jars you are using for the pickles. Blend the salt and water together to create the brine.

Place the garlic, bay leaves, fresh dill, coriander seed, black pepper, chile and chile flakes into the bottom of the vessel. Add the carrots.

Pour the brine over the carrots, leaving 1 inch of space at the top.

Place the grape or cabbage leaf on top of the carrots, pressing down to keep the carrots submerged. Pour more brine over the leaves and cover with cheesecloth or a lid with an airlock system.

Let sit for 5 to 7 days in a cool, dark space. Check every day to see if more brine needs to be added.

After day 5, taste the carrots to see if they are ready. (depends on the ambient temperature of the fermenting area.)

They should taste crisp and dilly with a little kick from the chile. Store in the fridge to slow down fermentation.

Staff Writer Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or On Twitter @dianepete56.

Diane Peterson

Features, The Press Democrat

I’m interested in the home kitchen, from sheet-pan suppers to the latest food trends. Food encompasses the world, its many cultures, languages and history. It is both essential and sensual. I also have my fingers on the pulse of classical music in Sonoma County, from student mariachi bands to jazz crossover and symphonic sounds. It’s all a rich gumbo, redolent of the many cultures that make up our country and the world.

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