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