I’m not a vegetarian and would never turn down a two-fisted hamburger. I’m also a veggie burger devotee.
But the very term veggie burger is a contradiction. A burger is made of meat — beef, lamb, turkey, chicken.
So how about using a different term, like veggie patties, because that’s what they are. The word “burger” sets up unrealistic expectations. Why try to replicate the flavor, texture and satisfaction of a beefy hamburger with beans and vegetables?
The effort to do so may explain why so many recipes for veggie “burgers” have a long list of ingredients and look like a lot of work to make.
I’m also not interested in imitating meat with processed soy for texture and beets for a meat-colored juice. Instead, I want patties based on boldly spiced, interesting combinations of beans or grains, fresh vegetables and herbs.
And, the best thing about making veggie patties is their versatility. Once you have the proportions you like, you can make quick use of leftover odds and ends of a delicious meal.
Serve veggie patties on a whole-wheat bun or stuff them into a pita with lettuce and hummus; wrap them in romaine or butter-leaf lettuce. They can be made ahead and frozen, ready to warm up at the last minute to enjoy as a quick, healthful meal.
Here are a few ideas for ingredients to get started. You can use any bean combination; canned beans speed things up. It’s best to choose softer vegetables that help bind the patties; oatmeal or rolled grains provide body while nuts and seeds give crunch. Here are a few options:
Beans: chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, lentils
Veggies: beets, sweet potatoes, winter squash
Grain: Rolled oats, rye, or wheat
Nuts and seeds: sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds
When it comes to seasoning these patties, all bets are off. Use whatever you like and use a heavy hand: Think Moroccan za’atar spices, Indian curry blends, Mexican cumin, oregano, and cayenne, or more traditional savory parsley, sage, rosemary, or thyme.
Don’t hesitate to pile on guacamole, salsa, tahini, hummus, sautéed mushrooms, sliced onions, tzatziki and whatever else suits your fancy.
Remember, though, that these are not meant to replicate a beefy burger experience. These patties tend to be tender and sometimes fall apart because the boldly seasoned patties are not trying to be meat. They are delicious and satisfying just as themselves.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.