I’ve suffered through a few pitiful attempts at making veggie burgers. They’re pretty easy to ruin, and since the general public approaches them with a skepticism bordering on hostility, they can be a daunting task for even the most confident cook.
My last disaster happened while visiting home in Texas, some friends of my family asked me to cook one night, fully expecting a gourmet Italian meal. My ingredients were severely limited, however, and I had no desire to make the 20 minute drive to the cavernous grocery store. As I took stock of the pantry, I was at a loss: no pasta, no rice, no polenta, no meat, too few eggs for a frittata. Buried in the back of a deserted cheese drawer I came across a block of tofu and inspiration struck: “Tofu-burgers!”
I loosely followed an online recipe, liberally substituting ingredients and changing measurements without any real criteria. What I ended up with was a soupy mess, much to runny to form into patties. No matter how many oats or spoonfuls of flour I added (I obviously had no bread crumbs on hand), the mess just wouldn’t firm up. I panicked, dinner was supposed to be served in 30 minutes, everyone was expecting this “Italian” food-blogger to prepare a delicious feast, and all I had was an oozing bowlful of tofu purée. In what I mistakingly took for a stroke of genius, I poured the sludge into a loaf pan and threw it in the oven, hoping to obtain some sort of vegetarian meat-loaf. Suffice to say, the results were disastrous: brick-like and tasteless. My friends and family laughingly nicknamed the creation “Loaf-fu” and nobody ate more than one bite. The family dog, who has been known to eat plastic bags and charcoal without complaint, wouldn’t even look at it.
This recipe however, has a happier story and yields much more delicious results. I ditched the tofu idea all together and made these patties out of chickpeas, sunflower seeds and spices, for a flavorful burger with great texture. My husband, who is notoriously suspicious of any food that wasn’t once walking, had to be threatened with starvation and divorce before he would taste it. His disgust at the idea of a meat-free hamburger quickly faded into delight as he devoured the entire sandwich in record time.
“Did you like it?” I tried to act casual, not wanting him to notice the triumphant tone in my voice.
“I hate to say it… but that was actually delicious!”
I simply grinned, but inside I was doing a stadium-style touch-down dance. With this victory I prayed that the painful Loaf-fu experience would fade into distant history, nothing but a tiny speed bump on my path to the perfect veggie-burger.
Chickpea veggie burger
- 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 scallion, diced
- 1 – 2 slices white sandwich bread
- 1/3 cup (40 g) sunflower seeds (unsalted), you may also use almonds or walnuts
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
- zest from 1 lemon
- Coarse salt and ground pepper
- 1 large egg
- Olive oil
- hamburger buns
- optional garnishes (lettuce, arugula, tomato, onion, cheese, ketchup, mayo, ecc)
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1/4 cup (60 g) yogurt (preferably greek)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
For the burgers: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet or non-stick frying pan over a high flame. In a food processor, combine chickpeas, scallion, 1 slice of bread, sunflower seeds, cumin, and ginger. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add egg to food processor and pulse until combined. If mixture is too liquidy to form patties, add another slice of bread (torn into small pieces) and process until smooth.
Form the mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick patties. Arrange the patties in the hot skillet and reduce the flame to medium-low. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Serve the burgers on buns with lettuce, cheese, and yogurt-tahini sauce.
For the sauce: combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Use generously to garnish your burgers.