Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why is it so difficult?

While I like to call myself a vegetarian, I suppose I'm not really a true vegetarian. I still eat fish (lots of it) and eggs (the occasional one). I am constantly on the lookout for interesting new vegetarian dishes that are easy to make, can be frozen and reheated without losing any goodness. This is harder than it sounds. And my Sunday cooking extravaganza brought this home to me yet again (*sigh*).

Here are two recipes for veggie burgers. The first comes to you from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food.

Lentil-Walnut Burgers - Here's what's wrong with this recipe (you can click on the link because I can't be bothered to type out two crap recipes): while the ingredients sound good on paper, once they are mixed together, fried in 3 Tablespoons of oil (why this is necessary in this day and age, I don't know. Well, actually I'd say it's to give some taste to these dry, dry, dry burgers), you then basically have to slather them in the yogurt-cilantro dip just to give the burgers enough juice to swallow. I swear, without the dip they'd just get stuck in your throat. Talk about D-R-Y.

I'm not a chef by any means, but listen up food editors, test kitchen chefs, etc. it is possible to make vegetarian burgers that taste like food, not like fried cardboard. Any questions? See me.

Recipe #2 I pulled from The Gazette ages ago. It's been sitting in my recipe binder since then and after I type it out here I will be binning it.

Veggie Burgers (from John Ash's From the Earth to the Table)

Serves 4

1 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely diced carrots
1/2 teaspoon minced seeded serrano chili (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chopped roasted eggplant, including skin
1 cup chopped firm cooked red potatoes
1 cup coarsely grated zucchini, squeezed dry in a clean tea towel
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup soft whole-wheat bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Saute onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat until just beginning to colour. Add carrots, chilies, ginger and cumin and continue to cook until carrots just begin to soften. Stir in the eggplant, potatoes, zucchini and cilantro and cook for two to three minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat, cool and then gently mix in flour, egg and bread crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper and shape into patties. Saute patties in remaining olive oil until golden brown on both sides, or grill on a well-oiled barbeque.

Approx. nutritional content per serving: 260 Calories, 6g protein, 15g fat, 29g carbohydrates, 5g dietary fibre, 350mg sodium.

Problems with this recipe (for me, anyway): if I have to roast an eggplant, peel and boil potatoes and let all that cool down before I even get to assembling these patties, already this is taking too long. Now I understand that I could've substituted any of the vegetables or even added nuts, but I like to do things the way they're written the first time around, you know. So I did. And I hated this. Honestly, by the time I got around to smushing the mass of mush into patties (it says it serves 4, but is that for 4 HUGE patties or for 8 miniscule patties? I don't know. I made 6 medium sized patties), I was kinda grossed out by the look of them. The chunks of potato and the eggplant skin were turning me off big time. I tried this without any kind of dressing. Then nearly spat it out. Luckily I had some salsa and sour cream on hand and this made the whole thing edible.

My major issues here are why make something that really needs a dip or dressing on it before it becomes palatable? Why not make a great tasting burger that can stand alone, without having to rely on additional dips, salsa, etc.? For the record, I have a great recipe for mushroom burgers that - oh my gosh - are great by themselves! They are great hot. They are great cold, out of the fridge at 2 in the morning. Would you believe it's a Weight Watchers recipe? Yeah, it's true. I've been making this recipe for years and still love it, love it, love it. Here it is:

Vegetarian Mushroom Burgers

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
2 ½ cups chopped mushrooms
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons seasoned dried breadcrumbs
2/3 cup low-fat (1%) cottage cheese
½ cup chopped onion
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 ¼ ounces shredded mozzarella
2 ounces chopped walnuts or almonds
1 tsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Dash salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 325ºF.

In large bowl, combine all ingredients except oil until thoroughly blended. Shape mixture into 6 patties.

Spray large non-stick skillet with non-stick cooking spray; add oil and heat 1 minute. Add patties and cook over medium heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn patties over; cook until other side is slightly browned, about 3 minutes longer. (Patties can be prepared to this point and frozen for later use.)

Place patties in a non-stick baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Per serving: 242 calories, 13g protein, 13g fat, 21g carbohydrates, 112mg calcium, 783mg sodium, 81mg cholesterol, 1g dietary fibre.

Notes from Stef: instead of seasoned breadcrumbs, you can use plain ones (homemade) and add your own spices. I find I can skip the addition of salt altogether here. If you find the mixture too dry and the patties don’t stick together, add a tablespoon or two of water to the mixture until the consistency is thick enough so that the patties don’t fall apart. It says to make 6 patties, but I prefer to make them a tiny bit smaller and get 8 patties out of the mixture. I usually cook the burgers a little longer in the pan and then skip baking them in the oven. If you’re going to freeze them after frying them, let them cool slightly and remember to separate the layers with a piece of wax paper or parchment paper.

1 comment:

ymzehnder said...

I'm gonna have to try those mushroom burgers; you've been raving about them for years.