No meat needed
Burgers With Lots of Sizzle and None of the Guilt
By MARK BITTMAN
Published: February 15, 2006
VEGGIE burgers are nothing new; I remember them from the kosher dairy restaurants of the Lower East Side when I was growing up. But they have gone mainstream — and in the process, for the most part, they've become worse.
With good ingredients and simple preparation, vegetable burgers made with beans, above, tofu, nuts or potatoes can be flavorful without any meat. They also lend themselves to improvisation with different spices and herbs.
The most common ones are frozen disks of what seems like library paste. The fact that it's often organic library paste — soy flour, water, seasonings and "texturizers" — is presumably what makes it acceptable to sell it for $6 or $8 a pound. (Given that many people are accustomed to meat burgers that do not taste not much better, this is hardly a shock.)
As with traditional burgers, those made without meat don't need a lot of ingredients or an elaborate process to be juicy and delicious. (They can also be prepared on a tiny budget.)
Whether based on legumes, vegetables, nuts or tofu, they can be flavored in a variety of ways and take a number of forms. The same mixtures used for burgers can generate "cutlets," "meat" loaf or "meat" balls.
My favorite veggie burger starts with cooked or canned beans. But no matter what you use, a food processor is essential, because you almost always want to pulse the primary ingredient into small bits. (Occasionally you'll want to puree part of the mix, and the food processor does this well too.) You can use a combination of hand chopping, mashing and a blender, but it's going to be more time consuming.
Vegetables, legumes and nuts don't have the connective tissue that helps hold meat patties together, so they require a little binder to create a cohesive mass that can be shaped and handled. The idea is to use ingredients that bridge the gap between liquids and solids by capturing the moisture and transforming it into a binder. The starch found in potatoes, beans, grains or breadcrumbs often does the trick. So does a little egg or even butter. In other cases (like the Tofu Burger), simply pureeing some of the tofu, which has both protein and fat, holds everything together nicely.
I don't like or eat veggie burgers, but since there are people here who do, well....they can comment.
posted by Steve @ 3:19:00 PM