A veggie burger sounds good in theory. So why do so many taste like hockey pucks, fall apart in the pan or require a hodgepodge of ingredients? Well, not these three burgers.
First up are mushroom burgers, which start with charry grilled portobellos. To stop them from leaking moisture and making the buns soggy, we decided to try scoring them, a technique that works well with oven-roasted mushrooms. It worked like a charm on the grill.
We lightly scored the mushrooms on the smooth, non-gill side in a crosshatch pattern. This helped expedite the release of moisture, which dripped out and evaporated on the grill, ensuring intense mushroom flavor. The crosshatching also allowed the mushrooms to absorb more marinade — a flavorful mix of olive oil, red wine vinegar and garlic.
Once they were cooked, we filled the portobello caps with a savory mixture of feta, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers before stacking them on grilled buns with basil mayonnaise, baby arugula and sweet grilled onions.
If your mushrooms are larger or smaller than 4-5 inches, you may need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. If the mushrooms absorb all the marinade, simply brush the onions with olive oil before grilling.
For the second burger, starting with black beans (dried on paper towels to eliminate moisture) gave us a substantial base. To avoid a crumbly burger, we minimized starchy binders, finding help in ground tortilla chips, which worked as a binder (along with eggs and a tiny bit of flour) and added toasty corn flavor.
Pulsing our beans only coarsely prevented the burgers from becoming gummy. To ensure they held together, we refrigerated the mixture for at least an hour, allowing the starches to absorb additional moisture. (Prepare the patties a day ahead for a faster meal.)
To build a Southwestern flavor, we added scallions, cilantro, garlic, cumin and coriander, plus hot sauce for zip. When forming the patties, it is important to pack them firmly together.
Finally, buttery, nutty chickpeas also make a great foundation for a satisfying veggie burger. A touch of curry powder adds a hint of warm spice, and crispy Japanese-style breadcrumbs help hold the patties together.
Process the chickpea mixture just until there are some finely chopped chickpeas (to help the patties hold together) and some larger pieces (for texture). Do not overprocess, or the burgers will be mushy.
To keep the patties from falling apart, wait until they are well-browned on the first side before attempting to flip them.
GRILLED PORTOBELLO BURGERS
Start to finish: 50 minutes
4 portobello mushroom caps (4-5 inches in diameter), gills removed
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers, patted dry and chopped
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, patted dry and chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
4 (1/2-inch-thick) slices red onion
4 kaiser rolls, split and toasted
1 ounce (1 cup) baby arugula
Cut 1/16-inch-deep slits on top of the mushroom caps, spaced 1/2 inch apart, in a crosshatch pattern.
Combine the mushrooms, oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a 1-gallon zipper-lock bag. Seal bag, and turn to coat. Let sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
Combine the feta, red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl. Whisk the mayonnaise and basil together in a separate bowl. Push 1 toothpick horizontally through each onion slice to keep rings intact while grilling.
For a charcoal grill: Open the bottom vent completely. Light a large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over grill. Set the cooking grate in place, cover and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Turn all burners to medium-high.
Clean and oil the cooking grate. Remove mushrooms from marinade, and brush onions all over with remaining mushroom marinade. Place onions and mushrooms, gill side up, on grill. Cook (covered if using gas) until mushrooms have released their liquid and are charred on first side, 4-6 minutes. Flip mushrooms and onions, and continue to cook (covered if using gas) until mushrooms are charred on second side, 3-5 minutes.
Transfer onions to a platter, and discard toothpicks. Transfer mushrooms to the platter, gill side up, and divide feta mixture evenly among caps, packing down mixture. Return mushrooms to grill, feta side up, and cook, covered, until heated through, about 3 minutes.
Return mushrooms to platter, and tent with aluminum foil. Spread basil mayonnaise evenly over roll bottoms, and top each with 1 mushroom and 1 onion slice. Divide arugula evenly among burgers, then cap with roll tops. Serve.
Nutrition information per serving: 612 calories; 657 calories from fat; 40 g fat (9 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 37 mg cholesterol; 1,134 mg sodium; 49 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 15 g protein.
BLACK BEAN BURGERS
Start to finish: 40 minutes (plus 1-24 hours chilling)
2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed
1 ounce tortilla chips, crushed coarse (1/2 cup)
4 scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 hamburger buns
Chipotle mayonnaise (recipe follows)
Line a rimmed baking sheet with a triple layer of paper towels, and spread black beans over towels. Let stand for 15 minutes.
Process the tortilla chips in a food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Add the scallions, cilantro and garlic, and pulse until finely chopped, about 15 pulses, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add the beans, and pulse until beans are roughly broken down, about 5 pulses.
Whisk the eggs, flour, cumin, hot sauce, coriander, salt and pepper together in a large bowl until well-combined. Add bean mixture, and mix until just combined. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet. Divide bean mixture into 6 equal portions. Firmly pack each portion into a tight ball, then flatten to 31/2-inch-wide burgers.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Carefully place 3 burgers in the skillet, and cook until bottoms are well-browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Flip burgers, add 1 tablespoon oil and cook second side until well-browned and crisp, 3-5 minutes.
Transfer burgers to prepared rack, and keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining 3 patties and remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Transfer burgers to buns, and serve with chipotle mayonnaise and your favorite toppings..
Nutrition information per serving: 385 calories; 115 calories from fat; 13 g fat (2 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 72 mg cholesterol; 751 mg sodium; 51 g carbohydrate; 11 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 15 g protein.
Makes about 1/2 cup
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 minced garlic clove
1/8 teaspoon salt
Mix together all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
Note: You can vary the spiciness of this sauce by adjusting the amount of chipotle.
CRISPY CHICKPEA BURGERS
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
1 large egg
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, plus extra for serving
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
3 scallions, sliced thin
4 leaves lettuce
4 hamburger buns
Set a colander in the sink. Open the can of chickpeas, and pour into colander. Rinse chickpeas with cold water, and shake colander to drain well. Measure out 3/4 cup chickpeas; reserve remaining chickpeas for another use.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, yogurt, 2 teaspoons oil, curry powder, salt and pepper until well-combined.
Place 3/4 cup chickpeas, panko and scallions in a food processor. Lock lid in place. Hold down pulse button for 1 second, then release. Repeat until ingredients are roughly chopped with some large pieces remaining, 5-8 pulses.
Remove lid, and carefully remove food processor blade. Transfer chickpea mixture to bowl with egg mixture. Use a rubber spatula to gently stir ingredients until just combined.
Use your hands to divide chickpea mixture into 2 lightly packed balls. Gently flatten each ball into a circle that measures 4 inches across.
Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to a 10-inch nonstick skillet, and swirl skillet to coat evenly with oil. Place patties in skillet, and cook over medium heat until well-browned on first side, 4-6 minutes. Use a spatula to gently flip patties. Cook until well-browned on second side, 4-5 minutes. Turn off heat.
Put 1 lettuce leaf inside each bun. Use spatula to slide burgers into buns. Serve with more yogurt (for dipping or spreading inside buns) if you like.
Nutrition information per serving: 726 calories; 189 calories from fat; 21 g fat (3 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 108 mg cholesterol; 1,166 mg sodium; 106 g carbohydrate; 17 g fiber; 16 g sugar; 30 g protein.