Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Memorial Day Veggie Burger Challenge

Most of you know that I love a good challenge.  That's why I love Melissa's Hot Yoga challenge, training for events, and trying new things.  I'm always asking myself:  How fast can I run?  How heavy can I lift?  How far can I push myself?  How good is my best?  Being born with drive can be a blessing, but it can also be a curse.  Because you could always run faster.  You could always have lifted more.  You might be able to push harder.  But is all that striving worth the effort?  If it's worth doing, it's worth doing well.  In the physical realm, it's also a race against time.  Inevitably, we won't be able to push harder, run further, go faster.  Eighty-year-olds don't win marathons.  Priorities have a way of changing.  That's just a part of growing up, maturing, and hopefully gaining wisdom.

On Memorial Day, I was faced with a challenge, but it wasn't a physical challenge (thankfully).  It was a culinary challenge.  Late Saturday evening, the Husband had a grand idea.  Let's have a Memorial Day barbecue and invite anyone who might not have plans.  We NEVER have Memorial Day plans, so we thought there might be a few other people out there who might enjoy a last minute invitation to a barbecue hosted by someone who loves to cook.  Knowing that we had commitments for most of the day on Sunday, I knew I'd just committed to cooking for 24 hours, but that was all part of the challenge.  The other part of the challenge...

What do you think of when you envision a barbecue?  Hot dogs with ketchup and mustard, hamburgers topped with lettuce and tomato?  Marinated steaks and chicken slathered in barbecue sauce?  Maybe beef and chicken kabobs or possibly even ribs?  I'm sure your picture is a carnivore's heaven.  Unless you're a vegetarian. 

Funny, the majority of the guests on our invite list were known vegetarians.  But it was Memorial Day, and we have a beautiful deck and a Weber grill.  We had to grill out.

The Challenge:  Could I make gluten-free veggie burgers that would hold together on a grill, satisfy my vegetarian friends, and create enough visual appeal to make even my carnivorous friends curious enough to try them?

The Husband and I had a late dinner on Sunday night with two different kinds of veggie burgers.  I'd never made veggie burgers before, aside from opening a box of Bocca Burgers and popping them in the toaster oven, and there was no way that I was going to present my vegetarian friends with untested recipes.  "But you always try new recipes when we have guests," the Husband reminded me.  Although I love the confidence that he has in me, this time I needed a trial run.

With a little googling, and modifications based on the inventory of my cupboards, I came up with two great veggie burgers.

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

- 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 small chopped green bell pepper
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 egg
- 1 T. chili powder
- 1 T. cumin
- 1 tsp. chili garlic sauce
- 1/2 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
- grapeseed oil

1.  Preheat grill to high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil with grapeseed oil.
2.  In a food processor, finely chop the bell pepper, onion, and garlic.  Then add the black beans.  Pulse until the mixture is well-mixed, but chunky.
3.  In a small bowl, stir together the egg, chili powder, cumin, and chili sauce.
4.  Combine the egg mixture with the bean mixture.  Then stir in the bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together, and divide it into 6 patties.
5.  Turn the grill down to medium heat, place the patties on the greased foil, and grill them for about 6 minutes on each side.

These black bean burgers looked just like beef burgers.  They were a little flatter, but one of our vegetarian guests asked me if they were the veggie burgers just to be sure.  They are also spicy.  Not just a little bit spicy, but REALLY spicy.  If you prefer a milder burger, you may want to omit or lighten up on the chili garlic sauce.

The next burger had a completely different taste and consistency.  It actually held together better than the black bean burger and had a light, summery flavor.  I'd equate this burger with a light turkey burger.  It was delicious with avocado, lettuce, tomato, and brocco sprouts.

Summer Veggie Burgers
2 cans of chic peas
4 eggs
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1 small onion
zest of one lemon
1 cup of brocco sprouts
1 cup of gluten-free breadcrumbs
grapeseed oil

1.  Combine the garbanzos, eggs, and salt in a food processor. Pulse until the consistency is thick and slightly chunky.
2.  Pour the bean mixture into a mixing bowl and stir in the cilantro, onion, lemon zest, and sprouts. 
3.  Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let it sit for a couple of minutes so that the breadcrumbs can absorb the moisture.  
4.  Make about 12 patties, place them on piece of aluminum foil coated with grapeseed oil, and preheat the grill on high heat.
5.  Turn the grill down to medium and place the burgers on the grill. Flip the patties after 5 minutes.  Cook the second side for about 7 minutes, or until they are golden brown. 

I LOVED these burgers.  Two of my non-vegetarian friends enjoyed them as well.  My favorite sight of the evening was that of a double-decker carni-veggie burger created by a meat-eating friend.  That said it all.

My challenge was successful!  The vegetarians were happy, grilling was easy, and a few carnivores had a pleasant surprise.  And I'm glad there are leftovers.

Do you like a challenge?  What challenges you?

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