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From the strictest vegans and vegetarians to the curious carnivore looking for a change of pace, all will find the recipes in this unique cookbook a necessary part of their cooking repertoire.
The All American Burger Goes Vegetarian
In recent years vegetarian burgers have become a passion for me. I believe this to be a result of living in the United States, where a meal on a bun with all the trimmings is a way of life. I use a wealth of nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and spices to produce exciting, nutritionally sound vegetarian burgers. They are not difficult to prepare, requiring only a food processor.
I was introduced to vegetarian patties as a child in India, the land of my birth, where meat eaters and vegetarians haveinfluenced each other's cooking for thousands of years. Indian cooks prepare not only many sorts of ground meat patties,called kebabs, but they also do an equally varied set of vegetable patties, known as chop, patis, tikki, or bora.
These vegetarian delights are composed of legumes, grains, and various minced vegetables, laced with fresh chiles, herbs, and spices. Indian cooks roll them into balls or flatten them into oval shapes, then coat them with bread crumbs before frying orbaking. In India they are not served on a bun. Rather, they are accompanied by rice, flat bread, lentil stew, chutney, and fresh chile slivers for a well-rounded meal.
Middle Eastern cooks produce such burgerlike preparations as falafel and kibbe. They combine minced vegetables and meatwith grains, nuts, and spices, which are formed into cakes orballs that are fried or baked, then served with a variety ofaccompaniments including raw onion and spiced yogurt. Their custom of adding pine nuts and cracked wheat to the burgermixture inspired several recipes in this book.
Additional burger ideas came to me whiletraveling in Europe and Asia. Kasha, also known as buckwheat, blends smoothly with walnuts and lima beans to create a rich burger. Indian basmati rice mixed with velvety Japanese shiitake mushrooms and formed into a burger is sensational. Swiss chard has a special affinity for the Korean seasonings of soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic that, in combination with mushrooms, yields a burger with outstanding flavor and a high nutritional profile. Tofu burgers are nothing new, but smoking tofu in a burner-top smoker imparts a rich, earthy taste that brings the romance of open-fire cooking to the vegetarian table. For variety, I also stuff the burgers Indian style, filling their centers with sweet onion, hard-cooked eggs, or wilted greens.
Friends who describe commercial vegetarian burgers as "abit bland" are pleasantly surprised by these innovations. Even meat-eating friends find these vegetarian burgers to be a pleasant change of pace. In the recipes that follow I introduce the Western palate to many exciting new tastes.
In keeping with current nutritional guidelines, I have worked to reduce fat and cholesterol content. Grilling, baking, orbroiling are my primary methods of cooking, and saut‚ing is an alternative. The use of eggs or dairy products is, for the most part, optional. This makes these burgers acceptable to "vegans," those vegetarians who shun all animal products.
Most of the recipes are simple and the majority of theingredients are now available in supermarkets. Leftover cooked grains, beans, and vegetables can be cleverly turned into burgers, and many of the steps can be done ahead of time. What's more, these low-fat patties can be frozen.
By varying the side dishes and trimmings, one can be sure that these versatile burgers are seldom served the same way twice.The American style of presentation with "the works" has flair and is part of the attraction. But these burgers can also be pairedwith a rice pilaf, wrapped in a chapati with chutney, or slipped into a pita pocket with a spicy salsa, creating a whole different dining experience. Surrounded by imaginative side dishes, the humblevegetarian burger becomes a gourmet treat appropriate at an elegant luncheon or simply for entertaining that special vegetarian guest.
Condiments are essential to the enjoyment of vegetarian burgers, so I have dedicated an entire chapter to quick salsas, flavorful chutneys, fiery sambals, and relishes from around the world. All have been selected for their affinity with vegetarian burgers. Another chapter features a few select side dishes that promise to make these burgers even more satisfying and pleasurable.
I feel that these richly flavored and highly nutritious patties should be in the repertoire of all cooks--carnivores and vegetarians alike. Try these recipes. Use the many tips. And, by all means, create variations of your own by venturing beyond.
A food processor is a must for preparing vegetarian burgers.It helps blend the ingredients, creates the proper texture, and eliminates the need for eggs as a binding agent. Any simple processor with attachments for grating or shredding will do the job; a fancy machine is not necessary.
Alternatively, you can use a food mill, mortar, or, in some cases, a potato masher. This will, however, lengthen the preparationtime and create a coarser mixture that doesn't bind as well. In this case, consider adding one whole egg or two egg whites to besure that the burgers will retain their shape.
Don't substitute a blender for a food processor. Most blenders will not grind the ingredients properly without requiring extra liquid. This, in turn, will make the mixture too soft and runnyto be formed into patties.
An electric spice/coffee grinder is ideal for pulverizing small amounts of nuts or seeds to a powdered form. You can also use a blender or food processor, but the food can stick to the sides, making it difficult to extract. Note that it is preferable to have a separate grinder for this purpose, as the gadget can't be used to grind coffee after you've ground other foods in it.
For grilling burgers, a vegetable grid works best. They come in many varieties. My favorite is a flat metal sheet made of heavy gauge steel with a nonstick surface and a pattern of evenly spaced holes, approximately 14 inch in diameter, that fits neatly on top of a grill. Even the most tender and fragile foods can be grilled on this grid without falling into the fire. You can also use a hinged basket, a two-sided hinged grill with long handles that encloses one or more patties, depending on size. They are especially useful for delicate burgers, enabling them to be turned and moved around the grill without fear of breakage. If saut‚ing, use anonstick skillet and nonstick spatula for turning the burgers.
The ingredients below are available in supermarkets, natural food shops, and Asian, Indian, or Latin American specialty food shops.
Asafetida A brown resinous compound from India with a strong garlicky flavor, sold in rocklike chunks or fine powder.If you have purchased the chunk form, simply break off a piece and grind it in a mortar or spice grinder. The powder is more convenient.
Black Salt This salt from India is grayish pink in color,not black. It has a distinctive flavor and adds an earthy touch to condiments.
Bulgur (Cracked Wheat) Hulled wheat, parboiled, then dried and coarsely ground; available in fine, medium, or coarse textures. For the recipes in this book, use fine cracked wheat. You can also use packaged tabbouleh mix if the seasoning has not been premixed with the cracked wheat.
Caraway Small, brown, crescent-shaped seeds, these add a pleasant, sweet taste to grains and vegetables.
Chipotle ChileDried and smoked jalapenos from Mexico. They have a wonderfully smoky flavor, but are extremely hot, so use a small amount initially, then adjust to your taste.
CuminCumin comes both whole and ground. The whole seeds resemble caraway and have a pleasantly bitter taste. Ground cumin is strongly aromatic.
Garam Masala. This mixture of"hot" spices from India is dominated by ground cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Garam masala gives a fragrant spicy flavor to vegetarian burgers.
Hoisin Sauce A thick, spicy-sweet paste from China, favored as a dip. Rich brown in color, it's made primarily with fermented soybeans and garlic.
Kasha (Buckwheat Groats)In Eastern Europe kasha denotes any grain-based porridge, but in the United States it refers specifically to buckwheat groats, which are not a grain but, rather, the seeds of the buckwheat plant. Buckwheat groats have a delightful nutty flavor and a crunchy texture; they are cooked like a grain.
MilletThis tiny, delicate grain becomes light and fluffy when cooked and can form the foundation for vegetarian burgers. Whole millet can be pressed into the surface of burgers to provide textural variety and visual appeal.
Mustard SeedsIn these recipes I use black mustard seeds (also called brown mustard seeds), which are smaller and moreflavorful than the common yellow variety.
Quinoa A tiny beige grain, similar to millet but smaller, with a very high protein content. Important: Rinse several times before using to remove a naturally occurring bitter residue, saponin.
Sambal OelekA red chile paste used as a seasoning or as an accompaniment. It is flavorful, but extremely hot, so use in small amounts. Vegetarian Burgers. Copyright © by Bharti Kirchner. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
|Introduction: The All-American Burger Goes Vegetarian||1|
|Grain and Bean Burgers||15|
|Nut and Seed Burgers||43|
|Tofu and Other Soy Burgers||57|