One of my favorite things about the Green Consumers Alliance weekly Vegetarian Night (for the Good of the Earth), in addition to the simple pleasure of meeting the same people in the same place week after week and having the opportunity to talk without being pushed to buy anything, is that it gives me that little kick in the pants to try something new. It's too easy, when I'm home, to make the same old stuff: stir fried veg with noodles; curries; blended soups; mushroom and eggplant sandwiches; monster salads. When I'm cooking for others - and especially others that I regard as truly "other," that is, people with significantly different cultural backgrounds - I feel some slight obligation to impress them as much as I can, to expose them to things that they haven't yet encountered. To do this well, though, I myself often have to learn something new.*
This time around, I decided to continue experimenting with beans by making bean burgers. Despite coming up on 2 years vegetarian (tomorrow!), I've probably only made bean burgers about three times, and it must be said, they were pretty terrible. Beans themselves don't have a particularly good flavor, and mixing them with flour to get the right consistency resulted in an odd kind of super-fibrous donutish monstrosity, which I ate with a grimace and would be ashamed to feed to others.
So, I looked up a few recipes, did some experimenting with them in the days leading up to the event, and settled upon the following.
2 cups dried kidney beans / 4 cups cooked
Vegetables, 1 each: onion, slightly-smaller-than-medium potato and carrot, bell pepper, clove of garlic.
Spices: Whatever you want. I used cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper.
1 cup or so, bread crumbs (preferable) or flour.
1) Soak the beans in advance if necessary, then boil/pressure cook them until soft.
2) Dice and grate and crush the vegetables.
3) Stir-fry vegetables together with oil and spices until soft.
4) Puree the vegetables, smash the beans.
5) Combine beans, vegetables, and bread crumbs a bit at a time, and form burgers.
**Actually, the recipe above is a little too vegetable-heavy, but I tend to cook whole vegetables and eat leftovers (or just eat everything) rather than leaving half behind. I think about 2 parts beans to 1 part vegetables, in the final mix, is appropriate. The vegetables are so wet that if you put in too many, you'll have to restore dryness by adding flour an
6) Add oil to the skillet - to save washing, you can use the same pan you did the stir-fry in - and throw the burgers on on low. I like to drop the patties in, slosh them around a little to make sure the bottoms are coated with oil, then flip them over immediately to make sure that both sides get the treatment. Shake the burgers around every minute or so to make sure they don't get stuck, and flip them after three or four. Once it seems like the burgers have been warmed all the way through, turn up the heat to medium and sear both sides.
7) Plate, serve, feed, eat.
If done right, the burgers come out with a consistency similar to ground beef, though a bit dryer. Dense, grainy, charred on the outside, a bit crumbly to the bite. It occurs to me - if you're interested in reducing your meat intake, but not going all the way veg, why not just make these with beef instead of beans? I bet replacing half of the meat with sauteed, pureed vegetables would make the burgers both tastier and lighter.
Curious about the sides?
Roasted onion rings topped with garlic slices, stir-fried eggplants and mushrooms with Italian seasoning
Side-salad: about seven kinds of leaves, plus cukes, carrots, bell peppers, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, perilla seeds, and avocado oil.
Salsa: Suzie's recipe. Peeled tomatoes, cilantro, onions, garlic, bell peppers, all hand-diced.
Also, as another experiment, I froze a few of the burgers to test how they'd keep. The result, plated with a mushroom-asparagus sautee and some avocado:
I think next month I'll go for Italian. Risotto, minestrone, sesame leaf pesto, and some eggplant bake maybe? Suggestions welcome...
*OK, I know I said I wasn't going to talk about education, but does anyone else see an analogue here? When I don't have any particular motivation, it's hard for me to bother learning a new recipe; even my curiosity generally isn't strong enough to overcome the inertia. But as soon as the activity is linked to a meaningful event, purpose, or group of people, I'm happy to spend several hours figuring out something new. Schools are inefficient because they mostly fail to activate the sort of motivation that allows meaningful learning.