Best Veggie Burger Ever, V2

I’m not sure whether this feeling is universal or not but, I’m finding twenty nine a very odd bird. It’s been a liminal time: I know what I want now (for the most part), but I haven’t yet figured out how to bring what I want for myself to fruition. It’s incredibly frustrating. Twenty nine is not not twenty four–I’m not trying to discover who I am. And it’s not thirty either, which in my mind is the mythical year when you are unequivocally not a child anymore.

Twenty nine has been planning a wedding, now only a few months away. From a distance, a wedding seems like a concrete action, an objective step forward. But in fact, being married isn’t a hurdle to conquer; instead, it’s a symbol (and symptom) of something much longer-brewing. In future, I don’t think we’ll think of the day after the big day as the start of our “real” relationship. Our relationship, the one that brings me comfort and joy and security every day, began six years ago. The slow work of those six years carried us here. One day isn’t a beginning or an end, but instead a (special, special) punctuation mark in the story of our life together.

But in my head, I’ve detached the symbol from the practice. I’ve spent so much time scheming and dreaming this huge party we’re throwing, this party I’m looking forward to so much. But even still, the event feels like an intangible monolith. My subconscious seems to agree, because I dream about it almost nightly now. These aren’t nightmares, but they are strange and highly vivid, so that when I wake up it takes me a full minute to realize the that dream does not reflect reality.

So many of the big questions have floated to the surface this year. Where will we live? The US and France are possibilities, but the nature of the Frenchman’s work opens up other domestic or international options, too. Will we continue to rent our narrow Brooklyn apartment, or should we buy? And if so, where? And when? If you’d asked me five years ago, I would have suggested starting a family at twenty nine. Now, that idea seems ludicrous and impossible. But if not now, then when?

Reading this over, I can see that I’m in need of an herbal tea, some yoga, and the cleansing purge of an Arrested Development marathon. I get that I’m more plan-obsessed than most balanced human beings. But even when I remind myself to forget the big things for a while, the fact is, they aren’t phantoms. The realities of twenty nine cannot be wished away, whether I like it or not. Whether I like it or not, I possess no crystal ball, and there is a limit to my agency.

Twenty nine is all the balls in the air. Twenty nine is waiting for them to fall down again, to see where they land.

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I originally posted this recipe back in 2012. It’s become one of my most popular posts, but still; when I read through it recently, I realized that the process could be streamlined, and the burger made more tasty. The recipe can be achieved with just one pot and one pan; although of course, if you cook the lentils, quinoa, onions, and mushrooms simultaneously, (engaging four pans) the cooking time lessens considerably.

The good news is that those four steps can be carried out days ahead of time. I’ll also freeze any remaining burgers from a fresh batch for another day; they cook up just the same. (If frozen, try to let the burgers defrost a bit before frying them up, and note that the cooking time will be a little longer.)

A note for vegetarians: When I set out to make this burger, my goal was to develop a plant based burger that tasted great. Not being a vegetarian myself, I wasn’t sensitive to the fact that Parmesan cheese is not vegetarian. If you are a vegetarian, my suggestion is to replace the Parmesan with you favorite funky, vegetarian-made cheese. I bet nutritional yeast would also make a fine substitute. This burger can also be made vegan by exchanging cheese for nutritional yeast, eggs with flax eggs, and butter for the oil of your choice.

Makes 12 veggie burgers.

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  • veggie burgers:
  • 1/2 cup green lentils
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons red wine
  • 2 cups (250 grams) button mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup grated fontina cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon onion or garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • about 2 tablespoons flour, for dusting
  • .
  • serve alongside:
  • 12 whole wheat, oatmeal, or brioche buns
  • sliced tomato or tomato jam
  • onion slices (raw, pickled, or grilled)
  • Bibb or Romaine lettuce leaves
  • hot sauce or Dijon mustard or “special sauce

  •      Prepare the lentils + carrot: Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. After rinsing and picking over the lentils, pour them into the boiling water, along with the diced carrot and bay leaf. Lower the water to a simmer, and allow the lentils to cook for 30 minutes. (Depending on your lentils, cooking time will vary. You may need to add more water to the pot as you go. The lentils are ready when they gently squish between two fingers.) Remove the bay leaf, and set the lentils aside, or move them into the bowl of a food processor. (You can make the lentils up to 4 days ahead.)
  •      Prepare the quinoa: Rinse the quinoa for 1-2 minutes; drain. Warm 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in the lentil pot (wiped dry) over medium heat; add the quinoa and cook for 2 minutes, or until quite dry and toasty-smelling. Add 1 cup water and 1/8 teaspoons kosher salt to the pot. Cover, and cook 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, but keep the lid on for another 5 minutes. Fluff, and set the quinoa aside, or move them into the bowl of the food processor. (This can be done up to 3 days ahead.)
  •      Prepare the onion and garlic: Warm 1 tablespoon olive oil in a wide pan. Add the chopped onion, and saute until translucent, 5-6 minutes. Add the minced garlic to the pan, and cook another minute. Add a pinch of kosher salt. Pour in the wine, and raise the heat–when the liquid is half gone, pour the contents of the pan into the bowl of the food processor. (You can prepare this up to 3 days ahead.)
  •      Prepare the mushrooms: Wash, dry, and slice the mushrooms. In the onion pan, heat the butter over medium heat until gently sizzling. Cook the mushrooms until browned. (As not to crowd them, you may need to do this in batches.) Add a pinch of kosher salt. Set the mushrooms aside, or move them into the bowl of the food processor. (You can prepare this up to 2 days ahead.)
  •      Mix: With the lentils + carrot, quinoa, onions + garlic, mushrooms, and both grated cheeses in the bowl of the food processor; pulse until the ingredients are combined; about 1 minute. Move the veggie burger batter into a large bowl. In a separate small bowl, beat the eggs. Pour the beaten eggs, panko, lemon juice, garlic or onion powder, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt into the mixing bowl. Fold everything together until evenly combined.
  •      Form the patties: One at a time, roll the batter between your palms to form patties 1/2-inch (1.3cm) tall x 3-inches (7.5cm) across. The batter with stick to your hands, so don’t bother cleaning then until the end. Dust a parchment paper-covered baking sheet with a light layer of flour. As you shape each burger, place the patties one by one on the baking sheet. When the sheet is full, dust the tops of the burgers with the remaining flour, and then move the tray into the freezer for 30 minutes. (This will help the burgers stand up to cooking. You can also prepare the burgers to this point, wrap them well, and stash them in the freezer until you’re ready to cook.)
  •      Cook the burgers: Pour the peanut oil into a cast iron pan or Dutch oven. Heat the oil to medium; the oil is hot enough when it sputters after being spritzed with water. Depending on the size of your pan, you may have to cook the patties in batches. Cook each burger for 5 minutes per side; lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook another five minutes. If serving a crowd, keep burgers warm in a 200F/93C oven. Allow everyone to build there own burgers with the above toppings.

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10 Comments

  1. Sev @ Layla Cafe

    A long list of ingredients for a burger recipe but still… I would like to make it. I still need to buy most of the ingredients but I am willing to spend half of my day just to look for the missing ingredients. I am not a vegetarian but learning this recipe would help in case I have a vegetarian visitor in the future.

  2. Tara

    I am just prepping to make this recipe, by making the quinoa, and the ratio for water to quinoa seems to be wrong…unless its supposed to be like quinoa soup
    Usually i use 1.5 x the amount of water when making it at home. Maybe it was supposed to be doubled instead of quadrupled? I drained the quinoa anyway, and hope it still works out fine when I make them tomorrow!

  3. Stephanie Neale

    Hi – just wanted to say thanks for the great-sounding recipe. Must have been a LOT of work to finalize, so thanks again.

  4. Taylor

    For someone who has a peanut allergy, what oil can be used to replace the peanut oil?

    • CristinaSciarra

      Hi Taylor, Any neutral oil will work fine. Or you could use sesame oil, for a little added flavor.

  5. Cyn

    I want to make these but dont have a cast iron pan. Is this essential to the crispyness?

  6. Cyn

    Hi! Do you have to cook in cast iron pan?

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