If there’s one thing vegetarians still crave from the world of meat, it’s hamburgers. But the frozen patties they pull from supermarket freezer cases are the palest of imitations – rubbery hockey pucks of textured vegetable protein (TVP) laced with rancid-tasting onion powder and mystery fats. Unless you glop them up with every available topping and condiment, you’ll find yourself disappointed.
Most do-it-yourself recipes for veggie burgers are marginally better – composed of chick peas, black beans, vegetable mélanges, or – Buddha help us! – a single grotesque Portobello mushroom cap. (Good as it might be when charcoal grilled, that’s not a burger — it’s a mushroom sandwich!) Now I’ve discovered a recipe that not only looks like a beef-bearing burger, but tastes like one, too. The secret is chopped and steamed eggplant mixed with rich free-range eggs bound with flour and wheat germ – the latter has long been the holy grail of health food faddists. The trick is frying the patty beyond perfect brownness till it looks almost burned -bits of skin enhance the dark color, and the patty becomes miraculously crisp and flavorful, while remaining juicy on the inside. What’s more, when you bite into it, even the interior looks like ground beef.
Robert’s Look-Just-Like-Ground-Beef Veggie BurgersMakes six burgers
1 large (approx. 1½ pound) eggplant, or two medium-size ones
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
3 free-range chicken eggs
1 green onion
2 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
Cooking oil (peanut or grape seed oil preferred, but olive oil will do)
6 supermarket seeded hamburger buns
Slices of American or Cheddar cheese (optional)
Cut eggplant into a 1/2 -inch dice, skin, seeds, and all. Put the eggplant into the basket of a steamer, and steam over water for 30 minutes with the lid on, or until the eggplant is soft, slimy, and mooshy. Drain eggplant in a colander for five minutes, and put in a mixing bowl with flour and wheat germ. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then put them into the mixing bowl with the eggplant mixture. Add minced green onions, green and white parts included. Using a garlic press, squeeze in two cloves of garlic, and do the same thing to the shallot, too, if it fits in the press. If not, mince finely and add to the mixture. Add salt and pepper and mix thoroughly. Let sit for one hour. Mixture will be damp and runny.
Pour enough oil in the bottom of a non-stick pan to cover the bottom. Heat until nearly smoking. Using an ice cream scoop or big rounded spoon, scoop up some of the hamburger mixture and deposit it in the oil. Mixture will sizzle, and cubes of eggplant will form a little hillock, but this will gradually subside. Cook until the bottom of the patty appears nearly black, then flip the patty and cook the other side. Prepare buns by toasting, and layering with tomato and onion. If cheese is desired, a slice may be put on top of each patty as the second side is cooked to melt the cheese. If necessary, cook the patties in two batches. Serve immediately with mustard and ketchup and garnish with a dill pickle spear.
Veggie burger garnishes