Today shaped up far better than yesterday—I even managed to make it out to lunch with friends. If you are ever in Nacogdoches (who knows, it could happen) at lunchtime, you need to go to Shelley’s—it is one of those perfect places that make you feel at home away from home and the food and service are always stellar. Here’s the link:
It’s a bakery as well as a café; I managed to resist the cakes and cookies only because I had to get home to relieve my babysitter.
So tonight, it needed to be a simple dinner: vegetarian black bean burgers (and some oven-roasted sweet potatoes on the side).
The first time I ever attempted making vegetarian burgers, I ended up with the world's most time-consuming pilaf instead. What I had wanted was something with more panache, more "oomph" than frozen veggie burgers. What I got was a sink-full of dirty pots and pans and a mountain of grains and lentils that resolutely resisted patty formation (in spite of my frenzied manipulations).
I swallowed my pride--but not the pilaf--and accepted temporary defeat.
It took several more years before I gave it another go-round. I began by foregoing the fuss--if I couldn't make a meatless burger in minutes, forget it. That made the choice of "base" ingredients easy. No grains, no lentils, no arms-length list of vegetables to be chopped and sautéed.
The answer was sitting in my cupboard: black beans.
Canned beans are fully cooked, inexpensive, readily available, have a mild flavor (perfect for adding a range of seasonings), and are easily formed into patties. Their high nutritional content and low fat are added bonuses. After just a few tries, I had my concoction down pat (pardon the pun).
So I give to you my recipe for my favorite black bean burgers. They’re easy to make and very delicious. Just like any good burger, these can be dressed up or down, or anywhere in between. Although I specify shaping the mixture into four patties, you can also form it into smaller patties for loading into pita bread or for serving to little ones.
I particularly like matching them with sliced avocados in between hearty whole-grain rolls with an extra dollop of the salsa. You could also take my lead and do what I did today, which was to spread a generous portion of the hummus I made yesterday (see yesterday's post) on the top bun. I spread the bottom with the some more of the chipotle salsa and some mesclun salad greens that were lurking in the refrigerator (if left undiscovered, they would have soon turned a corner towards decrepitude).
Even if you're not a big onion fan, my recipe for sweet & sour onions may win you over. My recipe is inspired by the sweet and sour red onions served on almost every sandwich at a great breakfast and lunch spot (I think they may serve dinner now, too) back home in Berkeley called Rick & Ann’s:
The onions are so popular that they sell them in “to go” tubs at their adjoining shop. The recipe here is my best approximation. You can make a little or a lot, serve them on any sandwich or salad. Best of all, they pack a wallop of flavor with no fat and very few calories.
No matter how you finish your burgers. start them off in a nonstick frying pan or griddle. If fried in a regular skillet, you'll likely leave half o the burger behind on the flip. I recommend brushing a few teaspoons of canola or olive oil on the pan.
Best Black Bean Burgers
1-2 slices whole grain bread (use 2 if slices are relatively small)
1/2 cup finely shredded carrot
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 and 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained
1/4 cup bottled chunky salsa (preferably chipotle)
2 teaspoons canola oil
4 whole grain hamburger buns, toasted
Tear up bread into bowl of a large food processor; process into crumbs. Add the carrot, onion, cilantro, cumin and salt; pulse until finely chopped. Add beans and pulse until blended but beans are still slightly chunky. Transfer mixture to a mdeium bowl and blend in the salsa. Using moistened hands, shape bean mixture into four 4-inch-diameter patties.
Brush a nonstick pan or griddle with the oil and heat to medium-high. Cook burgers until heated through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer burgers to bottom halves of buns. Serve with your favorite accompaniments (e.g., more salsa, sweet & sour onions, lettuce, avocado, hummus, etc.) Cover with tops of buns. Makes 4 burgers.
Nutrition per Serving (1 cooked burger, including the roll)
Calories 253; Fat 5.8g (poly 1.4g, mono 1.8g, sat 0.5g); Protein 8.5g; Cholesterol 0.3mg; Carbohydrate 48.8g; Sodium 478.9mg)
(Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1 )
Sweet & Sour Onions
1 large red onion, peeled and cut into very thin rings
1 cup sugar
2 cups white vinegar
Place the onion in a medium bowl and cover with the sugar. In a small saucepan bring the vinegar to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and pour over onions rings. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. Keeps, covered in the refrigerator, for 2 weeks. Makes about 1 and 1/2 cups.