White Bean Burgers with Arugula
I’d never expected to hear this line, from one of the brewers a couple days ago: “I love veggie burgers.” Nobody on the staff is a vegetarian. But I’ve just begun to discover that when done right, veggie burgers are an altogether unique and highly variable food, and they don’t have to echo those clumps of cardboard sold in the freezer aisle at all. I owe that to a new book that hits shelves this week (and which one lucky reader won for naming that plant recently), Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger.
The recipes in it are full of fresh, real ingredients, and are far from blah, too. Broken down into bean, vegetable and tofu or seitan-based burgers, there’s a healthy mix for every mood or palate; I never would have thought of spicy Thai Carrot Burgers, burgers made from cauliflower and sweet potato, or a burger-like concoction called “Beet Tartare.” The recipes in the beans chapter appealed to me first, perhaps because they seemed simplest: mash some beans, crack an egg, and form a patty from that and all sorts of herbs and other things. So I decided to make the recipe for “Tuscan White Bean” burgers for lunch the other day, because it called for arugula and sage, two plants that were currently growing like wild on the roof. Only, I realized late in the game that I was missing two more crucial ingredients to the recipe.
The first was olives, which are supposed to be chopped up and strewn in the patty mixture. Ah, well, I shrugged. Next time. I continued to follow the procedure, lightly mashing my pre-cooked Great Northern white beans with caramelized shallots and roasted garlic, bits of sage and green shallot tops (an extra, from the garden), and one of the hens’ egg (MeiMei’s). When it came to forming the mixture into patties, I took a glance at the recipe and slapped my bean-crusted hand to my forehead — I’d forgotten the breadcrumbs. And quite uncharacteristically, there was no leftover bread in the kitchen that day.
The wet mixture needed something, so I just added some more white beans to the mix, hoping the starches in them alone would do the trick. Actually, they did. And the recipe’s technique of browning the patties on both sides in plenty of olive oil before transferring the whole (oven-safe) pan into the oven to cook through worked like a charm. It gave the burgers a nice golden crust, and helped them stick together. My warning when serving them — “Careful, they’re going to fall apart” — went unqualified.
Out of the oven, a single patty could be picked up whole and placed on the bun. It’s not as well bound together as a meat patty, naturally. The mixture is still a bit loose (one person said it reminded him of falafel). But it’s hearty, flavorful and satisfying, and full of protein, too. One of my favorite lunches at Sixpoint so far.
It was the perfect use for the just-ripened tomatoes from the roof. We’re growing a wide variety, so I can’t remember them all. Brandywine and Oaxacan Pink heirlooms, Coeur de Bue and red slicing tomatoes, and all sorts of cherry and grape varieties. They all taste as sweet as a strawberry. I also served these burgers with homemade buns, speckled with just a touch of spent grain from the brewery. There is a section at the end of the book on buns, sauces and condiments, and a recipe for “basic burger buns.” But I took my own basic course, and simply mixed yeast with warm water and sugar, and kneaded it up with all-purpose flour, spent grain and salt. This rose and after punching it down, I formed it into four balls. After proofing and baking, warm buns were ready.
So here’s that recipe, adapted from the original in the book. I’ve added a touch of breadcrumbs as an option to try.
White Bean Burgers*
(makes 4 burgers)
*adapted from “Tuscan White Bean Burgers” in Veggie Burgers Every Which Way
2 cups cooked white beans (navy, cannelini or Great Northern)
1 onion (or 2-3 shallots), chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
6-7 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1 scallion or the shoots of the shallots, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
about 1/4 cup olive oil
Caramelize the onions by placing them on a heavy-bottomed, wide pan with olive oil and cooking over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook another 5 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat.
Combine half the beans, half the onion, the egg, breadcrumbs, sage, and optional scallion or shallot greens in a food processor. Season with generous pinches of salt and pepper. Pulse a few times, stopping to scrape down the sides with a spatula, until blended. In a small bowl, mash the rest of the beans with a fork or potato masher lightly and combine with the rest of the mixture, and the remaining caramelized onions. Form into 4 patties.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat an oven-safe, heavy-bottomed pan with a generous amount of olive oil. Place patties in oil and cook over medium heat until just browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Flip and brown the opposite side. Transfer to the oven and cook another 10-15 minutes. Serve on any bun, with any toppings (tomato and arugula is recommended).