Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 28, 2011

Foodie with Family: Veggie burgers

By Rebecca Lindamood, Local columnist
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---- — The recent heat wave made cooking a real joy, didn't it? There is nothing I love more than standing over a steaming pan of whatever stirring for an hour when the temperature is in the 90s or -- horrors -- higher and the humidity is near 100 percent.

I lie. Like a dog.

In reality, I served up ham sandwiches and cold salad and freeze pops most of those nights. There comes, however, a limit to how many of those meals I can serve before I feel as though I am going to turn into a ham sandwich. And eventually I grow so tired of eating freeze pops that I opt to stuff them in my armpits to stay cool.

Enter veggie burgers and fresh salsa, stage left.

The world seems to be divided into two clear camps when it comes to vegetable burgers. There's the "Woohoo! Veggie Burgers!" contingent and the "Why a veggie burger when I can have a meat burger?!?" crew.

As I am feeding a couple representatives of each of the aforementioned groups, I feel qualified to say that these not only pass muster on both sides of the fence, but are received enthusiastically. When I say enthusiastically, I mean they are hoovered at light speed.

These black bean burgers pull together faster than you can order take-out. Crispy and deep-brown on the outside, these satisfying burgers pack a serious punch in the taste department. Just slightly spicy, studded with sweet corn and topped with creamy avocado slices and hot sauce, these substantial veggie burgers are going to please even the most entrenched meat-burger-lover.

Make no mistake, these are very filling, but they're not going to make you feel weighed down. Even after a full meal of these, you'll still feel equal to a marathon session of sitting on the porch, fanning yourself and slurping tall iced teas while complaining about the heat. Or is that just me?

Taco Black Bean Burgers

4 c. (or 2 cans) black beans, drained and rinsed well, then drained again

1 jalapeno, stem and seeds removed and roughly chopped

3 T. roughly chopped onions

1-3 cloves of garlic, according to preference, roughly chopped

2 T. tomato sauce

1 c. (or more) plain breadcrumbs

1 c. frozen corn, thawed

1 egg

1 t. cumin

1 T. chopped fresh cilantro or parsley (or 1 t. dried cilantro or parsley flakes)

1¼ t. salt

Canola or peanut oil for frying

Lettuce leaves, for topping

Avocado slices, for topping

Hot sauce, for topping

Soft rolls, for serving

Add the pepper, onion and garlic cloves to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.

Put the lid in place and pulse, stopping to remove the lid and scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the ingredients are finely chopped.

Add half of the black beans, all of the seasonings, salt and tomato sauce to the food processor and pulse, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until the mixture resembles the consistency of guacamole (slightly chunky but a cohesive paste).

Scrape the bean and vegetable mixture into a mixing bowl and stir in the remaining beans and corn, then the egg and breadcrumbs.

Test the consistency of the mixture. You should be able to roll the mixture into a ball and flatten into a patty without it sticking to your hands. If you cannot, add one extra tablespoon of breadcrumbs at a time, stirring and checking the consistency after each addition until it does what it should. The goal is to add enough that the mixture ceases to be sticky but not so much that it becomes crumbly. I found that in each of the batches I made, I needed significantly different amounts of breadcrumbs to hold the patties together, but I never needed less than 1 cup.

Roll balls of the bean mixture according to the size of the burger you'd like: golf ball size for sliders, peach size for standard burgers, navel orange size for mega-burgers.

Place a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and pour in enough oil to cover the bottom by about 1„8-inch. When the oil is shimmering, flatten each ball into a patty that is about ½- to ¾-inch thick and slide it into the oil. Do this with as many patties as you can comfortably fit into the pan without crowding. Fry for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until deep brown and crunchy on the outside.

Transfer the patties to a paper-towel-lined platter.

To serve, stack one patty on lettuce on the bottom half of each bun, avocado slices, hot sauce to taste and finally add the top half of the bun. Makes 14 sliders, 8 standard-size or six large burgers.

Corn Salsa, on the other hand, doesn't excite such controversy as the veggie burgers. As long as folks like corn, the reaction is usually "More, please!" With fresh and vibrant lime, garlic, hot pepper and cilantro (or parsley for you anti-cilantroists), you're going to be glad it's easy to whip together batch after batch because the bowl will be emptied almost as quickly as you make it.

Simple Corn Salsa

1 lb. frozen corn (minus one cup), thawed

½ of a sweet onion, diced

1 jalapeno, stem and seeds removed, minced

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

2 large palmsful of fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped

Juice of one lime

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes before serving. Store leftovers, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to four days.

For a heartier helping of Foodie With Family, go to www.foodiewithfamily.com or Rebecca's new blog, www.icouldeatthat.com. Write to Rebecca at rebecca@foodiewithfamily.com to share your adventures and favorite recipes.