Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How to get a vegetarian to eat you alive (adventures in home made veggie burgers)

There is something comforting about a sandwich.  Two fresh slices of bread cuddling a nice chunk of protein, maybe some fresh vegetables as well, with a little spread of mustard.  Yum.

Unfortunately for vegetarians the chunk of protein between those two slices of bread is all too often a heavily processed, salty, packaged, veggie burger.  So the idea of home made veggie burgers combined with my love of lentils, made this recipe for Vegan Lentil Burgers from forealslife.com seen quite attractive.

So attractive that I didn't even consider the dangers of making my own veggie burgers.

The recipe for Vegan Lentil Burgers didn't look too daunting.  It required me to cook some lentils, do some grinding in the food processor, shape the resulting dough into patties, and bake for 35 minutes.  I slated the recipe trial for a weeknight dinner and, armed with whole wheat bread I'd baked earlier that day and my favorite mustard, I felt confident about dinner.

However the dinner I embarked on making veggie burgers happened to coincide with one of our evening workouts.  I got a late start making dinner because of the workout, then went through the inevitably slower process of carefully reading and measuring ingredients for a brand new recipe.  By the time I had a dough ready to form into patties, my post-workout, ravenous hubby wanted to know why dinner was taking so long.  The starving glint in his eye threatened that if I didn't hurry he was going to eat me alive...

...or order pizza.

In a happy ending we both survived the late dinner.  My starving hubby thought the lentil burgers tasted fine (though he might have eaten an old shoe at that point), but I was less impressed.  In subsequent experiments I pan fried the veggie burgers in a little oil, once before baking, once after- and on both occasions the pan frying improved the texture so that no one had to be starving to enjoy them.

What I learned from this adventure (aside from not letting my husband get that hungry) was that part of the comfort of a sandwich is in the ease and speed of its preparation.  Sliding a frozen veggie burger out of its plastic wrap into a skillet or onto a cookie sheet, and having dinner ready in twenty minutes, is part of the innate comfort of the sandwich.  A sandwich is all about having your work done well ahead of mealtime- bread baked, condiments prepared (by you or the manufacturer), requiring at most the cooking of the protein and a quick slice of bread and tomato.

As suggested in the recipe, I froze leftovers of the lentil burger dough into patties to make them more convenient for the future.  Cooking these home made prepared veggie burgers still involves the foresight to thaw, the time to fry, and then the half hour to bake the burgers.  But having seen some improvement in texture with frying and decrease in prep time by freezing the patties, I plan to experiment with pre-frying and pre-baking the burgers before freezing so that I can get closer to the fast and easy convenience of the veggie burger as I've come to know and love it.

I'm also interested in changing out the oat flour used this recipe for lentil flour made in the Vitamix.  I think the protein chunk satisfaction would be even more satisfying if there was less grain in the sandwich and more lentil.

The idea to fry before baking the burger comes from Vegan Burgers Every Which Way by Lucas Volger.  Some of his recipes also incorporate chickpea (besan) flour, which was part of my inspiration to try making my own lentil flour.
 Veggie Burgers Every Which Way
Veggie Burgers Every Which Way

Assuming I can get dinner on the table before anyone eats me, I'll have some more adventures in making veggie burgers to share soon.

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