Showing posts with label vegetarian cookout alternative. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegetarian cookout alternative. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Build a Better Veggie Burger and the World Will Beat a Path to Your Door

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One of my daughters has gone vegetarian, and in fact, has been meatless for over two years now. Her level of vegetarianism allows for dairy products, and she enjoys cheese, eggs, and an assortment of veggies, so I don’t worry overmuch about her protein intake. There’s a White House Chef mystery recipe for Brussels Sprouts that she absolutely loves. I’ll share that one here another week. But today, let’s talk about Veggie Burgers.

You’ve seen them in the store: Frozen, boxed, and fairly expensive. We’ve tried several brands and lots of varieties. My daughter’s favorite, thus far, is Morningstar Farms, and we often pick up a box of “mushroom,” or “Grillers” for her. But a couple of weeks ago, when the Sunday Chicago Tribune offered a recipe for homemade veggie burgers and promised they would not only be less expensive, but tastier, I knew we had to try it.

The Tribune recipe called for a few ingredients my daughter doesn’t care for: mustard, ketchup, chili powder, and (optional) sautéed sweet potatoes. We decided to improvise. The Trib recipe suggested a base of any of the following: kidney, pinto or black beans. Having never attempted this before, we decided to make a batch of each and do a taste test. So, a shout-out to Zak Stambor of the Trib for inspiring us. Here’s our version of the homemade veggie burger and a step-by-step account of our failures and successes:

1/3 stick butter
1 T chopped onion
1 t minced garlic (someone in the family had bagged my fresh garlic and stuck it in the fridge. It was nasty when I pulled it out. Fortunately, I keep a jar of minced garlic around all the time.)
Salt and pepper to taste
One can “bean of choice”
2 T (give or take) shredded carrots
½ t salt
¼ t pepper
¼ cup Oatmeal
1 t Worcestershire sauce (Some are vegetarian, some are not. Read your ingredients.)

Optional: cooked brown rice as additional filler (see below for our attempts with this)

Melt the butter in a small frying pan, and add the onion. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, then add garlic and little salt and pepper to taste. When this is cool, you will add it in, but do not wash the pan. You’ll need it again shortly.

We tried mashing beans in a bowl as directed, but that didn’t work at all. Improvising (which I love to do), we transferred the beans into three separate zip-top plastic bags. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer and our fists, we smashed the beans until they turned into a nice smoosh. At that point we added the carrots, salt, pepper, oatmeal, Worcestershire sauce, and cooled onion/garlic mixture and smashed it around a bit more until well combined. It was at this point my daughter asked how we were going to get the mixtures out of the bag and into patties. Hmm… good point. This stuff is pretty sticky.

Squeezing the zip-tops, as one might a pastry bag, we placed a mound of each on clear plastic wrap, then folded up the edges and roughly formed a patty. Now… time to fry these up as originally directed in the frying pan with the remaining butter/onion/garlic.

Uh…were these supposed to be burgers? Or Sloppy Joes? The kidney beans held the patty shape—sort of. The other two bean varieties did not. Fortunately, we only made one of each. That left lots of mixture remaining for experimentation. We then added cooked brown rice (about a ½ cup) to each of the remaining mixtures and tried again. The patties held up a little better this time, again with kidney beans being our front-runner in keeping its shape.

But how did they taste?

Surprisingly, very good.

My daughter preferred the kidney and pinto bean varieties, and she liked them slightly better with the addition of rice. She said that the black bean version was not her favorite, but still good. I tasted all three, and agree. Were we to do it again, I’d stick with kidney. Easiest to work with, and excellent flavor. The best part? My daughter thinks this experiment was fun, which is high praise from a seventeen-year-old.

***Reminder: Don't forget to enter to win our weekly Mystery Lovers' Kitchen contest. The prize is a $25 gift certificate to the Williams-Sonoma kitchenware and gourmet food store. Just sign in to this blog and leave a comment or send an "Enter me!" e-mail with your first name and state to We announce the winners right here every week.

Best of luck to all, and congrats to this week's winner Carol Noreen!


Julie Hyzy’s White House Chef Mystery series features State of the Onion, Hail to the Chef, and Eggsecutive Orders (coming in January). All from Berkley Prime Crime. Sign up for Julie’s newsletter on her website at

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Grilled Eggplant with Balsamic Vinegar

When I grill, I love to cook the entire meal on the grill. (Check back for my grilled garlic bread!) I've tried grilling all sorts of vegetables and one that stands up to the heat very well is eggplant. I've seen a lot of variations on this recipe, so feel free to be creative and make it your own by adding flavors that you love, like ginger or or a little chipotle. If you have vegetarians in the family, a slice of grilled eggplant can also serve as a burger substitute.

In the picture, the eggplant on the left was made with honey and the eggplant on the right was made with brown sugar. I like them both equally well. I left the peel on the honey version and cut it off the brown sugar version. The peel is perfectly edible but for presentation purposes, I think the peeled version looked prettier.

Grilled Eggplant with Balsamic Vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 minced garlic clove
1 eggplant

  1. Oil the grill rack and start the grill.
  2. Mix everything except the eggplant in a shallow bowl.
  3. Peel the eggplant. (Optional)
  4. Cut the eggplant into half-inch inch slices.
  5. Lay each slice in the olive oil mixture and flip, so that both sides are covered. Do this for each slice. Let the slices sit for at least 10 minutes (it's okay if they're piled in the bowl), flipping them one or two more times to be sure they're all covered with the marinade.
  6. Grill for five minutes, turn over and grill another five minutes. You may need to adjust the cooking time depending on the temperature of your grill.


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