Monday, September 7, 2009

Rebar's botanical burgers

Vegans, here's an informal quiz: How many of you have ever attended a barbecue hosted by omnis and found yourselves, for one reason or another, saying stoically, "Oh, don't worry about me, I'll just have a bun with condiments—don't they look scrumptious!" and then…enjoying your meal enormously and maybe having seconds, or even thirds, it was so good? All of you? I thought so. Who could ever have gagged down a hot dog or hamburger without the mustard, relish, ketchup, mayonnaise, pickles, tomato, avocado, lettuce, onions, and all the other good things that make those foods as fun to eat as candy?

That said, I'm always on the lookout for a good vegan protein element to serve with all these delicious condiments. Granted, it's been 32 years since I've tasted meat, but I've got a persistent culinary prejudice that burgers should be firm on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and when they come apart, they should do so in big chunks. Sometimes they're dry, but they're never mushy.

Now, I never liked the taste or smell of meat, and most of the time the texture of it made me feel sick, but in my opinion a burger of whatever kind should have the above noted qualities. When will I abandon my quest for the perfect vegan burger? I don't know. Maybe never. That's one reason I prefer balls to burgers: I don't have textural expectations of balls.

My stars were aligned this week—when it would ever occur again that I would happen to have all the multifarious ingredients for Rebar's botanical burgers in stock at one time I could not even imagine, so my deciding to try them was, as it were, fated. On the whole, I'm glad I did. Apart from anything else, they were a real contrast to my recent spate of rather colourless meals. These are colourful and visually pleasing in every way. You could use this image as your desktop background, it's that pretty:

They are also strangely delicious. Maybe it's the hazelnuts. Maybe the tarragon. Maybe it's just the genius combination of everything. They really tasted good. But they were mushy. I followed the recipe. I added lots of extra starch. I weighed my patties. I cooked them sloooooowly to try to dry them out. But they were not firm on the inside. They were not crispy on the outside. They did not break apart into large pieces. Eating this burger, I thanked my same stars that I was eating alone because the mess was just out of this world (though I admit, it was a fun kind of mess, with condiments everywhere, scooping up bits and pieces of things with my fingers and so on while my house filled up with bad-tempered, hungry autumn wasps attracted by the fragrant odours, so there was a powerful element of anxiety and suspense to this meal as well as just the usual spirit of scientific experimentation).

As always with the Rebar recipes, the sauce in the little sidebar that was recommended to go with the burgers, called lime-tarragon mayonnaise, totally and utterly rocked, even though all it was was Veganaise with a little lime zest and tarragon added: intermingled, these ingredients became so much more than the sum of their parts.

Would I make this again? Let's see how the balls turn out. I couldn't face putting together just ½ cup zucchini, ½ cup beets and so on, so I made the full recipe. Besides the four burgers pictured in this post, I got around 40 walnut-sized balls, which are now safely frozen and awaiting regeneration at some future date.

Admit it, this looks fantastic:

And, the recipe, found here and reproduced for you:

Botanical burgers
from Rebar: modernfoodcookbook

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup grated turnip
1 cup grated beets
1 cup grated zucchini, water squeezed out
2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried dill weed
1 tsp cracked pepper
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 cup cooked brown rice
½ cup hazelnuts, roasted
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
2 tbsp tarragon, minced
2 tbsp parsley, minced
Fresh breadcrumbs (optional)

Heat oil in a wide-bottomed pan and sauté onion until translucent. Add garlic, grated vegetables, dill, salt and pepper. Stir thoroughly and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring regularly. Transfer to a large bowl and cool. Place cooled vegetables, rice, and hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely combined. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in all of the remaining ingredients. Season to taste. Take a handful of the mix and test it to see if it holds together. If not, add breadcrumbs, ½ cup at a time until the mixture firms. Shape into 5 oz patties and sauté in olive oil until browned on both sides.

On edit: Forget the frying pan. Dredge them in whole wheat flour and bake them on a heavily greased pan at 350F for half an hour. The texture then becomes much, much better. Oh, happy day!

1 comment:

  1. This was AMAZING. Such flavor. I'm so glad i found your blog. It's really awesome. I will be making this many many more times.

    - Ula