For many of us, a good burger is a guilty pleasure. But does it have to be? What if your burger delivered nutrition from whole grains and vegetables? Wouldn’t you feel a lot better about eating it, and feeding it to your kids? Here’s a burger kids will enjoy, because, frankly, it looks like a burger and tastes so good. Adults will enjoy it as well, because it looks like a burger and tastes so good, and, frankly, because it’s a guilt-free pleasure. And while as a time-saver, there are a number of decent veggie burgers you can buy, for quality, freshness and flavor, there’s nothing like something made at home. My burger (recipe follows) is built around brown rice and veggies for nutritional impact, with mushrooms and cashews adding a savory richness. If you are foresighted enough to have leftover rice on hand, you can have these burgers on the table in less than half an hour. They cry out to be fried in a bit of good oil, but for a lower fat version, brush them very lightly with oil and bake in a 375º F oven 15-20 minutes on a side. Serve on a quality whole wheat bun, or a multi-grain ciabatta roll, as pictured.
BROWN RICE, MUSHROOM AND CASHEW BURGERS
(Makes four 3 1/2-inch burgers)
2 cups cooked brown rice (preferably short grain)
1 medium onion, peeled and rough chopped
1 medium carrot, trimmed
1 celery stalk, trimmed
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled (optional)
7 or 8 (about 6 ounces) medium-sized crimini or regular mushrooms
1 cup roasted cashews or sunflower seeds (cashews will lend a richer flavor)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated swiss or mozzarella-style soy, vegan or dairy cheese of choice (I used a vegan cheese, and they tasted great)
2-3 teaspoons soy sauce (to taste)
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon herbs de provence or mixed Italian herbs (optional)
salt and black pepper to taste
1. If you are not using leftover brown rice, put the rice on to cook: bring 2 1/2 cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Add 1 cup washed short grain brown rice. Cover, return to the boil, then simmer on very low heat for 55 minutes. Ideal rice for these burgers is a bit softer and stickier than usual.
2. Set up the grating tool in your food processor. Grate the onions, carrots, celery, garlic and mushrooms. Then sauté these veggies in a little oil in a frying pan large enough to hold four good-sized burgers (might as well use the same pan!). Add a little soy sauce, salt and pepper and sauté on low heat until most of the moisture has evaporated and everything is tender and savory, about ten minutes.
3. Insert the blade into your food processor, add the cashews and chop them. Then add the veggies and rice and process until well mixed. (If using leftover rice, you may need to add a tablespoon or more of water to help everything stick together.) Add the herbs and the ketchup, taste and adjust the seasoning, adding soy sauce, salt and pepper as needed.
4. Form into four 3 1/2-inch by one-inch thick patties.
5. Wipe out the fry pan, add oil and get the pan very hot before adding the burgers (a hot surface helps the burgers form a crust rather than sticking to the pan, but turn down the heat to medium/high once the initial crust is formed). Fry on each side 3-4 minutes or until a deep, burger-like brown. Serve with your favorite burger toppings and condiments. Although these are a great stand in for hamburgers, they’re a bit too delicate to cook on a grill, alas.