Veggie Burgers

Veggie Burgers - Plated

The first time I made veggie burgers I was with my friend Julie in D.C. visiting her sister who was a Lutheran Volunteer Corp member at the time. The volunteers make a commitment to service and simplicity, which includes a tight monthly budget for food and household necessities. While there Julie and I took part of this lifestyle. For dinner one night her sister taught us how to make a simple veggie burger of lentils, seasoned bread crumbs, and egg, and some tomato paste. It was simple yet impressively delicious and cost about $1 per person. Since then I’ve been playing with ingredients and spices to come up with an ideal flavor texture and moisture ratio. I think I hit gold here, people.

Veggie Burgers. Serves 4

Ingredients:
1.5 cups cooked beans of your choice (I used colorados, but black are good as well)
2 eggs
1 to 2 onions, depending on your liking
1 carrot, shredded (or more if you use less onion)
1/2 cup bread crumbs (I always use whole wheat)
1/4 cup rolled oats, toasted
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1.5 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (I toast them with the oats so they release more flavor)

Directions:
First, toast the rolled oats and fennel (and also a crumbled piece or two of old bread if you don’t have breadcrumbs already made) in the oven for 5 or 10 minutes until golden brown and crunchy. With your hand blender, food processor, or blender, combine until barely chunky the eggs, beans, onions, carrot, and spices (except fennel). Mix in the breadcrumbs, oats, and fennel. Set the moist mixture in the fridge to let it set up–about half an hour. Veggie Burgers - BallsHeat oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Form patties about 1 inch thick and 3 inches in diameter. I usually form them into little “meat balls” using 1/3 cup of the batter, then smash them flat once in the pan. Place the patties in the pan and cook on each side until brown and crispy, and heated through, about 10 minutes on each side. It may seem like a long time, but the batter is moist (which is what we want so our burgers are not dry and difficult to eat) and so it will take some time to warm them through and allow the egg to set.

I usually serve them as an open faced sandwich along with a salad, and often times avocado or guacamol. Here I served it with my Vegetarian Salpicón.

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Moroccan Fava Beans

Moroccan Fava Beans - Plated

You know, I had never had fava beans before Guatemala. I’m sure they exist in the U.S., because I encountered a number of recipes written by U.S. based authors. However, they were never served in my family, my friends families (that I know of), nor in any restaurant or school cafeteria I ever visited. Perhaps its because in appearance they resemble lima beans. I don’t know. But they are delicious and praised for their extremly nutritious content. Low in sodium, fat and cholesterol, yet have extremely high protein and iron content for a bean. Theses “nutrition superheroes” were often called the “meat of the poor” . I hope they are becoming more prevalent, for all ya’lls sake.

In Guatemala I started noticing them because of the vendors selling boquitas (snack foods, usually to accompany alcoholic beverages) on the streets. When my friend Katie (hola pic!) was living in Guatemala last year we would frequent a local cantina situated a perfect distance between our apartments. After work we would walk down there and share a liter of beer to shake off the day. Often a boquitas vendor would stop into the pub offering spiced peanuts, caramelized nuts, cashews, and fried fava beans. I was crazy about these. They were deep fried and still had their shells on, but I enjoyed peeling them away before enjoying the crunchy salted beans. Not exactly healthy.

After this initial encounter I started researching the beans and finding recipes I wanted to try…but I could not find any fresh beans! How could there be the fried version but not the fresh? Grr… Once I found a  canned variety at a Mediterranean market, but they were a different variety. Delicious but lacked the freshness I had read about. Finally last week Héc and I went to the market and I saw a bag of fresh fava beans. For 10Q we took them home, and I made this concoction.

Moroccan Fava Beans - BoilingMoroccan Fava Beans - Pan fried with cebollines

When I told Héc that we would be having fava (faba in Spanish) for dinner he sounded less than thrilled. I even think I caught some eye-rolling. But since we had eaten tenderloin the night before I figured it was a vegetarian night. I came across a number of dishes, mostly calling for a simple herb and lemon mixture, or for a puree similar to hummus. They all sounded lovely in their simplicity, but I settled on a Moroccan version with a spicy tomato sauce, to which I made a few adjustments of my own. Let me just say for the record that Héc cleaned the pan.

A novice’s note on paprika: I tend to forget how spicy my hot paprika is. My lack of reverence for this spice originates from the memory of my mom’s delicious twice-baked potatoes. The red paprika-flecked top, I imagined, was only for color, as I could detect no noticeable taste.  This memory, despite my updated knowledge of the varieties of paprika, must remain stronger than my pain-sensors’ ability to form new memories of my current reality. So I tend ot over-use the paprika. Needing cool this batch down I added a few tablespoons of yogurt, which was the touch. In the recipe below I scaled back the amount of hot paprika from what I actually used, so taste it yourself  and adjust to you liking.

Moroccan Fava Beans

Ingredients:
1 lb fava beans (fresh or frozen. canned is ok, but skip first step)
6 Roma tomatoes, diced or one 14oz can diced tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1.5 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 additional garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons greek style plain yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt to taste, and generous amount of fresh black pepper

Directions:

1. Place fava beans in a large pot, add some salt, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until tender but not mushy. Drain immediately and run under cold water. Set aside.

2. Tomato sauce: Sauté garlic and onions in a little olive oil until beginning to brown. Add tomatoes and spices, and a few pinches of salt, and let simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes until tomatoes break apart. Remove from heat and blend with hand blender until smooth but still fairly chunky, OR let cool and blend in processor or blender. Set aside.

3. About 15 minutes before ready to serve, heat a little more oil in a pan, and sauté remaining cloves of garlic. Add fava beans and green onions and sauté on high heat until the beans become golden brown and crispy.

4. Warm tomato puree and stir in the yogurt. Toss the sauce with the beans, and sprinkle on fresh cilantro. Serve with crusty bread, pita, or crackers for sopping up the sauce.