Friday, July 2, 2010

Adventures in Burger Management

After C told me that one of his old friends had requested that I blog about burgers, I took up the cause as a very special challenge. My first request! This is obviously the source of some excitement in my very small bloggerverse. It can be lonely out here. The first place I thought to look for inspiration and recipes was Joni Newman's blog, and I'm happy to say that my first impulse was the right one. She has an entire book devoted to burgers, so she is clearly the virtually-resident expert on the subject. I'm particularly impressed by the diversity of ingredients that she works with, and the wide variety of flavors represented by her burgerly incarnations. Because I believe C said his friend wanted to make them at her workplace, I wanted to pick a recipe with some specific (but not strict) qualifications: relatively easy to find ingredients, not too many of the former, not terribly complicated, and easy to bake or fry. I wanted a burger that was flavorful and firm, definitely nothing even resembling mushy.

My results have been mixed, but I've decided to share them anyway. I should add that the "mixed" part of my results have no relationship to Joni's recipes at all, as you will see.

The first burgers I made were her Scarborough Fair Tofu Burgers, so named because, as you can probably guess, they contain parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Lucky for me, I really enjoy the combination of these herbs, though I imagine the base burger recipe would do very well with many different spicings. The tvp- and tofu-based burger was both firm and flavorful, and I think these particular burgers came the closest to fulfilling all my above requirements. The pumpkins and sunflower seeds add a little boost of texture that C and I both found very palatable. I baked mine, though Joni says you can certainly fry them, and I did run into a bit of trouble when I attempted to turn them half-way through cooking. The burgers really wanted to fall apart at that point, but after baking the second 15 minutes, they held together beautifully. I did not cover them with the prescribed foil. I'll definitely be making these again.

Those really represent the bulk of my successes. I subsequently endeavored to make up my own recipe for a sweet potato burger with wheat gluten as the binding agent. Though C assured me that these were good, I thought the texture much too mushy, even after prolonged cooking at a low temperature. Rather than go down that road again, I've decided that truly beans and legumes, rather than tubers, are the appropriate matches for a gluten-based cutlet. I include the photo of this ill-fated experiment, mostly because I didn't photograph the third recipe I tried: Joni's Edamame Burger. Of these final burgers, let me just say that I was really excited about the recipe. I love green food, I suppose, even (or maybe particularly) when the food in question is not necessarily supposed to be green. Everything was going splendidly, and I think I was poised to like these even more than the Scarborough Fair burgers, when I became deeply suspicious that my besan flour had, shall we say, taken a turn for the worse. C refused to confirm my suspicions, and I made the burgers anyway, though largely at this point because I had already mixed them up and, as I have indicated before, abhor waste. What's the worst that could happen? Would rancid bean flour make us sick? Probably not, right? And the burgers didn't make us sick, but my apprehension about them, which manifested as a distinct feeling of unrelenting skeeve, prevented my enjoyment.

Now I feel a little bit like I do in those dreams that we all have where we find ourselves somewhere we're not supposed to be...without pants. If this post has any value, it may just be for you to seize your besan flour immediately and store it properly in the refrigerator. Just because it's never gone rancid on you before DOES NOT mean that you're safe. With all of that said, I'm still looking forward to the next phase of my burger challenge, and I think it will be these. Beautiful, right? Simple, few ingredients, versatile, and (total bonus) green!

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