Veggie burgers have long been a favorite of mine, whether store bought or from the restaurant. Yet it seems like such a crime to pay so much for them when you could be making them at home! With determination in my cooking veins to make the perfect veggie burger, I've struggled over the past two years with homemade burgers. I remember the first time I ever made them two years ago (with a black bean and corn base) they were too dry and wouldn't stay together. And again, the last time I attempted, just weeks ago, I made them with a chickpea base and they were too moist. Even after frying in a bit of oil they came out kind of mushy.
Years ago I was in Columbus, Ohio visiting my dear friend Amy, and because she is always-accommodating to my vegan lifestyle, she suggested we visit northstar cafe at dinnertime for a veggie burger. Now, my opinion on veggie burgers: You've had one, you've pretty much had them all, so I wasn't too quick to jump on this idea, so I asked what else there was to eat around there. She insisted that this particular veggie burger would be the best I have ever had. Still skeptical to taste the "best ever veggie burger" from a non-vegan, I wanted to keep my options open. She continued to talk about them all day; while we watched old DVDs of our fave show, while she cut and colored my hair, and while we drove to her parents house. It wasn't until she mentioned the idea to her parents and pretty much sent them into orbit over the sound of having northstar veggie burgers that I thought: Wow, there might be something to these things if non-vegetarians are getting all googly-moogly over them. So off we trotted to this magical cafe to pick up our two bags that held the mysterious veggie burgers. I have to admit, as I stared down at this massive burger on my plate that was complete with tomato, lettuce, onion, and the largest bun known to mankind, I knew it was going to be an epic experience.
The rest is history. I fell in love that day, and have since been trying to recreate this majestic veggie burger. My dreams are made of brown rice, black beans, and the infamous "secret" ingredient: beets. Okay, not really, my dreams are rarely of food, but if I dreamed in food, these northstar veggie burgers would be dancing around on pink clouds. The beets, the secret ingredient, give this burger a meaty texture and a warm color, which is kind of odd for a vegan to see after not seeing cow-beefy burgers in a while, but all is forgotten as soon as the burger hits your tastebuds.
I googled Northstar cafe burgers and came across the following recipe on "the kitchn" site, although I did tweak it massively. The following are the ingredients according to the way I made the burger:
1 cup brown rice, cooked
2 small onions, diced
2 beets, cooked and diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
squeeze of lemon juice
oil (I use safflower because it is for high heat. Be warned: olive oil is NOT supposed to be heated. Why no one knows this is a mystery to me.)
1 tablespoon parsley, minced
Salt and pepper
Any other seasonings. Keep in mind I tweaked
this recipe, so add as much or as little of these spices and any other spices you like
The "meat" of the burger is the rice, beans, and beets. The seasonings, onion and garlic can be adjusted as much as you want.
Cook rice and set aside.
Cook beets and shred them in food processer.
Mash beans in a large bowl.
Cook onions and garlic, then add beets to them. Add this to the rice mixture. Add the beans. You now have the "meat" of the burger. Add spices and seasonings. I also added bragg's liquid aminos (which is vegan soy sauce). You can add bbq sauce, liquid smoke, whatever. At this point, my mixture was kind of wet. I had to add some flour, one tablespoon at a time, to get it to thicken up. After adding flour make sure you taste the mixture. I hate the taste of too much flour, so I then had to add more seasonsings/sauce to get it just right again. It's a delicate balance, but well worth the time invested.
Here is a picture of the mixture before I cooked the patties. This is how much mixture was left AFTER making 5 burgers. Be warned: this makes a ton! We will be eating them for days. But that's okay because they are so good!
Heat a skillet over medium heat and put some oil in it. Flour your hands up and make patties, adding more flour if needed to keep the mixture from sticking to your hands. Place in pan, it should sizzle immediately. Cook about 2 minutes on each side, flipping to make sure it doesn't stick to bottom of pan. I added cheese on top about 2 minutes before taking off.
The Boyfriend's reaction to the burger was much like mine when I first tasted it. I got a closed-eyes, big-exhale "mmmmm" and then he said it was a 10 on a scale of 1-10 and he couldn't imagine tasting anything better.